Russia to build nuclear-powered 60,000-ton aircraft carrier

February 27, 2009, Moscow (RIA Novosti) - Russia's new-generation aircraft carrier will be nuclear powered and have a displacement of up to 60,000 metric tons, a United Shipbuilding Corporation executive said on Friday.

Vice Adm. Anatoly Shlemov, the company's head of defense contracts, said the new carrier was still at the drawing board stage, but its blueprint and basic specifications have already been defined.

He said the carrier will serve as a seaborne platform for new-generation fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, in particular, a fifth-generation fighter that will replace the Su-33 multirole fighter aircraft currently in service, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

"It will be a fifth-generation aircraft with classic horizontal take-off and landing capability," the admiral said.

Shlemov said, unlike in the past, the new aircraft carrier would not be armed with cruise missiles, which were not part of its "job description."
He said that at least three such carriers were to be built, for the Northern and Pacific Fleets.

The executive offered no timeline on the project, saying it was not as yet clear which shipyard would get the contract.

The new carrier has an estimated price tag of $4 billion.

So far the Russian Navy only has one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov Project 1143.5, built in 1985, with a displacement of 55,000 metric tons, a crew of 1,500, and capability to carry more than 50 aircraft. (RIA Novosti)

India to Construct Own Aircraft Carrier: Navy

INS Viraat

NEW DELHI - India has started building its own aircraft carrier, its navy announced Feb. 26, amid a protracted dispute with Russia over the cost of a Soviet-era carrier.

The navy said the keel-laying ceremony for the vessel would be held Feb. 28, but production of components for the 858-foot ship had already begun.

"ith this project, India joins the select club of 40,000-ton aircraft carrier designers and builders," the navy said in a statement.

The carrier will be armed with surface-to-air missiles, latest radar and an array of other combat systems from Israel, France and Russia, naval officials said.

"This is the most prestigious project that the Indian navy has taken up in-house so far," the navy said.

India currently has only one operational carrier - the INS Viraat - after scrapping its first, INS Vikrant, in 1997 after more than 35 years of service.

Viraat is scheduled to be phased out soon.

India has been involved in a long-running wrangle with Moscow over a 2004 deal to buy a refurbished Soviet-era carrier, the Admiral Gorshkov.

The original price for the refit was $970 million, but Russia later demanded an additional $1.2 billion.

The sides eventually settled for an extra $900 million, but the carrier has yet to be delivered, and the latest reports suggest the Russian export firm Rosoboronexport wanted to increase the price tag again.

The 137-ship Indian navy is in expansion mode and has warships from the U.S. navy and submarines from France.(defensenews)

Super Hornets Wire for Future Upgrade

February 27, 2009 -- The Rudd Government has invested an initial $35 million to boost the capability of the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets the Howard Government controversially ordered in 2007.

After an extensive review of the Super Hornet purchase, the Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon announced last year that the Rudd Government was left with little choice but to proceed with the $6.6 billion purchase. Mr Fitzgibbon cited financial penalties and the risk of an air capability gap due to poor long-term planning, as the key reasons.

“Wiring twelve of the Super Hornets as Growlers will give us the opportunity to provide taxpayers with better value for money,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“If finally pursued, the relatively small investment will significantly enhance the Super Hornet’s capability, by giving electronic attack capacity and therefore the ability to nullify the systems of opposing aircraft.

“It will also provide the Super Hornets with counter-terrorism capability through the ability to shut down the ground-based communications and bomb triggering devices of terrorists.”

The $35 million investment has allowed 12 of the 24 Super Hornets for future fit-out while still on the production line, providing significant savings. The completion of the project will require an additional investment of around $300 million. That final decision will not be required until around 2012.

If the Howard Government had taken a more prudent approach in making the Super Hornet decision rather than rushing to fill their impending air combat capability gap, they may have realised that this was a more effective approach to take. (mediacentre)

Boeing Transfers 3rd KC-767J Tanker to Japanese Partner Itochu

February 27, 2009, Wichita, Kansas -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] on Feb. 25 transferred the third KC-767J tanker to the company's Japanese partner, Itochu Corp., for delivery to the Japan Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). When Itochu officially delivers the aircraft in March, it will join two KC-767J tankers that Japan received in 2008.

The KC-767J departed Boeing's tanker modification center in Wichita on a 12-hour, nonstop flight to Gifu, Japan, near Nagoya. Delivery to the MOD and JASDF will follow a final formal review and in-country acceptance processes.

"This new KC-767J will be a valuable addition to Japan's tanker fleet as the country performs vital missions in the Asia-Pacific region," said Dave Bowman, Boeing vice president and general manager, Tanker Programs. "The recent completion of a yearlong technical evaluation and the on-time, on-cost delivery of this third tanker bring the JASDF one step closer to assigning these new assets to active air wings in Japan."

Japan has ordered four convertible tanker/freighter KC-767Js, which provide flexibility in carrying cargo or passengers while maintaining their primary role as aerial refueling tankers. The KC-767 tanker, a military derivative of the proven 767-200 commercial airplane, features Boeing's advanced aerial refueling boom and Remote Aerial Refueling Operator II system.

Boeing is scheduled to transfer the fourth Japan tanker to Itochu in December for delivery to the MOD in the first quarter of 2010.

