Wednesday, December 02, 2009
DTN News: U.S. Marine Corps Chooses H&K To Make SAW Replacement *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) - December 3, 2009: The U.S. Marine Corps has selected the infantry automatic rifle made by Heckler & Koch as the weapon that will replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in infantry fire teams, a senior service official told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday. The H&K IAR is the lightest of the four weapons the Marine Corps tested this summer, weighing 7.9 pounds empty. It has a barrel length of 16.5 inches and a collapsible stock that extends from 33 to 36.9 inches, company officials have said. It has a gas-operated system and fires from the closed-bolt position. The H&K IAR "was truly the best in the class on multiple levels and will finally allow the billet of automatic rifleman to be performed as intended without the disruption of the squad integrity that the M249 created," Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffrey Eby, the Corps' senior gunner, said in an e-mail. The final contract competition also included two models from Colt Defense LLC and one model from FN Herstal. Like the SAW, each IAR finalist is built for 5.56mm ammunition. Unlike the SAW, they are not designed to operate with a 200-round drum, a point of contention for some U.S. Marines concerned about a loss of firepower. The IAR is designed to use the same 30-round magazine used with the M16, although industry, including FN Herstal, is also developing high-capacity 5.56mm magazines for the weapon that could hold 100 or 150 rounds. The H&K IAR is the lightest of the four weapons the U.S. Marine Corps tested this summer, after selecting finalists for the competition in December 2008. It weighs 7.9 pounds empty, with a barrel length of 16.5 inches and a collapsible stock that extends from 33 to 36.9 inches, company officials have said. It has a gas-operated system and fires from the closed-bolt position. Marine Corps Systems Command, based at U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., had not announced the winner of the IAR competition as of Wednesday morning. SysCom officials said in September that they expected a decision on the IAR to be made in October, but have declined interviews since. Eby, who oversees the Corps' infantry weapons experts, said he has known who won the contract for about a month, but referred questions about why it has not been announced to SysCom. A formal protest was filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office by FN Herstal to a Marine contract decision Oct. 30 and updated Nov. 23, but GAO officials declined to discuss whether the protest was related to the IAR decision. Colt currently has no contract protests filed with GAO. Eby said initial operational testing is scheduled to take place from January to May in locations ranging from Panama to the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center and Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in California. "If successful and awarded full-rate production approval, then we should see initial operational capability by late summer 2010," Eby said. Company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY December 3, 2009 ~ 3 European Nations Pledge More Afghanistan Troops
*Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) LONDON, UK - December 3, 2009: Britain, Italy and Macedonia said Monday they were ready to send extra soldiers into Afghanistan, as U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to announce a massive surge of U.S. troops for the country. British soldiers with the NATO led- International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are seen talking with an Afghan child while patrolling in Sangin district of Helmand province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he expects the allies to boost the NATO-led force by more than 5,000 soldiers. He said the best way to overcome widespread public opposition to the war in Europe is by demonstrating progress on the battlefield. Obama is expected to unveil on Tuesday plans to send between 30,000 and 35,000 reinforcements to a NATO-led force battling Islamic extremists in Afghanistan as part of a strategy intended to, in his words, "finish the job." On the eve of his speech, the three European nations said they were also prepared to boost their military commitment to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) drawn from nearly 40 countries. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said London would boost its regular troops in Afghanistan by 500, bringing its total deployment there over the 10,000 mark. "I believe over the coming months, even more countries will respond," Brown told lawmakers in the House of Commons. "As long as the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas are the location of choice for al-Qaida and the epicenter of global terrorism, it's the government's judgment that we should address the threat at its source," he said. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Rome was ready to send more troops but he did not specify how many. Italy has 3,250 soldiers in ISAF, the sixth largest contingent in the international alliance. "Afghanistan is a test for the Atlantic alliance's credibility," Frattini said in comments reported by the ANSA news agency. "It is clear that Italy must finish the job started with NATO and make a greater contribution if it is needed," he said. Macedonia - not a NATO member - meanwhile confirmed it would send an extra 80 soldiers from February, adding to its 160 troops already there. Calls for more troops to fight militants in Afghanistan have mounted amid concerns about the progress of a massive U.S.- and European-led effort to stabilize the country after the Islamist Taliban regime was toppled in 2001. Obama's expected pledge of more soldiers, which emerged from an exhaustive policy review, aims to bolster the drive to repel a resurgent Taliban, secure major cities and fast-track training for Afghan security forces. France's Le Monde daily reported on its Web site Monday that the United States had also asked France to put up another 1,500 troops for the allied mission. The French foreign ministry refused to confirm or deny the report which said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the request on Thursday in a telephone call to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said he had told Obama in a telephone call Monday that France's priority was the development of the Afghan forces so they can assume a larger role in securing their country. A London conference on Afghanistan in January would provide an opportunity to assess with the Afghan authorities what was needed, he was cited as saying. Sarkozy also confirmed "that France remains fully committed to Afghanistan on the side of the Afghan people and its allies for as long as is necessary for the Afghans to progressively assume their responsibilities," it said. France already has 3,750 soldiers attached to the campaign, 3,400 of them in Afghanistan itself, but Sarkozy's government has insisted that it has no plans to increase the number. Britain is due to host an international conference on Afghanistan on Jan. 28 at which Afghan President Hamid Karzai is likely to be set tough new benchmarks on fighting extremism in his country.
