Thursday, September 25, 2008

China Finger in Every Pie

China Finger in Every Pie
(NSI News Source Info) September 25, 2008: Although the United States is the major trading partner for China, the enemies of America are also major customers for Chinese weapons. Iran, Venezuela and any dictator with cash can buy weapons from China. Other things are for sale, like the diplomatic veto China possess by virtue of its permanent seat on the UN security council. This gives the Chinese government more power abroad than at home. A food processor scandal (industrial chemicals being used illegally, and poisoning infants, young children, and even adults) has caused a growing panic over the safety of processed foods. The deaths of about a dozen infants, and nearly 100,000 getting sick, has led the public to fear massive damage to an entire generation. The Internet and cell phone chatter is out of (government) control, and the security forces do not know where this might go. The Chinese are learning a lesson absorbed in the West a century ago; without regulation, intense competition in the food business will produce food contamination. It happened in the U.S. and Europe in the late 19th century. It's happened in other developing countries under similar circumstances (but not to a large enough extent to make the news in the West). The Chinese scandal is huge, even by Chinese standards. Even people in the military and security forces are grumbling about the safety of their food. Thus, twice in one year, the government has to come up with some innovative method for defusing a potential mass uprising. First earthquakes and shoddy schools collapsing, now this. What next? September 23, 2008: The Chinese military held several days of exercises near the capital. The main purpose was to test the ability of forces from all the services to rapidly communicate and coordinate combat operations. The model for all this is what Western, particularly American, forces have been doing in the past decade. Chinese military analysts have been watching U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and trying to extract useful lessons. September 13, 2008: The government admitted that milk companies have been adding industrial chemicals to baby formula (to increase the protein content, required to make the formula nutritious enough to sustain infants). Chinese food processors have been cheating with food additives for years, and were caught out last year when this practice created dog food, exported to the United States, that killed family pets. Then it was found to have gotten into human food as well. China promised to improve its quality control. But that attitude did not reach the Chinese baby food industry, and now, because most Chinese mothers use formula rather than breast feeding, a generation has been poisoned. The population is enraged and the Internet again made it impossible to control the story. The modern police state, as effective as it is, depends on control of the mass media to work. The Chinese government fears the worst from this loss of media control, although reformers in the government see the Internet as a tool to force reforms and a decrease in corrupt practices. September 6, 2008: The government continues to face hundreds of large scale demonstrations a week. These are caused by perceived injustices, like the death of a child in an industrial accident, large scale fraud or corruption. Over a 100,000 riot police are on constant stand-by for this all over the country, and soldiers train for riot control duties, and are also on call. But this is often inadequate. That's because a new form of mob protest has developed, using the Internet and cell phones (texting) to arouse and organize large numbers of people to go out and do something. The government fears that eventually these Internet inspired mobs will go after corrupt officials and police. September 4, 2008: A Chinese government committee admitted that lack of supervision allowed corrupt officials and builders constructed shoddy schools during the last decade of economic boom. Most of those schools collapsed during the central China earthquakes earlier this year. The deaths of over 10,000 children inside collapsed schools caused much public anger. The government kept all this under control by paying parents of dead children cash settlements, but demanding they agree to keep quiet. Very clever, and effective. Now the truth can comes out, when it's relatively say to do so.

Japan At Risk From The Ocean

Japan At Risk From The Ocean (NSI News Source Info) September 25, 2008: On September 13th, the Japanese destroyer Atago spotted a submarine periscope about a kilometers away. Even the ship's captain got a look at it before it submerged. The Atago turned on its sonar, and radioed headquarters to see if there were any American or Japanese subs in the area (off Kochi prefecture, on the southeast Pacific coast). There weren't. The sub was in Japanese waters, and according to international law, should have surfaced and identified itself when pinged by sonar. But instead, the sub sped up and moved away. The Atago did not have a helicopter on board to aid in the search, and after 90 minutes, the sub slipped away. The sonar contact did reveal the sub to be, most likely, Russian or Chinese. The Japanese keep an eye on the choke points the Russians must use to get their subs out to the ocean, and, without giving anything away, said they did not believe the boat was Russian. That left the Chinese, who have been sending their subs farther and farther afield over the last few years. Four years ago, a Chinese nuclear powered sub was caught in Japanese waters, and the Chinese eventually apologized for that. The U.S. has underwater surveillance systems that cover most of the Pacific, but there was no public American report on whether any subs had been spotted in that area. The U.S. is very secretive about their wade area underwater sensor system, so as not to give any potential enemies useful information on what the system can, and cannot, track. The Atago incident caused Japanese politicians to call for a change in the current laws, so that Japanese ships can use force (depth charges, or even torpedoes) to go after subs that are illegally intruding into Japanese waters. But the most embarrassing aspect of the incident was the inability of the Japanese to track the intruder. Japanese still remember the starvation of the last year of World War II (1945), when submarines and naval mines cut off food imports and caused a deadly famine.

