Strategic bombers to hold live firing drills in central Russia
MOSCOW, August 1, 2008 - Russian Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bombers will participate in a series of exercises involving live firing drills in central Russia on August 4-8, an Air Force spokesman said on Friday.
The Tu-22M3 Backfire-C is a supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic bomber that Russia uses mainly to patrol the skies over its southern borders, Central Asia and the Black Sea region.
"During the exercises the crews will practice simulated bomber runs at testing grounds in the Novgorod and the Saratov regions," Lt. Col. Vladimir Drik said.
There are at least 141 Tu-22M3 bombers in service with Russian Air Force.
The Tu-22M3 has a flight range of 6,800 km (4,300 miles) and can carry a 24,000 kg (52,910 lb) payload, including nuclear bombs and cruise missiles fitted with nuclear or conventional warheads.
Russian nuclear sub test-fires ballistic missile in Barents Sea
MOSCOW, August 1, 2008 -- The Russian nuclear-powered submarine Ryazan has successfully test launched a ballistic missile from the Barents Sea, a Navy spokesman said on Friday.
"The missile hit a designated target at the Kura test site in Kamchatka at the designated time," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said, adding that the missile had been launched from a submerged position.
He did not identify the type of missile, saying that the information would be announced later.
"Russian Navy Commander Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky has congratulated the submarine crew on the successfully accomplished mission," he said.
Dygalo added that the Ryazan submarine was under the command of Capt. 1st Rank Igor Stepanenko.
The Kura test range is an intercontinental ballistic missile impact area located in northern Kamchatka. It is an isolated part of the peninsula, surrounded by the Okhotsk Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
Minot AFB ND (AFPN) Aug 01, 2008: The first B-52H Stratofortress reaches retirement after more than 45 years of dedicated service to the country July 24 here on its final flight to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
"It is a truly sad time when we decommission a plane," said Lt. Col. Bill Stahl, 5th Maintenance Group deputy commander. "But, the aircraft has served her country well."
The B-52H with tail number LA1023 was built in 1961 and assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La., but was here due to parking shortages at Barksdale AFB. It is the first of 18 B-52Hs selected by Air Combat Command to retire.
Every two weeks a B-52H will be retired, alternating between here and the 2nd BW in an effort to maximize funding for the aging assets.
"It is easier and cheaper to modify and maintain 76 planes, than to keep all 94 up and running," said Master Sgt. Curtis Jensen, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent.
While funding was a primary point of the decision process, there were other concerns involved.
"A choice was made between the Air Force and Congress stating that at this point we need fewer operational B-52s," Colonel Stahl said.
"The decision to pick the selected aircraft was based on a number of criteria that looked at the aircraft as a whole," he said.
"It's not like the aircraft are all rusted and corroded; it's just that the selected 18 are not as airworthy as the first 76. The remaining planes are split equally between here and Barksdale AFB."
When planes arrive at Tinker AFB, maintenance crews will cover all vents, engines and vulnerable areas. The planes will then be stored in a hangar in case they are needed sometime down the road, Sergeant Jensen said.
"Our job now is to make sure we keep the planes left here flying," said Tech. Sgt. Paul Nixon, 5th AMXS electronic warfare element chief.
BAE Recognized With Two Top Ten Greatest Inventions Awards
Arlington VA (SPX) Aug 01, 2008: BAE Systems was recognized for its contributions to the Objective Gunner Protection Kit (O-GPK) and its role on the Raytheon / BAE Systems Excalibur team at the 6th Annual U.S. Army Top Ten Greatest Inventions Awards.
The winners are selected by soldiers from active U.S. Army divisions and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
"This recognition shows our strong relationship with the U.S. Army and BAE Systems' ongoing commitment to innovation", said Scott Leitch, vice president for U.S. business development for BAE Systems Land and Armaments.
"We will continue to offer new products to our Soldiers and Marines, ensuring that those who protect us are protected with the newest and latest technologies."
The O-GPK provides a common force protection system, designed to integrate with the M1114 turret, mounted onto multiple tactical and armored vehicle platforms for increased protection from explosive device fragmentation and enemy small arms fire.
The 360 degree ballistic protection allows visibility for situational awareness without compromising system effectiveness, reliability, and lethality. The unique asymmetric geometry enables proper engagement of the primary weapon.