Boeing also has two KC-767 tankers in comprehensive flight test for the Italian Air Force (ITAF) and is performing modification work on two additional ITAF tankers. The first tanker for Italy is scheduled for delivery later this year.(Boeing)

Alenia to Provide Jet Trainers for UAE

February 25, 2009, Abu Dhabi -- A competition to secure a multi-billion dollar deal for advanced jet trainers to the United Arab Emirates air force has gone to Alenia Aermacchi.

The M-346 jet was named the winner of a competition by a UAE Ministry of Defence official Maj. Gen. Obaid Al Ketbi, speaking at the IDEX 2009 defense show here in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 25.

The official said the order involved delivery of 48 aircraft to be used for pilot training and light attack duties.

The European jet trainer was pitched against the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 in a selection battle that has run on for several years.

Contract details were not available. Ketbi said negotiations concluding the deal were ongoing, and he couldn't at this time give a value for the deal.

The split in aircraft numbers between trainer and light attack aircraft was not immediately available.

One executive familiar with the negotiations earlier told Defense News a final request for proposals last year had set the requirement at 20 trainers, 20 aircraft for combat duties, and the remainder would go toward the creation of a formation flying team.

Some of the light attack aircraft would also likely be dual use for parts of the training curriculum, he said.

Originally, the request for proposals covered the purchase of 33 trainers with an option for seven more aircraft.

Recently the number of aircraft up for grabs has been significantly increased.

Alenia is also involved in a parallel competition here that has seen its M-311 competing against the Pilatus PC-21 turboprop in an all-European fight to provide a basic trainer.

Ketbi said a decision on that requirement remained under consideration. The decision may take some time, he said.

Aermacchi is in talks with the UAE authorities over setting up a joint venture here, with a view to final assembly of the trainer aircraft, chief executive Consentino Carmelo told journalists.

All the training would take place "in country" rather elsewhere, as some customers require, he said. "There's plenty of space," he added.

Now that the selection has been made, the contract negotiations can begin. The talks will include the provision of a cost effective and integrated syllabus that would take UAE pilots from primary basic flying to advanced training. The initial requirement had been for an advanced trainer, but it had evolved to light attack missions, Carmelo said.

The total package would also include ground based training and a logistics support, he said.(defensenews)

Russia to continue modernizing its nuclear deterrent

February , 2009, Moscow -- Russia will continue developing and modernizing its nuclear triad in 2009 despite the current global economic crisis, a deputy prime minister said on Wednesday.

Russia's state defense orders for 2009 are worth about 1 trillion rubles ($28 billion), with money allocated to the Defense Ministry, as well as to more than 10 other ministries and agencies.

"The bulk of state defense orders in 2009 is allocated to the procurement of new weapons, R&D and modernization of existing arsenals, with priority given to the strategic nuclear triad, including the Strategic Missile Forces, the Navy and strategic aviation," Sergei Ivanov said in a speech to the lower house of Russia's parliament.

"It would certainly incur large expenses, but we do not have a choice, as we will have to continue developing and enhancing our nuclear deterrent," he said.

Ivanov added that the government also prioritizes the development of space-based intelligence-gathering and communications systems with the goal to create a national air-and-space defense network.

President Dmitry Medvedev said last year that Russia would make the modernization of its nuclear deterrent and Armed Forces a priority in light of the recent military conflict with Georgia.

"A guaranteed nuclear deterrent system for various military and political circumstances must be provided by 2020," Medvedev said.

Russia's military expenditure has been steadily growing recently, and the country reportedly plans to increase the current defense budget of $40 billion by 50% in the next three years. (RIA Novosti)

Viksund Asia Donates Speedboat to Sri Lanka for Coast Guard Duties

February 25, 2009, Colombo -- Viskund Asia (Pvt) Limited donated a brand new speedboat model “Viksund 605″ to the Ministry of Defence, Sri Lanka on February 20 as a tribute to the victorious armed forces. Viskund Asia manufactures boats for fishing, water sports in Sri Lanka and exports to Scandinavian and far eastern countries. The speedboat is expected to be utilized for the coastguard duties. (marinebuzz)

Oshkosh Defense Awarded $477 Million Delivery Order for New and Recapitalized HEMTT A4s


February 25, 2009, Oshkosk, Wins. -- Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK), announced today that its Defense division has received a delivery order for $477 million from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM). The delivery order calls for more than 1,350 new and recapitalized Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) A4s and more than 1,000 Palletized Load System Trailers (PLST).

With this latest order, the value for the Oshkosh Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles (FHTV) III contract has risen to more than $2.1 billion. The delivery order includes 750 new vehicles and 600 recapitalized vehicles, comprised of the Oshkosh® HEMTT A4 variants of tankers, wreckers, cargo and Load Handling Systems (LHS).

“Recapitalization by Oshkosh provides our customers and the taxpayers with a valuable and cost effective means of returning vehicles to the fleet. Through this program, Oshkosh delivers a vehicle with the performance, reliability and all the modern enhancements of a new truck but at a lower price point,” said Charlie Szews, Oshkosh Corporation president and chief operating officer. “This contract is evidence of our commitment to build and deliver mission-proven, rugged and reliable vehicles for the military.”