Indonesia’s Air Force Adds More Flankers

Indonesia’s Air Force Adds More Flankers (NSI News Source Info) September 25, 2008: Russia’s MAKS air show doesn’t have quite the international clout of Farnborough or Le Bourget, but the price and quality of modern Russian fighters ensures its place on the international circuit. In August 2007, Russian sources claimed that $3 billion in civil and military contracts were signed at MAKS 2007. That year, the top military contract came on opening day, when Rosoboronexport State Corporation and the Republic of Indonesia signed a $355 million Memorandum of Understanding for 3 SU-27SKM and 3 SU-30MK2 fighters.
Indonesia’s 12 remaining F-16A/Bs and 16 remaining F-5E/F fighters experienced severe maintenance problems in the wake of a US embargo, which was triggered the Indonesian military’s widespread human rights abuses in East Timor. A $192 million contract began to address that in 2003 by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat and 2 Su-30MKK twin-seat multi-role fighters from Russia, and Indonesia is continuing on that course despite the lifting of the US embargo in November 2005. August 2007 featured the $355 million agreement for additional fighters, and a month later that purchase was followed by a $1.2 billion array of submarines, armored vehicles, and armed helicopters. It’s all part of an oil-fueled modernization drive, backed by increased military spending. DID offers details regarding the new fighters and their regional implications, as well as the procedural snag that may delay their delivery… The SU-27SKM and SU-30MK2 are parallel upgrade programs with many modifications in common, including the addition of digital cockpits with updated avionics, additional wing hardpoints, carrying capacity upgrades to 8000 kg of weapons, a wider variety of weapon options, upgraded radars and ECM, and in-flight refueling capability. These modifications change the SU-27 from a dedicated air superiority fighter to a versatile attack aircraft as well, and both planes share the Sukhoi Flanker family’s combination of long range, large payloads, and air to air performance that can match or beat any American fighter except the F-22A Raptor. For more on the strategic and procurement issues tied up in this purchase, see UPI analyst Martin Sieff’s “Jets for Jakarta: A Whole New Strategic Game For Australasia” [UPI direct Part 1 Part 2], and Air Power Australia’s “Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power.”

