Iran Builds S-300-Style Anti-Aircraft
(NSI News Source Info) February 15, 2009: Iran's Defense Ministry says it has built a long-range anti-aircraft system capable of simultaneously striking multiple enemy targets. Iran's Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said Wednesday that the new anti-aircraft missile defense system has been domestically produced. The production of Iran's S-300 style aircraft comes amid wild talks of an Israeli go-it-alone air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
The system is capable of intercepting multiple missiles and aircraft at once, at high altitude and long range. "This long-range anti-aircraft system can identify and track multiple targets and is capable of simultaneously destroying them from a long distance," Brigadier General Mohammad-Najjar said at the Islamic Revolution's military achievements exhibition.
The Iranian minister added that the country's defense experts have also been successful in the domestic production of basic material for building surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. The cited capacities of the newly-built Iranian missile calls to mind the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system.
The advance version of the controversial S-300 system, the S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), can intercept 100 ballistic missiles and aircraft at once, at low and high altitudes within a range of over 150 km.
According to earlier reports, Iran has been negotiating a deal with Russia to obtain the sophisticated defense system. However, neither side has so far issued an official confirmation on the delivery of the S-300 to Iran.
Iran's increased mastery of missile technology comes amid widespread speculation about an Israeli military strike on Iran. The New York Times cited one of the newly-installed US administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying last week that "the first big foreign crisis of the Obama presidency is a really nasty confrontation, either because the Israelis strike or because we won't let them."
Earlier in January The Times reported that the Israeli government had sought bunker-busting bombs from former president George W. Bush, and demanded refueling capability and overflight rights over Iraq to take out Iran's main nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz.
The former president, however, deflected the secret Israeli request and revealed that -- as an alternative -- new covert actions intended to sabotage Iran's nuclear program had been authorized.
The West has confronted Iran over its enrichment program, saying it is ultimately meant to build nuclear weapons. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory Tehran insists that its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.
The UN nuclear watchdog responsible for investigating Iran's nuclear program said in its most recent report that there is no link between the use of nuclear material and the "alleged studies" of weaponization attributed to Iran by the West.
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - February 15, 2009: The United States signaled a willingness yesterday to slow plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe if Russia agrees to help stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Plans for the shield have contributed to a deterioration in US-Russian ties over the past few years, but the new administration of President Obama has said it wants to press the "reset button" and build good relations with Moscow.
"If we are able to work together to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, we would be able to moderate the pace of development of missile defenses in Europe," a senior US administration official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
It was the most explicit statement yet by an administration official linking the missile shield to Russia's willingness to help resolve the international stand-off over Iran's nuclear program.
He spoke as Undersecretary of State William Burns held talks in Moscow, the most senior US official to do so since Obama took office last month.
Burns signaled the United States was ready to look at remodeling its missile defense plans to include Moscow.
Washington is "open to the possibility of cooperation, both with Russia and NATO partners, in relation to a new configuration for missile defense which would use the resources that each of us have," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. Burns gave no details.
In another sign that strained relations may be thawing, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would meet Russia's foreign minister in Geneva next month.
The more flexible US position on its missile shield addressed one of Russia's chief complaints against Washington. Moscow viewed the plan to site missiles in Poland and a radar tracking station in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security.
Vice President Joe Biden told a security conference in Munich last week that the United States would press ahead with the missile defense shield, but only if it was proven to work and was cost-effective.
The Kremlin has been pressing Washington to give ground on the missile shield in exchange for Russia helping supply the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan.
But the US official in Washington focused on Iran.
The United States has led a drive to isolate Iran over its nuclear program, which the West fears is a cover to develop atomic weapons and Tehran insists is for the peaceful generation of electricity.
Russia and the United States agree that world security would be threatened if Iran acquired nuclear weapons but they disagree over whether Tehran is actively pursuing a weapons program.
Moscow, which plans to start up a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr plant by the end of the year, has used its veto in the United Nations Security Council on a number of occasions to soften or defeat US-led efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Iran.
Obama has said he is prepared to talk to Iran's leaders and offered economic incentives if Tehran "unclenches its fist." But he has also warned of tougher economic sanctions if Tehran does not halt its nuclear program.
Indonesia Hopes To Further Boosting Ties With U.S.
(NSI News Source Info) JAKARTA - February 15, 2009: Indonesia has expressed hopes that its ties with the United States under the administration of President Barack Obama will be boosted by the upcoming visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Jakarta Post reported on Saturday. (Photo/Image: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia)
"U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume met the (Indonesian) President and said Washington was in a "good mood" over its future relationship with Jakarta and the Barack Obama's administration is paying close attention to Indonesia," Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said after a meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Hume on Friday.
"President (Yudhoyono) says in return he hopes Indonesia and the United States can maintain and develop our good relationship." He added.