Through the Oshkosh Defense remanufacturing and recapitalization services, heavily used vehicles are returned to Oshkosh, stripped to the frame rails and completely rebuilt to like-new condition. Vehicles are put through the same extensive road tests, performance tests and inspection procedures as new vehicles. They receive the latest upgrades, are considered to have zero miles and zero hours, and are delivered with the Oshkosh full bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The HEMTT’s 13-ton payload and off-road capabilities make it the backbone for the U.S. Army’s logistics fleet. Since its introduction in 1985, the HEMTT has helped keep the U.S. Army on the move during major conflicts, such as Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. The HEMTT A4 features a fully air-conditioned and armor-ready cab, a more powerful drivetrain, improved suspension, safety improvements and other structural changes to make installation of add-on armor in the field quicker and easier.

The PLST is part of the PLS system designed to meet the U.S. Army’s distribution and resupply needs in even the most challenging military missions. The PLS truck and trailer form a self-contained system that reduces the need for forklifts or other material-handling equipment, and both carry a demountable cargo bed, also known as a flatrack, featuring a 16.5-ton payload capacity. (oshkosh)

Pacific Patrol Boat Life Extension Program Continues with Tonga’s VOEA Neiafu

Tonga's Navy Ship (Photo: shipspotting)

February 24, 2009 -- Tonga’s Pacific Patrol Boat, VOEA NEIAFU, has arrived in Townsville to undergo a six-month life extension refit that will see the repair and refurbishment of key systems to facilitate a further 15 years of operation.
Under the Australian Defence Cooperation Program – sponsored and funded by International Policy Division – 22 Pacific Patrol Boats (PPB) were built and gifted to 12 Pacific nations between 1987 and 1997.

The 31 metre PPBs are built to a commercial standard and are used by Pacific nations for maritime surveillance and response, in particular fisheries patrols.

The Life Extension Program (LEP) is responsible for doubling the life expectancy of the PPBs. While they were originally designed to last for 15 years, each boat should now last 30.

The LEP refit provides the PPBs with improved design features, including a modified hull, updated electronic systems, complete engine overhauls, renovated or new fittings, structural modifications to facilitate easier ships husbandry and advanced fresh water and air-conditioning systems.

The LEP refit process takes approximately six months. It is expected that VOEA NEIAFU will be able to commence passage to return to Tonga in early September 2009.

Since 2003, 11 PPBs have successfully undertaken the Life Extension Program refit in North Queensland, the last returning to homeport in December 2008.

Tonga received three PPBs – VOEA NEIAFU, VOEA SAVEA and VOEA PANGAI. The remaining two will receive similar refits at a later date. (mediacentre)

Norway Opts for BAE Systems Sting Ray Lightweight Torpedo

The Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation has selected BAE Systems Sting Ray Mod 1 lightweight torpedo to meet the requirements of its Norwegian Antisubmarine Torpedo (NAT) programme.

Sting Ray Mod 1 will arm the new Fridtjof Nansen class frigates and will be integrated with the new NH90 Anti Submarine Warfare helicopter and the Orion P3-C Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

The £99 million contract, won in competition against other leading defence companies, marks the first export success for Sting Ray Mod 1.

Commenting on the success, Rory Fisher, Managing Director of BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies said “I am delighted that Norway has decided to select Sting Ray Mod 1, which is widely recognised as one of the world's most sophisticated lightweight torpedo weapon systems. We can now set about delivering our commitments in programme delivery and ensure we become the dependable partner of choice for our Norwegian customer.”

In winning the competition, BAE Systems campaign manager for Sting Ray Mod 1, Bob Moran, acknowledged the support provided by UK customer partners, in particular the Torpedoes integrated project team within the Ministry of Defence procurement agency DE&S, and the UK Defence Storage and Distribution Agency based at Gosport, Hampshire.

“Across the team the support for Sting Ray Mod 1 has been outstanding. Our UK customer/industry partnership approach was responsible for establishing a logistic support and maintenance commitment to Norway which was a key factor in our success”, Moran said.

The Sting Ray Mod 1 system is currently in production for the UK Ministry of Defence at BAE Systems facilities in Portsmouth and Waterlooville, Hampshire, under a Main Production Order placed in 2003.

Moran added: The Norway order will extend Sting Ray Mod 1 production until the end of 2012 and help safeguard up to 50 manufacturing and engineering jobs at BAE Systems over that time.”

UAE signs $1 bln contracts at Idex-2009 arms show

February 24, 2009, Abu Dhabi -- The United Arab Emirates has signed a series of arms deals worth more than $1 billion at an international defense exhibition, an UAE spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Idex-2009 international defense exhibition and conference opened in Abu Dhabi on February 22 and will last through February 26.

Gen. Obeid al Qatabi said the UAE Armed Forces had concluded eight contracts with foreign and domestic companies, the Emirate Business newspaper reported.

Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding Company landed the largest deal, worth $255 million, for the supply of 12 combat vessels.

French Thales won a contract for signal and communication systems for Leclerc tanks.

Russian military systems and technology are being exhibited over an area of 546 square meters, including 84 square meters to showcase the latest developments in Russian ammunition.

