Monthly Archives: July 2014

North Korea defies UN censure to fire missile into sea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un guided the military’s latest rocket-firing drill, state media said Sunday, confirming the missile launch which was conducted in defiance of UN censure.

Saturday’s launch was the first since the UN Security Council on July 17 officially condemned Pyongyang for its recent series of ballistic missile tests, in violation of UN resolutions.

The North’s state news agency KCNA described the missile launch by the army as a “rocket-firing drill” to simulate a strike on military bases in South Korea where 28,500 US troops are stationed.

“(Kim) examined a firing plan mapped out in consideration of the present location of the US imperialist aggressor forces’ bases… and under the simulated conditions of the battle to strike and destroy them before guiding the drill,” it said.

The launch was intended to mark the July 27 anniversary of the ceasefire agreement at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, KCNA said.

It did not say where the drill took place.

Seoul’s army said earlier the North had fired a short-range missile into the sea Saturday night — the latest in a recent series of launches that heightened tension on the peninsula.

The North often fires missiles and rockets as a show of force or to express anger at perceived provocations, but the frequency of the recent tests — six in the past month — is unusual.

“The North fired… a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at 9:40 pm (12:40 GMT),” a spokesman for Seoul’s defence ministry told AFP.

– Close to border –

The missile, with an estimated range of 500 kilometers (300 miles), was fired in the northeastern direction from Jangsan Cape in the North’s western coast — only 12 miles away from the tense sea border with the South, he said.

Pyongyang’s recent missile launches were carried out at locations increasingly close to the border with the South — a move analysts say is aimed at stepping up threats against Seoul.

The flashpoint maritime border on the Yellow Sea was a scene of several bloody naval clashes and the North’s shelling of a border island in 2010 that left four South Koreans including two civilians dead.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo had lodged a “strong protest” to the North against the latest launch.

“We need to let North Korea know that development of nuclear and missiles cannot go together with economic development,” Abe told reporters during his trip to Mexico.

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The UN’s latest criticism on the North met with an angry response from the North, which called it “absolutely intolerable” and defended the missile launches as a response to “madcap war manoeuvres” by the US.

The launch came as Pyongyang has been playing hawk and dove in recent weeks, mixing its tests with peace gestures that have been largely dismissed by Seoul.

The two Koreas are currently trying to sort out logistics for the North’s participation in the Asian Games, which begin in September in the South Korean city of Incheon.

“Our military sees the launch by North Korea, conducted while expressing its will to participate in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games, as part of its traditional dual strategy of engagement and pressure,” Seoul’s military spokesman said.

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Russian fighter jet crashes, killing pilot

By on Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

A fighter jet crashed in southern Russia on Sunday, killing the pilot, the head of the air force told Russian news agencies, blaming a technical fault.

“An accident took place and the pilot died,” General Viktor Bondarev said, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

“We are working out what happened. According to initial data, the reason for the accident was a failure of aviation equipment,” he said.

The widely used Soviet-designed aircraft has experienced a string of accidents over the years in Russia and abroad.

“The MiG-29 jet crashed while carrying out a planned test flight in the Astrakhan region,” said defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

“The flight supervisor gave the command to eject, but the pilot, trying to save the plane, did not leave the controls and died,” Konashenkov said.

A Russian airforce MiG-29 last crashed in 2012 in eastern Siberia when it flew into a hillside, Interfax reported. A year earlier, two pilots were killed on a test flight in the Astrakhan region.

The MiG-29 was first produced in 1980s and has been exported to much of the world. It is deployed by the air forces of a number of countries including Iran.

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China’s aircraft carrier puts naval ambitions on show

At a northern quayside China’s first aircraft carrier dwarfs nearby vessels, its take-off ramp rising higher than the top deck of the cruise ship at the next berth, symbolizing the country’s naval ambitions.

Dalian, where the Liaoning was refitted and undergoes regular maintenance, looks out over the Bohai strait, gateway to the Yellow Sea, and beyond it, Japan and the Pacific Ocean.

