Thursday, January 12, 2012

Would the US be defeated in the Persian Gulf in a War with Iran?


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Soldiers attend Iranian massive naval maneuvers dubbed Velayat 90 on the Sea of Oman, Iran, Dec. 28, 2011. The naval drills cover an area of 2,000 km stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.
(Xinhua/Stringer/Ali Mohammadi)
After years of U.S. threats, Iran has started to take very public steps to demonstrate that it is willing and capable of closing the Strait of Hormuz. On December 24, 2011 Iran started its Velayat-90 naval drills in and around the Strait of Hormuz and extending from the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (Oman Sea) to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean. Since these drills took place there has been a growing war of words between Washington and Tehran. Nothing the Obama Administration or the Pentagon had done or said deterred Tehran from continuing the naval drills.
The Geo-Political Nature of the Strait of Hormuz
Besides the fact that it is a vital transit point for global energy resources and a strategic chokepoint, two additional things should be noted in regards to the Strait of Hormuz’s relationship to Iran. The first point is about the geography of the Strait of Hormuz. The second point is about the role of Iran in co-managing the strategic strait on the basis of international law and its sovereign rights.
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The maritime traffic that goes through the Strait of Hormuz has always been in contact with Iranian naval forces, which are predominately composed of the Iranian Regular Force Navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy. In fact, Iranian naval forces monitor and police the Strait of Hormuz along with the Sultanate of Oman via the Omani enclave of Musandam. More importantly, to go through the Strait of Hormuz all maritime traffic, including the U.S. Navy, sails through Iranian territory. No country can enter the Persian Gulf and transit the Strait of Hormuz without sailing through Iranian waters and territory. Almost all entrances into the Persian Gulf are made through Iranian waters and most exits are through Omani waters.
Iran allows foreign ships to use its territorial waters in good faith and on the basis of Part III of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea’s maritime transit passage provisions that stipulate that vessels are free to sail through the Strait of Hormuz and similar bodies of water on the basis of speedy and continuous navigation between an open port and the high seas. Although Tehran in custom follows the navigation practices of the Law of the Sea, Tehran is not legally bound by them. Like Washington, Tehran signed this international treaty, but never ratified it.
American-Iranian Tensions in the Persian Gulf
Now the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) is re-evaluating the use of Iranian waters at the Strait of Hormuz. Legislation is being proposed by Iranian parliamentarians to block any foreign warships from being able to use Iranian territorial waters to navigate through the Strait of Hormuz without Iranian permission; the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee is currently studying legislating this as an official Iranian posture on the basis of Iranian strategic interests and national security. [1]
On December 30, 2011, the U.S.S. John C. Stennispassed through the area where Iran was conducting its naval drills. The Commander of the Iranian Regular Forces, Major-General Ataollah Salehi, advised the U.S.S.John C. Stennis and other U.S. Navy vessels not to return to the Persian Gulf while Iran was doing its drills, saying that Iran is not in the habit of repeating a warning twice. [2] Shortly after the stern Iranian warning to Washington, the Pentagon’s press secretary responded by making a statement saying: “No one in this government seeks confrontation [with Iran] over the Strait of Hormuz. It’s important to lower the temperature.” [3]
In an actual scenario of military conflict with Iran it is very likely that U.S. aircraft carriers would actually operate from outside of the Persian Gulf and from the southern Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Unless the missile systems that Washington is erecting in the petro-sheikhdoms of the southern Persian Gulf are fully capable and active, the deployment of large U.S. warships may be unlikely in the Persian Gulf. The reasons for this are tied to geographic realities and the defensive capabilities of Iran.
Geography is against the Pentagon: U.S. Naval Strength has limits in the Persian Gulf
U.S. naval strength, which predominately includes the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, essentially has primacy over all the other navies and maritime forces in the world. Its deep sea or oceanic capabilities are unparalleled or unmatched by any other naval power. Nevertheless, primacy does not mean invincibility. U.S. naval forces in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are very vulnerable to Iran.
Despite its might and shear strength, geography literally works against U.S. naval power in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. The relative narrowness of the Persian Gulf makes it like a channel, at least in a strategic and military context. Figuratively speaking, the aircraft carriers and warships of the U.S. are confined to narrow waters or are closed in within the coastal waters of the Persian Gulf.
