Tuesday, July 22, 2008

USA: DDG 1000 Program Will End At Two Ships

USA: DDG 1000 Program Will End At Two Ships 22 July, 2008: The once-vaunted Zumwalt-class DDG 1000 advanced destroyer program - projected in the late 1990s to produce 32 new ships and subsequently downscaled to a seven-ship class - will instead turn out only two ships, according to highly-placed sources in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. Instead of more DDG 1000s, the U.S. Navy will continue to build more Arleigh Burke-class DDG 51 destroyers, construction of which had been slated to end in 2012. (Northrop Grumman) Instead of more 1000s, the Navy will continue to build more Arleigh Burke-class DDG 51 destroyers, construction of which had been slated to end in 2012. Top U.S. Navy and Pentagon brass met July 22 to make the decision, which means the service will ask Congress to drop the request for the third ship in the 2009 defense budget and forego plans to ask for the remaining four ships. Each of the two ships now under contract will be built, according to the new decision. That means the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine will build the Zumwalt, DDG 1000, and Northrop Grumman's Ingalls yard in Pascagoula, Miss., will construct the yet-to-be-named DDG 1001. According to sources, the Navy also considered canceling the second DDG 1000 and building just one, but potentially high cancellation costs led to the decision to keep the ship. The reprogramming decision was made at a conference July 22 hosted by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and attended by Navy Secretary Donald Winter, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Pentagon acquisition chief John Young. Officials were busy throughout the day and into the evening making personal phone calls to senators, congressmen and government and industry officials notifying them of the decision. Initial reaction on Capitol Hill seemed to be largely positive. The move appears to be based on fears that potential cost overruns on the Zumwalts - estimated to cost about $3.3 billion for each of the two lead ships - could threaten other Navy shipbuilding programs. The service declined comment on the July 22 decision, but in a statement released July 17, Navy spokesman Lt. Clay Doss provided some insight. "We need traction and stability in our combatant lines to reach 313 ships, and we should not raid the combatant line to fund other shipbuilding priorities," Doss said. "Even if we did not receive funding for the DDG 1000 class beyond the first two ships, the technology embedded in DDG 1000 will advance the Navy's future surface combatants." If the fears that rising costs could torpedo other new ships are indeed behind the decision, it is a tacit recognition that repeated warnings by budget experts from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Government Accountability Office that the ships face huge potential cost overruns - up to $5 billion each and more - were correct. Ron O'Rourke of CRS testified March 14 before the House Seapower subcommittee that cost overruns on the first two ships could drive their combined cost to $10.2 billion - an increase of $3.9 billion. Using CBO's figures, O'Rourke pointed out that the remaining five ships, projected by the Navy to cost about $12.8 billion, would likely jump about $8 billion. "The combined cost growth for all seven ships would be roughly $11.8 billion in then-year dollars, which is a figure roughly comparable to the total amount of funding in Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) appropriation account in certain recent years," O'Rourke testified at the hearing. Publicly the Navy has long resisted the notion of building more DDG 51s, noting no more of the ships were needed - the class had been planned to end with the 62nd ship - and significant improvements to the design were hard to come by. But in March acting Navy acquisition chief John Thackrah told an audience that the service was looking at working in to the design a new SPY-3 radar to replace the current SPY-1 Aegis arrays, and the Navy also has studied fitting the 155mm Advanced Gun System into the DDG 51 hull. Both systems are part of the DDG 1000 design. While it is not clear how many more 51s will be built, all sides seem in agreement that the majority of the hulls will go to Bath, which builds only destroyers. Northrop's Ingalls yard, in addition to destroyer construction, remains busy building three classes of amphibious ships and the Coast Guard's new National Security Cutter, and is still working to rebuild its infrastructure following damage from 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

Africa: The Next Defense Market Opportunity?

Africa: The Next Defense Market Opportunity? 22-Jul-2008: Despite the odd exception like Algeria, and South Africa’s indigenous defense industry, most people think of these terms when they think of the African defense market. Analyst firm Forecast International sees a different picture, however: “tomorrow’s growth market for the global defense industry.” This assessment didn’t come from reading Nigerian email solicitations. F.I. admits that overall African spending isn’t expected to suddenly become impressive: 3.5% increases year-on-year from 2007-2011 to $15.9 billion, with under 20% of defense budgets slated for procurement. That isn’t much to write home about, but “African Market Overview” author Matthew Ritchie sees the opportunities in much more specific terms. Meanwhile, Konstantin Makienko of Moscow Defence Brief discusses the key features of the arms market in Africa, and explains how they have worked to shift Russia out of its dominant role, in favor of China. His chronicle of Russian exports reveals at least one recent market success, however – in Sudan…
Matthew Ritchie, Forecast International: ”...looking at the confluence of burgeoning security requirements and vast oil and [natural] gas reserves in the context of high energy prices and it becomes readily apparent that there is a collection of Africa nations demonstrating procurement characteristics reminiscent of the Middle East three decades ago.” Algeria, Libya, and Nigeria are cited as key examples of the energy-wealth driven increases, and their specific increases are both higher and more procurement-driven than other African governments’. Growing oil production around the entire Gulf of Guinea could lift other boats as well, creating other nations with “rentier governments” with a correlated interest in overhauling their military capabilities in order to secure their position against external or internal hostility. The African arms market has traditionally featured a US/European vs. Russian focus, thanks to the Cold War. Russia’s lack of interest in the uses its weapons are put to will continue to make them somewhat popular, and their Algerian natural gas for arms squeeze play aimed at Europe remains the most significant arms deal on the continent. China is a growing player in this market, however, for reasons that combine their ‘no strings’ policy and growing ties to the region created by China’s resource needs. Nigeria’s 2005 buy of J-7 fighters is a good example of that trend, and the relative low cost of Chinese export offerings is a plus in this market. Konstantin Makienko of Moscow Defence Brief describes 3 key factors influencing most African arms purchases: Economic weakness. This leaves a very few states as serious players who can buy new equipment, coupled with concentration of demand in lower market segments like used equipment. High levels of localized conflict does drive demand for weapons, but the demand it drives is often the cheapest, simplest weapons with the fastest delivery times. This can be items like small arms, but basic items delivered from existing state stockpiles also have an edge. Finally, the weakness of state institutions, pervasive corruption, and in many case the collapse of central government into ‘failed state’ status drive illegal arms sales in which non-state and even black market dealers thrive. These dynamics, coupled with key losses during the 1990s in South Africa and Nigeria, have eroded Russia’s standing in favor of China, whose offerings and approach offer a much better fit with these characteristics. The biggest exception is Algeria, and even that deal has become shaky. Makienko’s chronicles the history of Russian defense exports to the region reveals another bright spot, however – Sudan, who is also a notable chinese arms and oil client. Despite all this, Forecast International reports that American and European share of the total value of arms transfer agreements with Africa rose from 34% to 37% between 1999-2002 and 2003-2006. As the oil market drives military modernizations in a number of key African states, will that trend continue?