US axes captain of nuclear ship bound for Japan
Tokyo (AFP) August 1, 2008: The US Navy has fired the captain of the first US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be stationed abroad after a fire onboard hurt dozens of sailors and raised alarm in host Japan.
The USS George Washington is set to arrive in late September in Yokosuka, a naval hub near Tokyo, despite public protests in the only nation to have suffered nuclear attack.
The US Navy, releasing details of an investigation, said that a fire in May in waters off South America was caused when crew smoked near improperly stored flammable liquids.
A Navy statement on Wednesday said it was relieving Captain David C. Dykhof as commanding officer due to "a loss of confidence in his ability to command and his failure to meet mission requirements and readiness standards."
One sailor suffered first- and second-degree burns, while another 37 were treated for minor injuries, the Navy said.
The carrier needed 70 million dollars in repairs at a dockyard in San Diego, delaying its arrival in Japan, it said.
US diplomats and military officials visited the Japanese foreign ministry Thursday to explain the incident and said that the fire did not affect the safety of the nuclear equipment.
Shinichi Nishimiya, head of the North American affairs section, said he regarded the US investigation as "thorough and objective," according to a foreign ministry statement.
He said the punishment against the commanding officer showed US sincerity in enforcing discipline, although he urged US officials to take measures to prevent another incident, the statement said.
Japan agreed to accept the USS George Washington despite objections from residents around the Yokosuka base either opposed to nuclear weapons in principle or concerned about nuclear accidents.
Japan relies on nuclear technology for one-third of its electricity needs but has seen a series of accidents at plants that have dented confidence in safety.
The USS George Washington will replace the diesel USS Kitty Hawk, which is being retired from service.
The United States argued that it must deploy its best carrier in Yokosuka due to East Asia's tense security situation.
The United States, which dropped two atom bombs on Japan at the end of World War II, is now the closest ally of the Asian economic power and deploys more than 40,000 troops in the country.
But relations have recently been strained by a series of crimes committed by US servicemen in Japan.
Pakistan's deals see more militancy in Afghanistan
Kabul (AFP) August 1, 2008: Afghan defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said meanwhile the number of foreign militants in Afghanistan had increased, with insurgents changing tactics from targeting security forces to focusing on infrastructure. Pakistan's peace talks with extremists have resulted in a 40 percent rise in rebel activity in Afghanistan, where there are more foreigners on the battlefield, NATO and Afghan forces said Wednesday.
It is up to the international community to put pressure on Pakistan to root out the "cause" of the unrest, with NATO's military force not able to pursue militants over the border, spokesman Captain Mike Finney told reporters.
Afghanistan has seen a spike in insurgency-linked violence in recent weeks, with more attacks by Taliban-linked rebels, including against troops with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Finney said the warmer weather had also played some part.
"There is also evidence that the activities increased by some 40 percent since ... tribal areas became unregulated following the negotiations between the Pakistan government and Baitullah Mehsud," he said.
Mehsud is the shadowy leader of Taliban-based militants in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. He has vowed to continue "jihad" in Afghanistan even while pursuing peace talks with Islamabad.
"But the ISAF mandate is very clear, and that goes as far as the border," Finney said. "In terms of fighting the cause, that is for the international community to put pressure on those who can do something about it."
Afghan defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said meanwhile the number of foreign militants in Afghanistan had increased, with insurgents changing tactics from targeting security forces to focusing on infrastructure.
"In the past the attacks were mostly on Afghan and foreign forces. Now we see they target vital and basic infrastructure," Azimi said at the joint press conference with Finney.
The military had reports of militants planning attack on power plants and dams and they were already striking highways and construction projects, he said.
Foreign fighters were identified through documents found on their bodies and the languages they used, he said.
Afghanistan has long accused elements in the Pakistani army and intelligence of supporting Taliban militants for their own strategic interests.
Islamabad has strongly denied the allegations and said it is suffering from extremism as much as Afghanistan.
Iran again rejects nuclear deadline
Tehran (AFP) August 1, 2008: Iran on Thursday rejected any deadline to give its final response to a package drawn up by world powers seeking to end the nuclear crisis, and said there should be more negotiations to reach a deal.
"The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us. We gave them our response within a month as we said we would, now they have to reply to us," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, according to the state news agency IRNA.
Mottaki said Iran and the major powers had agreed at a July 19 meeting in Geneva to find common ground on both sides' proposals aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran's nuclear drive, and denied any ultimatum was set.