This is where the Iranian military’s advanced missile capabilities come into play. The Iranian missile and torpedo arsenal would make short work of U.S. naval assets in the waters of the Persian Gulf where U.S. vessels are constricted. This is why the U.S. has been busily erecting a missile shield system in the Persian Gulf amongst the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in the last few years.
Even the small Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf, which appear pitiable and insignificant against a U.S. aircraft carrier or destroyer, threaten U.S. warships. Looks can be deceiving; these Iranian patrol boats can easily launch a barrage of missiles that could significantly damage and effectively sink large U.S. warships. Iranian small patrol boats are also hardly detectable and hard to target.
Iranian forces could also attack U.S. naval capabilities merely by launching missile attacks from the Iranian mainland on the northern shores of the Persian Gulf. Even in 2008 the Washington Institute for Near East Policy acknowledged the threat from Iran’s mobile coastal missile batteries, anti-ship missiles, and missile-armed small ships. [4] Other Iranian naval assets like aerial drones, hovercraft, mines, diver teams, and mini-submarines could also be used in asymmetrical naval warfare against the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
Even the Pentagon’s own war simulations have shown that a war in the Persian Gulf with Iran would spell disaster for the United States and its military. One key example is the Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02) war game in the Persian Gulf, which was conducted from July 24, 2002 to August 15, 2002 and took almost two years to prepare. This mammoth drill was amongst the largest and most expensive war games ever held by the Pentagon. Millennium Challenge 2002 was held shortly after the Pentagon had decided that it would continue the momentum of the war in Afghanistan by targeting Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, and finishing off with the big prize of Iran in a broad military campaign to ensure U.S. primacy in the new millennium.
After Millennium Challenge 2002 was finished, the war game was presented as a simulation of a war against Iraq under the rule of President Saddam Hussein, but this cannot be true. [5] The U.S. had already made assessments for the upcoming Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Moreover, Iraq had no naval capabilities that would merit such large-scale use of the U.S. Navy.
Millennium Challenge 2002 was conducted to simulate a war with Iran, which was codenamed “Red” and referred to as an unknown Middle Eastern rogue enemy state in the Persian Gulf. Other than Iran, no other country could meet the perimeters and characteristics of “Red” and its military forces, from the patrol boats to the motorcycle units. The war simulation took place because Washington was planning on attacking Iran soon after invading Iraq in 2003.
The scenario in the 2002 war game started with the U.S., codenamed “Blue,” giving Iran a one-day ultimatum to surrender in the year 2007. The war game’s date of 2007 would chronologically correspond to U.S. plans to attack Iran after the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006, which was suppose to expand into a broader war against Syria too. The war against Lebanon, however, did not go as planned and the U.S. and Israel realized that if Hezbollah could challenge them in Lebanon then an expanded war with Syria and Iran would be a disaster.
In Millennium Challenge 2002’s war scenario, Iran would react to U.S. aggression by launching a massive barrage of missiles that would overwhelm the U.S. and destroy sixteen U.S. naval vessels – an aircraft carrier, ten cruisers, and five amphibious ships. It is estimated that if this happened in reality, more than 20,000 U.S. servicemen would have been dead after the attack within a single day. [6] Next, Iran would send its small patrol boats – the ones that look insignificant in comparison to theU.S.S. John C. Stennis and other large U.S. warships – to overwhelm the remainder of the Pentagon’s naval forces in the Persian Gulf, which would result in the damaging and sinking of most of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and the defeat of the United States. After the U.S. defeat, the war games were started over again, but “Red” had to operate under handicapping restraints so that U.S. forces would be allowed to emerge victorious from the drill. [7] This would hide the reality of the fact that the U.S. would be overwhelmed as an outcome of a conventional war with Iran in the Persian Gulf.
Hence, the formidable naval power of Washington is handicapped by geography coupled with Iranian military capabilities when it comes to fighting Tehran in the Persian Gulf or even in much of the Gulf of Oman. Without open waters, like in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. will have to fight under significantly reduced response times and, more importantly, will not be able to fight from a stand-off (militarily safe) distance. Thus, entire tool boxes of U.S. naval defensive systems, which were designed for combat in open waters using stand-off ranges, are rendered unpractical in the Persian Gulf.
Making the Strait of Hormuz Redundant to Weaken Iran?
