Friday, January 13, 2012

DoD Tester: Toxins Suspected in 2011 Raptor Grounding

A Jan. 13 report from the Pentagon's top tester said the U.S. Air Force grounded its F-22 Raptors last year "due to suspected contamination problems associated with the aircraft environmental control system and associated onboard oxygen generation system form later April through late September 2011."
A U.S. AIR Force F-22 Raptor prepares to land at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, on Nov. 16, two months after the service lifted its fleetwide grounding. (Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera / U.S. Air Force)
Complied by the Pentagon's chief operational tester J. Michael Gilmore, the review confirms Defense News' July 25, 2011, report that toxins entering the cockpit of the Raptor had caused more than a dozen incidents that resembled hypoxia.
Since the grounding was lifted in September, the Raptor has flown more than 6,000 times. More incidents have occurred, despite Air Force precautions that include installing charcoal-based filters and having pilots wear pulse-oximeters to alert them of problems.
"There have been approximately 90 events of interest and 15 are being investigated for potential physiological incidents -- 8 involving pilots and 7 involving aircraft maintenance personnel," said Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Ferrau. "This translates to a 1.8 percent event rate since the return to flight in September."
The Air Force categorizes these occurrences into "events of interest" and "physiological incidents." An event of interest is an aircraft indication, system malfunction or a data point that has not caused symptoms of hypoxia, but is noteworthy for data collection and further analysis, Ferrau said.
"Any event involving hypoxia-like symptoms may be categorized by Air Force Instructions as a physiological incident following an investigation," she said.
A Scientific Advisory Board quick-look study ordered last year by Air Force secretary Michael Donley should be finalizing its report either in late January or early February.
Sources say the service investigators have not found any single explanation for the Raptor's woes. The problem can't be duplicated on the ground, nor do the hypoxia-like incidents occur during any consistent altitude or phase of flight-if in fact the cause happens in the air.

India Casts Wider Net for Short-Range Missiles

NEW DELHI - The Indian Army has entered the global market to buy short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) systems for $1.5 billion, a move that could further undercut a four-year effort to develop a system with MBDA of France.
The Army convinced the Indian Defence Ministry there is an urgent requirement for SRSAM, said Army sources, and did not want to wait for the Maitri project conceived four years ago. India and France have not been able to agree on details of the Maitri project, including funding arrangements, the source added.
The Army last month sent global tenders to defense companies in Europe, the United States and Russia including Raytheon of the U.S., Israel's Rafael, MBDA and Thales of France, Diehl Defence of Germany, KBP Tula and Rosoboronexport of Russia, Ukraineexport of Ukraine and LIG NEX1 of South Korea.
The requirements of the SRSAM are similar to those of the proposed Indo-French Maitri project, the Army source said.
The current tender is for two regiments (36 systems, 1,000 missiles) estimated to cost about $800 million each. The total Indian Army requirement is likely to be about eight regiments in the next five to seven years.
The Maitri project was proposed to be jointly developed by India's Defence Research and Development Laboratory and MBDA.
The selected vendor will have to transfer technology of the systems, as well.
The supply will be made in two batches and completed within five years of the signing of the tender, including the launchers, sensors, vehicles for transportation and the missiles. The system must have a service life of at least 20 years and the missiles of not less than eight years.
The SRSAM system should be able to engage multiple targets, including those flying up to 500 meters per second, and have a maximum range of not less than 15 kilometers.
In 2009, India bought two regiments of Spyder quick-reaction surface-to-air missile systems from Rafael. Another Indo-Israeli joint project is the $2.5 billion long-range surface-to-air missile project signed in 2009 and expected to be inducted in 2013, Indian Defence Ministry sources said.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army has begun inducting the homemade medium-range Akash, which has a range of up to 30 kilometers. In 2011, the Indian Army ordered the induction of two Akash regiments at a cost of about $3 billion.
The Army also has been negotiating the purchase of David Sling and Iron Dome missile interceptor systems.

