Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Floating Bases For U.S. Navy------Defense News

The U.S. amphibious ship USS Ponce is to be converted as a base for minesweeping helicopters, patrol boats and special forces based in the Persian Gulf.

Decades after the idea was broached for a floating, mobile base to support operating forces in the Persian Gulf, the concept has suddenly shifted into high gear, and a sense of urgency is driving both new U.S. ship construction and conversion of an existing vessel.
A new Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) is mentioned almost in passing within the Pentagon budget briefing document made public Jan. 26. Development funding will be provided, the document said, for a new AFSB “that can be dedicated to support missions in areas where ground-based access is not available, such as countermine operations.”
Elsewhere, under “industrial base skills,” the documents noted that, “for example, adding the afloat forward staging base addresses urgent operational shortfalls and will help sustain the shipbuilding industry in the near-term and mitigate the impact of reducing ship procurement in the” budget.
What is all this verbiage code for?
“This fulfills a long-standing requirement from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), going back to the Tanker Wars of the late 1980s,” said Capt. Chris Sims, a spokesman for U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.
Sims was referring specifically to a recent decision to modify the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce — which had been scheduled to be decommissioned March 30 — into an interim AFSB able to support minesweeping MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters.
The ship will be operated jointly by active-duty Navy officers and sailors, and by government civilian mariners employed by Military Sealift Command (MSC) — a hybrid crew similar to those used on the Navy’s two submarine tenders and the command ship Mount Whitney.
Beyond the conversion, though, the Navy now plans to build at least one, and possibly two, AFSBs.
U.S. Navy officials would not publicly confirm the new construction, but sources confirmed the service plans to modify the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) design to take on the AFSB role.
Three MLPs have been funded for construction at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego. The ships are large, 765-foot-long vessels able to float off small landing craft, tugs or barges.
For the AFSB role, a fourth MLP hull would be modified with several decks, including a hangar, topped by a large flight deck able to operate the heavy H-53s in the airborne mine countermeasures role.
But the AFSB will also be able to carry Marines, support patrol and special operations craft, and fuel and arm other helicopters.
The ship is expected to be requested in 2014.
Sources also said the Navy might be considering modifying the third MLP to the AFSB mission. Construction of that ship, funded in the 2012 defense bill, is being negotiated between NASSCO and the Navy.
Conversion of the Ponce, meanwhile, is proceeding with alacrity. MSC issued requests for proposal (RFPs) on Jan. 24 to upgrade and refit the ship. Bids are to be submitted by Feb. 3, with work to begin in mid-month. The RFPs state that sea trials are to be carried out in mid-April.
The work includes upgrading the ship’s navigation systems, bringing habitability up to MSC standards and general refurbishment. No flight modifications are planned at this time, said MSC spokesman Tim Boulay.
Fleet Forces Command also has begun solicitations for 50 Navy personnel to help man the ship in its special mission role.
The Ponce had returned to Norfolk from its final cruise Dec. 2, and crewmembers had already begun the inactivation process when the order came down to keep the ship running.
Use of the ship, Sims said, was “seen as an opportunity to fulfill that longstanding CENTCOM request.”

China Plays Cool as U.S. and Philippine Ties grow-------Defense News

BEIJING — China on Jan. 29 called for greater efforts towards “peace and stability” in the region, after the Philippines offered to allow more U.S. troops on its territory.
Manila said Jan. 27 it planned to hold more joint exercises and to let more U.S. troops rotate through the Southeast Asian country — an offer welcomed by the United States as it seeks to expand its military power in Asia.
“We hope that relevant parties will make more effort towards peace and stability in the region,” China’s foreign ministry said in a brief statement faxed to AFP.
The government’s response was in sharp contrast to a blistering editorial in the Global Times — known for its nationalistic stance — which said Beijing should impose sanctions against the Philippines over the move.
China should use its “leverage to cut economic activities” between the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries and consider “cooling down” business links with its smaller neighbor, according to the editorial published in the Chinese and English versions of the newspaper.
“It should show China’s neighboring areas that balancing China by siding with the U.S. is not a good choice,” it said.
“Well-measured sanctions against the Philippines will make it ponder the choice of losing a friend such as China and being a vain partner with the U.S.”
China and the Philippines, along with Vietnam, have rival claims to parts of the South China Sea, home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to hold vast deposits of fossil fuels.
Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also have claims in the South China Sea.
Manila and Hanoi complained repeatedly last year of what they said were increasingly aggressive acts by China in the decades-long rift.
The alleged acts, which included a Chinese naval ship reportedly firing warning shots at Filipino fishermen, fueled fears among some nations in the region about China as its military and political strength grows.
The U.S. has been looking to increase its military presence across Asia Pacific in a strategic shift that has angered China.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in November the United States would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia. The following month, a U.S. admiral wrote that the U.S. expected to station several combat ships in Singapore.