The entire world knows the importance of the Strait of Hormuz and Washington and its allies are very well aware that the Iranians can militarily close it for a significant period of time. This is why the U.S. has been working with the GCC countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the U.A.E. – to re-route their oil through pipelines bypassing the Strait of Hormuz and channelling GCC oil directly to the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, or Mediterranean Sea. Washington has also been pushing Iraq to seek alternative routes in talks with Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
Both Israel and Turkey have also been very interested in this strategic project. Ankara has had discussions with Qatar about setting up an oil terminal that would reach Turkey via Iraq. The Turkish government has attempted to get Iraq to link its southern oil fields, like Iraq’s northern oil fields, to the transit routes running through Turkey. This is all tied to Turkey’s visions of being an energy corridor and important lynchpin of transit.
The aims of re-routing oil away from the Persian Gulf would remove an important element of strategic leverage Iran has against Washington and its allies. It would effectively reduce the importance of the Strait of Hormuz. It could very well be a prerequisite to war preparations and a war led by the United States against Tehran and its allies.
It is within this framework that the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline or the Hashan-Fujairah Oil Pipeline is being fostered by the United Arab Emirates to bypass the maritime route in the Persian Gulf going through the Strait of Hormuz. The project design was put together in 2006, the contract was issued in 2007, and construction was started in 2008. [8] This pipeline goes straight from Abdu Dhabi to the port of Fujairah on the shore of the Arabian Sea. In other words it will give oil exports from the U.A.E. direct access to the Indian Ocean. It has openly been presented as a means to ensure energy security by bypassing Hormuz and attempting to avoid the Iranian military. Along with the construction of this pipeline, the erection of a strategic oil reservoir at Fujairah was also envisaged to also maintain the flow of oil to the international market should the Persian Gulf be closed off. [9]
Aside from the Petroline (East-West Saudi Pipeline), Saudi Arabia has also been looking at alternative transit routes and examining the ports of it southern neighbours in the Arabian Peninsula, Oman and Yemen. The Yemenite port of Mukalla on the shores of the Gulf of Aden has been of particular interest to Riyadh. In 2007, Israeli sources reported with some fanfare that a pipeline project was in the works that would connect the Saudi oil fields with Fujairah in the U.A.E., Muscat in Oman, and finally to Mukalla in Yemen. The reopening of the Iraq-Saudi Arabia Pipeline (IPSA), which was ironically built by Saddam Hussein to avoid the Strait of Hormuz and Iran, has also been a subject of discussion for the Saudis with the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
If Syria and Lebanon were converted into Washington’s clients, then the defunct Trans-Arabian Pipeline (Tapline) could also be reactivated, along with other alternative routes going from the Arabian Peninsula to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea via the Levant. Chronologically, this would also fit into Washington’s efforts to overrun Lebanon and Syria in an attempt to isolate Iran before any possible showdown with Tehran.
The Iranian Velayat-90 naval drills, which extended in close proximity to the entrance of the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aden off the territorial waters of Yemen, also took place in the Gulf of Oman facing the coast of Oman and the eastern shores of the United Arab Emirates. Amongst other things, Velayat-90 should be understood as a signal that Tehran is ready to operate outside of the Persian Gulf and can even strike or block the pipelines trying to bypass the Strait of Hormuz.
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The first Trans-Arabia pipeline designed to keep tankers out of Iran’s range.
Geography again is on Iran’s side in this case too. Bypassing the Strait of Hormuz still does not change the fact that most of the oil fields belonging to GCC countries are located in the Persian Gulf or near its shores, which means they are all situated within close proximity to Iran and therefore close Iranian striking distance. Like in the case of the Hashan-Fujairah Pipeline, the Iranians could easily disable the flow of oil from the point of origin. Tehran could launch missile and aerial attacks or deploy its ground, sea, air, and amphibious forces into these areas as well. It does not necessarily need to block the Strait of Hormuz; after all preventing the flow of energy is the main purpose of the Iranian threats.
The American-Iranian Cold War
Washington has been on the offensive against Iran using any means at its disposal. The tensions over the Strait of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf are just one front in a dangerous multi-front regional cold war between Tehran and Washington in the broader Middle East. Since 2001, the Pentagon has also been restructuring its military to wage unconventional wars with enemies like Iran. [10] Nonetheless, geography has always worked against the Pentagon and the U.S. has not found a solution for its naval dilemma in the Persian Gulf. Instead of a conventional war, Washington has had to resort to waging a covert, economic, and diplomatic war against Iran.