India: Engine's Delayed Delivery Clouds Indian Trainer

India: Engine's Delayed Delivery Clouds Indian Trainer
22 July, 2008: NEW DELHI - Even as the first Russian engine arrived in India the first week of June to power the homegrown Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), the delivery schedule of the trainers to the Indian Air Force is still unclear, as the AL-551 engine has to be flight-tested further in Russia. The delivery of the engines is already behind schedule by more than two years. A senior official of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), which is developing the homegrown IJT, admitted that the trainer program is behind schedule mainly because of the delay in the supply of the AL-551 engine. The engine developed by Russia's NPO Saturn is still in the certification stage and has to undergo testing on a Russian aircraft, said the HAL official, adding that HAL will receive three AL-551 engines by August, after which IJT's flight trials will begin using the Russian engine. So far, the two prototypes of the IJT are being powered by French-made Snecma Larzac 04H20 engines. In 2002, India contracted to acquire the AL-551 engine from Russia's NPO Saturn to replace the Larzac, and the first batch of IJTs was to have been delivered by early 2006. However, due to delays in producing the Russian engine, the schedule for 12Limited Series Production IJTs is now revised to 2010. However, a senior Indian Air Force official said, the Russian engine has yet to be certified by the Russians themselves, and it is not certain if the Indian Air Force (IAF) will get the 12 IJTs by 2010. In addition, the Indian Air Force has ordered another 60 IJTs. HAL sees its IJT as a cost-effective solution in the $10 million price range. It expects to sell 145 IJTs to the IAF and a further unspecified number to the Indian Navy. The homegrown IJT program was sanctioned by the government in 1999 with an initial budget of $45 million. The plane is meant to replace the Air Force's workhorse HJT-16 Kiran jet trainer. The Russian engine is a scaled-down version of the AL-31FP that powers the Su-30 MKI combat aircraft. More than 200 engines are to be eventually produced by HAL at the Koraput facility in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. The HAL official said, "The IJT program, which began in 1999, has had one of the fastest design cycles for an Indian-built aircraft- just 42 months from design to rollout." However, the Indian Air Force official said, the delivery schedule of the IJT is uncertain and no definitive dates can be set as the engines have yet to be certified, and the continued supply of the engines to power the IJTs cannot be guaranteed.

France offers India partnership to export submarines

France offers India partnership to export submarines 22 July, 2008 - NEW DELHI: France has offered India a partnership to export hi-tech submarines to third countries. “Our strategy is not only to be in India for developing products for India but to develop for others because we think that a submarine is a strategic defence system which a lot of navies are interested in developing,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DCNS Jean-Marie Poimbeuf told The Hindu. Submarines are counted as among the most potent defence platforms as they can operate undetected far beyond a country’s shores. The DCNS, 75 per cent owned by the French government, is currently building six submarines for India at Mazgaon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai, at a cost of about Rs. 15,000 crore. “We think India is a good place to develop activity for other countries. We have a lot of countries interested in submarines. Singapore would acquire new submarines in three to five years. Malaysia might ask for a second batch of submarine. Thailand and Indonesia would be interested,” Mr. Poimbeuf said. Since a submarine is a big-ticket item – each submarine being built for the Indian Navy will cost about Rs. 2,500 crore – the opportunities for the Indian industry would be huge in case the French offer materialises. As a step towards intensifying cooperation with Indian companies, a DCNS subsidiary will be operational next month. It will help in the ongoing submarine project and also set up joint ventures with local companies to locally build specific equipment for submarines. Project on torpedoes “Beyond the submarine project, the DCNS (India) will develop cooperation with other shipyards. The DCNS is already working on propulsion system for corvettes with Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE). There is another project of cooperation on torpedoes,” said Mr. Poimbeuf. The DCNS, he assured, was ready to continue with technology transfer and work with local companies. “We will be very open to technology transfer. We will listen to the governmental policy on the way they would like [the next lot of] submarine would be constructed. We are totally open to develop industrial cooperation and set up a joint venture with a local company that Indian government allow us to do,” he observed. The DCNS chief said his company would reply to the request for information (RFI) for the next batch of submarines. It is also in discussion for other projects. “We received a RFI for training ships and offshore patrol vessels and would like to answer in cooperation with local shipyard. We will participate with design and support the construction in India.” The company’s top brass held several sounds of discussions last week with Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta to discuss technology transfer for the present lot of submarines. “I read in newspapers and assured him that there was no restriction on technology transfer from the French government and we are doing that since the beginning of the contract,” he explained. Admitting that the building of the first submarine had been delayed, he was, however, optimistic of the six submarines rolling out by the projected date of 2017. “It is a very complex naval system. There is nothing more complex more than a submarine. Besides, for over 15 years there was no activity regarding construction of submarines in India. To restart this activity takes time.”