Russia is an Idex regular, traditionally displaying small arms and light weapons, as well as air force, naval, and air defense systems. (RIA Novosti)

China imitates Russian Su-27SK fighter

by Andrei Chang is editor-in-chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto Canada.

Hong Kong, China — Based on the design of the Russian Sukhoi Su-27SK fighter, China has come up with its own domestic version, the J-11B multi-function fighter. Three J-11B prototypes have been manufactured since 2006. After their factory flight tests, they have been evaluated by the People's Liberation Army Air Force 1st Fighter Division, based in Anshan in China's northeast Liaoning province.

A Chinese military industry source has confirmed that pre-production of the fighters will begin this year. "We will not need to assemble more Su-27SKs, because it is old technology given from Russia," the source said.

The J-11B has undergone drastic changes from the original Russian design. A source from the Chinese aerospace industry says that except for the Russian-made engines, 90 percent of the major subsystems fitted on the J-11B, including the radar and optical electronic systems, are made by China. The Chinese aviation company AVIC 1 has already completed testing the 1474 serial radar system to be deployed in the J-11B. The fighter's weapons will also integrate indigenous systems.

A Chinese pilot with more than 20 years of flight experience expressed his high opinion of the Su-27 fighter, describing it as "very easy to fly."

However, as the source from the Chinese military industry points out, some of the parts used on the Su-27SK have a very short lifespan, which has led to a high rate of technical accidents. For instance, frequent problems with the fighter's infrared search and track system have restricted its use in the regular training of combat forces.

To investigate this issue, the author paid a special visit to the Ural Optical and Mechanical Complex in Ekaterinburg, Russia. A Russian source revealed that the company had signed two contracts with a Chinese company to supply parts for an updated IRST system, the OLS-31E. Execution of the contract, valued at US$1 million, began in 2007.

Research and development of the China-made IRST system to be fitted on the J-11B fighters is already completed. The physical appearance of this new IRST is very close to the original Russian OLS-31E, making it appear to be an imitation edition of the Russian system with some upgrades. In fact, the overall performance of the J-11B is now on a par with the Russian-edition Su-27SMK.

The J-11B's fire control radar system uses mechanical scanning, integrates more functions and features a modular design. The fighter also features substantial changes in the fire control system and the cockpit so the J-11B will be able to fire China's indigenous PL-12 air-to-air missiles and a whole series of other precision-guided weapons. The cockpit has three large color multifunctional displays and two small color multifunctional displays.

In recent years, China's pace of development in airborne equipment has been very fast. The design of its J-10B cockpit has been quite precocious; the rear cockpit seems to have four multifunctional color displays and two small multifunctional displays.

In addition, the J-11B will be fitted with China's indigenous strapdown inertial navigation system, 3-axix data system, power supply system, emergency power unit, brake system, hydraulic system, fuel system, environment control system and molecular sieve oxygen generation systems.

The fact that China is producing a large proportion of the J-11B parts domestically indicates that its demand for parts imported from Russia will decline dramatically during the second phase of the fighter's production. Also, some of the subsystems and equipment are compatible with those used in the J-10A and J-10B fighters.

It is expected that the J-11B's flight control system will also be manufactured in China. This was the leading reason why Russia could not determine whether China would continue to produce Su-27SK fighters in the next phase. In reality, the joint contract between Russia and China for the Su-27SK/J-11 development has now been virtually abandoned by the Chinese side without any consultation with Russia. (upiasia)

New weapons used during Operation Cast Lead

New type of APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) (Photo: IDF)

February 23, 2009 -- The IDF Ground Forces today released a report about new weapons that were used for the first time by forces during Operation Cast Lead. For the past two years, the development process took place and new weaponry was put to use by the IDF, including: grenade launchers, mortars. and means of advanced sniping. This was done as part of a multi-year project designed to improve the operational capabilities of infantry forces.

During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF made extensive use of robots for the purpose of crawling under tunnels and buildings in order to minimize casualties among soldiers. One of the robots used by forces was the Bull Island, which is a camera shaped as a tennis ball that can be thrown into any building and transfers 360 degree imagery to the troops on the ground outside of the structure. This camera, as well as other robots, used by the IDF helped to identify booby-trapped houses, or buildings with armed terrorists, thus minimizing the risk of IDF casualties.

In addition, the IDF also presented a new type of APC (armored personnel carrier) that Golani forces used during the operation. The main purpose of the APC is to transport infantry soldiers, and it is characterized by high speed and extra protection, making them of more use than the previous APC model. The new APC can also carry vast amounts of troops and is able to scan and attack from within. The new APC is more durable than any other ever used by the IDF in the face of anti-tank missiles and is expected to be used by all infantry forces during this year.

Another new weapon was introduced-- the Matador missile, which is intended to penetrate structures. The missile was first designed to serve as an anti-tank missile and was later used against structures. The missile referred to by some of the commanders as "My private tank" is more powerful than the Lau missile that the IDF used previously and is also designed to protect soldiers, rather than forcing them to use large tools and bulldozers to demolish structures. (defpro)

UAE to Buy Boeing C-17, Lockheed C-130J Airlifters

C17 Globemaster (Photo: Boeing)

February 23, 2009, Abu Dhabi -- The United Arab Emirates has confirmed it is to purchase Boeing C-17 and Lockheed Martin C-130J airlifters.

