Russia's Yaroslav Mudry frigate to Enter Service Before Year-End

March 12, 2009, Baltiysk -- Russia's newest frigate, the Yaroslav Mudry, will begin service before the end of this year, the Baltic Fleet commander said on Thursday.

The frigate - the second vessel in the 11540 Yastreb project after the Neustrashimy, which recently took part in an anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden - is currently undergoing sea trials.

"The tests have been conducted successfully. They will last two or three months, after which the final trials will begin, which are set to end by fall," Rear Admiral Viktor Mardusin said.

Earlier reports said the frigate could enter service in April. The construction of the Yaroslav Mudry has taken almost 19 years due to lack of financing.

The frigate has a displacement of 4,250 tons and a maximum speed of 30 knots. It is armed with anti-ship missiles, air defense systems, a 100-mm artillery mount, depth charges, and a Ka-27 helicopter.

Mardusin earlier said the Neustrashimy could be sent back to Somalia in May-June, and that the Yaroslav Mudry could join the international anti-piracy in the Gulf of Aden after entering service with the Baltic Fleet. (RIA Novosti)

Boeing and US Army Collaborate on Space and Missile Defense Research

March 12, 2009, Huntsville, Ala. -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT) have launched a joint research-and-development effort to coordinate and fuse multiple types of sensor data in a secure environment for Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) and space situational awareness concept exploration.

Boeing and the SMDC/ARSTRAT signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) on Feb. 24, and today the two organizations met to exchange preliminary technical information at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

"This agreement effectively allows the SMDC/ARSTRAT's Data Fusion Distribution Center to exercise and examine Boeing's multilevel security modeling and simulation capabilities using actual government data," said Michael Schexnayder, Deputy to the Commander for Research, Development and Acquisition at SMDC/ARSTRAT. "Through this joint effort, our teams will develop a collaborative, net-centric, open-source environment to support the analyses of a multitude of space and IAMD issues."

The CRADA will benefit from a Memorandum of Agreement between SMDC/ARSTRAT and the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) to provide expertise, tools and information to enhance the final desired outcome of the CRADA: an effective Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) that may be used to validate ballistic missile defense concepts using modeling and simulation.(Boeing)

France To Return to NATO Command

March 11, 2009, Paris -- President Nicolas Sarkozy announced March 1 that France would return to the NATO military command and become a full partner of the United States and its other Atlantic allies.

Four decades after Gen. Charles de Gaulle declared France's independence from the command structure, while remaining a political member of the alliance, Sarkozy said the time had come to once more play a leading role.

"The moment has come to put an end to this situation because it is in the interest of France and of Europe to do so," Sarkozy told an audience of military officers, officials and international defense experts in Paris.

Speaking as commander in chief, Sarkozy said France had been moving closer to playing a full role in NATO's missions and committees ever since De Gaulle's decision to withdraw from the command in 1966.

"In ending this long process, France will be stronger and more influential.

Why? Because those who are absent are always in the wrong. Because France must be a joint leader rather than submit to others," he said.

"Because we must be there where decisions and norms are decided, rather than waiting to be told about them," he said. "Once we have returned, we will retake our proper place in all the major Allied commands."

Sarkozy said, however, France would keep its independent nuclear deterrent outside NATO, arguing that since the United States and Britain have done the same this did not represent a continued exclusion from the Alliance.

The president and his supporters insist the move will boost France's influence among the Western allies, and allow Paris to promote a common European identity without it being seen as a rival to the U.S. alliance.

Critics counter that Paris will now lose face internationally and be seen as a subordinate to the United States.

On a purely military level not much will change. France has long played a major role in NATO operations, fielding troops under allied command in Bosnia, Kosovo and now notably in the dangerous Afghan campaign.

But De Gaulle's decision has a powerful symbolic significance for the French, who are traditionally wary of falling under the domination of Washington and value their country's independent foreign policy.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this half-in half-out stance has for many observers become an anomaly, with France's close involvement in NATO missions in the Balkans drawing it closer into alliance decision making.

Sarkozy's supporters insist returning will not force France to take part in unpopular U.S.-led missions, such as the war in Iraq.