Raptor Weapons School Back In Action

The F-22 Raptor division of the U.S. Air Force's elite Weapons School is back up and running after last year's grounding, a service official said.
"Raptor has been back fully integrated at Weapons School since we returned to fly," said Col. Robert Garland, the school's commandant. "Four students in class 12A started this past Monday."
Classes at the school started Jan. 9 for all of the squadrons, whose students will graduate in June.
Known as the "Satan's Angel's," the 433rd Weapons Squadron runs classes for both the Raptor and F-15 Eagle, an arrangement that makes the unit somewhat of an oddity among the Weapons School's 17 squadrons. The 433rd also works closely and shares its Raptors with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, which tests new hardware and develops new tactics, because only 187 production F-22s were built.
The Weapons School selects the best of the Air Force's instructors and molds them into weapon and tactics officers who become the service's tactical gurus.
The course runs for six months and the school runs two courses a year. About 80 students graduate per class.

Britain Captures 13 Suspected Pirates off Somalia

LONDON - Britain's navy confirmed that it had captured 13 suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia on Jan. 13 in a NATO-led operation with U.S. forces.
Royal Marines boarded a dhow and captured the 13 men on board after they failed to heed warnings issued by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Fort Victoria and the USS Carney.
Victoria deployed a Lynx helicopter with Royal Marine snipers who provided further warnings to the suspects, but the dhow refused to stop.
Marines launched from the Victoria in speedboats and captured the craft, discovering a cache of weapons on board.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond called the operation a "clear demonstration of Britain's ability to tackle piracy that threatens our interests."
Separately, 15 Georgian sailors released by Somali pirates after more than a year in captivity returned home Jan. 13 to an emotional welcome from their families.

Asian Navies Shift to Bigger Vessels, Downplay Littoral Ops

TAIPEI - As Western navies build fewer aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines, Asian navies are moving in the opposite direction, ignoring the littorals with construction and procurement of larger warships and submarines.
The U.S. and Europe have stepped back from larger platforms designed for the Cold War and invested in smaller platforms such as the U.S. Navy's Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). But this is not the case in East Asia and the Pacific, where there have been increases in spending on destroyers and submarines in Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, said Bob Nugent, vice president of naval advisory services at AMI International, based in Seattle.
One of the most notable cases involves Taiwan's procurement of four Kidd-class guided missile destroyers and plans to procure eight submarines. Japan and South Korea have also invested heavily in guided missile destroyers equipped with advanced phased array radars.
Even in budget-challenged Southeast Asian countries, the trend has been a shift from smaller to larger platforms, such as frigates and large corvettes. Examples include Singapore's Formidable-class frigates, Indonesia's SIGMA-class corvettes, Malaysia's recent decision on the SGPV/LCS frigates, and Vietnam's plan to buy SIGMAs and the pending delivery of Russian-built Kilo-class submarines.
The main reason regional navies are ignoring littoral capabilities has to do with geography. In the region, "the home team enjoys an enormous advantage of range and proximity and the attacker would have to be prepared to conduct pre-emptive strikes against the coast state's bases before conducting operations in the littoral," said Sam Bateman a regional naval specialist at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore.
The U.S. Navy should "think twice" about deploying classic sea control/power projection capabilities, such as carrier battle groups, within range of subs and land-based strike aircraft, Bateman said. The U.S. Navy's new LCS will be "hugely vulnerable without close-air support and that cannot be guaranteed."
The U.S. and Singapore have recently agreed to allow the U.S. Navy to station the LCS in Singapore.
Air support is the "elephant in the room" with littoral warfare, Bateman said. Littoral warfare is dependent on fire support directed against targets on land, either from aircraft close-air support or naval gunfire. Despite all the advances with missiles, "the big caliber naval gun remains an attractive and effective way of putting down fire in coastal areas."
Another problem in the Asia-Pacific has been increased tension over exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claims, particularly in the South China Sea. Many countries, including China, claim restrictions over naval operations in their EEZs.
Some within the region have invested in stealthy vessels to avoid detection in the littoral environment. Singapore's Formidable-class frigates are based on the stealthy French-built La Fayette-class frigates and Singapore's ST Engineering is conducting research to develop the 27-meter Stealth Interceptor and 57-meter Stealth Patrol Vessel.
Taiwan wants to build a stealthy 900-ton catamaran corvette and is manufacturing a stealthy 180-ton fast-attack missile patrol boat, armed with Hsiung Feng-2 anti-ship missiles. The stealthy SIGMA-class corvettes procured by Indonesia and now being considered by Vietnam are other examples.
For Asian countries dealing with the littoral issue, the challenge is finding the right investment balance among intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and defensive and offensive technologies, Nugent said.
"Unmanned systems are critical to ISR and defense in the littoral now and will become more so for offensive littoral warfare as unmanned maritime systems are more widely armed for all domains in the future," he said. Investments in better sensors and C4ISR are the other areas where the "gaps that create vulnerabilities in ship's self-defense against missiles and torpedoes in the littoral are getting a lot of attention."
Another area of growing interest is the use of unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). ST Engineering is developing the 9-meter Venus USV ostensibly for harbor patrol, but the vessel has potential for littoral warfare.
USVs and UUVs will be "particularly useful for littoral warfare as they can be launched outside the EEZ or convenient surveillance range of the coastal state, which is unlikely to have the capabilities of detecting them," Bateman said. "They can be used for surveillance/intelligence collection and as an offensive weapon - to lay mines or fire torpedoes," he said.
There is also potential for anti-submarine warfare, but that capability is as yet "unrealized."