The confirmation came not with an official announcement, but with a simple ceremony involving the removal of shrouds covering models of the two aircraft in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince and deputy supreme commander.

Nothing was said officially, but the smiles on the faces of the Boeing and Lockheed executives crowding behind the models on the stand of the state-owned investment house Mubadala told the story well enough.

An official announcement is expected within 24 hours detailing the purchase.

However, yesterday Defense News quoted industry sources saying that Lockheed would be supplying 12 C-130J and Boeing would be building a handful of their giant C-17 airlifters.

It is thought there are options for further C-130Js in the yet-to-be signed agreement.

The agreements are the second success for the Boeing/Lockheed combination in the region in the last few months.

Last year, Qatar signed a deal covering four C-130Js and a clutch of C-17s. The number of Boeing aircraft has never been officially confirmed but is said by analysts to be two aircraft. (defensenews)

Taiwan Finalizes Long Awaited P-3 Deal

Northrop Grumman S-2T Turbo Tracker ROCAF

fEBRUARY 23, 2009, Taipei – Taiwan, the U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin have finally settled issues over price and offset options, and are expected to soon sign a contract for 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft for $1.3 billion, said sources in Taiwan.

The signing will mark the end of two decades of struggle by Taiwan to replace its decrepit Northrop Grumman S-2T anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.

In April 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush authorized the sale of a major arms package to Taiwan that included 12 P-3s, eight diesel submarines and four Kidd-class destroyers. Much of the arms package was held up by years of bickering in Taiwan's legislature that alienated Washington.

The delay is also expected to have increased the price per aircraft - originally $66 million in 2001 - but an exact breakdown on figures was unavailable. Lockheed Martin did not comment on final contract negotiations.

Taiwan's air force procured 37 S-2Ts in 1978 and transferred the remaining 26 to the navy's 1st Aviation Group in 1998 to outfit two squadrons, the 133rd and 134th.

Today, sources in Taiwan have said there are only three functioning S-2T aircraft with ASW capabilities. One operational S-2T was spotted during a Taiwan naval exercise in 2008 in the Pacific.

Since 2000, besides the P-3C, the Lockheed S-3 Viking and Alenia C-27J Spartan were discussed as replacement options. Before 2000, with the pullout of European defense contractors from Taiwan because of pressure from China, the military considered the Fokker Maritime Enforcer and the Dassault Atlantique Europatrol aircraft. The U.S. had also discussed refurbished Lockheed P-2 Neptune aircraft, but Taiwan rejected the offer.

Part of the P-3 delay was early Taiwan military opposition to procuring refurbished aircraft. Despite the fact P-3 production had been discontinued, Taiwan military officials insisted on reopening the line, a costly option that delayed procurement for several years.

A late bid in 2006 by L-3 Communications also delayed procurement as Taiwan debated the option. L-3 hired former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to lobby Taiwan for an open bidding. L-3 finally canceled its bidding efforts.

The P-3s will be pulled from the U.S. Air Force's bone yard, the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, in Arizona, for refurbishment.

China has greatly expanded its conventional submarine fleet over the past twenty years. It now has roughly 55 diesel attack submarines, including Kilo-class, aging Romeo-class, Ming-class and Song-class submarines. (defensenews)

PLA Navy to Guard China’s Global Interests

by Andrei Chang is editor-in-chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto, Canada

Hong Kong, China —- China recently dispatched two navy ships – its most advanced No. 171 “Chinese Aegis” class DDG and No. 169 “Chinese Sovremenni” class DDG – to the waters near Somalia to engage in anti-pirate operations. As a Chinese expression goes, “why use an ox-cleaver to kill a chicken?”

This high-profile action represents a great step forward for the PLA Navy toward becoming a global blue-water maritime force. Its leaders seem to be following in the footsteps of Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, who commanded the Soviet Navy for nearly three decades and built it into a global sea power. He said his navy would fly the Soviet flag in every corner of the five continents and four great oceans on earth, as they all fell within the range of Soviet interests.

On Jan. 4 the PLA Daily published an article by someone named Huang Kunlun claiming that “Maritime trade has without any doubt become the lifeline of the Chinese economy, and the oceans are now China’s critical communication and navigation channels. Using maritime forces to protect national maritime interests is an important measure for the PLA Navy to safeguard the national interest of our country.”

This article put forward for the first time the concept of a “national interest frontier,” implying that PLA operations should be extended to wherever China has interests. The author advocates “protecting the national interest frontier” as the call of a new era and an inevitable trend.

This concept of a national interest frontier is in fact the 21st century version of the Gorshikov theory, under which the Soviet naval commander advocated the strategic use of an ocean-going navy.

Where does China’s national interest frontier lie exactly? The term itself indicates that PLA Navy operations in the future will go beyond the Taiwan Strait and the traditional Chinese maritime territory. The Huang article pegged China’s national interest frontier with its maritime trading activities.

This means that the People’s Liberation Army sees the scope of its operations in protecting the national interest as global in nature. The underlying logic is very simple: China’s trading activities have become global, so dispatching naval battleships to escort Chinese merchant ships is only a first stride forward for the navy.