Beijing proclaims that China’s rise is entirely peaceful and it has no interest in hegemony, but analysts say its goal is to surpass the naval capability of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and ultimately rival the US Navy, masters of the Pacific.

That will require a number of aircraft carrier battle groups, developed over decades and costing billions of dollars.

The 300-metre (1,000-foot) Liaoning — a Soviet-era vessel Beijing bought from Ukraine — was commissioned in September 2012, and officers have acknowledged that it is not yet ready for combat, with naval fighter pilots taking years to train.

But it is only the first Chinese vessel of its type. Analysts say future carriers will be entirely Chinese-made and ultimately nuclear-powered, vastly extending their range.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is already the world’s largest standing military, and when Chinese President Xi Jinping went on board the Liaoning last year he spoke of building “a powerful people’s navy”.

Xi has made a point of visiting several military bases since taking office and has said that “being able to fight and win battles is the essence of strengthening the military”.

Naval presence
Beijing recognizes the “symbolic significance of carrier power in generating global standing”, said James Hardy and Lee Willett of the British military publisher Jane’s.

In the medium to long term, they said, China will need “an expanding presence around the world” to secure its interests in resources, markets and shipping routes. “A widespread naval presence thus will be required.”

Earlier this year reports in state-run media quoted Wang Min, the Communist Party chief of Liaoning province, as saying a second vessel was already under construction in Dalian and two more were in the pipeline.

The PLA clouds its activities in secrecy, and the military zones at the tip of the Lushunkou peninsula in the city — known as Port Arthur during its time as a Russian, then Japanese colony — are forbidden to outsiders.

Rick Fisher, senior analyst at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said two rival shipyards produced modules for the next carrier last year, one a “slice” of hull and the other a bow.

Chinese dream
China has long proclaimed itself as rising peacefully and insists that its military expansion is purely to defend itself.

Washington has 10 aircraft carriers at its disposal, soon to rise to 11 when the USS Gerald R Ford enters service.

For its part Tokyo — which since its World War II defeat has been constitutionally barred from having a military, and instead maintains a “Self-Defense Force” — will soon have a helicopter carrier of its own, which could potentially be adapted to carry vertical take-off fighter jets.

But in recent months Beijing has asserted itself ever more aggressively in maritime territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and several southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea, raising fears of clashes.

It has four ships taking part in the US-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) joint exercises off Hawaii, which analysts have touted as a step towards improving military ties, and visiting US Admiral Jonathan Greenert was given a tour of the Liaoning earlier this month.

But Beijing also sent a surveillance ship to spy on the RIMPAC drills, according to US reports citing the US Navy.

China’s “behavior in its near seas and its territorial claims suggest that it is going to robustly defend its ‘core interests’”, said the Jane’s specialists.

“As a wide spectrum blue water force, you can say that China is closing the gap on Japan in most areas and outpacing it in others,” they added.

“The PLA has substantial offensive capabilities in the form of ballistic and cruise missiles, fast jets, bombers, amphibious forces, heavy armor, destroyers, frigates and so on, so the idea that it is armed just for self-defence doesn’t really wash.”

By 2030 China could have four or possibly five aircraft carriers in service, including the Liaoning, says Fisher, and could ultimately decide to build as many as 10.

It will be the culmination of decades of ambition, he said, describing Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders’ denunciations of the US and Soviet Union for their “imperialist” military capabilities in the 1950s and 60s as “a reflection of their intense envy”.

“Mao always wanted to have a superpower level of global influence but was also quite happy to condemn those who had it, when he did not,” he said.

“All of Mao’s successors have worked to fulfill a dream of future Chinese strategic dominance.”

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US Efforts to Stand-up Afghan Air Force Still Falling Down

By on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Recently, POGO reported on the failed attempt to provide C-27A Spartan aircraft to the Afghans in order to fulfill their medium airlift requirements. Now, the successor effort to replace the C-27As with C-130Hs is also experiencing turbulence. Fortunately, after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) sounded the alarm, a congressional committee has taken action to prevent a further waste of money.