CROWS = Videogame + Vehicle + Real Guns

CROWS = Videogame + Vehicle + Real Guns (NSI News Source Info) September 25, 2008: Most military vehicles can mount some sort of weapon, and even small protected vehicles like up-armored Hummers have top mounts. Manning them can be hazardous, however, as the story behind the Chavis Turret illustrates. Gunners are especially exposed to enemy sniper fire and counter-fire in urban environments, which figure prominently in current and expected war scenarios.
CROWS in Iraq
In response, larger armored vehicles have begun using Remote Weapon Systems (RWS), consisting of a gun and sensors that sit on top of the vehicle. These systems are controlled from inside via joystick and screen, and all ammunition, sensors, et. al. are part of the topside assembly. This approach does reduce situational awareness in many instances, thanks to a narrower field of view and fewer audio cues. In exchange, however, RWS systems offer full in-hull protection for the crew, much better fire-on-the-move capability, and the ability to use the RWS’ advanced sensors in night or obscurement scenarios. RWS have become extremely popular in recent years; major competitors in this space now include BAE (LEMUR), Elbit Systems (ORCWS), Kongsberg (Protector), RAFAEL (RCWS and Samson families), and Thales (SWARM). The USA’s Common Remotely-Operated Weapons Station (CROWS) is a program uses smaller RWS options on vehicles like up-armored Hummers or blast-resistant MRAPs, in order to offer them the same set of trade-offs and benefits. CROWS orders had traditionally been filled by Recon/Optical Inc., but a major “CROWS-II” framework agreement with Kongsberg in 2007 changed that landscape. September 2008 has seen a large order under that framework, and the marriage of CROWS with an anti-sniper system… *The CROWS System *Contracts & Key Events [updated] *Additional Readings The CROWS System R/O’s CROWS CROWS currently equip the M1114 up-armored HMMWV (Armored Scouts/Military Police), and M1116 up-armored HMMWV (U.S. Air Force); the M93A1P1 nuclear, biological, chemical reconnaissance vehicle, scout vehicle; and some of Textron’s M1117 Guardian Armored Security Vehicles (Military Police), which have their own armored turret as part of the design. CROWS is versatile and modular. It can mount weapons such as the M2 HB .50-cal Machine Gun, Mk19 40-mm Automatic Grenade Machine Gun, M240B 7.62-mm MG(Machine Gun) and M249 5.56-mm Squad Automatic Weapon. The system’s sensor unit includes a daylight video camera with digital video processing capabilities, a thermal imager for night operations, and an eyesafe laser rangefinder. It is furnished with a fully integrated fire control system that provides ballistic correction, and offers a 2-axis stabilized (azimuth and elevation) gunner-operated weapon system, that corrects for vehicle movement. The Recon/Optical mount is capable of continuous 360 degree azimuth rotation and -20 to +60 degree elevation; the Kongsberg mount shares these abilities, with a maximum slew rate of 100 degrees/second and a topside weight under 350 pounds. The system’s control group, which mounts inside the vehicle, is the gunner interface allowing operation within the vehicle’s protective shell. Its main components include a display unit, Switch Panel Unit (SPU), and hand controller (joystick). The control group provides full remote control of the weapon system via on-screen menus presented on the display, and by the switches on the SPU and joystick. The CROWS system has received excellent reviews from US troops in Iraq – and if this sounds like a video-game to you, you’re in good company. As “CROWS: Public Videogame Turns Into Weapon Trainer” noted in May 2006, the US Army worked with game developers to put a CROWS module and mission sets into the new version of the hit Pentagon-sponsored videogame/ recruiting tool/ preparation tool “America’s Army.” That would certainly cut the time required to train new recruits. Indeed, the additional levels of proficiency possible through such approaches will act as another incentive for countries to equip their vehicles with RWS systems, instead of traditional gunner mounts. Contracts & Key Events Sept 23/08: Kongsberg announcement: “Last week, the US Army issued Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS a contract valued at $15 million for additional PROTECTOR Remote Weapon Stations (RWSs) to be integrated into the Vanguard Sniper Defense System and manufactured in Johnstown, PA….Under this latest contract, the CROWS II will be included with the Vanguard Sniper Defense System for the US Army’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.” The Vanguard system has been developed b DoubleShot, inc. of Rohnert Park, CA, under a $10.7 million contract announced on Aug 8/07. Sept 10/08: Kongsberg announces an order valued at NOK 1.1 billion (about $198 million) from the US Army. The weapon stations will be manufactured at Kongsberg’s plant in Johnstown, PA, and deliveries will take place in 2010. June 12/08: Kongsberg announces that they have booked an order valued at NOK 58 million (about $11.2 million) from the US Army, as part of the CROWS framework agreement signed in August 2007. The deliveries will take place in first half of 2009. The