Russian Superjet 100 continues flight tests

Russian Superjet 100 continues flight tests BERLIN, July 22, 2008 - Russia's new Superjet 100 medium-haul passenger airliner made its second test flight on May 24, the head of the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company announced on Wednesday. The Superjet 100 project is a family of medium-range passenger aircraft developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau in cooperation with major American and European aviation corporations, including Boeing, Snecma, Thales, Messier Dowty, Liebherr Aerospace, and Honeywell. "On Saturday, the Sukhoi Superjet 100 plane conducted a second test flight, which lasted for two and a half hours," Viktor Subbotin said at the Berlin Air Show ILA2008. "It increased its altitude from 1,200 meters (4,000 feet) to 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) and reached a horizontal velocity of 250 mph," the official said. Prior to certification testing, the plane has to undergo a series of preliminary flight tests at the aircraft manufacturing plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia's Far East. A total of four planes will be used in the certification program. Three additional planes are being assembled at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant. Subbotin said that Sukhoi planned to conclude the Superjet certification in the first half of 2009 and officially unveil the new aircraft at the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget next year. "Once the plane has been certified we will immediately start deliveries of the plane to our customers," he added. Sukhoi plans to manufacture at least 700 Superjet 100s, and intends to sell 35% of them to North America, 25% to Europe, 10% to Latin America, and 7% to Russia and China. So far the company had secured 73 solid orders for the aircraft. The list price of a 95-seat base model is $28 million, but the company is currently working on both smaller and larger capacity modifications. The market for the Superjet 100 is estimated at around $100 billion for around 5,500 planes, up to 2023.

Ukraine parliament to discuss Russian fleet pullout preparations

Ukraine parliament to discuss Russian fleet pullout preparations KIEV, July 22, 2008 - A bill on preparing for the Russian Black Sea Fleet's withdrawal from Ukraine's Crimea by 2017 is ready and will soon be submitted to the Ukrainian parliament, the country's foreign minister said on Tuesday. "The bill is ready and will be submitted for consideration. We will now wait for the Supreme Rada to adopt this law," Volodymyr Ohryzko said. Frequent disputes have flared up between Russia and Ukraine over the lease of naval facilities on the Crimean peninsula. Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses the Sevastopol base under an agreement signed in 1997. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko recently decided not to extend the lease beyond May 28, 2017. In early June, Russia's lower house of parliament adopted a resolution saying the Russian-Ukrainian cooperation treaty could be denounced if Ukraine joins NATO. Ukraine's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since the 2004 election of President Viktor Yushchenko. Ukraine failed to secure an agreement on a NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at the organization's summit in April, but was told the decision would be reviewed in December.

US investment in Indian airline

US investment in Indian airline July 22, 2008: Indian carriers have been hit hard by rising fuel costs. US-based private equity investor WL Ross has agreed to invest $80m in Indian low-cost airline SpiceJet, the carrier has said. SpiceJet is India's second-largest domestic low-cost carrier with 10% of the market share. India's fast-growing airline industry is under pressure because of the rising cost of aviation fuel. Analysts say some airlines may be forced to suspend some short-haul routes to reduce losses. SpiceJet director Ajay Singh said WL Ross had "extensive experience of investing in the aviation sector". "With this investment, we have no doubt that SpiceJet will fulfil its promise of emerging as India's leading airline," he said. Wilbur L Ross Junior, the chairman of WL Ross, is expected to join the SpiceJet board of directors. This is WL Ross's second investment in India - last year, it acquired textile firm OCM India for about $37m.

Russian bombers to fire live missiles in Siberia drills

Russian bombers to fire live missiles in Siberia drills MOSCOW, July 22, 2008 - Five Russian Tu-22 Blinder bombers will fire live missiles at a test range in East Siberia's Irkutsk Region during tactical exercises starting on Wednesday, the Air Force said on Tuesday. Spokesman Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said the three-man crews will receive training in combat flight theory and enhance their aviation weaponry skills. "The exercises will last until July 25, and five Tu-22 aircraft will take part in them. The bomber crews will also master interoperability with other Air Force branches and Air Defense units," he said. The Tu-22 supersonic bomber was designed by the Tupolev aerospace and defense company and entered service in the Soviet Air Force in 1962. The jet has been used by the air forces of several countries including Libya and Iraq.

China, Russia finally fix long-disputed border

China, Russia finally fix long-disputed border Beijing - July 22, 2008: China and Russia signed an agreement Monday that ended a decades-long territorial dispute and finally determined their borders, in the latest sign of warming ties between the former Cold War foes. The protocol, signed by the two countries' foreign ministers in Beijing, added to an existing agreement on their 4,300-kilometre (2,700-mile) boundary, meaning all of the frontier is now set. "China and Russia have discussed their border for over 40 years. It's no simple matter that we have now demarcated the border in its entirety," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said, after the agreement was signed. "At a political level, it's a mutually beneficial, win-win result," he told reporters at a briefing at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in the Chinese capital. A bitter rift during the Cold War saw the one-time communist allies fight skirmishes along their border. For years, both nations deployed enormous tank armies on both sides of the border, and if full-scale war had broken out, it could have led to one of the largest land battles in history. Recently, however, Russia and China have drawn closer together, motivated partly by a joint ambition to prioritise economic growth. "As we preserve domestic stability in our respective societies, we have now created a very good external environment for social and economic development, which is of huge benefit to us both," Yang said. Yang's Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, described how the border -- once one of the world's most heavily fortified frontiers -- would gradually come to bring the two nations closer. "From a legal point of view we have created the preconditions for the border to become a link of stability, openness, mutual benefit, friendship and cooperation," Lavrov said. There were no specific details given to the press about the agreement, but the state-run China Daily newspaper said the agreement involved Russia handing back 174 square kilometres (69.6 square miles) of island territory to China. All of Yinlong island, known as Tarabarov in Russian, and half of Heixiazi island, Bolshoi Ussuriysky in Russian, in the rivers that border the countries in China's far northeast were returned, according to the paper. The area will now become the "first place on the mainland to see sunlight", forming the easternmost tip of the country, the China Daily said. The area, long claimed by China, was occupied by the former Soviet Union in a border skirmish as early as 1929, according to the paper. After his meeting with Lavrov, Yang spoke positively about the future of bilateral relations. "We exchanged views about how to further promote our bilateral strategic relationship and strengthen our cooperation at the regional and global levels. We reached a broad consensus. I think our discussions were positive," Yang said. Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Lavrov later Monday, welcoming progress made between the two countries. "I'm convinced that this visit will be instrumental in deepening the practical cooperation and strategic coordination between our two countries," Hu said when meeting Lavrov in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Pakistan court eases travel curbs on A.Q. Khan

