India Requests Harpoon II Missiles
(NSI News Source Info) September 14, 2008: Sometimes, an order request is just an order request. Sometimes, as we saw in Singapore, it’s more than that. The US DSCA just announced [PDF] India’s official request to buy 20 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles with GPS guidance and improved near-shore capabilities; 4 ATM-84L Harpoon Block II Exercise missiles; containers; training devices; spare and repair parts; supply/technical support; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; technical data and publications; U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $170 million, and Boeing in St. Louis, MO would be the prime contractor. Surprisingly, there are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, and implementation of this proposed sale will not require the long-term assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to India.
The AGM-84L is the air-launched version of the Harpoon, which immediately raises questions. That missile – and especially its GPS-capable version – is not currently integrated with any of the aircraft in India’s current inventory, which are Russian (MiG-21/27/29, SU-30MKI, TU-95 Bear), French (Mirage 2000, Jaguar), or British (Sea Harrier). India also has its own Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, and an air-launched version for their large SU-30MKI fighters and TU-95 maritime patrol aircraft is currently in development and testing.
A Harpoon buy appears to make little sense. On the other hand, Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon aircraft could carry them without requiring an expensive integration project, something that is not true for India’s existing Russian and French missiles. Which adds fuel to the rumors that a $2 billion deal for the 737-derived P-8A long-range maritime patrol aircraft is close.
Transfer of First F-16s to Jordan
(NSI News Source Info) September 13, 2008: At the end of August 2007 the Belgian authorities finalised the sale of 14 F-16 (12 F-16AM and 2 F-16BM) fighters to Jordan for the total price of 70 million Euros. This sale is part of an agreement Jordan signed with Belgium and the Netherlands for the sale of 20 F-16 MLU fighters (6 of which are former Dutch Air Force aircraft and 14 ex-Belgian Air Force). After the necessary modifications Jordanian pilots are receiving their training in Belgium (OCU Squadron at Kleine Brogel air base) before returning with their mounts to their country. The Royel Jordanian Air Force already operates 33 surplus USAF F-16A/B air defense fighters, part of which is to be upgraded to MLU standards, and 3 former Koninklijke Nederlandse Luchtmacht (Dutch air force) F-16BMs. The Belgian aircraft involved are:
--F-16AM: serial numbers FA-58, -60, -61, -65, -66, -73, -74, -75, -76, -78, -88, and -90.
--F-16BM: serial numbers FB-04 (replaces FB-01 previously announced) and FB-08.
On Tuesday September 9th 2008 five of these aircraft had their Belgian nationality markings removed and replaced by the Royal Jordanian Air Force markings and serials. Four of these aircraft are to fly to Jordan via Aviano airbase in Italy and are therefore equipped with three drop tanks giving the needed range to the aircraft. It was initially said that the aircraft were to be refuelled in the air by tankers but apparently in a last minute change this was abandoned. The aircraft which are involved in the flight on 10 September are former FA-58 ("140"), FA-61 ("142"), FA-73 ("145"), FB-04("138") and FB-08 ("139"). FA-73 was the spare aircraft in case of technical problems with one of the other aircraft but it remained at Kleine Brogel as everything went very smoothly. The flight was via Aviano (Italy) and Souda (Crete).
(NSI News Source Info) September 13, 2008: Frustration with the U.S. Navy's refusal to talk substantively about its decision to shrink the DDG 1000 destroyer program is widespread in Washington, noticeably among some key lawmakers - particularly Navy allies - major industrial partners and even senior Pentagon leaders. The lack of a ballistic missile defense capability contributed to the decision to cut the DDG 1000 program.
The unanswered questions, the Navy's sudden switch away from support for the ship and new hints that structural problems might make construction even more of a problem are adding up, some say, to mean that no ships might come out of the decadelong effort.
Sources familiar with the ship tell Defense News that issues have arisen in guaranteeing the seals between the composite construction panels of the huge Zumwalt deckhouse. The structure - one of the program's 10 key engineering development models - is to be built by Northrop Grumman's dedicated composite facility at Gulfport, Miss.
The deckhouse is one of the major changes in DDG 1000 over previous warships. All of the ship's major sensors - radars, missile guidance systems, electronic warfare and other sensors - are embedded in the structure, and all of the ship above the first superstructure level is contained in the composite structure. A partial test section of the structure has been built, and Northrop and Navy officials have maintained that there are no significant problems with the composite deckhouse.
Navy officials hadn't responded to questions about the deckhouse before deadline for this article, but Northrop issued a statement Sept. 12.