Noting that Germany had been fully integrated in the alliance's military structure but had nevertheless joined France in opposing the Iraq invasion, Sarkozy said such fears were based on "lies and counter-factuals."

In practical terms, France's return will see French staff officers take charge of two NATO commands and the number of French personnel attached to allied headquarters increase from 100 to around 800.

There will be no immediate effect on the 3,300 troops already attached to NATO's campaign in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, Sarkozy has faced criticism from those who feel France's influence will suffer in, for example, Africa and the Middle East, if Paris ends up being seen as the poodle of the Americans.

"Nothing today justifies returning to NATO military command," opposition Socialist leader Martine Aubry said, criticizing Sarkozy's fondness for close ties with Washington.

"There's no hurry, no fundamental need, except for this Atlanticism that's becoming an ideology," she said.

Despite the fierce debate, the French public appears ready for the change.

An IFOP opinion poll conducted last week of 957 French adults found 58 percent support for rejoining NATO, with 37 percent opposed.

The move will be debated in parliament next week, but the ruling majority is expected to rally reluctantly behind Sarkozy who will send a letter to the allies to announce France's return before the April 3-4 NATO summit. (defensenews)

Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Program Completes Infrared Search and Track System Tests

March 11, 2009, St. Louis -- The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Infrared Search and Track (IRST) program has successfully completed a series of risk-reduction flight tests that demonstrated the compatibility and effectiveness of the IRST system on the Super Hornet strike fighter.

IRST is a passive, long-range sensor system that searches for and detects IR emissions within its field of view. It can track several targets simultaneously and provide an effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when facing advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, and General Electric developed a prototype IRST sensor that was installed in the front section of a modified 480-gallon fuel tank. The U.S. Navy conducted six flight tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., and four at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.

Chris Wedewer, F/A-18E/F IRST program manager for Boeing, said the flight tests allow for low-risk entry into the development phase of the program. "Boeing and Lockheed Martin successfully demonstrated transfer alignment, long-range target detection, and the ability to operate in a fuel tank," Wedewer said. "Boeing also demonstrated integration of the IRST into the F/A-18E/F's multisource integration algorithms, allowing for the fusion of IRST tracking data with data from other sensors."

Wedewer added that the demonstration ensures effective and efficient progress as the IRST program moves into development and production.

IRST is part of the Navy's F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornet Flight Plan, which is a series of planned capability enhancements that ensures the Super Hornet will continue to outdistance known and emerging threats over the coming decades.

The Block II F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a multirole aircraft able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions. Equipped with the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, the F/A-18E/F seamlessly conducts simultaneous air and ground missions. (Boeing)

Libya Buys 3 Missile Boats From Russia

March 11, 2009, Moscow -- Russia has signed a contract to supply Libya with three Molniya Project 12418 fast attack missile boats, the first large publicly known arms deal with the North African country since Moscow wrote off Tripoli's debt in exchange for new arms contracts last year.

The ships will be built by the Rybinsk-based Vympel shipbuilding plant, according to a March 9 report by the government's Prime-Tass news agency. In a January meeting, Vympel shareholders approved a plan to borrow 800 million rubles ($23 million) from the government-controlled Sberbank to start executing the Libyan contract, the report said.

Mikhail Barabanov, an analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a think tank here, said the deal might amount to $250 million, based on Vympel's 1999 contract to build two Molniyas for $45 million each for Vietnam.

"If you add double ammunition loads for each Project 12418 boat, meaning 96 Uran-E missiles, this will make another $100 million," he said.

Molniya-class boats have a top speed of more than 40 knots and can carry anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and a 76mm gun.

Libya, once a voracious customer for Soviet arms, saw its ties freeze after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During then-President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tripoli last April, Russia agreed to write off $4.6 billion of Libya's Soviet-era debt in exchange for new deals, including $2 billion in arms contracts.

Russia has used such debt-for-contracts schemes to win arms agreements with Algeria and Syria.

Before and during the visit of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to Moscow in October, Libyan officials reportedly discussed with their Russian counterparts possible procurement of Russian-made Su-30MKI fighters, T-90 tanks, Tor-M2E air defense systems and also modernizing T-72 tanks bought from the Soviet Union earlier. Barabanov said that one should not expect mega-deals with Libya, similar to the $7.5 billion host of arms contracts which Russia achieved with Algeria in 2006.