Early French Departure is a Mistake---------Defense News

KABUL, Afghanistan — France’s decision to pull its forces out of Afghanistan early has been condemned by an Afghan lawmaker and analysts who called it a “mistake” that would benefit only the Taliban.
Tahira Mojaddidi, a member of parliament from the eastern province of Kapisa where most of the 3,600-strong French contingent is based, said Afghan forces were insufficiently prepared to take on the Taliban on their own.
“We absolutely disagree with the remarks of the French president that he would pull his forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013,” she said Jan. 28. “I think this is a mistake because the Afghan forces are not well equipped and well trained in the province of Kapisa.”
Mojaddidi said Afghan forces needed training and equipment.
“Presently the Taliban hold sway in the Tagab district of Kapisa and there are no Afghan forces there. If France leaves in 2013, Kapisa province will fall to the insurgents,” she said.
After meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Paris on Jan. 27, Sarkozy said France had decided to transfer security in Kapisa to Afghan forces from March.
The decision came a week after the killing of four French servicemen by a renegade Afghan soldier there.
“The pursuit of the transition and this gradual transfer of combat responsibilities will allow us to plan for a return of all our combat forces by the end of 2013,” Sarkozy said, adding that 1,000 troops would return in 2012.
“A few hundred” French troops will stay on after 2013 to train Afghan troops, Sarkozy said.
He will also encourage NATO to consider transferring all its combat operations to Afghan forces in 2013, instead of the scheduled deadline of the end of 2014.
Political analyst Wahid Taqat said the decision would be a boost for the Taliban.
“The withdrawal ... will demoralize the other international forces in Afghanistan as well as Afghan forces. Instead of a rushed withdrawal, France should have strengthened their position and forces in Afghanistan,” Taqat said. “It gives a lot of morale to Taliban but demoralizes the Afghan security forces.”
Taqat condemned the move as a capitulation.
“[It makes them look] like a country that is afraid of terrorists. It is a bit shameful for the French,” he said.
“The Taliban will definitely use this as winning propaganda for their future operations in Afghanistan.”
Karzai is on a five-day European trip to sign long-term strategic partnership agreements aimed at bolstering support for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development.
Political analyst Ahmad Saeedi accused the French of taking a hasty decision following last week’s shooting.
“He was angry and the announcement was made in a rush,” he said. “The only winner in this announcement is Mr. Sarkozy, who has his elections on the way [in April and May], and the Taliban who could use this announcement for their propaganda.”
Sarkozy warned after the attacks that he might accelerate France’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, prompting NATO’s chief to call on contributing nations to remain committed to the security transition.
The United States, Britain, Germany and Italy are the main contributors to the NATO-led force of some 130,000 troops fighting a 10-year insurgency by hard-line Islamist Taliban forces ousted from power after the 9/11 attacks.
A total of 82 French troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of their deployment in 2001.

U.S. Navy fires LCS manager--Defense News

The program manager for the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program was fired Jan. 26 due to allegations of inappropriate behavior, according to Naval Sea Systems Command.
Capt. Jeffrey Riedel was reassigned by LCS Program Executive Officer Rear Adm. James Murdoch, pending an investigation into the allegations.
“He will not be reporting back to this command,” NAVSEA spokesman Chris Johnson said Friday.
Johnson said he could not comment on the allegations or the nature of the investigation except to say it would be done by NAVSEA.
Edward Foster will serve as the acting program manager until the investigation is complete, a NAVSEA statement said.
Riedel is the first senior Navy official fired in 2012; there were 22 commanding officers fired in 2011.
It’s not the first time the LCS program manager has been fired. In January 2007, Capt. Donald Babcock was fired for a “loss of confidence in his ability to command” amid program cost overruns.