Pakistan court eases travel curbs on A.Q. Khan Islamabad - July 22, 2008: A Pakistani court Monday ruled that nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan can travel within the country to visit relatives, but barred him from giving interviews on proliferation. Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, has been effectively under house arrest in Islamabad since February 2004, when he confessed on television to transferring nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Islamabad High Court judge Sardar Mohammad Aslam said in an order obtained by AFP that "no restriction shall be placed on his visit in Pakistan to meet any of his close relations subject to security clearance." The scientist's wife earlier this month lodged a court challenge against the restrictions on her husband, who had cancer surgery in 2006. "Dr A.Q. Khan will be allowed to meet his close relatives and friends subject to security clearance and necessary precautions... taken in regard to security and safety which is of paramount importance," the court order said. But it said that Khan "will not give interviews to any channel, to a news reporter from a print or electronic media in any manner whatsoever in respect of the issue of proliferation." Khan was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2004 but has been kept at his Islamabad villa ever since, guarded by troops and intelligence agents. Musharraf has rejected international demands for access to Khan. Khan has angered the authorities with a series of recent media interviews, including several in which he alleged that the US-backed Musharraf knew he was taking centrifuges to North Korea in 2000.

The Qatar Armed Forces Sign Contract for 18 AW139 Helicopters

The Qatar Armed Forces Sign Contract for 18 AW139 Helicopters July 22, 2008: AgustaWestland is pleased to announce that the Qatar Armed Forces has signed a contract for 18 AW139 medium twin helicopters. These aircraft will be operated by the Qatar Emiri Air Force supporting various government agencies to perform several roles including utility, troop transport, search and rescue, border patrol, special forces operations, law enforcement and homeland security. The contract value is in excess of EUR 260 million and includes crews training and initial spares package. This contract marks the continued success of the AW139 in the Middle East market with over 100 units now sold in the region. This order increases the sales total to more than 370 helicopters ordered by over 100 customers in nearly 40 countries. Additionally, this order further expands the success of the military-configured AW139 in the market having already been ordered by the Irish Air Corps and the UAE Armed Forces. An Irish Air Corps’ AW139 helicopter was recently showcased in the AgustaWestland static display at Farnborough International Air Show 2008. Giuseppe Orsi, CEO, AgustaWestland said “We are proud that the AW139 has been chosen by the Qatar Armed Forces as its new generation multi-role helicopter. The AW139’s excellent performance in hot and high operating conditions and its role versatility make it an ideal helicopter for government and military operations. The AW139 has quickly become the helicopter of choice in the medium twin class in the commercial market and we expect this model to achieve equal success in government and military markets." The AW139 can be configured to carry 8 to 15 troops in its spacious eight cubic metre cabin. Large sliding cabin doors allow both troops and equipment to be loaded and unloaded quickly. The AW139 sets new standards for performance in its class with a maximum cruise speed of 165 knots (306 km/h) and a maximum range in excess of 570 nm (1060 km) with auxiliary fuel. The advanced integrated cockpit with state-of-the-art technology minimises pilot workload allowing the crew to concentrate on mission objectives. As the only new generation medium twin helicopter in production, the AW139 has rapidly become the best selling helicopter in the market. The AW139 is the only helicopter in its class to meet the latest safety and certification requirements and has been proven in a wide range of government roles including troop transport, utility, law enforcement, homeland security, search and rescue, medical evacuation, VIP and head of state transport.

Britain Signs Through-Life Support Deal for Seawolf Missiles

Britain Signs Through-Life Support Deal for Seawolf Missiles 22-Jul-2008: The Seawolf air defense missile was originally tested and fielded in the 1970s, and saw action in the 1982 Falklands War. It performed well in that conflict in a short range defense role, and was credited with several kills. Upgraded versions corrected many of the remaining issues with the system, and these still equip the Type 22 and Type 23 Class frigates in service with Britain, Chile and Brazil, and slated for Romania. It is also fitted to Malaysia’s newer Lekiu Class frigates. The Seawolf Mid-Life Update/ VL Seawolf Block 2 missile system was recently installed on the Duke Class frigate HMS Sutherland, and it will equip other ships of class as they, too, are upgraded. Britain is slowly turning many of its defense support contracts into through-life “contracts for availability” that feature long term fixed costs and performance guarantee. Now Seawolf missiles have joined the list. In July 2008, BAE Systems announced the GBP 141 million SWISS (Seawolf In Service Support) Contract for Availability (CfA), which will sustain all of Britain’s Seawolf missiles in conjunction with a complementary contract to missile manufacturer MBDA. The contracts will last until the end of 2017, at which point the Seawolf system is expected to be phased out in favor of some of the systems being developed by Britain’s government-anointed “complex weapons team.” BAE Systems has been providing in service support for the Seawolf radars and command and control systems since 1979. With the new contract, they are charged with ensuring that availability, as measured by successful firings, is maintained. They will also be responsible for refit activities in cooperation with MBDA, which can be used to insert new technologies that improve performance and/or reliability. BAE release.