Russian Ship Heads to Syria with Weapons: Report

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - A Russian ship carrying a "dangerous cargo" has sailed for Syria after a brief stopover in Cyprus, despite a pledge reportedly given to Cypriot authorities, the vessel's owner said Jan. 13.
An independent Russian military analyst separately reported that the ship was likely to dock at the Syrian port of Tartus with what media said may be up to 60 ton of ammunition supplied by the state Russian arms exporter.
The Cypriot foreign ministry said Jan. 11 the Saint Vincent-flagged cargo ship was allowed to refuel and set sail from the port of Limassol after its Russian owners agreed to change the destinationfrom Syria.
Cyprus inspectors said the ship's documents showed Turkey as an alternative destination point.
But the vessel's St. Petersburg-based operator Westberg Ltd said the Chariot decided to keep to its original schedule after leaving the Cyprus port.
"It was classified as a dangerous cargo, but that could really mean anything. We are not responsible for knowing what was inside the crates," a source at the shipping company told AFP.
The source refused to confirm a Russian state media report saying the cargo was being shipped by the state arms export agency Rosoboronexport through a freight company called Balchart.
Both Rosoboronexport and Balchart declined to comment when contacted by AFP.
But the respected Russian shipping analyst Mikhail Voitenko said on his Maritime Bulletin website on Jan. 12 that the Chariot had taken a direct course for the port of Tartus where Russia has a naval base.
He added that the ship's precise current location could not be determined because it had switched off its international tracking device about half way between Cyprus and Syria.
Moscow has defended Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad against global pressure and has argued that its ongoing arms sales were permitted under international law and would continue.
A Russian military source said on Dec. 1 that Moscow had delivered supersonic cruise missiles to Syria that protect the Arab state's shoreline against a naval attack.

Russia Vows Review After Villager Finds 79 AK47s

MOSCOW - A villager in provincial Russia has caused a national scandal after finding 79 Kalashnikov assault rifles in crates that he bought to use as firewood, Russian media reported on Jan. 13.
A truck driver was supposed to take the crates for disposal from the factory in the central city of Izhevsk where Kalashnikovs are manufactured, but he thought they were empty and sold them to the unnamed villager.
The man who had hoped to use the wood as fuel for his stove called the police, and an investigation was launched amid concerns about security at the nationally renowned Izhmash arms factory, local police said.
"Probably there are weapons in other boxes as well. We must check how weapons were stored and utilized and whether anything else is missing," a police spokesman said according to news agency ITAR-TASS.
The case caused Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to express exasperation on his Twitter feed.
"A pensioner has found dozens of Kalashnikov rifles. Oh my!" Rogozin wrote.
He said that he would travel to Izhevsk later this month to hold talks at the Izhmash weapons plant.
The Kalashnikov AK47 and its more modern versions are the weapons of choice for dozens of armies and guerrilla groups around the world.
More than 100 million Kalashnikovs have been sold worldwide and they are widely used by fighters in conflict zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
The designer of the AK47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, was given the prestigious 'Hero of Russia' award in 2009, and there is a museum in Izhevsk entirely devoted to his life and work.