In 2008, the Pentagon began an initiative to provide C-27As to the Afghan Air Force; however, the program was cancelled in 2012 due to poor planning and mismanagement by the Pentagon. The sixteen C-27As that were delivered to Afghanistan have been sitting unused on a runway in Kabul since then. Though the contract required that the aircraft be flown a minimum of 4,500 hours from January to September 2012, the Department of Defense Inspector General determined that the aircraft had only been flown a total of 234 hours during that time period.

The primary reason for the program’s problems and eventual cancellation was that Pentagon procurement officials and defense contractors failed to ensure the availability of critical spare parts necessary to operate and sustain the aircraft. The Pentagon spent close to half a billion dollars on this botched effort.

Following the C-27A failure, the Pentagon moved to provide C-130H Hercules, a large four-engine transport aircraft previously used by the U.S. Air Force, to the Afghan Air Force with two being delivered last year and another two slated for this year. These aircraft, like the C-27As before them, are intended to transport soldiers, supplies, medical evacuees, and VIPs across Afghanistan’s rugged and mountainous terrain.

However, the SIGAR, John Sopko, who is tasked with evaluating and auditing U.S. expenditures in Afghanistan, has concluded that the two existing C-130s stationed in Afghanistan are being underutilized, and that the further delivery of an additional two C-130s should be shelved.

Sopko and his team analyzed the two C-130s’ flight data and compared it with the aircraft’s maximum flight capacity to determine whether the Afghans were fully utilizing the two aircraft in their possession. SIGAR concluded that the two C-130s were capable of flying a maximum of 555 hours from October 2013 to May 2014, yet the Afghan Air Force’s C-130s only flew 261 hours during that time period—48 percent of the aircraft’s maximum flying capacity.

Furthermore, SIGAR analyzed the amount of cargo and passengers that were being flown onboard the two C-130s to determine if less expensive means of transportation would have been more appropriate. SIGAR found that the C-130s were carrying only half of their maximum capacity, and most of the flights carried only passengers and light cargo, both of which, SIGAR found, could be transported using existing smaller aircraft and ground vehicles.

Ultimately, Sopko strongly recommended that the two additional pending C-130s not be delivered to Afghanistan. According to the Air Force estimates cited in SIGAR’s report, ending the delivery of just one additional C-130 would save more than $40 million in procurement, maintenance, training, and modifications through 2017.

Sopko also noted that, similar to the C-27A, there were problems with sustaining and maintaining the Afghan’s C-130s. “Issues with sustaining U.S.-funded infrastructure and equipment in Afghanistan are not new….However, the opportunity exists with the C-130s to ensure that the Afghans are capable of supporting what we have already given them before providing additional aircraft,” Sopko wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other military leaders that accompanied his C-130 report.

Following Sopko’s letter, the Senate Appropriations Committee included language in its annual defense appropriations bill that would prohibit the additional transfer of C-130s to Afghanistan until the Department of Defense conducts a review of current Afghan Air Force requirements. Overall, the bill recommends providing $4.1 billion for the Afghan Security Forces, which includes the Afghan Air Force, in Fiscal Year 2015.

Given the absolute failure of the C-27A program, the Pentagon must ensure the operational value of providing additional fixed wing aircraft to the Afghans before delivering additional assets. The United States spent tens of billions of dollars training and equipping the Iraqi military, but it is still unable to field an effective Air Force with which to repel violent militants attempting to destabilize Iraq.

So far, the United States has spent more than $56 billion on the Afghan military. The Pentagon must do more to ensure that this funding is not being wasted.

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Brazil Orders Airbus C295 Search And Rescue Aircraft

By on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Brazil has signed a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the acquisition of three Airbus C295 search and rescue (SAR) aircraft.

The three aircraft will progressively be delivered to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) from the end of this year under the terms of an agreement which also includes a five-year Full In Service Support (FISS) contract.

