Monday, January 23, 2012

Russian Nuclear Sub Sails under Indian Crew

NEW DELHI — Indian navy personnel will take command of the country's first nuclear-powered submarine in two decades on Monday after collecting the vessel near the Russian port of Vladivostok, an official said.
Moscow offered the Russian-built Chakra II to the Indian navy on a 10-year lease, a move that has angered India's archrival and nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan.
The Akula II class craft is the first nuclear-powered submarine to be operated by India since it decommissioned its last Soviet-built vessel in 1991.
"INS Chakra II is being handed over to Indian personnel in the east, near Vladivostok," a senior navy source in India said, asking not to be named because Russia will formally announce the transfer.
The 8,140-ton submarine, capable of firing a range of torpedoes, as well as nuclear-tipped Granat cruise missiles, will sail under the Indian flag to its base at Visakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal.
India is currently completing the development of its own Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic submarines and the Russian delivery is expected to help crews train for the domestic boat's introduction into service next year.
The submarine was due to be handed over to India in 2009 but has been hit by various problems during testing.
During trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008, 20 sailors were killed when a fire extinguisher released a deadly chemical that had been accidentally loaded into the system.
The INS Chakra was commissioned by India in 2004 and has seen the South Asian nation pay $650 million in construction costs.
Earlier newspaper reports in India said New Delhi may end up paying as much as $900 million under the terms of the deal. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency valued the contract at $920 million.
Russia supplies 70 percent of India's military hardware, but New Delhi has been unhappy about delays to arms orders from Moscow and has looked to other suppliers, including Israel and the U.S., in recent years.

American Carrier crosses Strait Of Hormuz Unharmed

The USS Abraham Lincoln  aircraft  carrier passed  through  Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 22 and is now in the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon said, after Tehran threatened to close the strategic shipping route.
"USS Abraham Lincoln ... completed a regular and routine transit of the Strait of Hormuz ... to conduct maritime security operations as scheduled," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said in an email to AFP. "The transit was completed as previously scheduled and without incident." 
The carrier, which can have up to 80 planes and helicopters onboard, was escorted by the guided-missile cruiser Cape St. George and two destroyers.
Earlier, Britain's Ministry of Defence said a British Royal Navy frigate and a French vessel had joined the carrier group to sail through the waterway.
While allied ships often participate in U.S. naval exercises and sometimes are part of joint naval flotillas, the presence of British and French ships seemed to be a message to Tehran about the West's resolve to keep the route open.
"HMS Argyll and a French vessel joined a U.S. carrier group transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, to underline the unwavering international commitment to maintaining rights of passage under international law," said a spokesman from Britain's MoD.
He said Britain maintained "a constant presence in the region as part of our enduring contribution to Gulf security."
Iran's military and political leaders had warned they could close the strait — a key transit route for global oil supplies — if increased Western sanctions over Tehran's suspect nuclear program halt Iranian oil exports.
The Islamic republic's navy had also warned it would react if the U.S. tried to redeploy one of its aircraft carriers to the waterway.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly said closing the strait would cross a "red line." Two of the 11 U.S. aircraft carriers are in the region.
Since then, Iran has tried to ease tensions, with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi saying last week that Tehran had never tried to close the strait.
“We want peace and stability in the region," Salehi said.
European Union foreign ministers meeting Jan. 23 in Brussels are expected to agree to sanction Iran's central bank and announce an embargo on buying Iranian oil.
The U.S., France, Britain and Germany accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran says its nuclear drive is peaceful.

U.S. won't cut Carriers below 11

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, arrives aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise on Jan. 21.

ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ENTERPRISE — Pentagon budget cuts will not threaten the U.S. aircraft carrier fleet and the U.S. Navy plans to keep 11 afloat, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Jan. 21.
“The carriers play a major role in our force, not only today but they will play an important role in the future. You’re part of what keeps our force agile and flexible and quickly deployable and capable on taking on any enemy anywhere in the world,” Panetta told about 1,700 sailors.
“It’s for that reason that the president of the U.S. and all of us working at the Department of Defense, have decided that it is important to maintain our carrier force at full strength and that means we’ll be keeping our 11 carriers in our force,” Panetta said to a swell of cheers in one of the ship’s hangars.
The Pentagon has to find $487 billion in spending cuts in the next decade.
Experts and analysts speculated in recent weeks over the upkeep costs for aircraft carriers as Panetta will have to deliver a belt-tightening budget in the near future.
He said maintaining the carriers, each of which carry near 80 aircraft and helicopters, was key to U.S. military projection in the Pacific and Mideast, but indicated that the Navy would face some cost-cutting.
“We have to look at every area,” Panetta said.
USS Enterprise, cruising off Georgia, is supposed to be taken out of service at year end, after 51 years at sea. The Navy will have 10 carriers for three years — the time it will take to finish building USS Gerald Ford.
Panetta said that USS Enterprise, which is headed to the Middle East in March, would pass through the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic shipping lane that Iran is threatening to close.
“It will be going through the Strait of Hormuz,” Panetta said, noting that two U.S. carriers — the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Abraham Lincoln — were already in the Gulf region.
“Obviously we are fully prepared to deal with any contingency in that part of the world,” Panetta said.
“We’ll continue to work with the international community, we’ll continue to put sanctions on them,” he said, referring to Iran. “We’ll continue to make those messages clear. The most important way to make those messages clear is to show that we are prepared, that we are strong, that we’ll have a presence in that part of the world.”