1st Two F-35Bs Delivered to USMC

The U.S. Marines' first two production F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) arrived at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Fla., plane-maker Lockheed Martin announced Jan. 12.
BF-6, THE FIRST F-35B production jet delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps, arrives at its new assignment at Eglin AFB, Fla. (Angel DelCueto / Lockheed Martin)
The two short take-off vertical landing fighters were flown in separately by Marine aviators Maj. Joseph Bachmann and Lt. Col. Matt Taylor. The pilots flew aircraft BF-6 and BF-8 respectively.
Under an unorthodox arrangement, while the jets belong to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing's VMFAT-501 squadron, the unit resides with the U.S. Air Force's 33rd Fighter Wing alongside the Navy's VFA-101 and the Air Force's 58th Fighter Squadron.
The Marines could start training new students to fly the F-35B in August, a senior Defense Department official had said earlier. However, currently the Pentagon has not yet formally set a date for training to start at the Florida base.
The DoD has opted to use an approach based on reducing risks prior to starting training operations at Eglin, the official said. As such the Pentagon has not set a specific date to issue a military flight release. Instead, the start of training will be "event driven."
"[The U.S. Air Force and Department of the Navy] are waiting for aircraft flight clearance for test pilot maturation flights," the senior DoD official said. Further, "both services are still trying to determine how many maturation hours are needed by test pilots before instructor pilots and then students can be trained."
But if everything goes as currently planned, the Marine Corps students will probably start flying their version of the Lightning II around August 2012.

U.S. Won't Adopt E.U. Code of Conduct for Space

The United States will not adopt a European-written "code of conduct" for activities in space on the grounds that it is too restrictive, according to a senior State Department official.
"It's been clear from the very beginning that we're not going along with the code of conduct," Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said during a Jan. 12 breakfast with reporters in Washington.
Asked why the U.S. government would not sign the document, Tauscher said, "It's too restrictive."
The European Union has been working the voluntary code of conduct for several years. The document lays out rules of the road for operating satellites and other space vehicles as space becomes increasingly congested, the idea being to minimize the chances of collisions or misunderstandings that could escalate.
The code also focuses on dealing with space debris, a problem that began getting greater public attention in 2007 after China destroyed one of its own orbiting satellites with a ground-launched missile.
"We made it very definitive that we were not going to go ahead with the European Code of Conduct; what we haven't announced is what we're going to do, but we will be doing that soon," Tauscher said.
Up to now, the U.S. government has been circumspect about its intentions with regard to the code. In April, for example, Ambassador Greg Schulte, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, described the code as a "positive approach" but stressed that the U.S. government had not yet decided whether to sign the document.
Some U.S. lawmakers have raised concerns that the nonbinding agreement would tie the U.S. military's hands in space. "We've advanced further technologically in development and actual deployment of these systems than anyone else, and agreements [and] codes of conduct tend to … constrain our military," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said during a hearing on the subject in May.
"We had never said we were going to do it; we just hadn't said 'no,'" Tauscher said.
Hinting at new U.S.-written rules of the road for space, Taushcer said, "You wouldn't be surprised to find out that we've found a nice sweet spot."
The Pentagon had concerns with the European strategy for space traffic management, but there are also "ways to deal with it," according to Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a think tank here. The U.S. Defense Department did a lengthy assessment of the code of conduct and reviewed particular provisions that "would make sense for our national security."
"If the satellite is stealthy, or we want it to be stealthy, how does that fit into a traffic management system?" he said. "Now you argue … major space-faring nations can figure out the orbital characteristics of objects in space, but it you want to move an object in space do you provide advance notice of this or how do you handle that?"
If the Obama administration is going ahead with a new strategy, then the Pentagon's concerns have likely been addressed, Krepon said.
In 2004, the Stimson Center published a draft code of conduct for space, which is similar to the document pushed by the European Union.
"I think the problematic piece that the administration was struggling with was that it was made in Europe and that the really important space-faring nation felt no ownership of it," he said.
Russia, China, India and Brazil have all distanced themselves from the document, Krepon said. At the same time, Canada and Japan have endorsed the document.
"I think the conundrum that the administration is facing is how to bring in major space-faring nations that have kept their distance from the E.U.'s handiwork," he said.
The Pentagon supports a space international code of conduct, Lt. Col. April Cunningham, a DoD spokeswoman, said.