"Our testing program of the composite deckhouse is very mature and continues to meet the technical requirements of the design," Northrop said.
But one source familiar with the situation said the Navy is so worried about the problem that it has been canvassing other manufacturers of composite structures to see if an alternate production source could be found.
So will any Zumwalts be built?
"I think the Navy has undermined its own case made over a decade," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and a key supporter of the DDG 1000, told Defense News. "I still expect the Navy's going to abandon the DDG 1000."
Navy Largely Mute
The service has never released a public announcement on what it's trying to do with the program. Immediately after a July 22 top-level Pentagon meeting, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Navy Secretary Donald Winter traveled to Capitol Hill to personally inform key lawmakers that the service wished to slash the planned seven-ship Zumwalt class of stealthy, advanced destroyers to two ships and return to building tried-and-true DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers. This was in response to a new intelligence assessment of a Chinese ballistic missile that can target ships at sea. Word of the move quickly filtered out to media via the offices of a number of senators and congressional representatives.
A well-attended hearing of the House Seapower subcommittee followed on July 31, when two senior Navy officials testified about the destroyers. At the hearing, several lawmakers expressed frustration at the lack of analysis and explanation for the move, and Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, the Navy's requirements chief, and Allison Stiller, the top ship acquisition executive, afterward rushed away from reporters and declined to answer questions about why the Navy wants to end a program that has cost about $11 billion in research and development and taken more than a decade to develop.
Given no warning of the Navy's change in attitude, congressional supporters of the ship - including most of the delegation from New England, where electronics giant Raytheon is developing the Zumwalt's combat system and radars - fought vociferously to save at least the third ship, currently in the Navy's 2009 budget request.
Faced with strong opposition, the Navy backed off its decision and on Aug. 18, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England sent a letter to Congress explaining that "the Navy has been directed" to support the budget request for one DDG 1000 but would protect future options for restarting DDG 51 production.
Since then, mum's been the word for a detailed explanation by top Navy leaders of what the service now wants and why.
"I've yet to get an answer to what changed," Collins said Sept. 9.
Collins, in whose state the first DDG 1000 would be built at the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard, is widely viewed as the strongest champion for the ship on Capitol Hill. She said the Navy's decision to cut the class to two ships left her "out to dry."
"Along with John Warner and one or two others, I have been the Navy's biggest advocate in the Senate. I have worked tirelessly to get the Navy the assets, the budget, the personnel it needs. And so it did feel like I had the legs cut out from under me," Collins said.
"If there is a serious new threat from China," Collins said, "it seems to us the Navy should have come to us and given us a classified briefing. That still hasn't occurred. There are these vague references to this new Chinese missile, but the Navy's never given us a briefing. You would think that if this threat was emerging and potent the Navy would have come and given us a classified briefing.
"This whole thing is very strange," Collins declared. "I'm baffled by the way this has been handled."
Supporters Left Out
Collins also questioned the Navy's rationale to build perhaps a dozen more DDG 51s, despite the fact that Bath is building six of seven of the last DDG 51s on order.
"The other part that is very troubling," Collins said, "is that when the Navy came to me with their alternative plan to restart the DDG 51 line, there were so many unanswered questions. Obviously, I have a great concern about the industrial base. I asked the Navy if they had had conversations with the two shipyards and what kind of work would be necessary to sustain production. And the Navy had not - apparently they wanted to try out the plan on the Hill. But the problem with that is that to evaluate the military aspects, all of us turned to the industrial base."
But the Navy's industrial partners aren't entirely sure what's going on either. Spokesmen for shipbuilders Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics would not comment on the situation, but sources inside the companies said no Navy DDG 1000 briefings have been forthcoming. Raytheon, however, was more forceful.
"There's been zero communication between the Navy and us about this," Dan Smith, president of Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems division, said Sept. 9.
The frustration even extends to Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee and a strong supporter of the Navy's move to build more DDG 51s. In a Sept. 3 letter to Winter, Taylor asked for an explanation of the Aug. 18 England letter again reversing the Navy's position on the FY 2009 ship. Taylor also asked for a detailed Navy response to a Government Accountability Office report on DDG 1000 presented at the July 31 hearing.
Taylor, in the letter, also asked Winter to "instruct the appropriate individuals on your staff to respond promptly" to questions from lawmakers and staffers.
At least a week later, the Navy had yet to respond.
The Missing Missile Link
One of the key q uestions provoked by the Navy's July 31 testimony on the DDG 1000 is why McCullough said the ship "cannot successfully employ the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), SM-3 or SM-6 missile."