In the future, wherever Chinese merchant ships go, that area may be taken as China’s national interest frontier, and the trace of the “Chinese Aegis” class DDG may appear. Moreover, this theory gives China a more convincing rationale for building its own aircraft carriers.

Clearly, the conventional Western analysis that the PLA Navy is following a progressive defense path by trying to first secure the waters within the “first island chain” – the stretch of islands running parallel to China’s coast, including Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and the northern Philippines – and then proceed to the “second island chain” – bordered by Guam, northern Australia and Indonesia – is out of date.

Which island chain includes the coastline of Somalia?

China’s concept of a national interest frontier is not just a theoretical discussion. It is founded on the actual demands of combat operations. The PLA Daily carried another article on Dec. 2, 2008, entitled, “Abandoning the Doctrine of Peaceful Military Build-up and Preparing for Military Confrontation that May Break Out Anytime.” This caught the attention of Western military observers.

The belligerent wording in this treatise, at a time when tensions in the Taiwan Strait have greatly eased, has confused and worried analysts. Why did the author openly advocate preparations for military conflict at such a moment? Conflict with whom?

“Unless China is in possession of a credible core capability to win a regional war in the information era, China will not have the fundamental ability to accomplish other military missions,” the article warned. “For China, although the possibility of a large-scale foreign invasion can be excluded, the danger of involvement in a regional war, military conflict and the interference of a superior opponent has never decreased,” it said.

From the perspective of Chinese military strategists, China no longer has any national interest frontier, because all corners of the planet have established ties with China through trade. Chinese merchant ships are already navigating in the waters of the four great oceans and have reached all parts of the five continents. This is an advantage that the Soviet Union did not have in earlier years.

In Africa, China is already the continent’s third-largest trading partner, after the United States and France. In 2006, China’s trade with Africa broke the US$50 billion mark. Critically important is that Africa’s natural resources provide a lifeline to China’s economy.

China has been providing large quantities of China-made weapons and military equipment to many countries in Africa, as this writer has described in earlier articles. Many of these were traded for oil. Angola has become China’s second-largest source of crude oil, followed by Nigeria. In addition, shipments of African copper, zinc and uranium are constantly heading to China.

Chinese activities are found in all quarters of the continent. In North Africa, signs of China’s crude oil survey teams can be found in Libya, Morocco and Egypt. In West Africa, China sells arms and extracts natural resources in Algeria, Benin, Ghana, Congo and Angola. In South and East Africa important trade partners include Sudan, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya.

All this activity keeps Chinese merchant ships sailing in and out of African coastal waters very frequently.

In Europe and the Americas, needless to say, Chinese merchant ships have been transporting all the made-in-China goods that flood those regions’ markets. In Latin America, the value of trade with China has increased 10-fold since 2000. Cuba’s sugar, Brazil’s iron ore and Peru’s copper have been flowing to China. With the United States mired in a deepening financial crisis, Latin America will become an even more important “national interest frontier” for China.

In 2007, China’s trade with Latin America reached an unprecedented US$102 billion, a whopping increase of 43.5 percent from that of 2006. China’s total investment in Latin American countries reached US$9.3 billion. China is now Latin America’s third-largest trading partner. Within the next five to 10 years, China will become a much more important trading partner, investor and creditor for both Africa and Latin America.

China’s ultimate “national interest frontier” is in outer space. The country has speeded up its space program and is expected to send out more surveillance satellites to circle the globe.

Joining the global effort to deal with the pirate threat off the coast of Somalia has provided China with an excellent opportunity to dispatch military ships to escort its merchant fleets. This fits in nicely with China’s intentions to build a global blue-water navy, which it has been working toward for years by reinforcing the combat capability of the PLA Navy South Sea Fleet.

The areas where pirate activities are rampant, including the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, and the Gulf of Aden near Somalia, are of course critical international sea lanes. Thus, a presence in these crucial passages gives access to the maritime lifeline of many countries.

Fighting pirates in the Strait of Malacca, in particular, would give China the opportunity to make frequent forays into the Indian Ocean as well as the South China Sea and demonstrate its strength. In this case regional players will have to get used to the presence of PLA Navy battleships in these waters. (upiasia)/(photos: jeffheadcom)

New Head Australia Future Submarine Program

HMAS Collins

The Minister for Defence, the Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP, has today announced the appointment of Rear Admiral (RADM) Rowan Moffitt, AO, RAN, to the new position of Head Future Submarine Program in Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO).

“The early stages of the program require large amounts of Government to Government and Navy to Navy interaction which makes RADM Moffitt an excellent choice to lead the program in its early years,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The future submarine is planned to replace the Collins class submarine commencing in 2025. This highly complex project is a high priority for the Rudd Labor Government.
“The appointment of RADM Moffitt meets the Government’s commitment, at the last election, to ensure that preliminary work on Australia’s next generation of submarines is progressed,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

RADM Moffitt will report to the Chief Executive Officer of DMO, Dr Stephen Gumley, and will lead a combined Navy, DMO and Capability Development Group Future Submarine Project Office, commencing duties on 23 February 2009. (mediacentre)

UAE, U.S. Reach Deal on AIM-120C-7

F16 Firing AIM-120

February 22, 2009, Abu Dhabi -- The United Arab Emirates has struck a deal with the U.S. government to become the first regional user of Raytheon's latest version of the advanced medium range air-to-air missile, the AIM-120C-7.