Friday, January 27, 2012

U.K. to Develop Short Range Protection System for Warships---------Defense News

The weapon would be developed based on MBDA's Common Anti-air Modular Missile, above.
LONDON — Development of a short-range weapon to protect Royal Navy warships from fast jets and sea-skimming missiles has been given the green light by the British government.
Sources here said missile builder MBDA and the Ministry of Defence signed the deal just before the end of the year but have kept the move under wraps.
Neither the contractor nor the MoD was prepared to comment on the missile contract.
The Future Local Area Air Defence System (Maritime) program will provide a new-generation weapon to replace the long-serving Seawolf missile currently employed by the Royal Navy, when it goes out of service in 2016.
Details of the plan to develop the weapon based on MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) are scarce but the source said the deal could be worth in the region of 500 million pounds ($784 million).
The missile is expected to be initially deployed on existing Type 23 frigates but will later be used on the upcoming Type 26/Global Combat Ship.
Future iterations of the weapon are destined to replace the Rapier ground-to-air missile deployed by the British Army, as well as provide technology insertions for the Royal Air Force’s Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile on which the CAMM is loosely based.
CAMM is one of six missile programs placed into an assessment phase in 2008 by the MoD/industry partnership known as Team Complex Weapons.
The Team CW scheme was launched by the then-Labour government in 2006, ending competition over a range of weapons and bringing together the skills of the leading weapon suppliers here such as MBDA, Thales UK and QinetiQ in an effort to maintain sovereign capabilities at a time of declining demand for new weapons.
Other programs being looked at include an update of the Storm Shadow cruise missile, development of the ground-launched Fire Shadow loitering munition, light and heavy future anti-surface guided weapons, and air-to-ground precision weapons.
Late last year also saw the government extend the assessment phase of Thales UK’s work on the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light) using its Lightweight Multirole Missile.
The missile will be fitted to the AgustaWestland Wildcat naval helicopters due in service by the middle of the decade.

Philippines Agrees to Greater American Presence

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Jan. 27 announced plans to allow a greater U.S. military presence on its territory, in a move analysts said was directly aimed at trying to contain a rising China.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines was looking for more joint military exercises with its former colonial ruler, as well as having a greater number of U.S. troops rotating through the country.
“It is to our definite advantage to be exploring how to maximize our treaty alliance with the United States in ways that would be mutually acceptable and beneficial,” del Rosario said in a statement.
Del Rosario did not specifically name China as driving the Philippines’ push for a greater U.S. military presence, but highlighted “territorial disputes.” The most pressing territorial dispute for the Philippines is with China over claims to parts of the South China Sea, home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to hold vast deposits of fossil fuels.
The Philippines and Vietnam, who also claims parts of the South China Sea, complained repeatedly last year of what they said were increasingly aggressive acts by China in the decades-long rift.
The accusations, which included a Chinese naval ship firing warning shots at Filipino fishermen, fueled fears among some nations in the region about China as its military and political strength grows.
In his statement, del Rosario said a greater U.S. military presence in the Philippines would help bolster regional security.
“Such cooperative efforts would as well result in achieving a balance of influence to ensure peace, stability, and economic development in the region,” he said.
Nevertheless, del Rosario and other officials emphasized there were no plans to allow a return of the large-scale U.S. military bases that existed in the Philippines until 1992, when Filipino senators voted to close them down.
Del Rosario said the increased U.S. military presence could include “planning more joint exercises to promote interoperability, and a rotating and more frequent presence by them.”
Aside from regular military exercises, the most notable U.S. presence in the Philippines in recent times has been a rotating force of about 600 troops that has been stationed in the southern Philippines for the past decade.
The U.S. special operations forces train local troops in how to combat Islamic militants but are not allowed to have a fighting role.
Del Rosario’s statement expanded on comments by U.S. State Department officials on Jan. 26, who said the two countries were involved in talks this week on increasing military cooperation.
Philippine officials said more talks would be held in March to determine specifics of the plans.
Political analysts in Manila said the Philippines’ decision to allow a larger U.S. military presence was a direct reaction to China’s perceived increased aggressiveness, particularly regarding the South China Sea.
“The Philippines is now playing the U.S. card to get more leverage against China,” said Rommel Banlaoi, head of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.
Rene de Castro, a lecturer in international studies at De la Salle University said: “We are playing the balance of power game because we have no means to deal with an emergent and very assertive China.”
In a strategic shift that has angered China, the United States has been looking to increase its military presence across the Asia Pacific.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in November the United States would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia. The next month a U.S. admiral wrote that the U.S. expected to station several combat ships in Singapore.

German Parliament Agrees to Reduce Afghan Troops-----------Defense News

BERLIN — German lawmakers voted Jan. 26 to extend the mandate for German forces in Afghanistan by one year but for the first time cut the number of troops to be deployed there.
The maximum number of troops will be set at 4,900 from Feb. 1, down from 5,350 now, while another 500 will be withdrawn by 2013.
“It is clear that the work there is not yet done,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement. “The path to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan is still long.”
Germany, which has the third biggest NATO-led force in Afghanistan behind the United States and Britain, said at the start of the year that it aimed to begin pulling out its forces, eyeing 2014 for a complete withdrawal.
Opinion polls have shown the mission, the first major Bundeswehr deployment outside of Europe since World War II, has been consistently unpopular in the country.
The NATO-led forces are all due to be withdrawn in 2014.

