Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Russia’s Newest Spy Plane

I’ve been looking for this for a long time. It’s a picture — the first public one, actually — of Russia’s Tu-214R spy plane on a recent test flight near its factory in Kazan.

No one is quite sure what it will do. Some say it will serve as an airborne command post (those radomes make me think an E-8 JSTARS –style ISR/C2 plane rather than an E-4B or an E-6 Mercury) while other say it will be used to scoop up massie quantities of electronic and signals intelligence (ELINT/SIGINT) the way the RC-135 Rivet Joint does. 

Both theories make sense given the size of the plane and the shape of its numerous radomes. Still, the lack of a massive canoe-saped radome containing a ground-scaning radar on the belly of the plane seems to suggest the Tu-114R is designed for ELINT and SIGINT missions.

This particular bird, number RA-64511, first flew in 2009 and is expected to complete flight testing next year. A second Tu-124R is being built right now with an in service date of 2014.

Via the Aviatonist and Russianplanes​.net.

Read more: 

Flame ‘Redefines Cyber Espionage’

Yup, Stuxnet’s famous follow-on, the Flame worm is making its way through computers in the Middle East, showing that it can take snapshots of an infected computer’s display screen, record audio conversations using the computer’s microphones as well as steal normal computer files.

However, it can also be remotely re-programmed to switch from intel-gathering to offensive mode, turning itself into a cyber weapon capable of disrupting its targets functions, much like the Stuxnet virus did to Iran’s Uranium enrichment centrifuges.

All of these advanced features in one worm led Internet security firm Kaspersky to call the arrival of Flame, “another phase in this [cyber ]war, and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country. Unlike with conventional warfare, the more developed countries are actually the most vulnerable in this case.”
Or as former DT cyber writer Kevin Coleman quoted another analyst as saying, “Flame redefines cyber espionage, it makes all the other software in that category look like cheap toys!”

Below, you’ll find Iran’s cyber emergency response team’s statement on Flame. Keep in mind that Tehran’s nuke program is the likely target of the worm that some experts say may take years to fully dissect.

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Ruslan Gets Respect And A Revival

The Russian Air Force is upgrading seven of its 25 An-124 "Ruslan" transports to the An-124-100M standard. This upgrade includes strengthening the air frame, installing new electronics and increasing range to 5,400 kilometers. A new type of brakes enables the aircraft to reduce its landing distance by 30 percent. This makes more airfields able to handle the aircraft. Three An-124s have already completed their upgraded, and once all seven are done, another ten air force An-124s will be upgraded. 

The air force has also ordered ten new An-124-300s, which will be able to carry 30 tons more (for a total of 150 tons.) Three years ago, after three years of planning, production of the An-124 was resumed. At least 70 will be produced initially, and they will sell for about $200 million each.

Designed at the end of the Cold War, only sixty were built then. But the market for aircraft that can carry oversize cargo has grown twice as fast as the air cargo market in general. The An-124, and the U.S. Air Force C-5, are the only two transports that can handle oversize material. And the An-124 is the only "jumbo" available for charter. 

Six years ago, it was proposed that An-124 production be resumed. Another fifty, or more, aircraft were to be produced, starting in 2008. That was delayed because there were problems raising the required cash (at least half a billion dollars.) Now the government has come up with the money, and all the resources (suppliers of components) have been organized.

The An-124 is the world's largest production aircraft and can carry a payload of up to 150 tons. The An-124 cruises at a speed of around 800 to 850 kilometers per hour. It can carry a maximum payload around 4,500 kilometers, or carry ten tons of cargo, and more fuel, for up to 14,000 kilometers. There are around 28 An-124s doing commercial work, with another 25 in military service

In the late 1980s, a modification of the An-124, the slightly larger An-225, was built. With two extra engines and a larger wing, the An-225 can carry over 250 tons. A second An-225 was being built when the Cold War ended. Construction was halted, but demand for An-124s has been so strong, that the second An-225 is 60 percent complete and waiting for more cash. 

New An-225s would cost cover $250 million each. These are a bargain compared to the $225 million cost of a new American C-17 cargo aircraft. The C-17 also only carries around 79 tons of cargo. If sales of the new An-124 take off, more An-225s may be available as well.

U.S. Partners Need Fighter Upgrades Fast to Support Asia-Pacific Strategy

F-16s demonstrate an ‘Elephant Walk’ during a joint exercise.

Selling required technology to partners may improve future burdensharing

The Pentagon’s recently enunciated Asia-Pacific posture has focused attention on the military needs of U.S. friends and allies in the Western Pacific. Because the U.S. has relatively few bases there and is operating thousands of miles from home, it must rely on local partners to carry much of the burden of maintaining peace in the region. That’s especially true with regard to the Republic of Korea, which has spent two generations facing the most bellicose, unpredictable dictatorship in the world across a tense border. Although South Korea’s economy has grown to a point where it is capable of greater burdensharing in containing the North, it relies heavily on the United States to sell it the kind of advanced military technology needed to provide a defensive edge. So when the Pentagon drags its heels on providing necessary upgrades, it is in effect undermining national strategy. 