announcement also mentions a NOK 135 million (about $26 million) order by General Dynamics Land Systems in USA for “deliveries of weapon control systems for armoured personnel vehicles to US Army.” these are almost certainly destined for the US Army’s wheeled Stryker APCs, which use the Kongsberg Protector RWS. May 30/08: Kongsberg announces that it has booked an order valued at NOK 585 million (about $115.8 million) from the US Army under the CROWS framework agreement signed in August 2007. Deliveries will begin in second half of 2009. May 19/08: BAE Systems announces a $60 million order to provide thermal imaging modules to Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace AS for use with the systems in its CROWS-II contract. This is the first phase of a 5-year contract to supply up to 6,500 thermal sights, and additional contracts could increase the subcontract’s value to $200 million depending on Kongsberg’s orders. See also Oct 23/07 entry. BAE’s release claims that its “TIM1500 is the longest-range uncooled imager in service on remote weapon stations.” Uncooled imagers are preferred, because removing the need for cryogenic cooling reduces power requirements, weight, and size. Jan 2/08: Recon/Optical’s protest to the US Congressional Government Accountability Office is denied. Kongsberg release. Oct 23/07: BAE Systems announces a 5-year contract, with a potential value of up to $200 million to manufacture and deliver up to 6,500 TIM1500 thermal sights to Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace AS for the CROWS II system. The CROWS II program has a maximum order quantity of 6,500 remote weapon stations. Production deliveries will begin in early 2008. The initial order is a $15 million contract. Under an August 2005 contract valued at about $50 million, BAE Systems has already provided more than 1,400 TIM1500 units to Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace AS in support of the U.S. Army Stryker program. Production deliveries under that contract began in November 2005 and are expected to continue through April 2008. BAE Systems release. Aug 22/07: There’s a new RWS in town. Kongsberg Gruppen ASA subsidiary Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace won a 5-year, $1 billion firm-fixed-price and time and materials framework agreement for the delivery of up to 6,500 CROWS systems to the US Army. Duties will include delivery of Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station Systems, spare parts, depot operations, and field service representatives. The firm entered a modified version of its M151 PROTECTOR RWS that equips the USA’s Stryker vehicle fleet. an in-theater support arrangement is already in place for Protector systems via a General Motors/ General Dynamics partnership, under this contract, Kongsberg will handle CROWS work on its own. Kongsberg release. The CROWS-II win means that future CROWS orders will go to Kongsberg, but actual purchases under the framework agreement will be driven by future demand and annual allocations. While DefenseLINK says that work will be performed in Johnstown, PA, this facility reportedly has only 16 employees; most of the manufacturing will take place in Norway, and is expected to be complete by Aug 1/12. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Bids were solicited via the World Wide Web on Aug. 23, 2006, and 3 bids were received by the U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Command at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-07-D-0018). Kongsberg also received the first order under the framework agreement, which carries a value of $292.9 million and applies to the delivery of weapon stations, spare parts and support. Sept 26/06: Recon Optical Inc. in Barrington, IL received a $37.7 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for units of the common remotely operated weapon station. Work will be performed in Barrington, IL and is expected to be complete by June 1, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on March 29, 2006 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command atPicatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-06-C-0152). May 16/06: Recon Optical Inc. in Barrington, IL received an additional $36.3 million firm-fixed-price contract for the CROWS. Work will be performed in Barrington, IL, and is expected to be complete by April 1, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on March 29, 2006 by the Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-06-C-0152). Aug 3/05: Recon Optical Inc. in Barrington, IL received a $68 million firm-fixed price contract for 230 common remotely operated weapon stations (CROWS). Work on this contract will be performed at Barrington, IL and will be completed by April 30, 2006. The U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command Picatinny Arsenal, NJ issued the contract (W15QKN-05-C-1209). Sept 26/05: Recon Optical Inc. in Barrington, IL received an $8 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for the common remotely operated weapon station. Work will be performed in Barrington, IL and is expected to be complete by March 30, 2007. This was a sole source contract initiated on Aug. 16, 2005 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-05-C-1209).