Sweden to consider Gripen Upgrade-------------Defense News

HELSINKI — Sweden’s government is expected to examine in the spring an Armed Forces Command (AFC) proposal covering a possible $5 billion upgrade for the Air Force’s 100 JAS Gripen multirole fighters.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has sought a cost appraisal from Saab, although the company says that it has not yet submitted a formal costing to the government.
The Gripen upgrade proposal was contained in the AFC’s proposition to the government in March 2011. This outlined how Sweden’s Air Force and air defenses could best be developed after 2020. The AFC’s submission noted that a decision on the Gripens was needed in order to plan for either upgrading or replacing the aging aircraft, adding that funding for a new project should begin to be incorporated into the annual defense budget no later than 2015.
The AFC is proposing to upgrade and develop an E/F version of the Gripen to ensure the fighter maintains its technological development capability and continues to operate up to 2040, and possibly beyond.
Avionics, sensors and radar will form a key part of any upgrade, as will improving the aircraft’s weapons-carrying capability and fuel tank capacity. Some 20 possible new configurations for a Gripen E/F version are being examined by Saab, the AFC and FMV, Sweden’s defense materials central procurement agency.
The upgrade proposal is regarded as a more cost-efficient option than funding a new fighter replacement program. The AFC advocates that the Air Force’s stock of C/D version Gripens be upgraded on a phased basis to spread the total cost over a five- to 10-year budgetary period.
The AFC views the impending government decision, which it anticipates will be made in March, as the most critical funding issue facing Swedish defense. A significant factor will be the AFC’s improved working relationship with government. This was underlined in 2011 when the MoD approved $900 million in new funding to strengthen the attack and tactical helicopter capability of the Air Force and Army by acquiring 15 Sikorsky Black Hawks.

NATO Russia Missile Defence Confidence deteriorating -----Defense News

BRUSSELS — NATO has made little progress on missile defense cooperation with Russia, possibly jeopardizing a planned summit in May, said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
“Maybe we won’t clarify the situation until a few weeks before the [Chicago] summit,” Rasmussen said Jan. 26 at his monthly press conference.
A summit with Russia is scheduled to take place just before the NATO summit May 20-21.
“If there is no deal, there will probably be no [NATO-Russia] summit,” Rasmussen added.
Asked what he expected to come out of the NATO summit in terms of smart defense, Rasmussen said he hoped NATO would “adopt a political declaration” containing “a political commitment to a number of specific projects.”
It was “premature” to talk about them today, he said, adding that missile defense was “an excellent example of smart defense” with a number of allies providing input, such as hosting radar facilities.
He cited air policing as another example.
“At some stage, we’ll have to decide on a long-term arrangement for air policing in the Baltic countries,” he said. He cited it as a good example “because a number of allies do it on behalf of the Baltic countries so that the Baltic countries can focus on deployable armed forces for international operations.”
In summary, he described smart defense as “a combination of a number of concrete multinational projects and a long-term political vision of how to do business in the future.”
Looking ahead to the Chicago summit, he said, “We must renew our commitment to the vital trans-Atlantic bond” as it is “the best security investment we ever made.”
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are an area that NATO is looking into in terms of its smart defense project. According to a NATO official, it is “no coincidence” that NATO officials have been invited to the U.S.’s Schriever space and cyber defense war games in the last week of April, before the Chicago summit.
As to the growing concerns over the Strait of Hormuz, Rasmussen said individual allies are involved in the Iran question but that “NATO as an organization is not.” He urged Iran’s leadership “to live up to its international commitments, including stopping its [uranium] enrichment program and ensuring free navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.”
Referring to his 2011 annual report, Rasmussen said NATO had weakened the insurgency, strengthened Afghan forces and brought enemy attacks down by 9 percent; had conducted a “highly effective operation protecting the civilian population” in Libya; and captured 24 pirate ships off Somalia (half the figure for 2010).
Asked about Libya, he said, “NATO is not present in Libya and has no intention to return.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

USAF to Retire Block 30 Global Hawk

An Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft reconnaissance system arrives at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Pentagon officials say the Air Force's version of the UAV will be cut while it will keep the Navy's version.