That seems to be the case right now with planned upgrades to South Korea’s fleet of 135 KF-16 fighters. Although the Republic of Korea Air Force will probably buy the stealthy F-35 fighter to assure future control of air space on the peninsula, it is supposed to take over missions from the U.S. Air Force in 2015 – long before any F-35s would be delivered, much less integrated into the South Korean force structure. So it needs to upgrade its KF-16s with state-of-the-art electronics, including a new radar. The existing radars on its fighters have limited functionality and must be steered mechanically rather than directing beams electronically, which means lots of moving parts that sometimes fail. The U.S. Air Force has a plan for equipping its own F-16s with so-called Advanced Electronically Scanned Arrays – cutting-edge radars – but it is progressing at such a leisurely pace that it can’t possibly meet South Korea’s requirements in a timely fashion. 

U.S. policymakers need to find a way of upgrading the radars on South Korea’s fighters faster, otherwise the joint force could end up being dragged into another fight in Northeast Asia just as it is extricating itself from long-running campaigns in Southwest Asia. Nobody really knows what military moves might be made by North Korea’s increasingly desperate dictatorship, so waiting for the perfect solution on fighter upgrades could be real bad for regional security. As in the case of U.S. F-16s, the best approach is to upgrade fast using whatever gear meets operational requirements at an affordable price. We know a better fighter will be available soon, but a sturdy bridge is required to get the current fleet of legacy fighters to the point one or two decades from now when they are replaced by the F-35. 

The situation in the Republic of China – Taiwan – is a bit different, but in the end it too comes down to how the United States can best assist a fellow democracy in upgrading its fighter force to deter aggression. The Obama Administration can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to fix aging F-16s already in Taiwan’s air force or supply new ones, but either way Taiwan needs the same kind of electronically-scanned radars that the Republic of Korea Air Force is seeking. Those radars would enable Taiwan’s military to accomplish a range of missions essential to protecting the island nation from invasion or coercion by the People’s Republic of China. If Washington is serious about partnering with the democracies of East Asia in protecting regional security, then the logical place to start is by selling them the technology they need so they don’t have to call on America every time a military challenge arises. 

Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D. 
Early Warning Blog, Lexington Institute

(Photo: U.S: Air Force, Brittany Y. Auld) 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Egyptian Election and the Arab Spring