"Both sides said that in future meetings they should work on the communalities of both frameworks in a constructive way to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides, otherwise Iran's constructive activities will take their natural course," he was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.
Meanwhile the United States held back on Thursday from insisting on a strict deadline for Iran to give a final answer to the incentives package.
"I didn't count the days. It's coming up soon," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters when asked if Saturday was the deadline for Iran to accept or reject the offer.
He also said there is "no indication of that" when asked whether Washington would pull the incentives offer off the table.
On Wednesday McCormack warned of the consequences of any Iranian defiance, referring to the US threat of more UN and bilateral sanctions.
Iran on July 4 handed major powers what it said was its "constructive and creative" response to their offer presented by EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana in June aimed at persuading Tehran to halt sensitive nuclear work.
The package, drawn up by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, offers Tehran technology and negotiations if it suspends uranium enrichment which the West fears could be used to make atomic weapons.
Enrichment is a process which makes nuclear fuel but can also create the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili held further talks with Solana on July 19, at a meeting that was also attended by a top US diplomat in a major policy shift by Washington on the nuclear issue.
Solana said then that he expected an answer in a fortnight, but Tehran has since said there was no ultimatum or a deadline, just an agreement that it would examine the proposal during the two weeks.
"Perhaps based on incorrect analysis, some of the Geneva participants got the wrong expectation, but our job was to give our views to the 5+1 framework... then we gave our own framework," Mottaki said.
Last Saturday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran had boosted the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges to up to 6,000, despite calls for a freeze.
Iran, a leading member of OPEC, has already been slapped with three sets of Security Council sanctions for refusing to halt enrichment.
It insists it has the right to nuclear technology as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and denies wanting atomic weapons, saying it needs to produce electricity for its growing population.
On Wednesday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on major issues, said Iran would not retreat on the nuclear issue.
Tehran has won support for its stance from foreign ministers of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement meeting there this week.
"The ministers once again emphasised that Islamic republic of Iran's decision to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and its policies on the fuel cycle should be respected," a statement said.
"We hope the United States grasps the clear message sent by the 118 members of NAM regarding Iran's nuclear programme," Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
Libya Negotiates Weapons Deal With Russia
August 1, 2008 - Moscow: A Russian defence ministry source, quoted by Interfax, said Tripoli was interested in buying Russian surface-to-air missiles, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets with a total value over two billion dollars (1.3 billion euros). Libya is negotiating with Moscow to buy Russian weapons and for the construction of a nuclear power station, the countries' prime ministers said on Thursday.
"The Libyan leadership confirmed its interest in acquiring high-quality products from the Russian defence industry," Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying by Interfax and ITAR-TASS after a meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.
"We reached agreement on concrete steps that will enable strengthening of the Libyan armed forces thanks to bilateral cooperation," the Libyan prime minister said.
Quoted by RIA Novosti, the Libyan premier also said: "We are working on the project of creating a nuclear power plant, to be used for electricity generation."
A Russian defence ministry source, quoted by Interfax, said Tripoli was interested in buying Russian surface-to-air missiles, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets with a total value over two billion dollars (1.3 billion euros).
In April during a visit to Libya by Putin, Russia's president at the time, Moscow agreed to cancel billions of dollars of Libyan Soviet-era debt in exchange for multi-billion-dollar contracts with Russian companies.
On Thursday the two prime ministers also discussed cooperation in the oil and gas sectors between their petroleum-rich countries.
The Libyan premier said Tripoli had established a "special relationship" with Russian gas giant Gazprom, which has been in talks to develop gas projects in Libya, Interfax reported.
Gazprom has signed a cooperation agreement with Libya's national energy company, while Russia's rail monopoly, Russian Railways, also signed a 2.2 billion euro contract to build a 600-kilometre (370-mile) railway line connecting the Libyan cities of Surt and Benghazi.
At Thursday's meeting, Mahmudi invited Putin to Libya in August for a ceremony marking the start of the railway's construction.
Putin also thanked Mahmudi for Tripoli's decision to release an official of Lukoil, Russia's second-largest oil company, who had been detained in Libya since November 2007.
Lukoil said in a statement Thursday that Alexander Tsygankov, head of its Libya office, had returned to Moscow after being held for eight months without charges.