US keeps Taiwan at arm's length

US keeps Taiwan at arm's length July 22, 2008: WASHINGTON - The past month has seen some convoluted twists and turns in what seems to be the never-ending saga of Taiwanese arms procurement. In the second half of June it was reported in the Taiwanese media that the Taiwanese government had requested that the US government halt some US$12 billion in arms sales, originally proposed by the George W Bush administration in April 2001. This request by President Ma Ying-jeou's Kuomintang (KMT) administration, which came into office in May, harkens back to its day as an opposition party, when it was responsible for a delay of years for many of the items on the weapons shopping list. Ma's election produced the first KMT president in eight years and demonstrated public dissatisfaction with the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The return of the KMT gave Beijing the green light to go forward with formal talks on establishing direct flights, economic accords and a potential peace accord. On June 12, the Washington Post reported that in addition to holding up the arms package, senior US officials such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley are holding up the delivery of 66 F-16 C/D Block 50/52 fighter jets for Taiwan, estimated to cost $5 billion, possibly until Bush leaves office. The Post story confirmed what had earlier been reported in Taiwan; that Taiwan's government had privately urged that notifications to the US Congress for future arms sales not be sent in coming weeks as it completes talks with China on launching charter flights and expanding tourism, while Rice and other top officials appeared reluctant to irritate Beijing amid negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program. The US's reluctance is not hard to understand. Given that with Ma Ying-jeou's election as Taiwan's president, Taiwan and China have their first real chance in eight years to improve ties. The United States is worried that a big arms sales package is going to throw a wrench in the works and give China an excuse to object. The notifications to the US Congress would need to be made at least one month before an October lawmakers' break if the sales are to proceed this year. The last time the Bush administration notified the US Congress about potential arms sales to Taiwan was on November 9, 2007, for a Patriot-2 missile deal worth US$939 million. But Taipei wants the newer Patriot-3 missiles. The blanket freeze on the 2001 arms sales package, which includes submarines and PAC-3s air defense missiles, is unprecedented in Taiwan-US relations. Taiwan asked to buy new F-16s last year, but thus far the Bush administration has refused to accept formal paperwork needed to process the request, according to the US-Taiwan Business Council, which represents about 100 companies doing business in Taiwan, including contractors such as Lockheed Martin. The new F-16s would supplement 150 F-16A/B models sold to Taiwan by Bush's father, the first president Bush, in 1992. Joseph Wu, Taiwan's envoy to Washington, urged the US on June 10 to approve the sale of the jets as soon as possible. This, however, would put the Bush administration in an awkward position ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in August. Taiwan asked to buy new F-16s last year, but the Bush administration has refused to accept formal paperwork needed to process the request, according to the US-Taiwan Business Council, which represents about 100 companies doing business in Taiwan, including contractors such as Lockheed Martin. Reportedly, the US de facto embassy in Taipei, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), has turned down a letter of request (LOR) for price and availability data for 66 F-16s for almost two years. Wu made his remarks after the business council, now headed by Paul Wolfowitz, a former deputy secretary of defense under Bush, accused the administration of tampering with the US arms sales process. Aside from the jets the weapons package includes the 30 Apache attack helicopters, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, eight submarines and four Patriot air defense missile batteries, according to the Post. Meanwhile, on June 25 President Ma told a United States National Committee on United States-China Relations delegation, led by former US secretary of defense, William Perry, that Taiwan will continue to allocate funds for defensive arms to "ensure a solid national defense force". "We will rationalize our defense budget to acquire the necessary defensive weaponry to form a solid national defense force to show our will to protect the nation," said Ma in the Presidential Office. Meanwhile, the news of a possible arms freeze has energized Republican legislators in the US Congress. On June 30 US Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, co-chair of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, was joined by 13 senate colleagues to send a letter to Bush urging him to carry out the US commitment to provide Taiwan with weapons systems consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act. The letter said, in part: We welcome Taiwan's effort to bolster its defense capabilities and request for American arms. Upon reception of Congressional Notifications, we look forward to the opportunity to work with the administration in completing these sales as soon as possible. We are concerned by recent reports of a possible "freeze" on all foreign military sales to Taiwan. We believe that any freeze on foreign military sales to Taiwan violates the spirit of the Taiwan Relations Act. We have made attempts to clarify the status of these requests but to no avail. We request a briefing on the status of these sales from all appropriate agencies, and urge the Administration to expeditiously execute consideration of these requests. Asked about the issue on July 11 in Washington DC, Tan Chih-lung, chief of a Taiwan's military delegation to the United States, confirmed that there are eight congressional notifications pending in the Department of State and that it remains uncertain as to whether the arms procurements can be completed within Bush's term. These include anti-tank missiles, Apache helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, diesel-powered submarines, P3C anti-submarine aircraft and sea-launched Harpoon missiles, Tan said. On July 12, Taiwanese National Security Council (NSC) secretary general Sue Chi denied he had received a phone call from the US White House in which the arms procurement issue was raised. Sue Chi issued the denial in response to a report that White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley rang Su to inform him of the Bush administration's decision to freeze various arms sales to Taiwan and request that the Taiwan authorities avoid any comments on related issues. On July 14, the Liberty Times newspaper reported that the Taiwanese cabinet told the Defense Ministry to halt in 2009 the plan to upgrade its self-made Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) warplanes (Hsiang Chan Wings Spread Project) so as not to hurt recently improved ties with China. Taiwan began to develop the IDF, a high-altitude interceptor, in 1980, when it was still unable to obtain F-16s from the United States. With the help of General Dynamics, maker of the F-16, Taiwan has built 130 IDFs. On July 16, Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the US Pacific Command, confirmed the US has frozen arms sales to Taiwan. Speaking at a forum of the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC he said the decision was made after having "reconciled Taiwan's military posture, China's current military posture and strategy that indicates there is no pressing, compelling need for, at this moment, arms sales to Taiwan". But the following day Taiwanese military spokeswoman Liza Chi Yu-lan said that the Defense Ministry had not received any official notice from the US about the freeze. Meanwhile, in a non-clarifying clarification State Department spokesman Sean McCormack had this exchange during the daily press briefing: Question (Phoenix TV of Hong Kong): My question is regarding Taiwan. What is the current position of the US, you know, regarding on arms sales to Taiwan? Has it changed, the position? McCormack: The short answer is no. But let me reiterate for you what our policy is. The administration faithfully implements the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the United States makes available items necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient defense. There is an internal interagency process for the United States government to consider all military exports, including sales to Taiwan. When the interagency process achieves a final decision for specific arms sales, we will notify congress. We do not comment on specific weapons systems under consideration. And you should all know that we faithfully carry out the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. Question: So can I follow up? Is it true that it is frozen for the arms sale for a while, you know? McCormack: I have stated the US government policy on this matter. Question: Sean, a follow-up? Admiral Keating of the PACOM - I mean the US Commander of the Pacific Command - he said the other day that - you know, he actually - he confirmed that there is actually a freeze on the arms sales to Taiwan. So do you have any comment about his, you know, comment? McCormack: I saw those remarks. And what I would do is I would point you to what I have just given you as the official United States government policy that is applicable for all US government agencies, whether it's the Department of Defense, Department of State or any other part of the US government. So I would look to this statement that I've just given you as the official US government policy position. Since then it has been reported that Taiwan has abandoned a bid to buy 66 F-16 fighter jets from the US in an attempt to rescue the larger arms package before Bush leaves the White House, according to national security officials in Taipei.