The governments have signed a letter of agreement that will see just over 220 C-7s delivered to the UAE, said Rico Rodriguez, Raytheon Missile System's business development manager for air warfare programs.

The AIM-120 sale was the first major deal of the IDEX defense show, which opened here Feb. 22.

The new weapon will equip the already formidable Lockheed Martin F-16 Bock 60 fighters now in service with the air force here.

The air force currently operates the less-capable C-5 version of the weapon on the F-16s.

The new weapon offers an upgraded and repackaged guidance system. The weapon has sufficient growth opportunities to meet emerging threats, Rodriguez said.

Aside from the U.S. military, the C-7 is used by Greek and Taiwanese air forces. Finland and South Korea are also in line to operate the weapon.

The missile sale was the second deal announced by Raytheon in the Middle East in the last couple of weeks.

Earlier this month, the company announced its infrared upgrade kits were to equip a variety of Egyptian and Iraqi armored vehicles.

The value of the Foreign Military Sales deal was put at $173 million. (defencenews)

Indian Air Force to Install Aerostat Radar System at Southern Air Command

February 22, 2009, Thiruvananthapuram, India -- Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to install Aerostat Radar System at the Southern Air Command (SAC) last Friday.

According to Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Air Marshal S Radhakrishnan, considering the region's strategic importance, Aerostat Radar System, capable of picking up targets at low ranges would be installed at SAC in two years.

Radhakrishnan further shared that the control of Maritime Air Operations (MAO), now under South Western Air Command, would be handed over to the Southern Air Command.

IAF sources said in New Delhi that they have already geared up air defense units by placing mobile radars all along the southern coast particularly to secure sensitive infrastructure following the first LTTE attack in 2007.

In November 2008, in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai, India purchased the Elta Systems-built EL/M-2083 Aerostat Radar System as the country’s early warning and control phased array radar for $600 million.

Deployed at strategic points, the radar will detect and track hostile low-flying aircraft, helicopters, spy drones and missiles to protect the country’s coastline.(defro)

India facing Delays in Acquisition of New Military Equipment

MiG-21 Bison will be replaced (Photo:

February 22, 2009, New Delhi -- Replacement of ageing and obsolete defence weaponry is part of modernization of the Armed Forces, which is a continuous process based on threat perception, technological changes and budget allocation.

The process involves formulation of a Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), five years Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP) and Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP).

Procurement of required equipment and weapon system is carried out as per the AAP and in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). On the basis of experience gained in its implementation, the DPP-2006 was reviewed and the DPP-2008 came into effect from 1.9.2008.

The DPP-2008 has incorporated certain measures to expedite the process of procurement. In addition, the delegation of financial powers to the Service Headquarters for sanctioning capital proposals have been enhanced.

The procedure for procurement of defence equipment under revenue head is already laid down in the Defence Procurement Manual (DPM) 2006.

While contract for procurement of Assault Rifles has been concluded recently, procurement case for Howitzers and Night Vision Devices are in progress.

This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written statement to Shri BK Hariprasad in Rajya Sabha today. (india-defence)

U.S. Navy Awards General Dynamics Contract Extension for Production of F/A-18 Gun Systems


February 20, 2009, Charlotte, N.C. -– The U.S. Navy has awarded General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, a business unit of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), a $16 million contract extension for the production of M61A2 20mm automatic Gatling gun systems for use on F/A-18 fighter jets.

The production work will be performed at General Dynamics’ Saco, Maine, facility, with final deliveries scheduled in 2011. The program will be managed out of General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products’ Burlington, Vt., facility.

The initial $10 million contract was awarded to General Dynamics in 2005, followed by a $12.5 million contract extension in 2006.

According to Gary LaPerriere, director of operations for General Dynamics in Saco, “Our team here in Maine is proud to continue to supply our gun system to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Our M61A1 and M61A2 20mm Gatling gun systems offer lightweight, highly lethal combat support for a variety of aircraft. The M61A1 and M61A2 dramatically increase multiple-hit probabilities when compared to guns with lower rates of fire because they can provide firing rates of up to 7,200 shots per minute. The M61A2 is also 20 percent lighter than the M61A1.” (GeneralDynamics)

HMS Cumberland Gets New Sea Boat Capability

HMS Cumberland F85 is currently making preparations for her forthcoming deployment with a Fleet Time Support Period in Devonport (FTSP). During this time she will regenerate and rejuvenate, the Ship will conduct maintenance and receive additional equipment whilst the Ship’s Company prepare for the demands of the forthcoming period of Operational Sea Training and the subsequent deployment to the Arabian Gulf.

The latest additions to the Ship are two of the Royal Navy’s Pacific 24 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs). These supersede the Pacific 22s previously used in Cumberland during Counter-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden. Cumberland is the first Type 22 to receive this new capability.

The Pacific 24s boast improved speed and load bearing capacity. They are able to proceed at over 40 knots whilst carrying over a tonne of personnel and equipment. This enhanced capability gives Cumberland’s Royal Navy and Royal Marines boarding teams the ability to transfer more personnel more quickly. This will be invaluable when on operations as Cumberland works in support of Iraqi maritime security in the North Arabian Gulf.