The U.S. Air Force is likely to retire its fleet of Block 30 Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft, an industry source confirms, breathing new life into the five-decade-old U-2 program.
On Jan. 24, analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, Arlington, Va., said the Pentagon is planning to mothball its recently acquired Block 30 Global Hawks, which are designed to collect imagery and signals intelligence. Not only would the Air Force stop building the aircraft, but existing planes in the current inventory would be retired.
The Air Force had been planning to buy 42 Block 30 aircraft. According to 2011 budget documents, the cost of each aircraft was around $215 million. It was not immediately clear how many Global Hawks the Air Force has.
The aircraft is being terminated mainly due to its high cost to buy and maintain, but it has also failed to live up to the promises that the program had originally offered, sources said.A knowledgeable industry source confirmed that the Air Force is killing the program.
“Yes, this is accurate — been a lot of discussion on the possibility of this a long while,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak to the media. “There is a high probability it will come to pass now unless Congress takes a major exception.”
But the industry source said that’s not likely to happen due to budget constraints.
“I don’t think that’s likely in the economic environment of this year’s DoD budget, and there are no real ‘hawks’ in Congress from California,” he said. The aircraft is built is both built and based in California.
A senior Air Force official would neither confirm nor deny that the Pentagon had deleted the Global Hawk from its proposed budget. But “clearly, FY13 is going to be a particularly tough budget year for the DoD,” he said. The official is not authorized to speak to the media.
Northrop Grumman officials could not immediately comment.
The Air Force declined to provide an official comment, other than to say that no budget details will be made available before the budget is released.
If the program is killed, Thompson said the cost of the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) variant of the Global Hawk could go up, which could render that aircraft unaffordable. There is a proposal to equip the Air Force with the naval variant, he said, but that is unlikely to happen.
The Navy wants to use the BAMS aircraft as a communications relay and maritime surveillance tool with its 360-degree sensors that include radar, an electro-optical/infrared camera, Automatic Identification System receiver and electronic support measures.
One source close to the Air Force said the sensors, data links and other equipment on the Global Hawk are less accurate, and provide less resolution, less range and less collection capability than other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, particularly the U-2.
“As for the Global Hawk system’s capabilities, it is good at long-endurance flight with its so-so sensors,” the source said. “They are currently and will continue to be well below par.”
The Global Hawk has never lived up to the Air Force’s original expectations, critics have said.
Even if additional resources were added to the program, “it will never live up to the hype the Military Channel, Aviation Week, etc., have been leading the public to believe,” the source said. “The technology advertised as currently on-board many UAVs is nothing short of science fiction, not mature and won’t be until billions are spent to make it happen.”
Additionally, the Global Hawk doesn’t have the U-2 Optical Bar Camera, which creates 6-foot-long wet-film images of the ground. Congress had barred the Air Force from retiring the U-2 until all of that aircraft’s capabilities are replaced.
The Global Hawk is also far less reliable than the Air Force had hoped, he said. The aircraft “spends most of its time hiding in its hangar broke.”
The fate of the Block 40 Global Hawk, which is equipped with the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) radar, is not clear. The MP-RTIP is a powerful ground surveillance radar designed to create photo-quality imagery of the Earth’s surface and overlay moving ground targets over those.
Nor is it clear if NATO’s proposed buy of five modified MP-RTIP-equipped Global Hawks for its Alliance Ground Surveillance program or if Germany’s EuroHawk program will be affected.
The demise of the Global Hawk means that the U-2 has a new lease on life. Thompson said the venerable aircraft will now remain in service till at least 2023.