DTN News: Northrop Threatens To Pull Out of KC-X Race *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON, USA - December 3, 2009: Northrop Grumman has told Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter it will not bid for a multibillion-dollar U.S. Air Force aerial tanker contract unless major changes are made to the rules governing the competition. The KC-45 tanker won a contract in February 2008 to build 179 planes for the U.S. Air Force, but Boeing challenged the award and the GAO overturned it four months later. (Northrop Grumman) Pentagon officials fired back hours later, vowing to resist altering the rules to meet a competitor's wishes and saying they have run the new competition "right down the middle." Northrop President and CEO Wes Bush, in a Dec. 1 letter to Carter, said if the Pentagon wants the company and its European partner, EADS, to compete, defense officials must make "meaningful changes" to the draft request for proposals (RfP) for the KC-X program. "Absent a responsive set of changes in the final RfP, Northrop Grumman has determined it cannot submit a bid for the KC-X program" Bush wrote in the letter. A Northrop spokesman said Bush complained to Carter, the military's top weapons buyer, because Air Force tanker buyers failed to respond to Northrop's concerns that the draft RfP was stacked in favor of Northrop's rival, Boeing. "It is Northrop's expectation that DoD will modify" the RfP, said company spokesman Randy Belote. A final RfP was expected by Nov. 30, but has not yet been issued. The Air Force is expected to award a contract to Boeing or Northrop next summer for 179 planes. The contract could be worth $35 billion. In a Nov. 4 letter, Bush asked that Northrop's list of concerns - which already have been transmitted to the Pentagon - be addressed in a revamped draft RfP. The Air Force replied that the department has informed Northrop that it is sticking with the original draft. Bush said the company is concerned that the evaluation criteria outlined in the draft RfP give a "clear preference" to a smaller plane with "limited multirole capability." The Northrop-EADS KC-330 is larger than Boeing's expected entrant, the KC-767. The former also offers more cargo- and passenger-hauling capacity. The Air Force's solicitation - written along with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) - also would place on Northrop, Bush told Carter, "contractual and financial burdens ... that we simply cannot accept." "This second draft RfP is fundamentally different from what the Air Force said it wanted and needed 18 months ago," Belote said. "The requirement has not changed, but what the Air Force is asking for has changed fundamentally. How did that happen?" In a statement issued several hours later, the Pentagon said it "regrets that Northrop Grumman and Airbus have taken themselves out of the tanker competition and hope they will return when the final RfP is issued." EADS is the parent company of Airbus. The DoD statement reiterated defense officials administration-bridging desire for a true competition, but added the Pentagon and Air Force "cannot compel the two airplane makers to compete." DoD said both Northrop-EADS and Boeing have suggested RfP changes "that would favor their offering," but added the department "will not change the war fighter requirements for the tanker to give advantage to either competitor." The statement repeats Obama administration officials' months-old claim that they have orchestrated this latest attempt at buying new tankers "right down the middle." DoD said a final RfP likely will be released in January. Northrop-EADS was expected to again compete against Boeing to build new flying gas stations are slated to replace the military's aging KC-135 tankers. The Bush administration in late February 2008 picked the Northrop-EADS plane over the favored Boeing aircraft, a contract award the latter quickly protested. The contract award was axed that June when the Government Accountability Office determined the Air Force-run competition was flawed. That followed an embarrassing failed attempt earlier this decade to lease KC-767s from Boeing. Many defense experts, because of that scandal, have stressed the importance of two competitors squaring off for the massive contract. A sole-source contract award could be politically damaging to the military and the White House, experts said. Northrop appears ready to take advantage of this. In the Dec. 1 letter, Bush tells the DoD acquisition chief that Northrop brass "are aware of how important it is to the credibility of the ultimate KC-X tanker award that it be arrived at competitively." The threat to pull out of the KC-X race will surely be seen by many in the global defense community as an attempt to force OSD and the Air Force into altering the rules and evaluation criteria spelled out in the draft RfP. Bush added that Northrop officials will soon begin notifying its 200 KC-330 supplier firms that the Northrop-EADS team will not compete for the U.S. Air Force contract. Bush's letter leaves the door open for a Northrop-EADS bid: "It is my hope that the department will modify its approach to this procurement in a way that will enable us to offer our product for your consideration."
DTN News: Northrop Grumman-Built Submarine New Mexico (SSN 779) Returns From Successful Sea Trials *Source: DTN News / Northrop Grumman (NSI News Source Info) NEWPORT NEWS, Va., - December 3, 2009: New Mexico (SSN 779), the nation's newest and most advanced nuclear-powered submarine, returned to Northrop Grumman Corporation's (NYSE:NOC) Shipbuilding sector in Newport News, Va. after completing the ship's first round of successful sea trials on Nov. 26. New Mexico (SSN 779), the nation's newest and most advanced nuclear-powered submarine, returned to Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding sector in Newport News, Va. after completing the ship's first round of successful sea trials on Nov. 26. Sea trials provide an opportunity to test all systems, components and compartments and include submerging for the first time, high-speed runs while on the surface and submerged, and a demonstration of the submarine's other capabilities. "The first sea trial is a milestone that the entire shipbuilding and Navy team has been working hard to achieve," said Becky Stewart, vice president for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's submarine program. "This accomplishment is a testament to the craftsmanship, dedication, persistence, and pride that our people take in the product they build -- a very complex and high quality submarine." New Mexico is the sixth ship of the Virginia class and is in the final stages of construction and testing at the company's Newport News shipyard. Delivery to the Navy is scheduled by the end of this year. The keel for New Mexico was authenticated April 12, 2008. The ship was christened on Dec. 13, 2008. New Mexico is named for "The Land of Enchantment." Upon delivery to the Navy this year, it will be the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, providing undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. Northrop Grumman Newport News is teamed with General Dynamics Electric Boat to build the first 18 ships of the Virginia class. Current plans call for 30 Virginia-class submarines in the fleet. Using millions of parts from over 4,000 suppliers in 47 states and the District of Columbia, Virginia-class submarines incorporate dozens of new technologies and innovations and are the first major combatants designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind. Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.