Workers from BVT (BAE Systems/Vosper Thornycroft) have welded large sponsons on both sides of Cumberland in order to house the Pacific 24s and davits which lower the boats into the water. The work to fit the new equipment should take three weeks to complete. It forms part of the ongoing programme to maintain the versatility and capability of Royal Navy warships for both now and for the future.

The new davits will allow for rapid deployment and recovery of the Pacific 24s. Before they were fitted, the Pacifics could only be launched from the port side with minimal crew. The new boats and davits gives the Ship the ability to launch a fully manned seaboat from either side. (royalnavy)

Retirement of The DHC-4 Caribou

February 19, 2009 -- The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, today announced the Government has accepted the reality that it will be necessary to bring forward the retirement of Australia’s remaining thirteen DHC-4 Caribou aircraft to December 2009.

“The Government has been left with little choice but to retire the Caribou and has reluctantly agreed to do so despite the fact that poor planning by the former Government has denied us the opportunity to produce a replacement aircraft before 2013,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“After 45 years of tireless and distinguished service with the Royal Australian Air Force, the Caribou fleet is suffering badly from a range of ageing aircraft issues, and contains asbestos parts which I am determined to weed out of the Defence Force.”

The Royal Australian Air Force took delivery of its first Caribou in April 1964. The Caribou has a proud 45-year history of supporting Australian Defence Force operations, throughout the South West Pacific and in South East Asia, including active service in Vietnam, humanitarian relief in Kashmir, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea and also in support of peacekeeping operations in the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

Despite its outstanding track record, the Caribou is now well beyond its sustainable life of type. The Caribou fleet suffers from corrosion, fatigue and obsolescence issues that make them increasingly difficult and costly to maintain.

“Air Force is struggling to achieve four to five serviceable aircraft at any one time,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“In fact, it is a tribute to the outstanding work of 38 Squadron aircrew, technicians and support personnel that the Caribou has been able to operate as long as it has.

“The reality is that a decision should have been taken a long time ago on acquiring a tactical airlift capability to replace the Caribou. The Government has been left with no other option than to rectify yet another shortcoming we have inherited in transition planning across our entire Air Force fleet,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Project Air 8000 Phase 2 plans to deliver a Tactical Battlefield Airlift capability for the Royal Australian Air Force to replace the Caribou in 2013.

“Options for bringing forward the schedule on this project are being considered as part of the White Paper process,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

As an interim measure, a leased fleet of five additional Hawker Pacific B300 King Air aircraft will undertake light air transport tasks. These aircraft will be phased into the Townsville-based 38 Squadron as the Caribou is progressively retired toward the end of 2009. Three King Air 350 aircraft, currently operated by Army, will also be transferred across to 38 Squadron.

“The interim King Air lease will help Air Force minimise the adverse workforce issues that result from allowing gaps to develop in transitioning aircraft fleets,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“It is important that we honour the debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who have supported the Caribou for so long by providing a means for them to maintain their skills and streamline their transition to a more modern and capable replacement aircraft.”

The King Air is a modern aircraft with digital avionics, advanced displays and navigation systems and turbine engines, that will assist in transitioning 38 Squadron aircrew and technicians to the more modern aircraft types being considered under Project Air 8000 Phase 2.

“Our nation is extremely proud of the magnificent service that the Caribou has provided to the Royal Australian Air Force over the past five decades. While there may be some who are saddened to hear of the Caribou’s impending retirement, even the most vocal supporters of the Caribou will agree this decision is long overdue.”

“The men and women of 38 Squadron have been waiting for many years to know what the future holds. Today’s decision gives reassurance to them that the Government is very aware of both the challenges they face in trying to sustain such an ageing aircraft and the career management uncertainty that has been unnecessarily forced upon them after so many years of empty promises and inaction,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.(mediacentre)

Iran's Naval Forces Dispatched to Missions in High Seas

Alvand 71 Saam Class (Vosper Mk5 type) Frigate

February 21, 2009, Tehran -- Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced that he has started dispatching his forces to international waters and open seas.

"As contemplated and ordered by the Supreme Commander of the (Iranian) Armed Forces (Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei), we are entitled to be present in the seas in which other countries are present," Sayyari told FNA here on Friday.

"This move has been started in a bid to preserve the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to hoist Iran's glorious flag," he added.

According to the plan - called 'Velayat Plan' - Iran's Navy will take missions from east of the Hormoz Strait to Govatr and Pasabandar ports which covers Iran's territorial waters and large parts of the Indian Ocean.

The Iran has set up new naval bases in such regions as the port of Jaask in the southern Persian Gulf waters for the same purpose.

Navy sources said that all the required infrastructures have been developed for Iran's presence in international waters and that presence of the country's naval forces will be boosted after building of modern equipment like destroyers.

Iran has recently started dispatching groups of destroyers to the high seas to display its naval power.

Commander of one of the Iranian warships, which has just returned home from a 30-day-long trip to the Indian Ocean, told FNA that the ship traveled to Iranian port of Chabahar from (Iranian southern port of) Bandar Abbas via international waters and passed the waters near Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka and anchored in Muscat.

The commander also said that the goal of the mission was conveying the Iranian nation's message of peace to the world's nations.(Fars)

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