Pakistan Responds Harsh to NATO strike

ISLAMABAD — While the Pakistani military is in no mood to quietly return to full cooperation with NATO/ISAF forces in the aftermath of the Nov. 25-26 attacks on Pakistani border posts, a “restart” in the Pak-U.S relationship is still possible, experts said.
Brian Cloughley, former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, said the Pakistani military — specifically the Army — does not want to settle for a low-key response from the U.S.
“The Army doesn’t want a ‘quiet’ acknowledgement. What it wants is a proper apology — publicly,” he said.
The Army is united in this opinion, and if a public apology is not forthcoming the considerable ill-will directed toward the U.S. will continue, “and there will be continuing lack of cooperation.”
The Pakistani response to the Jan. 23 NATO/ISAF report into the attacks, which killed 24 Pakistani troops, was predictable, he said.
The accompanying Inter Services Press Release (ISPR) statement says Pakistan disagrees with “several portions and findings” of the NATO/ISAF report, which are deemed to be “factually not correct.”
The basis of the NATO/ISAF report, “self defense” and “proportional use of force,” is rejected as “contrary to facts.”
The ISPR statement reiterates Pakistan contacted NATO/ISAF forces “within minutes of initiation of US/NATO fire,” and rejects attributing partial responsibility for the attacks to Pakistani forces as “unjustified and unacceptable.”
It also states, “The fundamental cause of the incident of 26th November 2011 was the failure of US/ISAF to share its near-border operation with Pakistan at any level.”
In addition, it lists “the complicated chain of command, complex command and control structure and unimaginative/intricate Rules of Engagement, as well as lack of unified military command in Afghanistan,” as further causes of the attacks.
It ends by stating NATO/ISAF forces “violated all mutually agreed procedures with Pakistan for near-border operations put in place to avert such uncalled for actions,” and reiterates the attacks were an “unprovoked engagement” that took place inside Pakistan and were therefore a violation of NATO/ISAF’s mandate.
Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, associate professor at the school of Politics and International Relations at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University, said Pakistan’s response to the NATO/ISAF report has tried to prove what has already been stated by the Pakistani side, and that there “doesn’t seem to be a desire to let this go.”
It details that NATO/ISAF forces had carried out previous operations in the vicinity and were fully aware of the course of the border and location of Pakistani positions. It also says that some operations on the Afghan side of the border were undertaken by NATO/ISAF forces in support of Pakistani anti-Taliban operations on its side of the border.
Using photographs and aerial images to reinforce its assertions, the Pakistan statement also rejects claims NATO/ISAF forces were fired upon by the Pakistani posts. It specifically criticizes the NATO/ISAF report’s mandate, which did not include affixing direct responsibility for the attacks, and that it implied “Pakistan was considered in an adversarial role.”
Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, ISAF spokesman, was unable to comment on the Pakistani response and referred questions to CENTCOM as the investigative report into the attacks was carried out by CENTCOM, not ISAF.
He said ISAF was only able to comment on “the recommendations that CENTCOM made in the original report.”
“The recommendations in the CENTCOM report are designed to work toward building a positive relationship and constructive cross-border coordination measures to ensure this type of incident does not ever occur again. US and ISAF are taking these recommendations and are moving forward toward full implementation,” he said.
No response was forthcoming from CENTCOM, however, or from the defense section at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
Jaspal is optimistic there is a chance for the Pak-U.S. relationship to be “restarted,” but “not as it was previously” “There won’t be a ‘blank check’ as there was previously; there will restrictions,” he said.
The main factor is the ongoing block on NATO supplies transiting Pakistani territory.
“The Pakistan supply route will probably remain closed, and the northern routes will continue to be used and expanded, if possible,” said Cloughley. “There is already a mammoth increase in air supply. The costs are horrific.”

Poland spent Around half a Billion on Afghan Missions

WARSAW — Poland spent 2.02 billion zloty ($606 million) on arms for its military mission in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011, Jacek Sonta, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said in a statement.
Poland spent the most in 2010 at 925.6 million zloty for new gear, and the least in 2008, at 125.5 million zloty, the spokesman said.
Since April 2007, when the country increased its military presence in Afghanistan from 150 to 1,200 troops, the Polish Ministry of Defense has launched a series of arms procurement programs, dubbed “the Afghan package.”
The purchases include 8,400 assault rifles, radio communication systems, 10 Israeli-made UAVs, C4ISR systems, five Russian-built Mi-17 transport helicopters and a wide range of munitions.
A significant portion of Poland’s 380 Rosomak armored modular vehicles was also deployed to Afghanistan. The eight-wheel-drive Rosomak is made by Polish state-owned manufacturer Wojskowe Zaklady Mechaniczne Siemianowice under a license from Finland’s Patria.
In 2009, Poland’s military took over responsibility for the troubled Afghan province of Ghazni. A year later, the Polish force in Afghanistan was increased to 2,600 soldiers, making it the fifth-largest among NATO states present in the country.
Poland plans to withdraw all combat troops from Afghan soil by the end of 2014 along with the remaining NATO forces. Over the past five years, 37 Polish soldiers were killed while on duty in Afghanistan.