Slovenian Army’s New APCs: Patria’s AMVs

Slovenian Army’s New APCs: Patria’s AMVs (NSI News Source Info) September 25, 2008: On June 12/06, the Slovenian Ministry of Defence announced that Patria’s Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV) had been selected as the preferred vehicle for the its armored vehicle program. Patria notes that the order will include 135 wheeled armored personnel carriers in 4 different versions, including one variant with Patria’s new unmanned NEMO 120mm mortar turret. The deal had been negotiated at EUR 278 million (about $367 million), with deliveries to take place from 2007-2013.
Patria AMV w. NEMO turret
That order is still going through, but Israel’s Elbit suffered a recent setback when its ORCWS rmotely-operated turrets were removed from the program. They will be replaced by a competitor… AMV w. RLS IFV turret The AMV’s most frequent competition comes from General Dynamics’ twin subsidiaries: Steyr with its Pandur II, and MOWAG with its LAV III Piranha. The December 2006 Patria release touts their AMV’s status as ”...first of its kind in the world with the unique level of mine protection certified by South African authorities.” Even so, each competitor has seen its share of recent wins. Patria had won some of these competitions, including a large 690-vehicle contract in Poland, plus 84 AMV orders from Finland so far that include 24 breech-loading 120mm AMOS twin-mortar variants. It has also lost competitions in Belgium (242 LAV III Piranhas for $850 million) The Czech Republic (199 Pandur IIs for $1 billion), and Portugal (260 Pandur IIs for $482 million). The Slovenian award was a significant win for Patria in this context, and it was also significant as the first sale of their new single-barreled New Efficient MOrtar 120mm system, introduced in June 2006. Patria is better known for its twin-barreled and manned AMOS 120mm mortar turret, developed in partnership with BAE Hagglunds. Despite initial orders of 2 AMOS systems for the Finnish Army and 2 evaluation systems for Sweden, Defense Update describes AMOS as having an “inhibitive price tag.” This may create a market opportunity for the single-barreled EMO, despite its lower rate of fire. The AMV vehicles will be manufactured in Finland and in Slovenia with local co-operation partners. Industrial offsets will include 30% direct offsets within the contract, and 70% other Slovenian items exported globally. Production will gradually be transferred to Slovenia in 2007 and 2008, with Rotis and Gorenje in prominent roles. Patria Oyj is owned 25%/75% by the Finnish State and EADS, and its AMV has been in serial production since 2004. UPDATES: Sept 19/08: The Slovenian Ministry of Defence removes Elbit’s ORCWS systems from the program, due to “shortcomings discovered in testing… above all at very low temperatures.” The ministry judged that Patria’s Slovenian intermediary Rotis d.o.o. had failed to secure the contractually agreed quality and reliability level of the weapon stations. Rotis has suggested Kongsberg’s M151 Protector system as a replacement, and accepted all the risks and costs of the change. This removes the up-gunned 30mm gun option, as the M151 is limited to a range up to 12.7mm machine guns, and 40mm grenade machine guns. The Slovenian ministry has signed an annex to the contract to change that term, though prices and the delivery deadlines have not changed. Slovenian MoD release. July 25/07: Elbit Systems announces a contract to supply overhead remote controlled weapon stations and unmanned turrets, as well as other electronic and electro-optical systems and components, for the Slovenian Armored Vehicle Program. Their portion is valued at approximately $ 40 million, with deliveries scheduled to take place through 2011. Elbit Systems is working with Patria AMV, and they will deliver laser detection systems along with their 30mm ORCWS-30 and ORCWS (for 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine guns, or 40mm grenade machine guns) remote-control turrets on board Patria AMV 8X8 vehicles. ORCWS stands for Overhead Remote Controlled Weapon System, and is controlled from within the vehicle using a joystick and screen that shows imagery from the ORCWS’ multi-spectral sensor systems. See “Elbit Wins ORCWS Turret Orders" for more.

Ireland Restarts Competition for Mine-Resistant Vehicles

Ireland Restarts Competition for Mine-Resistant Vehicles (NSI News Source Info) September 25, 2008: The Republic of Ireland is a neutral power with a small armed forces, whose equipment is more suited to policing than war. Eire’s troops do deploy abroad on UN missions, however, where more protection and firepower are needed. French AML-20/AML-90 armored cars, and GD MOWAG’s wheeled LAV/Piranha vehicles have been purchased and deployed on those operations.
In September 2005, Ireland canceled a planned purchase of up to 66 light-armored tactical vehicles (LTAV), which would have provided its forces with mine-resistant patrol vehicles for use on its missions in Pakistan/Afghanistan, Bosnia, Lebanon and the Golan Heights, The Congo, Liberia, and the Western Sahara between Morocco and Algeria. Instead, the Department of Defence purchased 15 more Piranha-III wheeled APCs in January 2006. That move has now been reconsidered. In early 2008, the EUFOR Chad mission was added to the above deployments, and in May 2008, the An Roinn Cosanta (DoD) restarted the LTAV tender competition. The new competition will be for 27 vehicles, plus a pair of options that could add 27 more and bring the total number of vehicles to 54. Tenders were received in early July 2008, and in September 2008 the 3 finalists were announced: The vehicles selected to go forward to the trials stage of the LTAV tender competition were: RG-32M, by BAE OMC of South Africa. This variant has also been purchased by Sweden, and is designed to function well in extremes of both heat and cold. The RG-32 and its larger, better protected relation the RG-31 are in service with the UN, and with a number of countries around the world. Pather LMV, by Iveco Defence Vehicles UK, a subsidiary of Italy’s Iveco. These vehicles use a mild v-hull, plus a number of additional safety features, in order to defeat mine blasts. They are vehicle is entering widespread service with the British armed forces, and have also been purchased by Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Norway, and Spain. Eagle 4, by General Dynamics MOWAG. Unlike previous Eagle vehicles, this Swiss machine is not based on the USA’s HMMWV. Instead, it uses a Duro truck chassis to improve its load carrying capacity and allow the addition of extra armor. Denmark and Switzerland both use this vehicle. Mine protection maxes out at STANAG 2A, but this option has commonality benefits since Eire already operates Duro trucks. A standard vehicle from each company has now arrived in the Curragh Camp for the commencement of trials, which are expected continue until early November 2008. A contract is expected to be announced before the end of 2008. Irish Department of Defence release.