Thales To Continue Rafale Electronic Gear Support

PARIS - France has renewed with Thales a 10-year service contract for an undisclosed sum to support electronic equipment on the Rafale fighter, the company said in a Jan. 10 statement.
The fixed-price contract includes a power-by-the-hour feature, with an agreed price for guaranteed availability of the equipment, a Thales spokeswoman said.
"The ten-year contract, known as Maestro, is a renewal of the current through-life support contract and broadens the scope of responsibility to ensure that Thales works more closely with operational personnel to guarantee fleet availability," Thales said in the statement.
The contract was awarded at the end of November, the spokeswoman said. No financial details were available, although the contract is understood to be worth several million euros.
The joint aircraft service support department, Structure Intégrée de Maintien en Conditions Opérationelle des Matériels, awarded the contract.
Under the arrangement, Thales guarantees fleet availability by boosting equipment reliability and will deploy company personnel on site to be closer to the operator, the spokeswoman said.
On the Rafales flown by the French Air Force and Navy, Thales will maintain the aircraft's phased array radar, electronic warfare suite, avionics, front-sector optronics and cameras, and communications

Bulgaria 2011 Arms Sales Total $380M: Report

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Bulgaria's defense industry has escaped unscathed from the general economic crisis, with its exports hitting $380 million in 2011, Pressa newspaper reported Jan. 12.
It cited figures by the Bulgarian Defense Industry Association (BDIA). Such statistics are usually kept secret.
The organization, which groups Bulgaria's major arms and munitions makers, refused to specify where its sales went to.
The newspaper however cited Algeria, Afghanistan, the United States and Iraq as traditional buyers of Bulgarian light weapons and ammunition.
Bulgaria's defense industry exports had stood at $200 million in 2008, Pressa said citing data from the same association.
"It is still hard to compare the situation with the years before (the fall of communism in) 1989," BDIA co-chairman Stefan Vodenicharov told the newspaper.
Before the end of communism, Bulgaria's armaments industry was around 10 times the size it is now, employing 115,000 people and shipped abroad an annual $700 million to $800 million worth of armaments - at prices from then.
But the advent of democracy, the disbanding of the Warsaw Pact and a number of international arms sales embargoes to countries in Africa and the Arab world plunged the industry into a deep crisis in the 1990s.
The majority of production facilities have since been privatized with the government recently selling its remaining stock in the Arsenal Kazanlak light arms and munitions plant, the only licensed producer of Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles during the Cold War.
It had also prepared a strategy to soon put on the table VMZ Sopot, its biggest defense firm to remain fully state-owned.

2nd U.S. Drone Strike in 2 Days Hits Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan - A U.S. missile strike targeting a militant vehicle killed four rebels on Jan. 12 in the second drone strike in 48 hours to hit Pakistan's tribal region, local security officials said.
A drone strike on Jan. 10 signaled apparent resumption of the covert CIA campaign after a two-month lull to avoid a worsening of U.S.-Pakistan relations after a NATO raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, infuriating Islamabad.
The latest missiles struck in the New Adda area, 18 miles west of Miranshah, the main town of the North Waziristan tribal region.
"U.S. drones fired four missiles targeting a rebel's vehicle and killed four militants," a local security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
Another security official confirmed the strike and casualties. He said the identities of those killed were not immediately known.
On Jan. 10 two missiles struck a compound, also in the outskirts of Miranshah, in the first such strike since Nov. 17. Four people were killed.
The U.S. drone campaign has reportedly killed dozens of al-Qaida and Taliban operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters in the remote areas bordering Afghanistan since the first Predator strike in 2004.
But the program fuels widespread anti-American sentiment throughout Pakistan, which has been especially high since the deadly NATO incident on Nov. 26.
A joint U.S.-NATO investigation concluded last month that a catalogue of errors and botched communications led to the soldiers' deaths. But Pakistan rejected the findings, insisting the strikes had been deliberate.
NATO's probe said that both sides failed to give the other information about their operational plans or the location of troops and that there was inadequate coordination by U.S. and Pakistani officers.
The incident prompted Islamabad to block NATO supply convoys heading to Afghanistan and order the U.S. to leave Shamsi air base in western Pakistan, from where it is believed to have launched some of its drones.
Others are flown from within Afghanistan.
The region had served as the main supply route for NATO forces operating in Afghanistan before the suspension triggered by the November incident.