In Brazilian service the SAR aircraft will join 12 transport-configured C295 aircraft, taking the total FAB C295 fleet to 15.

“We are very proud of this repeat order which demonstrates Brazil´s high level of confidence in our light and medium aircraft family as well as confirming the C295´s demonstrated excellence in the SAR role”, said Antonio Rodríguez Barberán, Head of Commercial for Military Aircraft.

In addition to the aircraft fleet, the FAB is also using a Full Flight Simulator for the C295 at the Air Base of Manaus-Brasil (BAMN facility), that allows it complete autonomy in the training of its crew.

More than 140 C295s have now been ordered by 19 countries.

The new generation C295 is the ideal aircraft for defence and civic missions to the benefit of society, such as humanitarian actions, homeland security, and environmental surveillance. Thanks to its robustness and reliability, simple systems, and optimal cabin, this medium sized tactical airlifter provides wide versatility and flexibility, necessary for personnel, troop and bulky/palletized cargo transportation, casualty evacuation, communication and logistic duties, and air-dropping.

Its flexible design, long endurance and modern systems have made it an outstanding platform for a wide range of ISR roles including anti-submarine and ship warfare, airborne early warning, and maritime surveillance. The C295 is part of Airbus Defence and Space’s family of light and medium airlifters which also includes the smaller NC212i and CN235 platforms.

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GMLRS Alternative Warhead Completes Operational Flight Tests

Lockheed Martin successfully completed all Developmental Test/Operational Test (DT/OT) flight tests for the new Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) Alternative Warhead at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The DT/OT tests included rockets fired at both mid and long range. All rockets were fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher.

The DT/OT tests were the first tactically representative flight tests against simulated targets, and were also the first tests conducted with soldiers operating the fire control system. These missions were preparation for the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation exercise, which will be conducted in the fall of 2014.

“With actual soldiers at the controls in realistic battlefield conditions, the team achieved all of the mission objectives,” said Ken Musculus, vice president of Tactical Missiles at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

In April 2012, Lockheed Martin received a $79.4 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop the Alternative Warhead Program (AWP). Under the terms of the contract, the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development phase of the program runs 36 months, focusing on system performance, warhead qualification and producibility.

The Alternative Warhead is designed to engage the same target set and achieve the same area-effects requirement as the GMLRS submunitions warhead, but without the lingering danger of unexploded ordnance. The Alternative Warhead is being developed by ATK under subcontract to Lockheed Martin.

The AWP is part of a U.S. Department of Defense plan to create a GMLRS variant which meets the DoD’s cluster-munition policy. The Lockheed Martin GMLRS AWP will also be compliant with the provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions international treaty.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 113,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.

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Airbus Completes P-3 Orion Modernisation for Brazilian Air Force

By on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Airbus Defence and Space has delivered the last of nine P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft modernized with new systems and avionics for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB). The aircraft has been ferried from Seville, Spain to Salvador de Bahía, Brazil, where it will be based.

The nine aircraft were acquired by the FAB from the US Navy in 2006, along with three more to be dismantled for spares, and were upgraded at facilities in Seville and Getafe, near Madrid.

In the aircraft Airbus Defence and Space installed its Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) and a completely new suite of mission sensors, communications systems and cockpit avionics. In addition, the aircraft engines and structures were updated, extending the fleet´s operational life for many years to come and providing Brazil with a modern and highly effective asset suitable for military and civic duties including anti-submarine, maritime patrol, search and rescue, and economic exclusion zone enforcement.

Under the terms of the contract, Brazil is benefiting from a comprehensive package of offsets including a range of industrial projects as well as training and research in the aerospace sector.

“This has been a large and complex program and we are very proud of the work done in upgrading the Brazilian P-3 fleet. The FAB now has one of the most modern fleets in its class”, said Antonio Rodríguez Barberán, Head of Commercial for Military Aircraft with Airbus Defence and Space.

Airbus Defence and Space has modernized a total of 12 P-3 Orions, nine for the Brazilian Air Force and three for the Spanish Air Force.

Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.

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