By George Friedman
The Egyptian presidential election was held last week. No candidate received 50 percent of the vote, so a runoff will be held between the two leading candidates, Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq. Morsi represented the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and received 25.3 percent of the vote, while Shafiq, a former Egyptian air force commander and the last prime minister to serve in Hosni Mubarak's administration, received 24.9 percent. There were, of course, charges of irregularities, but in general the results made sense. The Islamist faction had done extremely well in the parliamentary election, and fear of an Islamist president caused the substantial Coptic community, among others, to support the candidate of the old regime, which had provided them at least some security.
Morsi and Shafiq effectively tied in the first round, and either can win the next round. Morsi's strength is that he has the support of both the Islamist elements and those who fear a Shafiq presidency and possible return to the old regime. Shafiq's strength is that he speaks for those who fear an Islamist regime. The question is who will win the non-Islamist secularists' support. They oppose both factions, but they are now going to have to live with a president from one of them. If their secularism is stronger than their hatred of the former regime, they will go with Shafiq. If not, they will go with Morsi. And, of course, it is unclear whether the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military committee that has ruled Egypt since the fall of Mubarak, will cede any real power to either candidate, especially since the constitution hasn't even been drafted.
This is not how the West, nor many Egyptians, thought the Arab Spring would turn out in Egypt. Their mistake was overestimating the significance of the democratic secularists, how representative the anti-Mubarak demonstrators were of Egypt as a whole, and the degree to which those demonstrators were committed to Western-style democracy rather than a democracy that represented Islamist values. 
What was most underestimated was the extent to which the military regime had support, even if Mubarak did not. Shafiq, the former prime minister in that regime, could very well win. The regime may not have generated passionate support or even been respected in many ways, but it served the interests of any number of people. Egypt is a cosmopolitan country, and one that has many people who still take seriously the idea of an Arab, rather than Islamist, state. They fear the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamism and have little confidence in the ability of other parties, such as the socialists, who came in third, to protect them. For some, such as the Copts, the Islamists are an existential threat. The military regime, whatever its defects, is a known bulwark against the Muslim Brotherhood. The old order is attractive to many because it is known; what the Muslim Brotherhood will become is not known and is frightening to those committed to secularism. They would rather live under the old regime.
What was misunderstood was that while there was in fact a democratic movement in Egypt, the liberal democrats who wanted a Western-style regime were not the ones exciting popular sentiment. What was exciting it was the vision of a popularly elected Islamist coalition moving to create a regime that institutionalized Islamic religious values.
Westerners looked at Egypt and saw what they wanted and expected to see. They looked at Egyptians and saw themselves. They saw a military regime operating solely on brute force without any public support. They saw a mass movement calling for the overthrow of the regime and assumed that the bulk of the movement was driven by the spirit of Western liberalism. The result is that we have a showdown not between the liberal democratic mass and a crumbling military regime but between a representative of the still-powerful regime (Shafiq) and the Muslim Brotherhood.
If we understand how the Egyptian revolution was misunderstood, we can begin to make sense of the misunderstanding about Syria. There seemed to be a crumbling, hated regime in Syria as well. And there seemed to be a democratic uprising that represented much of the population and that wanted to replace the al Assad regime with one that respected human rights and democratic values in the Western sense. The regime was expected to crumble any day under the assaults of its opponents. As in Egypt, the regime has not collapsed and the story is much more complex.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad operates a brutal dictatorship that he inherited from his father, a regime that has been in power since 1970. The regime is probably unpopular with most Syrians. But it also has substantial support. This support doesn't simply come from the al Assads' Alawite sect but extends to other minorities and many middle-class Sunnis as well. They have done well under the regime and, while unhappy with many things, they are not eager to face a new regime, again likely dominated by Islamists whose intentions toward them are unclear. They may not be enthusiastic supporters of the regime, but they are supporters. 
The opposition also has supporters -- likely a majority of the Syrian people -- but it is divided, as is the Egyptian opposition, between competing ideologies and personalities. This is why for the past year Western expectations for Syria have failed to materialize. The regime, as unpopular as it may be, has support, and that support has helped block a seriously divided opposition.
One of the problems of Western observers is that they tend to take their bearings from the Eastern European revolutions of 1989. These regimes were genuinely unpopular. That unpopularity originated in the fact that the regimes were imposed from the outside -- from the Soviet Union after World War II -- and the governments were seen as tools of a foreign government. At the same time, many of the Eastern European nations had liberal democratic traditions and, like the rest of Europe, were profoundly secular (with some exceptions in Poland). There was a consensus that the state was illegitimate and that the desired alternative was a European-style democracy. Indeed, the desire to become part of a democratic Europe captured the national imagination.
The Arab Spring was different, but Westerners did not always understand the difference. The regimes did not come into being as foreign impositions. Nasserism, the ideology of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who both founded the modern Egyptian state and set the stage for an attempt at an Arab revolution, was not imposed from the outside. Indeed, it was an anti-Western movement, opposed to both European imperialism and what was seen as American aggression. When Hafez al Assad staged his coup in Syria in 1970, or Moammar Gadhafi staged his in Libya in 1969, these were nationalistic movements designed to assert both their national identity and their anti-Western sentiment.
These were also unashamedly militaristic regimes. Nasser, inspired by the example of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, saw his revolution as secular and representing mass sentiment, but not simply as democratic in the Western sense. He saw the military as the most modern and most nationally representative institution. He also saw the military as the protector of secularism. 
The military coups that swept the Arab world from the 1950s to the early 1970s were seen as nationalist, secularist and anti-imperialist. Their opponents were labeled as representing Western interests and corrupt and outmoded regimes with close religious ties. They were not liberal regimes, in the sense of being champions of free speech and political parties, but they did claim to represent the interests of their people, and to a great extent, particularly at the beginning, they earned that claim. 
Since the realignment of Egypt with the United States and the fall of the Soviet Union, with which many of these states were allied, the sense that these regimes were nationalist declined. But it never evaporated. Certainly they were never seen as regimes imposed by foreign armies, as was the case in Eastern Europe. And their credentials as secularists remained credible. What they were not were liberal democracies, but they weren't founded as such. From the Western point of view, that delegitimized everything else.
What the Westerners forgot was that these regimes arose as expressions of nationalism against Western imperialism. The more that Westerners intervened against them, as in Iraq, the more support at least the principle of the regime would evince. But most important, Westerners did not always recognize that the demand for democratic elections would emerge as a battleground between secular and religious tendencies, and not as the crucible from which Western-style liberal democracies would emerge. Nor did Westerners appreciate the degree to which these regimes defended religious minorities from hostile majorities precisely because they weren't democratic. The Copts in Egypt cling to the old regime as their protector. The Alawites see the Syrian conflict as a struggle for their own survival. 
The outcome of the Egyptian election, which now pits a former general and prime minister of the Mubarak regime against the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, demonstrates this dilemma perfectly. This is the regime that Nasser founded. It is the protector of secularism and minority rights against those who it is feared will impose religious law. The regime may have grown corrupt under Mubarak, but it still represents a powerful tendency among the Egyptians.
The Muslim Brotherhood may win, in which case it will be important to see what the Egyptian military council does. But the idea that there is overwhelming support in Egypt for Western-style democracy is simply not true. The issues Egyptians and those in other Arab countries battle over derive from their own history, and in that history, the military and the state it created played a heroic role in asserting nationalism and secularism. The non-military secular parties don't have the same tradition to draw on.
As in many Arab countries that underwent Nasserite transformations, the army remains both a guarantor against Islamists and of the rights of some religious minorities. The minorities are the enemy of the resurgent religious factions. Those factions may win, but regardless of who prevails, the outcome will not be what many celebrants of the Arab Spring expected. We are down to the military and the Islamists. The issue is no longer what they are against. This year's question is what they are for. This is not Prague or Budapest and it doesn't want to be.