Eurocopter Eyes Brazil Export

RIO DE JANEIRO — Helicopter-maker Eurocopter wants its Brazilian affiliate Helibras to develop and build aircraft for export to the world by 2025, the company’s CEO said in an interview published Jan. 25.
“In 2023 or 2025 we will begin to have models designed in Brazil, built in the country and that will be sold on the world market,” Lutz Bertling said in the interview with the business daily Valor.
Currently, Eurocopter helicopters are designed in Europe. A Brazilian factory in Itajuba, Minas Gerais, only assembles Ecureuils helicopters.
Brazil is the only country in the BRICS group of emerging powers — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — that does not have a helicopter industry, said Bertling. Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European aeronautics giant EADS and the world’s top manufacturer of civilian helicopters, “wants to become the national helicopter maker of Brazil,” said Bertling.
The company has invested 186 million euros ($241 million) in a new factory at Itajuba, which is scheduled to open in February or March and begin production by mid-year.
The expansion was part of a 2008 contract to sell 50 EC725 helicopters to the Brazilian military, which calls for the first 16 to be built in France and the rest in Brazil.
Eurocopter sees a promising future in the Brazilian market and is pursuing some big deals, according to Valor.
The Brazilian police have announced plans to buy 100 helicopters and the private sector demand is expected to rise with the country hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“Even without big events, Brazil is one of the helicopter markets with the fastest growth in the world,” said Bertling.
Eurocopter announced Jan. 24 in Paris sales of 5.4 billion euros ($7 billion) in 2011, up 12.5 percent over the previous year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Washington and Seoul ready for War Games

SEOUL — U.S. and South Korean troops are preparing for their annual joint war games in coming weeks, an official said Jan. 25, despite the sensitive power transition underway in North Korea.
The two countries “are preparing for the Key Resolve exercise,” a U.S. military spokesman told AFP, adding the schedule was not finalized.
South Korea’s defense ministry declined to comment. Media reports said the exercises — which the North blasts as warmongering — would go ahead as scheduled.
Pyongyang last year threatened a military response to the fortnight-long Key Resolve computerized drill, which is normally followed by a joint air, ground and naval training exercise known as Foal Eagle lasting several weeks.
The exercises last year involved 12,300 U.S. troops and some 200,000 South Korean service members, including reservists. They passed off without incident.
Seoul and Washington, which bases 28,500 troops in the South, say the drills are defensive and routine but the North habitually terms them a rehearsal for invasion.
It has taken a hostile tone with the South since its leader Kim Jong-Il died Dec. 17 and was replaced by his youngest son Jong-Un.
The new leader has been appointed armed forces chief and has visited several units in an apparent attempt to burnish his military credentials.
This year’s Key Resolve will start Feb. 27, the Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper reported.
“It’s true that we have weighed whether we should go ahead with the exercise or not after North Korean leader Kim’s death at the end of last year,” an unidentified senior Seoul official was quoted as saying.
“But the North’s wintertime drills are continuing and the military threats still persist, so we’ve decided to go ahead with our military exercise as scheduled.”
North Korea’s air force has conducted more training than normal this winter despite Kim’s death, Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday.
On Jan. 25 Yonhap also quoted sources as saying Key Resolve would start Feb. 27 and continue for two weeks.
Pyongyang’s new regime has vowed retaliation against Seoul for alleged disrespect during the mourning period for its late leader.
Cross-border tensions have been high since the South accused the North of torpedoing a warship with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.
The North denied involvement but eight months later shelled a border island and killed four South Koreans.

Austria trains Conscript

BONN — Austria is launching three pilot projects to professionalize its conscription armed forces. Over the next month, three units and six military properties will be organized to work without conscripts, Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos announced.
In Lower Austria and in Salzburg, two pioneer companies will be formed on the basis of a volunteer militia. Soldiers who sign up will receive a yearly bonus of 5,000 euros ($6,474). At the same time, they commit themselves to serve about two weeks per year in exercises or on operations inside the country.
The enlistment will run from February until June, and both units are supposed to be ready for operation by 2013. Darabos said this will increase the strength and professionalism of the existing militia system.
“Both companies will do more exercises, be quicker deployable and get a bonus for performed services,” he said.
Until July, the Jägerbataillon 25, an air-deployable infantry unit, stationed in Klagenfurt, will be reorganized to operate with professional and regular soldiers. Full readiness should be achieved by July 2014. More than 350 professional and regular soldiers will be added to its current cadre of 150 professional soldiers.
The 350 conscripts who perform routine jobs as so-called system upholders in different properties will be transferred to the forces and the military core business, as Darabos put it. Currently, 60 percent of all conscripts are serving as ordinances, drivers and other kinds of aides. Their current duties will be partly outsourced, replaced by technical means or civil servants and trainees. This process is to start in the second half of 2012.
“With those projects, we make the militia more attractive and stronger, we reduce the system upholders, and we increase the operational readiness drastically,” Darabos said at a joint press conference with the Austrian chief of the General Staff, Edmund Entacher, and the commander of the Armed Forces, Günter Höfler on Jan. 23 in the Austrian capital Wien.
The Austrian military wants these pilot projects to provide experience in fields such as operational readiness, recruitment and professionalization.
“Operation has the highest priority for the forces,” said Höfler: “Everything that increases the operational readiness is welcomed.”
The money needed for these projects is to come from the defense budget itself.