Turkey to Buy 6 Subs in $4B Joint Venture Deal

Turkey to Buy 6 Subs in $4B Joint Venture Deal 22 July, 2008: ANKARA, Turkey - A joint venture led by German company HDW is set to build six submarines for the Turkish navy worth 2.5 billion euros (3.98 billion dollars), Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said July 22. HDW and its partner, Britain-based Marine Force International, will build the type-214 air-independent submarines at the Golcuk shipyard near Istanbul, Gonul said after a defense industry meeting chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Two other companies - DCNS of France and Spain's Navantia SA - had competed for the contract. The first vessel is planned to be operational in 2015.

Russia mulls regular bomber flights to Cuba: report

Russia mulls regular bomber flights to Cuba: report
Moscow - July 22, 2008: Russia may start regular flights by long-range bombers to Cuba in response to US plans to build missile defence sites in Eastern Europe, the newspaper Izvestia reported Monday, quoting an official. "Such discussions exist," the unidentified senior Russian air force official was quoted as saying, adding that the measure would be a response to the United States "deploying missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic." It was not clear whether he meant permanently basing the bombers in Cuba or using the island as a refuelling stop, but former top defence ministry official Leonid Ivashov told the newspaper that Cuba was best used for brief stopovers. Cuba should be used "not as a permanent base -- this is unnecessary -- but as a stopover airfield, a refuelling stop," Ivashov was quoted as saying. Spokesmen for the air force and the defence ministry declined to comment about the report to AFP. Starting long-range bomber flights to Cuba would signal a reawakening of military cooperation by former Cold War allies Moscow and Havana. In 2002 Russia closed its last military base on the island, a radar base at Lourdes. Plans to fly long-range bombers to Cuba "would be a good answer to attempts to place NATO bases new Russia's borders," former top air force commander Pyotr Deinekin told the RIA Novosti news agency in response to the Izvestia report. In a speech last year, then president Vladimir Putin likened the US missile defence dispute to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, though he added that relations between Moscow and Washington "have changed a lot" since then. The discovery in 1962 that Moscow was secretly building nuclear missile launchpads in Cuba pushed the world close to nuclear war in a terrifying two-week brinkmanship between the Soviet Union and the United States. Last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Moscow would take countermeasures against US plans to build an anti-missile radar facility in the Czech Republic and site interceptor missiles in Poland. Russia argues that the installations threaten its national security despite US assurances that they are directed against "rogue states" like Iran.

Thailand and Cambodia - UN help sought over temple row

UN help sought over temple row July 22, 2008: Both Thailand and Cambodia claim territory that surrounds the temple. Cambodia has asked the UN Security Council for an emergency meeting to resolve a tense stand-off with Thailand near the site of an ancient temple. For the past week, more than 500 Thai and 1,000 Cambodian soldiers have been stationed on opposite sides of disputed land near the Preah Vihear temple. The standoff began when the UN approved Cambodia's application to have the complex named a World Heritage Site. Bilateral talks on Monday failed to resolve the row. The foreign ministers of both nations are due to meet other regional leaders later on Tuesday, at the sidelines of the Asean regional meeting in Singapore, to try to come to an agreement. 'Utmost restraint' At the heart of the dispute is a 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) area around the 11th Century temple. The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962, but areas around it remain the subject of rival territorial claims. Earlier this month Unesco listed the temple as a Cambodian World Heritage Site, reigniting nationalist tensions, particularly in Thailand. Opposition forces there have been using the issue to attack the government - which initially backed the heritage listing. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has resigned over the issue. Thai troops moved into the area more than a week ago, after Cambodian guards arrested three Thai protesters, and since then both sides have increased their military presence. The two nations attempted to reach an agreement on Monday, during bilateral talks on the opening day of the Asean regional summit in Singapore. But officials said the discussions stalled over which maps should be used to settle ownership. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the Asean meeting that both nations had promised to exercise "utmost restraint" and abide by international laws to resolve the issue amicably. The dispute comes at a difficult time for Thailand, which is due to take over the rotating chairmanship of Asean next week.