According to Dino, the meeting also discussed the visit of Hillary Clinton to Indonesia next week.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit four countries in Asia, namely Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China during her 8-day tour. The visit to Indonesia is scheduled for Feb.18-19 after her visit to Japan.
Dino said that Clinton's visit to Indonesia showed that the new U.S. leadership was paying attention to Indonesia due to Jakarta's increasingly important role in the global economy. He said the emerging role in the world economy was most evident through Indonesia's inclusion in the G-20 group of countries.
"I think her visit reflects Indonesia's position at the international level that we are getting established," Dino said, adding that Indonesia would take the opportunity to develop its "free-active" diplomacy, while persistently maintain the country's national interests.
Dino did not disclose any details about the issues Clinton will talk with the president, but said "Cooperation in education and science and technology fields would surely be discussed."
Yudhoyono is also likely to discuss issues arising from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with Clinton, following the talk between Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden in Washington last week, he added.
Indonesia and the United States have a fluctuated relationship.Washington had previously slapped an arms embargo on Jakarta over alleged past human rights violations involving the Indonesian Military. However, international efforts against terrorism, led bythe United States, have helped rejuvenate the relationship betweenthe two countries.
(NSI News Source Info) February 15, 2009: A U.S. Marines catches a cobra with his bare hands during a jungle survival exercise with Thai Marines as part of "Cobra Gold 09" east of Bangkok February 14, 2009. Thailand launched its annual war games on February 4 with troops from the United States, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia linking up with Thai forces for two weeks of joint military exercises.
(NSI News Source Info) February 15, 2009: TAJI AIR BASE — An initiative that has been in the works since August 2008 is now a realization as members of the Iraqi Air Force continued their quest toward night-vision operations with the help of U.S. Air Force aircrews. Before flying as an all-Iraqi aircrew, Airmen from the 721st AEAS flew with the Iraqis, ensuring mission success.
Members of the 721st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron, who train Iraqi aircrew members, relinquished controls to an Iraqi aircrew that flew their first all-Iraqi night-vision mission in an UH Huey, Feb. 8.
"They have flown at night, but none of these guys have flown [using] NVGs [night vision-goggles], specifically the instructors we are training,” said Capt. Kevin Burns, 721st AEAS pilot advisor. “This gives the Iraqi Air Force a night operation capability that was previously non-existent.”
Before flying as an all-Iraqi aircrew, Airmen from the 721st AEAS flew with the Iraqis, ensuring mission success.
Lt. Col. Abbas, Iraqi 2nd Squadron training officer and pilot, said without the help of the U.S. advisors they wouldn’t be where they are today.
Before taking off for the all-Iraqi aircrew flight, Burns, who is deployed from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., had to certify one last aircrew member in night mission aerial maneuvers. After being certified, the member joined Abbas, the lead instructor, to complete the milestone Iraqi flight.
"The ultimate goal is to have one advisor that is not doing any training with them, and then eventually pulls out completely and the 2nd Squadron can fully self-sustain not only their day training, but their NVG missions as well,” said Burns.
The Iraqi Air Force first acquired night-vision goggles in June 2008 and began their night training on American OH-58 Kiowa helicopters on loan from the Iowa National Guard.
By Fred W. Baker III - American Forces Press Service
(NSI News Source Info) FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARDEZ, Afghanistan, – February 15, 2009: I took my third trip off of the forward operating base here yesterday, and my third trip in a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, known as an MRAP. The provisional reconstruction team’s security force has five of them, with two more expected at the end of this month.
We went to Gardez City with a couple members of the Paktia PRT, including a U.S. State Department representative, to listen as they talked with the provincial leaders about courthouse and prison renovations.
Commander of Marine Corps System Command talks about the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle (backround) at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland. The vehicle has been designed to redirect a bomb blast away from the vehicle to protect U.S. military personnel and are now in use in Iraq.
Even though only three PRT team members were making the trip, as always it takes several security force personnel and vehicles. It is not simply a trip to town. It is a full-scale, down-to-the-detail military move.
As I loaded my gear and myself into the MRAP, I started looking around. This was, after all, the result of one of the largest and fastest Defense Department combat fieldings in history. It saves lives, officials have promised.
Inside the lumbering, heavily armored vehicle – with thick, ballistic windows and heavily armored walls -- you actually do feel safer. A gunner pokes through the turret with a heavy machine gun surrounded by more armor. There is not much leg room, though. I remark to the PRT team member sitting next to me that, for the billions of dollars the Defense Department is spending on these things, they could have at least put in a cup holder -- someplace to put your coffee.
The rear door weighs about 500 pounds and requires a hydraulic system to open and close. I asked one of the guys what would happen if, in an emergency, the system broke? How would we get out?