August 1, 2008: The U.S. Navy may eventually need as many as 90 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ships – far more than the 18 planned by the end of this year – especially if worldwide missile defense requirements help drive shipbuilding needs, a key three-star admiral said July 30.
Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, said combatant commanders (COCOMS) in areas like Europe and the Pacific would need far more Aegis BMD ships to meet continuous coverage needs. Officials in those locations, which watch Iran and North Korea among other countries, increasingly eye the naval system’s regional missile defense capabilities.
“The combatant commanders, the fleet commanders, want more of it; they want it all the time,” McCullough told a National Defense University Foundation breakfast audience. “That will drive our force structure requirements even higher.”
Currently, there are 15 Aegis ships that are capable of launching Standard Missile-3 interceptors, of which 30 have been delivered. Three Aegis BMD ships remain to be finished by the end of 2008 (three Aegis cruisers and 15 destroyers) while the Missile Defense Agency expects four additional interceptors too, MDA’s director said in mid-July. Some Japanese ships also feature the system and other nations are interested as well, Air Force Lt. Gen Trey Obering further said.
Already, MDA plans to double the missile production rate for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Aegis BMD systems between 2010 and 2015 (Aerospace DAILY, April 18). Obering demurred when briefing Pentagon reporters July 15 on how the Defense Department would budget for the increased demands under the next program objective memorandum (POM), but he noted that MDA was working with COCOMS.
“We work closely with StratCom,” Obering said of the Strategic Command. “They work closely with the other combatant commanders to gather together their desired capabilities that we can fulfill. And so we are taking that into the POM deliberations and we’re working that up through the building, through the department here, in terms of, OK, we prioritize this, and then where can we take additional risk is what it boils down to, to be able to satisfy that.”
Nevertheless, McCullough echoed longstanding concerns within the Navy of ceding command and control of its ships to the missile defense mission – although he stressed that the Navy will follow orders and meet national security needs. Asked about deploying Aegis BMD ships for homeland missile defense, such as against an airborne electromagnetic pulse attack, the vice admiral said the Navy is best used defending the United States around the globe – not 50 miles offshore. Still, he acknowledged, missile defense like Aegis BMD will only grow more popular and demanding.
“Right now, this is a growth industry and we see it as a growth industry for years to come,” he said. “Congress has been generous in the money they’ve given us – but things are expensive.”
Students Create Green MRO Concepts at 2008 Boeing Shanghai Challenge
BEIJING, August 1, 2008 -- Students from Northwest Polytechnic University, Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology earned the top three prizes in the 2008 Boeing Shanghai Challenge for their concepts about how to operate an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in a more environmentally progressive fashion.
The Boeing Shanghai Challenge, hosted by Boeing [NYSE: BA], Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services, Tsinghua University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, invited teams of students from across China to prepare "green" concepts for the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services MRO operation.
More than 35 teams from 10 top universities and five aeronautical universities in China participated. The entries were judged on creativity of solution, technical feasibility, depth and completeness of technical analysis, and clarity of presentation.
After a blind review by a panel consisting of Boeing executives and university faculty from participating institutions, the top five teams were invited to come to Beijing to make a final presentation to Boeing to determine the top three "all-around" winners. The winners received prizes of US$1,500, $1,000, and $750 at an award presentation ceremony on July 9 in Beijing. The three top winners were: Research on Green Disposal of Aging Aircraft by Northwestern Polytechnical University, Building an Environmental and Efficient MRO Supply Chain by Wuhan University and Environmental Progress and Practice: Improving the Environmental Effectiveness of Boeing Pudong MRO by Huazhong University of Science and Technology team.
Students from Tsinghua University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology won special awards for Technical Merit and Creative Merit for their respective projects.
"The Boeing Shanghai Challenge is an important milestone of Boeing's commitment to create an MRO business in China that reduces the environmental footprint of the existing MRO supply chain within aviation industry," said Per Noren, leader of Environmental Strategy for Boeing's Commercial Aviation Services group. "We will continue to cooperate with leading academic institutes to leverage the competence, analytical capacity, innovations, energy and skills of students and faculty members to create a better future for our world."
Pakistan seeks to expedite defence pact with Sri Lanka
Colombo, Aug 1, 2008: Pakistan, a key arms supplier to Sri Lanka, has urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government to expedite the proposed “futuristic” bilateral defence cooperation agreement between the two countries. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is here in Colombo for the 15th SAARC summit and held bilateral talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart Rohitha Bogollagama, said Thursday that the proposed defence pact would further bolster defence ties between the two countries.