Argentina renationalises airline

Argentina renationalises airline July 22, 2008: Buenos Aires: The Argentine government has renationalised the country's airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, nearly 20 years after it was privatised. It is the latest major company to be renationalised in Argentina, after a wave of privatisation in the 1990s. The Spanish group Marsans agreed to sell Aerolineas and its subsidiary Austral for an undisclosed sum. Aerolineas now carries a debt of nearly $900m (£450m) and is losing money to the tune of about $1m a day. The deal was announced with great fanfare, and some criticism, by the Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the presidential palace. "The fact is that the description just given by the Planning Minister - tough, serious but true - means this government was obliged to make a decision... to guarantee a service, communication, and to guarantee the survival of our flag-carrying national airline," she said. National pride It is still not clear how much it will cost and a full audit is being carried out. Most analysts say that Aerolineas Argentinas was already in a poor condition when it was sold 18 years ago. It is overstaffed and workers are represented by several different unions. More than half its ageing fleet of 67 planes are grounded. Passengers suffer constant delays and cancellations and, given the choice, many will choose alternative companies. And like all airlines, it is being hit by rising fuel costs. It is probably an understatement to say that making Aerolineas Argentinas profitable will be a challenge. But national pride is at stake here. In a recent survey, 70% of passengers said they were in favour of a takeover by the Argentine government - which has already purchased several of the companies privatised in the 1990s, including the postal and water services.

Russia denies role in warplane deliveries to Sudan

Russia denies role in warplane deliveries to Sudan MOSCOW, July 22, 2008- Russian state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport denied on Tuesday any involvement in deliveries of Russian jet fighters to Sudan. A Sudanese opposition newspaper said on Monday that a consignment of Russian fighter jets had been shipped to Sudan from Belarus, in an apparent breach of a UN Security Council resolution banning arms sales to the African state. "Rosoboronexport has not been directly or indirectly involved in the delivery of MiG-29 fighters to Sudan," company spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko said. He said Rosoboronexport "complies in good faith with international laws in respect to deliveries of military goods to countries under UN Security Council sanctions." Sudan Tribune quoted an anonymous source as saying a dozen MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters were shipped in discreetly via a Belarusian company two weeks ago, but could not confirm whether the fighters were actually sold by Belarus or simply came through the country. If the MIG-29s are used in Darfur, it would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591, which prohibits selling arms to Sudan's government or Darfur rebels for use in the war-ravaged region. Last year Russia was accused by Amnesty International of supplying arms to Sudan for use in Darfur, but the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the allegation. A Russian air group in Sudan, comprising 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters, provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan and carries out rescue operations. The Russian peacekeepers are expected to stay in Sudan for up to six years. Last May a MIG-29 was shot down by Darfur rebels over the Sudanese twin capital city of Omdurman, and its Russian pilot was killed.

Russia puts fifth German spy satellite into orbit

Russia puts fifth German spy satellite into orbit MOSCOW, July 22, 2008 - A Russian carrier rocket has successfully put into orbit a fifth German SAR-Lupe reconnaissance satellite, a Russian Space Forces spokesman said on Tuesday. "A Cosmos 3M carrier rocket, launched at 06:40 Moscow time (02:40 GMT) from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia has successfully orbited a German SAR-Lupe satellite," Lt. Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. The German SAR-Lupe satellite is designed to provide high-resolution radar images to NATO military commanders in Europe. It offers spatial resolution of less than 1 meter, and allows imaging at night and through clouds. "Control over the satellite has been passed onto the customer," the spokesman said. Russia's Space Forces previously conducted four SAR-Lupe launches in 2006-2008, under a 2003 contract between Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and German Cosmos International Satellitenstart Gmbh (a subsidiary of OHB Systems AG), which stipulated five SAR-Lupe launches until 2009. The Cosmos 3M is a liquid-fueled two-stage rocket, first launched in 1967, with over 410 successful launches to date. The booster has been designed to lift a payload of up to 1,500 kg (3,300 lbs) into low, medium, and high orbits.

Russia to offer nanotechnology for blood plasma cleaning

Russia to offer nanotechnology for blood plasma cleaning DENVER, July 22, 2008 - Nanotechnology will soon allow people to have their blood plasma cleaned relatively inexpensively, the head of Russia's Nanotechnology Corporation told his American partners during a visit to the United States. Leonid Melamed is leading a Rosnanotech delegation at a three-day summit on nano renewable energy that opened in Denver, Colorado last Sunday. "We could possibly have an opportunity to test the technology in December," Melamed said. Russians have so far been able to have their blood plasma cleaned during an almost two-hour session of plasmapheresis priced at up to 5,000 rubles ($215) at clinics. Patients can undergo treatment for metabolic disorder and remove toxins from their blood. Melamed said that fitness centers and beauty parlors could soon use nanotechnology to offer plasmopheresis to their customers. Melamed also invited Clayton Teague, who heads the U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, to attend an international nanotechnology forum to be held in Moscow on December 3-5, 2008. On the first day of the summit Michael Bruce, senior advisor for finance at the US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, described nanotechnology as an important sector for national security, finance and environmental protection. Alexander Losyukov, Rosnanotech deputy general director for international contacts, said earlier "one of our tasks is to introduce the corporation to our American partners and to outline directions for specific cooperation and prospects for the implementation of joint projects."