Read more: The Egyptian Election and the Arab Spring | Stratfor 

Australia's Strategy

By George Friedman
Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, ranked in the top 10 in gross domestic product per capita. It is one of the most isolated major countries in the world; it occupies an entire united continent, is difficult to invade and rarely is threatened. Normally, we would not expect a relatively well-off and isolated country to have been involved in many wars. This has not been the case for Australia and, more interesting, it has persistently not been the case, even under a variety of governments. Ideology does not explain the phenomenon in this instance.
Since 1900, Australia has engaged in several wars and other military or security interventions (including the Boer War, World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) lasting about 40 years total. Put another way, Australia has been at war for more than one-third of the time since the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901. In only one of these wars, World War II, was its national security directly threatened, and even then a great deal of its fighting was done in places such as Greece and North Africa rather than in direct defense of Australia. This leaves us to wonder why a country as wealthy and seemingly secure as Australia would have participated in so many conflicts.

Importance of Sea-Lanes

To understand Australia, we must begin by noting that its isolation does not necessarily make it secure. Exports, particularly of primary commodities, have been essential to Australia. From wool exported to Britain in 1901 to iron ore exported to China today, Australia has had to export commodities to finance the import of industrial products and services in excess of what its population could produce for itself. Without this trade, Australia could not have sustained its economic development and reached the extraordinarily high standard of living that it has.
This leads to Australia's strategic problem. In order to sustain its economy it must trade, and given its location, its trade must go by sea. Australia is not in a position, by itself, to guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, due to its population size and geographic location. Australia therefore encounters two obstacles. First, it must remain competitive in world markets for its exports. Second, it must guarantee that its goods will reach those markets. If its sea-lanes are cut or disrupted, the foundations of Australia's economy are at risk.
Think of Australia as a creature whose primary circulatory system is outside of its body. Such a creature would be extraordinarily vulnerable and would have to develop unique defense mechanisms. This challenge has guided Australian strategy. 
First, Australia must be aligned with -- or at least not hostile to -- the leading global maritime power. In the first part of Australia's history, this was Britain. More recently, it has been the United States. Australia's dependence on maritime trade means that it can never simply oppose countries that control or guarantee the sea-lanes upon which it depends; Australia cannot afford to give the global maritime power any reason to interfere with its access to sea-lanes.
Second, and more difficult, Australia needs to induce the major maritime powers to protect Australia's interests more actively. For example, assume that the particular route Australia depends on to deliver goods to a customer has choke points far outside Australia's ability to influence. Assume further that the major power has no direct interest in that choke point. Australia must be able to convince the major power of the need to keep that route open. Merely having amiable relations will not achieve that. Australia must make the major power dependent upon it so that Australia has something to offer or withdraw in order to shape the major power's behavior.

Creating Dependency

Global maritime powers are continually involved in conflict -- frequently regional and at times global. Global interests increase the probability of friction, and global power spawns fear. There is always a country somewhere that has an interest in reshaping the regional balance of power, whether to protect itself or to exact concessions from the global power.
Another characteristic of global powers is that they always seek allies. This is partly for political reasons, in order to create frameworks for managing their interests peacefully. This is also for military reasons. Given the propensity for major powers to engage in war, they are always in need of additional forces, bases and resources. A nation that is in a position to contribute to the global power's wars is in a position to secure concessions and guarantees. For a country such as Australia that is dependent on sea-lanes for its survival, the ability to have commitments from a major power to protect its interests is vital.
Deployment in the Boer War was partly based on Australian ideology as a British colony, but in fact Australia had little direct interest in the outcome of the war. It also was based on Australia's recognition that it needed Britain's support as a customer and a guarantor of its security. The same can be said for the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia might have had some ideological interest in these wars, but its direct national security was only marginally at stake in them. However, Australian participation in these wars helped to make the United States dependent on Australia to an extent, which in turn induced the United States to guarantee Australian interests.
There were also wars that could have concluded with a transformation of the global system. World War I and World War II were attempts by some powers to overthrow the existing global order and replace it with a different one. Australia emerged from the old political order, and it viewed the prospect of a new order as both unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Australia's participation in those wars was still in part about making other powers dependent upon it, but it also had to do with the preservation of an international system that served Australia. (In World War II there was also an element of self-defense: Australia needed to protect itself from Japan and certainly from a Japanese-controlled Pacific Ocean and potentially the Indian Ocean.)