“Up there.” He pointed to the closed metal hatches in the roof above us in the back.
What happens if we roll over on our top? The MRAPs are very top-heavy, and the mountain roads in Afghanistan are steep and narrow, and there are no guardrails.
Then, he told me, you have to crawl out the front windows.
“OK,” I said, “as long as I know what to do.”
As we traveled into town, the security forces platoon sergeant sitting across from me was fidgeting like a 4-year-old in Sunday school. I realized he was looking out of the window nervously scanning the buildings and roads and people.
As I was enjoying the scenery, joking about cup holders, he was looking for threatening vehicles and suicide bombers. It is easy for me to feel relaxed, because I was thinking about stories and pictures. He was thinking about people who want to kill us.
We chatted for a second about what he was looking for in the buildings and roads. And then he asked me, “Why doesn’t Afghanistan get as much press as the war in Iraq? People die here every day.”
I said something about the fact there are more media members in Iraq, and a larger force, and more who have died.
But I really didn’t have an answer that satisfied him or me.
As it turned out, our trip was cut short. We were called back because suicide bombers in Kabul killed 17 people and injured 46.
(NSI News Source Info) BANGALORE - February 14, 2009: Like it or not, Suman Sharma, who was the first civilian woman to fly the F-16IN Super-Viper also became the first woman in the
world to fly the MiG-35, just minutes after Rakesh Sharma flew the F-18 Super Hornet on Friday at the Yelahanka air base as part of Aero India 2009.
First woman co-pilot Suman Sharma in the cockpit of F-16 Super Viper during the Aero India 2009 at Yelahanka Airforce Station in Bangalore on Friday.
MiG Aircrafts head Mikhail Globenko told TOI: "She is the first woman to fly on the MiG-35. Two reasons convinced us to fly her -- this aircraft is extremely safe and MiG pilots are remarkable. We knew she would be in a safe aircraft and in safe hands. We showed that in 2007 display too. And then we found she was brave, physically fit and ready to take the flight. We have in fact invited her for the Moscow air show in August."
Suman's flight comes in the context of Russian air force not having women fighter pilots at the moment and Russian women not having flown the aircraft. Interestingly, the flight happened on Friday the 13th. "It is a coincidence that we flew her on a military aircraft when we don't have women fighter pilots."
In the rush of personalities that this aero show has seen, Suman who first flew the F-16IN was followed by Abhinav Bindra on the F-16IN and Rakesh Sharma on the F-18. Now Suman herself was back again but this time on the MiG-35.
Suman said MiG authorities were convinced that she could fly as co-pilot and take the gravitational pull as she had already experienced the flight on the F-16 IN. "It was a 42-minute ride and was exciting. We did 20,000 feet at 0.9 mach. The pilot was conversing with me in English and asked me how I felt throughout."
Suman and her pilot did the side rolls and the 360 degree turns and high angle of attack for the manouvres and pulled 7G which has been the highest in this personality-driven flights. "I think the MiG 35 is about power -- tremendous power. You can feel it in flight. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it is twin engine. The stability and agility seemed remarkable with all the weight."
Its also a colourful aircraft with beautiful blue colour painted on the back. It also has the lean and curvy airframe which makes it appear deadly. The Mikoyan MiG-35 is a further development of the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-29K/KUB technology. Classified as a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft, the only existing prototype is the third modification of the existing MiG-29M2 airframe which previously served as MiG-29M2 model demonstrator.
The MiG-35 is now classed as a medium-weight aircraft because its maximum take-off weight has increased by 30% which exceeds its previous criteria of classification.
MiG Corporation had their first official international MiG-35 presentation during Aero India 2007.
Zardari: We Underestimated Taliban Threat
(NSI News Source Info) February 14, 2009: (CBS) Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, says his nuclear-armed government is in a battle to survive against the growing threat of the Taliban, which his country failed to take strong action against earlier.
Now the Muslim militant group has extended its presence from the tribal borderlands inland to larger cities, Zardari tells 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT. "[The Taliban] do have a presence in huge amounts of land in our side. Yes, that is the fact," says Zardari.
Once confined to the county's border area with Afghanistan, where they carried out strikes against U.S. troops over the border, the Taliban have extended their influence in Pakistan inland to cities like Peshawar and the Swat Valley. Zardari was elected president after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated while running for Prime Minister, probably by the Taliban.
He says the Taliban have been taken for granted for a long time. "It's been happening over time and it's happened out of denial. Everybody was in denial. '…They're weak and they won't be able to take over…they won't be able to give us a challenge,'" he says many thought. "And our forces weren't increased…we have weaknesses and they are taking advantage of that weakness," Zardari tells Kroft.
The Pakistani government has put 120,000 soldiers in the fight against the Taliban, who are suspected of harboring al-Qaeda members among them. They have had some success where the enemy can be found in numbers on roads or in the open. In more rural areas their efforts have been temporary. The Taliban can be lethal in small groups.