Venezuelan president arrives in Moscow

Venezuelan president arrives in Moscow MOSCOW, July 22, 2008 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Moscow on Tuesday for "strategic" talks on political, economic and defense cooperation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will receive Chavez later on Tuesday. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is also expected to meet with the Venezuelan leader. Upon his arrival in Moscow, Chavez called for Russia and Venezuela to become strategic partners in oil and defense, something he said would "guarantee Venezuela's sovereignty, which is currently being threatened by the United States." Ahead of his two-day visit, Chavez thanked Moscow for its recent support, including the provision of loans for the modernization of Venezuela's armed forces. He also pledged to develop further bilateral cooperation with Moscow, saying that Venezuela would continue to buy Russian military hardware, including combat aircraft and helicopters. Venezuela has bought over 50 combat helicopters, 24 Su-30MK2 fighters, and 100,000 Ak-103 rifles from Russia. It also holds a license for the production of the aforementioned military hardware. The current contracts are worth about $4 billion. "I hope we will sign a number of contracts we have been working on over the past few years, including in the energy sphere and on defense cooperation," the Venezuelan leader said. Moscow plans to start supplying Venezuela with at least ten Mi-28N helicopters in the second half of 2009. The two countries have also negotiated the delivery of three Russian Project 636 Kilo-class diesel submarines and at least 20 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Caracas. Contracts for these two deals, if signed, may be worth another $1 billion. The Spanish news agency Efe earlier said the potential acquisition of tanks by Venezuela could be discussed during the talks. The Venezuelan leader will also hold a meeting with officials from the Il aircraft manufacturer, and defense contracts are also expected to be signed. The Latin American country is interested in purchasing about 20 Il-114 patrol aircraft, some Russian sources said. In line with the state program for the modernization of the armed forces until 2012, Venezuela is planning to spend about $30 bln in the next four years on the purchase of weaponry abroad. The deals may see Russia become the main supplier of military equipment to Venezuela. Chavez, an outspoken critic of Washington, has focused his foreign policy on bolstering ties with countries outside the U.S. sphere of influence since coming to power nine years ago. Chavez also plans to discuss the establishment of a Russian-Venezuelan bank to finance joint projects. The Venezuelan government has already made amendments to the law on the Central Bank for the purpose. The Prensa Latina news agency earlier quoted Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as saying that the Caracas-Moscow partnership was significant for the whole of South America, not just Venezuela.

Why Russia lacks aircraft carriers

Why Russia lacks aircraft carriers MOSCOW, July 22, 2008 - Soviet military policies never called for building full-fledged aircraft carriers operating multi-role warplanes. Nor did Russia draft any clear carrier construction program at the turn of the century. On July 4, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, former chief of the Russian Navy's Main Headquarters, said the country had to build a carrier fleet in the near future. This call is a reaction to reports of two aircraft carriers being built for the British Royal Navy. As before, Russia is reacting slowly to Western naval successes. In the early 1970s, the Soviet Union could have built a real prototype aircraft carrier. The Project 1160 carrier design would have balanced the Soviet-U.S. naval strengths. The United States had more surface warships and long experience of carrier operations. Under Project 1160, the U.S.S.R. was to have built three nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with catapult-launched Sukhoi Su-27K Flanker warplanes. The projected carrier force was supposed to operate in conjunction with naval strategic bombers and attack submarines for the purpose of hindering the deployment of enemy carrier task forces. However, Project 1160 was opposed by an alternative program for building heavy air-capable cruisers (Russian acronym TAVKR), supported by Dmitry Ustinov, secretary of the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee in 1965-1976 with oversight of the armed forces, the defense industry and security agencies. TAVKR was an unviable hybrid warship combining the specifications of a heavy cruiser and an aircraft carrier. The government decision to build TAVKRs also heralded the beginning of a program to develop VTOL/STOVL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing/Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing) aircraft. This was an ambitious task. Such aircraft are notoriously difficult to develop, and the British Aerospace Sea Harrier remains the only effective VTOL/STOVL aircraft to date. The Soviet VTOL/STOVL aircraft program was a complete failure. In the fall of 1991, a Yakovlev Yak-141 Freestyle plane turned into a fireball after crashing on the deck of the air-capable cruiser Admiral Gorshkov. Fortunately, the program was cancelled in 1992. In the mid-1970s, the government discarded project 1160, focusing on the TAVKR program instead and impeding the development of VTOL/STOVL aircraft. However, conventional fighters cannot be converted into carrier-borne aircraft because the latter experience 100-200% greater loads during landing. Consequently, such planes must be designed from scratch. Nevertheless, Ustinov carried on with the TAVKR program and supervised construction of the Admiral Gorshkov, the fourth warship in the series. She is now being refitted as the Vikramaditya for the Indian Navy, highlighting the fiasco of the TAVKR concept, because nobody in the world is willing to pay for such hybrid warships. Russia's only aircraft carrier currently in service was laid down in Nikolayev, Ukraine, in 1982. Originally called the Riga, the carrier was subsequently renamed as the Leonid Brezhnev, the Tbilisi, and the Fleet Admiral Kuznetsov. However, the Admiral Kuznetsov features a steam-turbine power-plant with turbo-generators and diesel generators, while all modern carriers are nuclear powered. She has a limited range and endurance and lacks the steam catapult necessary for carrier fighters. The warship does have a ski-jump in her bow section, but numerous experiments have revealed that catapults are the only way to ensure safe take-off in any weather conditions, regardless of the plane's weight. Moreover, the Russian carrier has just a few navalized aircraft and only about 20 experienced carrier pilots. This year, the United States Navy will commission its tenth Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. There are plans to launch the new-generation carrier CVN-78 with electromagnetic catapults and about 100 aircraft, including unmanned aerial combat vehicles, by 2013. "The state rearmament program until 2016 stipulates no allocations for carrier programs," Kravchenko said. In 2009, the government will approve a concept for expanding the Russian Navy until 2050. Hopefully, the document will call for building new aircraft carriers. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Air India Showcased Boeing 777 at Farnborough Airshow

Air India Showcased Boeing 777 at Farnborough Airshow FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom, July 21, 2008 -- Air India's newest Boeing 777-300ER (Extended Range) airplane arrived Saturday in Farnborough, United Kingdom, ahead of Monday's opening of the Farnborough International Airshow. The 777-300ER will be on display during the air show highlighting its new livery, interior and passenger amenities. The 777-300ER is the 10th 777 delivered to Air India from its December 2005 order of 68 Boeing jetliners. The aircraft, named "Jammu and Kashmir" in keeping with Air India's tradition of naming its 777s after the various states of India, has a three-class configuration, including four first-class, 35 executive class and 303 economy seats. The airline will operate the 777-300ER on its India to United States via London route. Air India, India's national flagship carrier, in July 2007 became the first India-based airline to operate nonstop flights from India to the United States with its first 777-200LR (Longer Range) Worldliner airplane. The twin-engine Boeing 777 is the most fuel-efficient airplane in its category, a key element in its leading economic and environmental performance.