Alternative Strategy

Australia frequently has been tempted by the idea of drawing away from the global power and moving closer to its customers. This especially has been the case since the United States replaced Britain as the global maritime power. In the post-World War II period, as Asian economic activity increased, Asian demand increased for Australian raw materials, from food to industrial minerals. First Japan and then China became major customers of Australia.
The Australian alternative (aside from isolation, which would be economically unsustainable) was to break or limit its ties to the United States and increasingly base its national security on Japan or, later, on China. The theory was that China, for example, was the rising power and was essential to Australian interests because of its imports, imports that it might secure from other countries. The price of the relationship with the United States -- involvement in American conflicts -- was high. Therefore, this alternative strategy would have limited Australia's exposure to U.S. demands while cementing its relationship with its primary customer, China.
This strategy makes sense on the surface, but there are two reasons that Australia, though it has toyed with the strategy, has not pursued it. The first is the example of Japan. Japan appeared to be a permanent, dynamic economic power. But during the 1990s, Japan shifted its behavior, and its appetite for Australian goods stagnated. Economic relationships depend on the ability of the customer to buy, and that depends on the business cycle, political stability and so on. A strategy that would have created a unique relationship between Australia and Japan would have quickly become unsatisfactory. If, as we believe, China is in the midst of an economic slowdown, entering into a strategic relationship with China would also be a mistake, or at the very least, a gamble.
The second reason Australia has not changed its strategy is that, no matter what relationship it has with China or Japan, the sea-lanes are under the control of the United States. In the event of friction with China, the United States, rather than guaranteeing the sea-lanes for Australia, might choose to block them. In the end, Australia can sell to many countries, but it must always use maritime routes. Thus, it has consistently chosen its relationship with Britain or the United States rather than commit to any single customer or region.
Australia is in a high-risk situation, even though superficially it appears secure. Its options are to align with the United States and accept the military burdens that entails, or to commit to Asia in general and China in particular. Until that time when an Asian power can guarantee the sea-lanes against the United States -- a time that is far in the future -- taking the latter route would involve pyramiding risks. Add to this that the relationship would depend on the uncertain future of Asian economies -- and all economic futures are now uncertain -- and Australia has chosen a lower-risk approach.
This approach has three components. The first is deepening economic relations with the United States to balance its economic dependencies in Asia. The second is participating in American wars in order to extract guarantees from the United States on sea-lanes. The final component is creating regional forces able to handle events in Australia's near abroad, from the Solomon Islands through the Indonesian archipelago. But even here, Australian forces would depend on U.S. cooperation to manage threats.
The Australian strategy therefore involves alignment with the leading maritime power, first Britain and then the United States, and participation in their wars. We began by asking why a country as wealthy and secure as Australia would be involved in so many wars. The answer is that its wealth is not as secure as it seems. 

Read more: Australia's Strategy | Stratfor 

Monday, May 28, 2012

U.S. Air Dominance at Risk

Air dominance is essential to virtually every operation the U.S. military conducts. It is an essential component of the U.S. military’s “DNA.” Budget cuts, shrinking force structure, poor investments in modernization, technological innovation and a growing anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) threat are combining to call into question the Department of Defense’s ability to maintain air dominance in future conflicts. Without air dominance, the U.S. military’s concepts of operations will unravel. 

The value of airpower dominance is not lost on our competitors and adversaries. Consequently, they are pursuing asymmetric strategies intended to neutralize the U.S. advantage. Their approaches are generally subsumed under the rubric of “anti-access/area denial.” This phrase includes deployment of significant arsenals of more precise ballistic and cruise missiles for the purpose of neutralizing U.S. and allied airbases and related infrastructure. A2/AD also involves the deployment of sophisticated multi-layered integrated air defense systems. In addition to active defenses, countries are investing in electronic warfare and cyber capabilities with which to attack or neutralize U.S. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control and precision strike capabilities. Fourth-generation fighters are proliferating and several countries are developing their own fifth-generation combat aircraft. 

Even as the threat is evolving the U.S. military is emerging from a decade of war with forces that are battle-worn, aging and in need of modernization. The U.S. military, in general, and the Air Force, in particular, is in the early stages of a major effort to reset equipment worn out by a decade of war as well as a program to modernize its asset base. At the same time, currently programmed defense budget cuts of nearly $500 billion may make modernization plans impossible to execute. Should deeper cuts occur, particularly sequestration, an entirely new force structure and modernization plan will have to be created. 

The pressure on the Air Force is particularly severe. The U.S. Air Force today is smaller than at any time since its creation. Yet, the demands on both it and naval aviation remain extremely high. Both the Air Force and Navy have undertaken significant force structure reductions in recent years in order to fund critical modernization programs. The Air Force vision is of a force that is “smaller, but superb.” Yet, program terminations and delays in the introduction of new aircraft have created a situation in which the U.S. aerial fleets are both smaller and older. It is not certain that proposed defense budgets will be sufficient to support current modernization plans. In the event of sequestration, there is no clear bottom to the decline in U.S. airpower. As a senior member of the U.S. Congress warned recently with respect to the Air Force, the cumulative effect of these challenges could be catastrophic to the U.S. military’s ability to maintain aerospace dominance. 

"That dominance is now at risk, however, as current defense cuts threaten to do what no enemy can: end U. S. control of the skies. If we weaken our air superiority, our country’s entire war-fighting strategy will be forced to change. We will no longer be able to operate anywhere on the globe without risk." (Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), “The Air Force we Need,” Politico, April 29, 2009) 

Every so often there are proposals floated by think tanks or Congressional offices for various options for attaining air dominance on the cheap. They usually involve truncating or even cancelling current modernization programs and waiting for new technologies such as unmanned combat air vehicles to emerge. Such proposals are most assuredly one of the quickest routes to the loss of U.S. air dominance. In truth, the only way to protect and extend the current U.S. advantage in air power is to invest fully in near-term modernization programs such as the three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new long-range strike system or strategic bomber, replacements for the Tomahawk and air-launched cruise missiles, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and the KC-46A refueling tanker. 