“Pakistan has already put forward to Sri Lanka the draft proposal for a (bilateral) Defence Cooperation Agreement. We want Sri Lanka to quickly move on that, because it would be a futuristic draft agreement to bring us closer,” Qureshi said.
He said Pakistan and Sri Lanka had traditionally enjoyed close friendly relations “based on mutual respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in each other’s state”.
Claiming that Pakistan had been cooperating with Sri Lanka in its campaign against extremism and terrorism, Qureshi said his country had helped (militarily) Sri Lanka in difficult times in the past, as well as trained Sri Lankan army personnel and officers.
“It is a very satisfactory arrangement that we have now. Our current close military cooperation with Sri Lanka will certainly continue,” he said.
U.S. Government Releases $1 Billion in Funding for Production of Six Lockheed Martin F-35B STOVL Aircraft
FORT WORTH, Texas --- August 1, 2008: The U.S. Department of Defense has released $1 billion of funding to acquire six Lockheed Martin F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft as part of the second Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract for the F-35. The LRIP 2 contract, worth $2.2 billion for a total of 12 aircraft, was awarded in May. At that time the government authorized six conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35As, with release of $933 million, and gave provisional approval for the STOVL jets pending certain requirements. Those stipulations were met by the first flight of the initial F-35B test aircraft on June 11 and by completion of a propulsion system review on July 22. The government exercised the option for the STOVL aircraft and released the $1 billion on July 22. The government had previously released long-lead funding of $158 million in July 2007 for the 12 LRIP 2 aircraft. An additional $110 million of sustainment options remains to be authorized in the 4th quarter of 2008. "Getting these STOVL aircraft into production quickly is critical to supporting the USMC's aviation recapitalization objectives," said Dan Crowley, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and F-35 program general manager. "The F-35 Fighter Production System now has all 19 SDD aircraft and the first two LRIP 1 aircraft in flow. We will continue to ramp-up until we reach a peak rate of one F-35 per working day in the middle of the next decade." Long-lead funds of $197 million for LRIP 3 were released on May 14 for 19 additional F-35s. The LRIP I contract for the first two F-35A production aircraft was finalized and issued in July 2007. The U.S. Marine Corps is expected to operate about 340 F-35Bs. The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and the Italian Air Force and Navy also will operate the STOVL variant, which will be the world's first STOVL aircraft to combine stealth with supersonic speed. The first F-35A test aircraft has completed 45 flights and the first F-35B has flown nine times, with both planes demonstrating high reliability and exceptional performance. Nineteen other F-35s are in various stages of assembly, including the first two production-model jets scheduled for delivery to the U.S. Air Force in 2010. The F-35 is a supersonic, multi-role, 5th generation stealth fighter. Three F-35 variants derived from a common design, developed together and using the same sustainment infrastructure worldwide will replace at least 13 types of aircraft for 11 nations initially, making the Lightning II the most cost-effective fighter program in history. Lockheed Martin is developing the F-35 with its principal industrial partners, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. Two separate, interchangeable F-35 engines are under development: the Pratt & Whitney F135 and the GE Rolls-Royce Fighter Engine Team F136. Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation reported 2007 sales of $41.9 billion.
NASA mission finds conclusive proof of water on Mars
WASHINGTON, August 1, 2008: - The Phoenix Mars lander mission has found the first clear sample of water ice, confirming the possibility that life may have formed on the Red Planet, NASA said.
"We've now finally touched it and tasted it," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, who directs a sensitive instrument aboard the Phoenix called TEGA. "From my standpoint, it tastes very fine."
The lander's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer detected frozen water in a soil sample scooped and analyzed this week, he said Thursday at a news conference in Tucson.
The first load of ice amounted to about 3 cubic centimeters, about enough to fill a teaspoon.
At a news conference Thursday, Michael Meyer, chief scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, announced another five weeks had been added to the Phoenix mission. It had originally been approved for 90 days.
"Phoenix is healthy and the projections for solar power look good, so we want to take full advantage of having this resource in one of the most interesting locations on Mars," Meyer said.
"With that, what I'd like to do is announce that we're going to extend the mission to go till the end of the fiscal year [September 30]," he said.
The lander arrived on Mars on May 25 and was in the 67th Earth day of its mission Thursday.