Insurgents have carried out more than 600 terrorist attacks, killing over 2,000, including 60 in a Marriott in the capital, Islamabad. Zardari is also battling public opinion in Pakistan. Most citizens believe the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is America's war their government is fighting by proxy. Not so says Zardari. "We're not doing anybody a favor…We are aware of the fact it's… Taliban…trying to take over the state of Pakistan," he says. "So, we’re fighting for the survival of Pakistan.
We’re not fighting for the survival of anybody else." Some observers have questioned how much power Zardari really has and whether he has the full support of the military and the intelligence service. They are behind him he says. "If that wasn't the case, then Islamabad would have fallen because obviously if the army doesn't do its job, these men are not restricted. They've blown up the Marriott Hotel before.
They’ve attacked us inland before. They would be all around us, wouldn't they?" he asks. Zardari is determined to prevail; it's more than his duty, it's personal. "I lost my wife to it. My children's mother…It's important to stop them and make sure that it doesn't happen again and they don’t take over our way of life," he tells Kroft. "That's what they want to do." Much of the world has a stake in Zardari's struggle as well.
With Pakistan in possession of about 100 nuclear weapons, a Taliban takeover poses a frightening scenario.
U.S. To Transit Non-Military Cargo To Afghanistan Via Russia
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - February 14, 2009: The United States will transit a consignment of non-military supplies to Afghanistan via Russian territory in the next few days, the Russian foreign minister said on Friday.
The announcement comes a little more than a week after Washington requested Moscow's permission to send several containers of non-military cargoes to Afghanistan via Russia.
"We confirmed without delay that we are ready to do this since it is fully in accordance with the agreement that was previously reached with NATO, and this transit will go ahead within the next few days," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the TVC Channel.
Russia and NATO signed a framework agreement on the transit of non-military cargos in April 2008.
Moscow said last Friday it would allow the transit of non-military supplies for U.S. troops in Afghanistan as soon as Washington provided Moscow with cargo specifications.
Several NATO nations, including France, Germany and Canada, already transport so-called non-lethal supplies to their contingents in Afghanistan via Russia under bilateral agreements.
Due to worsening security on the main land route from Pakistan and the expected closure of a U.S. airbase in Kyrgyzstan, NATO is seeking alternative routes to supply the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
There are 62,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, and new U.S. President Barrack Obama has pledged to deploy another 30,000 U.S. military personnel to the war-ravaged country.
Despite the recent deterioration in relations with NATO, Russia has continued to support the military alliance's operations in Afghanistan.
US Military Base In Bishkek Airport Kyrgyzstan....CHAPTER CLOSED #2
(NSI News Source Info) February 14, 2009: A group of United States service members were packed on a C-17 for a flight from the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan has delayed a previously announced decision to close the American base while it continues to negotiate with both the United States and Russia, according to an opposition leader in Parliament.
Military Laptops For Sale On Pakistan's Black Market
By Nathan Hodge
(NSI News Source Info) Peshawar, PAKISTAN - February 14, 2009: Peshawar has always had a reputation as a smuggler's paradise, the perfect place to score a 3,000 rupee Kalashnikov knockoff, a rusty Lee-Enfield or a nice block of hash. And as GlobalPost correspondent Shahan Mufti discovered, it's also a place where you can buy some off-the-shelf U.S. military equipment. Mufti recently paid a visit to the Sitara Market on the city's western edge, and was able to pick up a ruggedized U.S. military laptop for $650. The laptop, which looks like it is part of a vehicle diagnostics kit, came with clear U.S. military markings. According to the story, the laptop also stored "identities of numerous military personnel and information about weaknesses and flaws in American military vehicles being employed in the war in Afghanistan."
Peshawar is just down the road from the Khyber Pass, which has become a crucial bottleneck for supplying U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In December, militants torched over 100 trucks at a supply depot in Peshawar; earlier this month, militants blew a bridge along the route. A Pentagon spokesman told GlobalPost that the supply line from Karachi to the Khyber Pass had seen “a fairly constant amount of pilferage or losses” as trucks driven by civilian contractors are attacked or looted, although he added that computers with sensitive information are typically not trucked through Pakistan.
It's not clear whether the laptop obtained by GlobalPost has any actual classified data stored on it -- but it certainly looks like sensitive information has the potential to fall in the wrong hands. Precarious security on the Khyber Pass route is one of the reasons the U.S. and NATO are looking for alternate ways to resupply Afghanistan.
This story, incidentally, is a nice scoop for GlobalPost, the recently launched Web-based international news service. GlobalPost was founded in response to diminishing international news coverage; this story, one hopes, is a good example of the kind of reporting their network of correspondents will deliver.