Daniel Goure, Ph.D.
Early Warning Blog, Lexington Institute 

Read more at: 

Israeli Combat Soldiers to be Equipped with Miniature Iron Dome Devices

An Iron Dome battery. (Photo: IDF, Ori Shifrin)

GOC Ground Forces addresses new developments at international conference, including use of new system that enables field soldiers to prevent missile threats

GOC Ground Forces Maj. Gen. Shlomo (Sami) Turgeman spoke at the Conference on Air and Land Jointness in a Complex Environment on Wednesday, May 23, presenting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Force's plans for improving its firepower. Among other topics, he discussed a future project to supply soldiers in the field with equipment capable of intercepting rockets, similar to the successful anti-rocket defense system, the Iron Dome. 

"Our vision is to utilize soldiers in order to combat the threat of high-trajectory missiles," Maj. Gen. Turgeman explained. "We can use our maneuvering power at the front for advanced interception of rockets, as a sort of small Iron Dome." He elaborated that the new system, which soldiers can carry with them, will enable rocket interception on enemy territory and will provide a quick method of accurately locating launch sites. "In addition to preventing injuries among civilians and soldiers, the new system will provide information telling us in real time what the enemy is firing and from where. This way of locating rockets will let us close the fire circle in seconds." 

Additionally, Maj. Gen. Turgeman discussed a new organizational method establishing a firepower headquarters."In order to accommodate our growing fire capabilities to the crowded, urban battle environment, we must take the same weapons that so far have been concentrated at the division level and move them to a firepower headquarters in each brigade. The brigade firepower headquarters will know how to utilize the advanced capabilities that we have built over the course of decades, while harnessing comprehensive intelligence that will reach the fire headquarters. This will be a very effective body - a shrunken and efficient command." 

GOC Ground Forces also discussed the threat of anti-tank missiles posed by terrorist, which he said is "the challenge that most influences our maneuvering tactics." In coping with this threat, he said, "the forward battle crews, which so far have been relatively visible on the battlefield, will receive new capabilities. We will greatly expand the intelligence power of the combat soldiers. In real time, they will receive information from all levels - visual intelligence, field intelligence, intelligence from wiretaps, and information assembled everyday will all reach the soldiers in the field." 

Iddan Sonsino / IDF 

Read more at:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Indian Air Force Selects Pilatus PC-7 MkII Training System for Basic Flight Training

(Photo: Pilatus Aircraft Ltd)

Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is proud to announce that the Indian Air Force has entered today into a contract in excess of 500 Million Swiss Francs to procure a fleet of 75 PC-7 MkII turboprop aircraft, together with an integrated ground based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package. The contract also contains an option clause for extending the scope of this contract within three years from initial signature and we are optimistic that this will indeed be executed. 

The Indian Air Force joins more than 30 other countries to modernise its training pipeline with the most modern, capable and cost effective system for Basic Flying Training on the market today. The Indian Air Force is the fourth largest air force in the world with approximately 170,000 personnel and 1,500 aircraft operating from more than 60 air bases. This contract will extend the fleet of Pilatus turboprop trainers to more than 900 aircraft operating worldwide. 

Delivery of the aircraft and the complete training system is scheduled to commence in Q4 2012. The decision to select the PC-7 MkII training system was made after a thorough evaluation by the Indian Air Force, which looked at all available options. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd views this contract for the Indian Air Force as a major success and believes it will encourage other forces to take a close look at our pilot training solution. 

Coupled to this award will be the establishment of in-country depot level maintenance capabilities, which includes the required transfer of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), enabling in-country maintenance of the platform throughout its service life of over 30 years. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was established in 1940 with the Government of India as primary shareholder, having approximately 35,000 employees based at eight sites across India. 

Pilatus has also entered into a separate off-set contract with the Government of India for 30% of the value of this contract and we view this as a major opportunity. Pilatus has significant confidence in the Indian Defence market with its highly skilled workforce and it is our intention to leverage the offset opportunity to establish manufacturing capability for the region in support of our business plans for India. 

Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is committed to serving the Indian Air Force with its world renowned dedication to Swiss precision and quality, through delivering and supporting the most advanced Basic Flight Training turboprop trainer aircraft in the world – the Pilatus PC-7 MkII. 

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Contract Awarded to Enhance Royal Saudi Air Force Training Capability

Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer on the runway. (Photo: BAE Systems)

BAE Systems Awarded £1.6Bn Contract for 22 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers

Following agreement between the Governments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, under the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme, BAE Systems has been awarded a contract for £1.6 billion (equivalent) to support the future aircrew training requirements of the Royal Saudi Air Force. 

The contract, aimed at meeting the growing demands of a world class Air Force, covers the provision of equipment and training devices such as aircraft simulators, training aids and aircraft on which to train aircrew. 

Included within this requirement is the supply of 55 Pilatus PC-21 aircraft to fulfil the basic training role and 22 BAE Systems Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft, which will be used to fulfil the fast jet training part of the syllabus. 

We will also provide an initial support package including the provision of spares, technical publications and post design support. 

Commenting on the announcement Guy Griffiths, Group Managing Director International said: “We are honoured that BAE Systems has been awarded this contract to provide the Royal Saudi Air Force with aircraft and training equipment to meet their future aircrew training needs. We have a long history in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and working with Pilatus, we will provide the RSAF with the best training platforms to meet their requirements. 

‘Through the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer, the trainee fast jet pilots will have access to the very latest in advanced simulation for radar, weapons and defensive aids training to enable a smooth transition to front line aircraft, including Typhoon.” 