Boeing: U.S. Army EMARSS Delivery in December

Boeing is set to deliver four Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) intelligence gathering aircraft to the U.S. Army in December, a company official said Jan. 11.
With a contract award last June, Boeing is obliged to deliver an operational aircraft within 18 months, said Waldo Carmona, Boeing's director of networked tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).
"We have an 18 month contract to deliver four aircraft, fully integrated and tested to deploy, by December 2012," he said. "I tell you firmly today, that we're on schedule to go do that."
According to Carmona, the Boeing team has an internal target to beat that delivery date.
Dan Goure, an analyst at the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute, said that he was impressed at how quickly the program is proceeding.
"This was quite amazing in the sense of how fast they were able to get a program of record up, moving and, now, the first four vehicles in the field," he said. "It's quite impressive."
To make sure the company delivers on time, Boeing has purchased a Hawker-Beechcraft King Air 350ER which it will modify to aerodynamically match the actual EMARSS aircraft, said Carmona.
The modified aircraft will have an extended nose where the operational plane would have its retractable electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) camera ball and it would have all of the antennas mountings of the real thing.
"From an external configuration, our risk reduction prototype is going to look just like the real airplane," Carmona said.
The prototype will fly in May, said Carmona. He said he hopes the aircraft will be FAA certified by no later than early June.
"That's one of the reasons that will allow us to meet the schedule," he said, adding that the FAA certification will simplify testing for the Army when it receives the first aircraft.
Simultaneously, a Joint Integration Test Facility operated by Boeing and the Army will test the intelligence gathering hardware and software in a lab in Aberdeen, Md. The lab facility will also look at future upgrades to the system, Carmona said.
Flight testing with all of the hardware and software onboard the aircraft will happen later this year after the FAA certification is completed.
Once airborne developmental testing is done, the four EMARSS aircraft will be sent to Afghanistan for limited user trials, Carmona said. In essence, operational testing will be during real-life combat missions.
"The whole plan is to put it in a real environment and assess its capability," he said.
While the EMARSS is not a revolutionary leap in capability, it does offer better performance than older aircraft like those used by the Army Task Force ODIN or the Air Force's MC-12 Project Liberty planes, said Goure.
"It makes absolute sense in the long-run to now put together a program of record that gets you everything you want, replaces the existing aircraft and lasts 25 years," he said. "It's a substantial improvement in capability and maintainability."
Carmona said that in addition to its powerful Wescam 15 EO/IR camera, EMARSS will carry a signal intelligence and communication intelligence payload. It also carries line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight high bandwidth data-links and can link to the Army's Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A). There are provisions for three intelligence analyst stations onboard, one of which can be configured for special mission packages. The EMARSS has provisions to carry 400 pounds of special intelligence payloads that are not part of the regular aircraft suite, Carmona said.
In the cockpit, the pilots are afforded a Situational Awareness Data-link (SADL) display, which enables the aviators steer the aircraft onto the crew's intended quarry.
Despite the weight, drag and power requirements, the aircraft will have seven hours of endurance, Carmona said.
Currently, the Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract is for four aircraft only, Carmona said. The Army has a requirement for 36 production planes, but the money for those planes is not in the budget.
The EMARSS program's budget has been caught in a political battle between the Army and the U.S. Air Force, said Goure.
"The issue here is politics," Goure said. "The Army essentially zeroed this out of the [Program Objective Memorandum] because it was afraid that, like on the C-27s, that it was going to put up the money, the program was going to go to the Air Force and the Air Force would just walk away with the money."
The problem will persist until the Pentagon sorts out who runs manned tactical airborne ISR, Goure said. Moreover, the Air Force is not willing to guarantee the availability of the aircraft to the Army whenever it asks because it manages assets across the entire theatre of operations, Goure said. Logically, the mission should be part of Army's repertoire, he said.
"It's a fundamental issue of how you manage tactical ISR," Goure said.
The Army needs to push for the EMARSS program to prove that it can successfully acquire and manage a program properly and in less than a 10-year span, Goure said.
"You need a win," Goure said. "Why would you pick this program to torpedo?"
Goure noted that EMARSS is amongst the most successful of Army procurement efforts in terms of execution, budget and timeliness.
Carmona said hopes to convince the Pentagon of the value of the EMARSS by demonstration just how good the aircraft really is over Afghanistan. A Milestone C decision on whether the Army will ultimately buy the plane is expected in the first quarter of 2013, he said.