N. Korea Test-Fires Short-Range Missiles: Official

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea test-fired three short-range missiles off its east coast this week in an apparently routine exercise, a South Korean official said Jan. 13.
The North lobbed what appeared to be KN-02 missiles with a range of 75 miles into the Sea of Japan on Jan. 11, the defense ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The North frequently conducts such short-range tests, but their timing sometimes coincides with periods of tension.
It reportedly test-fired two short-range missiles off its east coast on Dec. 19, the same day it announced the death of leader Kim Jong-Il.
Kim's son Kim Jong-Un has been proclaimed supreme leader and has been officially appointed commander of the 1.2-million-strong military.
The North has stressed that its stance will not change under its new young chief and that the "songun," or military-first, policy will continue.
On Jan. 8 state media showed Kim Jong Un driving a tank and giving orders to artillery, navy and air force units in an apparent attempt to bolster his credentials with the world's fourth-largest armed forces.
The following day the military held a mass rally and vowed to become human "rifles and bombs" to protect him.

Russia Open to NATO Defense Cooperation: Official

BRUSSELS - Russia's outgoing permanent representative to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has pointed to the country's openness to defense cooperation with NATO partners at a press conference at NATO headquarters on Jan. 13.
"We should abandon any political confrontation [between NATO and Russia]," he said. "Russia is interested in enhancing its defense potential. ... Only partners trade arms."
He said Russia was very interested in cooperation with other countries on innovation, research and creating joint ventures. For example, he noted the country's interest in NATO projects such as Standex, or stand-off detection of suicide bombers.
He added that Russia will do all it can to have a modern military industrial complex and is also interested in cooperation with NATO partners in buying new types of armaments.
"In the 21st century, we believe that Russia should go back to fully fledged participation in Europe," he said.
Rogozin will be returning to Russia as vice prime minister in charge of defense industry policy. His tasks will include potential threats to Russia's security, including, the development of the country's navy.
Rogozin, who will be in charge of negotiations with the U.S. and NATO on the thorny issue of missile defense capacity, stressed that the system cannot contain "offensive elements" and must include a Russian role.
"If we believe the missile defense system is designed to give more security to Europe, then it can only be done with Russian participation" Rogozin said.
"If it is antagonistic to Russian interests ... this will lead to an exacerbation of relations with the West. It is up to our U.S. partners to come up with a system concentrated on deploying additional sites that does not infringe the interests of neighbors but engages neighbors in its work."

19 EU Countries OK Defense Product Transfers Law

BRUSSELS - Nineteen European Union member states have so far told the European Commission that they have adopted the EU'S Directive 2009/43/EC, which aims to simplify the terms and conditions of transfers of defense-related products in the EU.
That was one of the main points set out in a Dec. 9 meeting summary record of a committee set up to track the directive's implementation progress. The meeting was attended by all EU member states except Greece and Slovenia.
According to the summary record, "the majority of the member states that have not yet transposed the Directive explained that the work for transposition is well under way" and added that "this should allow them to meet the implementation deadline of 30 June 2012."
During the meeting, the commission demonstrated a new central register of certified defense undertakings. This will be made up of a restricted site and a public part on the EU's Europa website.
The public site is due to launch in the first quarter of 2012.
"The central register is for all EU defense companies that have been certified [nationally] so that they can benefit as receivers of general licenses [for defense product transfers]," a commission official said.
The summary also refers to a commission task force whose job is "to ensure, inter alia, a smooth transposition and effective implementation of the 2009 Defence Package encompassing the public procurement and transfer directives."
The task force is chaired by Directorate General (DG) Internal Market and DG Enterprise and includes DG Competition, DG Trade, DG Research, DG Home, DG Move and the Joint Research Centre.
"The idea is to build the directives and ensure coherent policy in all the commission DGs and to see what else the commission can do to support the deepening of the European defense market," a commission source said.
Despite rumors of a second defense package, the source said that "this was not on the agenda" but that a work program was being prepared.
The next official meeting of the task force is in early March, when the work program will be discussed in more detail.