Deliveries of the Pilatus PC-21, manufactured in Switzerland, will commence in 2014. The UK built Hawk aircraft will be delivered from 2016. 

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Australia to Receive EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft Modification Kits Worth $1.7Bn

An Australian F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified U.S. Congress May 22 of a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Australia for 12 EA-18G Modification Kits to convert F/A-18F aircrafts to the G configuration and associated parts, equipment, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1.7 billion. 

The Government of Australia has requested a possible sale of 12 EA-18G Modification Kits to convert F/A-18F aircrafts to G configuration, (34) AN/ALQ-99F(V) Tactical Jamming System Pods, (22) CN-1717/A Interference Cancellation Systems (INCANS), (22) R-2674(C)/A Joint Tactical Terminal Receiver (JTTR) Systems, (30) LAU-118 Guided Missile Launchers, Command Launch Computer (CLC) for High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government (USG) and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistical and program support. The estimated cost is $1.7 billion. 

Australia is an important ally in the Western Pacific. The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region. Australia’s efforts in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations have made a significant impact to regional political and economic stability and have served U.S. national security interests. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives and facilitates burden sharing with our allies. 

The proposed sale will improve Australia’s capability in current and future coalition efforts. Australia will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this new capability into its armed forces. 

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. 

The prime contractor will be The Boeing Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. 

Implementation of this proposed sale may require the assignment of additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Australia. 

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. 

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded. 

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Republic of Singapore Air Force Introduces the Heron 1 UAV Into 119 Squadron

The Heron 1 UAV (right) will replace Singapore’s Searcher UAV (left) in service since 1994.

Singapore's Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen officiated at a ceremony to inaugurate the Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) into the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) 119 Squadron (SQN) at Murai Camp this afternoon, marking a significant milestone in the development of the 3rd Generation Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. 

Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Ng pointed out that the SAF's vision for UAVs started as early as in the 70s, quoting Singapore's first Defence Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee's remarks, "For our kind of terrain, we must have Remotely Piloted Vehicles. We must see the enemy without being seen". In highlighting the importance of investing in advanced UAVs such as the Heron 1 UAV to continually improve the ISR capability of the 3rd Generation SAF, he added, "The UAVs have realised the vision of SAF's founding pioneers but only through continued investments to develop this capability." Dr Ng also recognised the efforts of the personnel from 119 SQN, "The advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the Heron 1 UAV are, however, only as effective as the people who operate and maintain them. I would like therefore to commend all of you, the men and women of 119 Squadron, who have worked tirelessly in the last year to ready the Heron 1 UAV systems to support the SAF's operations." 

Featuring state-of-the-art avionics, detection capabilities and communication systems, as well as longer flight endurance and a fully automatic take-off and landing capability, the Heron 1 UAV will provide the SAF with better battlefield situational awareness and enhance mission effectiveness. The Heron 1 UAV will replace the Searcher-class UAV that has been in service since 1994. 

Also present at the ceremony were Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and National Development Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Chief of Air Force Major-General Ng Chee Meng and senior officers from the SAF. 


• Fact Sheet: Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

• Speech by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen

(Photo: Singapore MoD) 

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

India Opens Major Western Naval Base Near Karwar

Karwar construction site
Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee opened the first phase of India’s giant western naval base INS Kadamba in Karwar, Karnataka state, on May 31/05, saying it would protect the country’s Arabian Sea maritime routes. Kadamba has become India’s 3rd operational naval base, after Mumbai and Visakhapatnam. It is valuable for its location, and also for its ability to transcend the fundamental capacity and security limitations of India’s other 2 naval bases.
INS Kadamba is being built near Karwar in the southern state of Karnataka. That Phase I construction was just part of India’s ambitious “Project Seabird,” a potential INR 50+ billion project that will include the naval base, and much more besides. India finished a scaled-back Phase I a full decade after the originally-envisaged 1995 completion date. As might be expected, Phase II is now likely to be approved at last, long after it was supposed to have been finished:

NS Kadamba, at Karwar

Rationale & Role

Kadamba has many virtues, but none loom larger than helping Navy decongest Mumbai on its northwest coast. Mumbai is close to Pakistan, but its heavy merchant shipping traffic, even heavier swarms of fishing and coastal craft, and large tourist draw make securing the naval base it very difficult – as India’s experience in the 1971 war with Pakistan proved. Throw in nearby oil terminal hazards, the constant need for dredging the long, shallow fairway to the sea, the need to berth submarines alongside normal ships, and no dedicated airfield, and Mumbai’s limitations become clear.
Visakhapatnam on the east coast houses Eastern Naval Command, and recently saw INS Rambilli added on the grounds improve submarine hosting. Even so, Visakhapatnam’s own breakneck growth as a city will limit how much more can be done with that base. More to the point, it’s poorly placed if India’s goal is to guard against Pakistan, act against piracy, and monitor its 3 key shipping chokepoints to the west: The Persian Gulf, Suez and the Red Sea, and the Cape of Good Hope.
INS Kadamba is the antidote to these problems: a naval-only west coast installation with depth, cover, and the accompanying facilities needed by a blue-water navy. Sandwiched between the craggy hills of the Western Ghats in the east, and the Arabian Sea in the west, Karwar’s position just south of Goa province, and NW of Bangalore, is an excellent naval location. Encompassing over 11,200 acres of land along a 26-km stretch of sea front, Kadamba, named after the famous 4th century dynasty, is the first base to be exclusively controlled by India’s Navy. The depth and width of the base’s approach channel means that all of India’s naval platforms will be able to sail into its harbor. Its hilly terrain offers excellent cover for ground installations, and pens cut into the rock face could conceal submarines.
The final base will be a linchpin of India’s naval presence, and its facilities offer a secure base for cooperation with other navies in the region. India’s future SSK Scorpene Class diesel-electric attack submarines will be based at INS Kadamba, once they’re delivered. The aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov is also scheduled to berth here after she is refurbished, renamed the Vikramaaditya, equipped with fighters and helicopters, and handed over to the Indian Navy around December 2012. Nor will they be alone. When Phase IIB expansions are complete, INS Kadamba is slated to be able to handle up to 50 front-line warships, plus at least 10 fast-interceptor craft (FICs), to be acquired for the Sagar Prahari Bal coastal security force.
In Pakistan, meanwhile, the new deep-water port of Gwadar is slated for use by its Chinese government financiers, who have their own vested interest in securing maritime routes to and from the Arabian Sea. Pakistan has a much smaller coastline, but a more prudently dispersed naval posture, with naval bases at Gwadar, Ormara & Karachi, and more austere facilities at Pasni and Jiwani.

INS Kadamba: Expansion

At commissioning under Commodore K.P. Ramachandran, INS Kadamba had a strength of 50 officers and 250 sailors, a number that will rise as facilities are upgraded. The base was initially under the command of “Commanding Officer, INS Kadamba”, but is slated to be headed by a “Flag Officer Commanding (Karwar)”, who in turn will be tasked by the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief for India’s Western Naval Command.
Phase I opened the base in 2007, with space for up to 11 front-line warships and 10 smaller FIC-type boats. Key facilities include the 10,000 tonne, 175 m x 28 m ship lift and ship transfer system for dry docking at the Naval ship Repair Yard. A new hospital, INHS Patanjali, has an initial capacity of 141 beds, upgradeable to 400. It will be accompanied by ammunition storage, depot ship, parade ground, drill shed, a logistics complex, an officers’ mess, base barracks for sailors, and even an accompanying township. The township is slated to eventually include married accommodation for officers and sailors, a shopping complex, a Sailors Institute, schools, a family clinic, gardens, parks etc.
Phase II will reportedly involve expansion of the berthing facilities to accommodate 40 more front-line warships, tugs and barges, raise manpower to 300 officers and around 2,500 sailors, and build a naval air station with a 6,000-foot runway. The Karnataka state government also wants to operate civilian commercial Airbus 320 flights at the airfield, requiring a runway extension to 10,000 feet. It was to have started in 2005 and been completed by 2010, at a cost of INR 25 billion. Now Phase IIA won’t even have approval to negotiate contracts until 2012, for work totaling an estimated INR 130 billion.
Under Phase-IIA, which will is scheduled to last until 2018-2019, Karwar will get an air base, armament depot, dockyard complex and missile silos; plus additional jetties, berthing and anchorage facilities that will grow its capacity from 10 front-line warships to 27-32.
Phase IIB is still far in the future, but notional figures involve hosting for up to 50 front-line warships. It may also end up “acquiring” some of Phase IIA’s features, if that expansion runs into problems.

Boeing Delivers 5th C-17 to UAE Air Force and Air Defence

The first of six C-17 Globemaster III airlifters of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. (Photo: Boeing)

4 C-17 airlifters delivered to UAE in 2011; 6th scheduled for delivery in 2012

Boeing delivered a fifth C-17 Globemaster III airlifter to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force and Air Defence earlier this month. The UAE accepted delivery of four C-17s in 2011 and has one more airlifter on order for delivery later this year. 

"It's amazing to see all that the UAE has accomplished with its fleet of C-17s in such a short time, including standing up a new base; qualifying three aircraft commanders and four mission-ready loadmasters; and conducting humanitarian aid and peacekeeping missions," said Bob Ciesla, Boeing Airlift vice president and C-17 program manager. "We're proud to be a part of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence mission long after each C-17 is delivered. With a mission-capable rate above 90 percent, UAE C-17s are ready to save lives and deliver hope whenever they are needed." 

The UAE, Boeing's sixth international C-17 customer, received its first airlifter on May 10, 2011. Since that time, the UAE Air Force and Air Defence C-17 fleet has amassed more than 2,000 flight hours and carried more than 3,000 passengers and nearly 4 million pounds of cargo. 

As a part of the worldwide C-17 "virtual fleet," UAE C-17s are supported through the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP), a Performance-Based Logistics agreement. The GISP arrangement provides the highest airlift mission-capable rate at one of the lowest costs per flying hour. 

Boeing has delivered 243 C-17s worldwide, including 216 to the U.S. Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve units. A total of 27 C-17s have been delivered to Australia, Canada, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the 12-member Strategic Airlift Capability initiative of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. India has 10 C-17s on order for delivery in 2013 and 2014. 

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