Austrailian Black Hawks resume Sorties

MELBOURNE — Australia’s fleet of Black Hawk combat helicopters returned to the skies Jan. 24 after being temporarily grounded Jan. 20 over safety concerns surrounding fractured bolts.
The defect was found during routine maintenance of an Army S-70A-9.
The defective bolts were found on the drive shaft between the engine and transmission, and a fleetwide suspension of flying was ordered following concerns that all power could have been lost to the engine if the bolts failed entirely.
The Black Hawk is a twin-engined helicopter.
The only helicopters allowed to operate during the period were three assigned to Joint Task Force 631 in Timor Leste to provide emergency aero-medical evacuations for International Stabilization Force personnel if required.
The Royal Australian Navy’s 16 S-70B-2 Seahawks were not affected by the grounding order.
Speaking at the time, Col. Stephen Evans, acting director general Aviation, said, “The precautionary suspension will remain in place to allow an investigation into the cause of the fracture to be completed.”
During the investigation, Chris Clapperton, director of Maritime and Asia Strategies for Sikorsky Aerospace Services, noted, “The bolt that failed is a general aviation hardware bolt that is not manufactured by Sikorsky; we are assisting the Australian Army with their investigation into the cause of the failure.”
In an announcement that flying would resume Jan. 24, Maj. Gen. Michael Slater, commander of Forces Command (Army Operational Airworthiness Authority), said, “The engineering investigation has indicated the defective bolts were confined to a single manufacturer’s batch and were not a fleetwide issue. The defective batch of bolts has been quarantined from use.
“The precautionary suspension has been lifted following airworthiness advice from the Technical Airworthiness Authority. The suspension demonstrates Army’s commitment to safety. The temporary safety precaution was affected while a thorough engineering investigation was carried out following discovery of the defective bolts.”
Australia has 34 Black Hawks, including the three in Timor Leste, but the type is being replaced by the European MRH 90 Multi-Role Helicopter, being assembled in Australia by Eurocopter subsidiary Australian Aerospace.

Cherming eyes growth in Mid East and Asia

LONDON — British-based Chemring, which produces munitions countermeasures, managed to grow its non-NATO business on the back of a huge rise in munitions sales in the Middle East and Asia, the company announced as it rolled out 2011 results on Jan. 24.
With austerity measures reducing defense spending across the alliance, Chemring said it is succeeding in building its non-NATO order book, but the downturn is threatening further rationalization in its key U.S. business, the company said.
Companies’ abilities to grow their businesses outside of depressed North American and European markets will likely be a growing theme as they turn to burgeoning spending in South America, the Middle East and Asia.
“The continuing problems of the Eurozone and the impact of possible sequestration in the U.S. indicate that our traditional markets will not be any easier this year. We continue to pursue our policy of reducing our dependence on these markets,” Chemring chairman Peter Hickson said in a statement.
Chemring reckons there will be a boom in the South Asia market until at least 2015 and says the major economies in South America will see defense budgets grow between 6 and 16 percent a year. The Middle East will see a 3.5 percent rise in defense budgets until 2015, Chemring said
“It’s encouraging to note that 44 percent of today’s order book emanates from non-NATO markets, compared with 33 percent at the same time last year,” Hickson said.
Overall, the company-reported revenues rose 25 percent to 745 million pounds ($1.16 billion). Non-NATO revenues rose 81 percent to 29 percent of total revenue compared with 20 percent in the previous year. Organic growth accounted for 9 percent of the total revenue growth.
Underlying profit before tax was up 6 percent to 125 million pounds ($194 million) even though the company reported pressure on margins across all of its business sectors.
It wasn’t all good news in the non-NATO markets, though. Chemring had to rely on a 216 percent rise in munitions sales to the Middle East and Far East to achieve its figures with countermeasures and pyrotechnics, both registering hefty reductions across the regions.
The company said it is looking to form a countermeasures joint venture in Saudi Arabia later this year and is looking for a similar arrangement in Brazil in a non-specified sector.
The picture is not so positive in its principal market. Chemring said it is looking at further possible rationalization of its business in the U.S.
The company closed an Alloy Surfaces countermeasures plant in the U.S. last year with the loss of 120 jobs and said it was reviewing further site rationalization at Alloy and Niitek, its strong growing counter-IED business.
Chemring was hard hit by a 31 percent slump in helicopter and transport-aircraft flares demand from NATO nations. The reduction was more severe than anticipated, said the company.
The U.S. markets accounted for 43 percent of Chemring revenues last year.