The SM-2 is the Navy's primary area air defense weapon, intended to reach out 40 to 90 nautical miles to destroy enemy aircraft, missiles or ships; SM-3 is a ballistic missile defense weapon and SM-6 is the SM-2 replacement under development by Raytheon. The missile is what provides the "G" in DDG.
A DDG, or guided-missile destroyer, is able to provide air defense for other ships such as aircraft carriers, amphibious ships or merchant convoys. A "DD," or destroyer, might be armed with surface-to-surface missiles such as Harpoon or Tomahawk, or carry point-defense missiles such as Sea Sparrow to defend itself.
The Navy marks the distinction between the two types with separate series of hull numbers, represented by the current DDG 51-class destroyers and distinct from earlier destroyers such as the Spruance DD 963-class. The same situation applies to guided-missile cruisers (CGs), and used to apply to guided-missile frigates (FFGs), before their aging missile systems were removed a few years ago.
The DDG 1000 designation, a mix of the DDG classification and the DD hull number series, is viewed with ambiguity by many naval professionals, but the Navy firmly and consistently described the ship as capable of operating the Standard missile - until July 31.
Congress, industry and naval analysts remain confused as to why the Navy now says the DDG 1000 cannot use the Standard missile.
"Our [combat system] design has the SM-2 using the same link as used in all the other ships," said Raytheon's Smith. "The Volume Search radar is essentially the same as the SPY-1D" Aegis radar used in all current DDGs and CGs.
"I can't answer the question as to why the Navy is now asserting that, after years of funding and years of documentation, that Zumwalt is not equipped with an SM-2 capability," Smith said.
Navy officials have declined to explain the issue, tying it to responses about a ballistic missile defense capability the service did not require the DDG 1000s to have.
The service also hasn't responded to a weeks-old request on whether it considers the Zumwalt a DD or DDG, or what the difference is now between the types.
Congress continues to consider the 2009 defense budget, which officially requests the third DDG 1000. The Navy, for now, isn't advocating what kind of destroyer the ship is.
"Making certain that we have - I'll just say, a destroyer - in the '09 budget is more important than whether that's a DDG 1000 or a DDG 51," Winter told Navy Times on Sept. 4.
Ukraine major arms supplier to Georgia - Russia's military
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - September 13, 2008: Ukraine was the leading arms supplier to Georgia prior to its conflict with Russia over South Ossetia last month, the deputy chief of Russia's General Staff told an international forum on Saturday.
"Ukraine is the leader of supplies, univocally and unconditionally, as regards the volume of weapons provided to Georgia," Anatoly Nogovitsyn told the participants in the annual Valdai International Discussion Club meeting.
Russia previously condemned the U.S. for supplying arms to Georgia before and during the five-day operation "to force Georgia to peace" including by shipments claimed to be purely humanitarian.
"The fact that the Georgian army had been armed by our American partners is already undisputable, nobody even tries to challenge it," Russia's prime minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview with French Le Figaro on Saturday.
This year, the Valdai Club discusses the 21st century international geopolitical revolution and Russia's role in it. The discussions are organized by RIA Novosti, the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, The Moscow News paper, and the Russia in Global Affairs and Russia Profile magazines.
Around 80 political scientists, experts and journalists from Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and other countries are taking part.
India test-fires its new supersonic missile
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - September 13, 2008: India has tested a domestically produced supersonic air-to-air missile, national media reported on Saturday.
The launch was conducted from a test range at Chandipur in the eastern state of Orissa at around 12:05 local time (6:35 GMT), the Press Trust of India news agency said.
"Before being made full operational, the complex missile system would undergo some more trials, though test on its navigation, control, air frame, propulsion and other sub-system have been validated," an Indian defense source was quoted by the agency as saying.
The source also said that the single-stage, solid fuel propelled Astra missile "is capable of engaging and destroying highly maneuverable supersonic aerial targets."
The country's military are going to develop three derivatives of the weapon with the range varying from to 30 to 110 km (18.6 to 68.4 miles) capable of tracking and engaging targets at supersonic speeds up to Mach 1.4.
The nuclear-armed second most populous country also develops and builds advanced missiles at the Russian-Indian BrahMos Aerospace joint venture established in 1998.
The BrahMos missile has a range of 290 km (180 miles) and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 300 kg (660 pounds). It can hit ground targets flying at an altitude as low as 10 meters (30 feet) and has a top speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the U.S.-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile.
According to the press reports, India's defense budget was about $21.7 billion in 2007, up 7.8 per cent from 2006.