U.S. Army To Begin Apache Block III Testing

The U.S. Army will begin operational testing of its new Block III version of the AH-64D Apache helicopter gunship in March, a service official told reporters Jan. 12.
"We're got the initial operational test and evaluation - the IOT&E - is taking place in March," said Col. Shane Openshaw, the Army's program manager for the Apache, at a luncheon hosted by Boeing. "The results of that will feed analysis and ultimately support a full-rate production decision that is scheduled for July or August of this year."
In the meantime, the Army is finishing up production of the Block II version of the venerable gunship.
The Army is down a fleet of less than 18 A-model Apaches "in tactical units" which need to be rebuilt into Block II aircraft, Openshaw said. The last of those remaining A-model aircraft will begin being remanufactured in May, he said. They will be the last Block II Apaches the Army is buying and will be delivered next summer.
"This comes at the just the right time. You just slip this through just as the budgets were shrinking down," said Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, Arlington, Va. "And now you have an attack helicopter fleet that will last you for quite a while."
Goure said the Block III will likely weather the looming budgetary cuts - which many expect will hit the U.S. ground forces the hardest - largely intact. "It's so close to being finished, if you don't, you'll end up with the additional cost for a very long time of a split fleet," he said, noting also that the AH-64D will be the core of the U.S. attack helicopter fleet for decades to come and will need to continue to be upgraded.
The Apache will continue evolve over the years, and will continue to add new technologies and new capabilities just as it always has, Openshaw said. The soon-to-be-operational Block III helicopter adds level-four control of unmanned aircraft, which means Apache pilots will be able control a drone's sensors and set way points for the remotely operated machine. By contrast the Block II offered only the ability to view video imagery from an unmanned aircraft.
An upgraded Apache might eventually pave the way for next generation helicopters that might emerge from the Army's Joint Multi-Role (JMR) project, Openshaw said.
"I believe that many of these kinds of technologies that we are current working on today will show up as subtle configuration changes to Apache overtime that will ultimately be the raw material, if you will, that will feed JMR," Openshaw said.

Australia Ranked 1st, N. Korea Last on Nuke Safety

WASHINGTON - Australia has the tightest security controls among nations with nuclear material while North Korea poses the world's greatest risks, a new index by experts said Jan. 11.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, in a project led by former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and the Economist Intelligence Unit, aims to draw attention to steps that nations can take to ensure the safety of the world's most destructive weapons.
Among 32 nations that possess at least one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear materials, Australia was ranked as the most secure. It was followed by European nations led by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
On the bottom of the list, North Korea was ranked as the least secure of its nuclear material, edging out Pakistan.
The index, which gave rankings on a scale of 100, also listed Iran, Vietnam and India below the 50-point threshold.
"This is not about congratulating some countries and chastising others. We are highlighting the universal responsibility of states to secure the world's most dangerous materials," said Nunn, who has long been active on nuclear safety.
Nunn, a Democrat who represented Georgia in the Senate from 1972 until early 1997, voiced concern that the world had a "perfect storm" - an ample supply of weapons-usable nuclear materials and terrorists who want them.
"We know that to get the materials they need, terrorists will go where the material is most vulnerable. Global nuclear security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain," he said.
The index, timed ahead of the March summit on nuclear security in South Korea, called for the world to set benchmarks and to hold nations accountable for nuclear safety. It also urged nations to stop increasing stocks of weapons-usable material and to make public their security regulations.
North Korea has tested two nuclear bombs and in 2009 renounced a U.S.-backed agreement on denuclearization. The world has watched warily since last month as young Kim Jong-Un takes over as leader from his late father Kim Jong-Il.
Pakistan has vigorously defended its right to nuclear weapons. The father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted in 2004 that he ran a nuclear black market selling secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea but later retracted his remarks.
Australia does not have nuclear weapons and supports their abolition. But it has a security alliance with the United States and holds the world's largest reserves of uranium.
Of acknowledged nuclear weapons states, Britain scored best at 10th among the 32 countries. The United States ranked 13th.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative also released a separate index of security conditions in countries without significant nuclear materials, saying they could be used as safe havens or transit points. Somalia, which is partially under the control of the al-Qaida-linked Shebab movement and has effectively lacked a central government for two decades, was ranked last among the 144 countries surveyed.
Other countries that ranked near the bottom included Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Chad.
On the top of the list, Finland was ranked as the most secure nation among those without nuclear material. It was followed by Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Slovenia and Romania.