"Libyans will proceed in small steps, sticking to relatively modest procurement and modernization contracts," the analyst said.

Vympel spokesmen did not return calls for comment. Vympel is controlled by the Concern of Medium and Small Tonnage Shipbuilding, which is controlled by its managers, Igor Kruglyakov and Mikhail Kheifits.

Officials at Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms trading monopoly, declined to comment.(defensenews)

India To Buy Indigenous Saras Aircraft Despite Crash

March 10, 2009, NEW Delhi -- Indian defense forces will purchase the indigenous Saras multirole aircraft despite its March 6 accident, Indian Defence Ministry officials said. The Air Force and Navy continue to evince interest in the aircraft, officials here said.

A senior Air Force official, however, said the Saras is expensive at about $8 million per aircraft.

A prototype of the Saras being developed by the Bangalore-based, state-owned National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) crashed March 6 near Bangalore, killing three Air Force pilots.

The second prototype of the 14-seater Saras has been fitted with a high-performance engine, and its weight had been considerably reduced, a NAL scientist said, by fine-tuning the design, making more use of composites and improving electrical fittings.

No official reason has been given for the crash.

The 500-kilogram weight reduction from the first prototype, which weighed 5,118 kilograms, was matched with a high-thrust engine from Pratt and Whitney, the scientist said. (defensenews)

India test flies 14-seater Saras aircraft
May 29, 2004, Bangalore -- A test flight of India's first indigenously built civilian aircraft, SARAS was carried out in Bangalore on Saturday.

Saras, a twin turbo prop 14-seater, built by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), had been undergoing final tests at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Saras, which will be powered by Pratt and Whitney engines, is designed for executive transport, cargo carrying, remote sensing, Coast Guard and air ambulance usage.

The 1.5 billion rupee project Saras, named after the Indian crane, began in 1991 but it hit air pockets due to the denial of critical components following US sanctions imposed after the nuclear tests in 1998.

NAL revived the project in 2000 after government's additional capital infusion of 2 billion rupees into the project. The Indian Air Force has hinted at buying Saras instead of a foreign-built aircraft. Saras is likely to be deployed at the training base in Bangalore's Yelahanka airbase to train rookie pilots, who are now flying Dornier aircraft. (asiatribune)

China, Pakistan Sign JF-17 Production Agreement; China to Credit Finance Pakistani Fighter Jets

March 8, 2009, Islamabad -- Pakistan and China today signed an agreement for the serial production of 42 JF-17 Thunder jet fighters, which are expected to form the backbone of the Pakistani aerial combat fleet in coming years.

Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood, the chief of the Pakistan Air Force, said the first squadron of JF-17s would be inducted into his force this year. Though Pakistan is facing a financial crunch, the serial production of the aircraft is being started with the cooperation of the Chinese government, Mahmood said. Pakistan has invested USD 600 million in the JF-17 project.

The agreement for producing the jets was signed at the PAF headquarters by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Chairman Air Marshal Khalid Chaudhry and M A Zhiping, President of state-run China Aviation Import-Export Corporation.

The ceremony was attended by Mahmood and Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui. Under the agreement, China will provide credit financing for manufacturing the jets. Payments will be made to China in seven years, Mahmood said.

The JF-17 is a lightweight, all-weather, multi-role combat jet developed jointly by Pakistan and China. The Pakistan Air Force has so far received eight JF-17 jets that are being used for testing and evaluation. Mahmood also said that Pakistan would receive its first Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft from China by the end of 2010. (india-defence)

New Mobile Topol-M Battalion Put on Combat Duty in Russia

March 10, 2009, Moscow -- A missile battalion equipped with mobile Topol-M (SS-27 Stalin) ICBMs has been put on combat duty in central Russia, a spokesman for the Russian Missile Forces (SMF) said on Tuesday.

The first two Topol-M mobile missile battalions, equipped with six road-mobile systems, had already been put on combat duty with the 54th Strategic Missile Division near the town of Teikovo, about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Moscow.

"Another missile battalion equipped with mobile Topol-M missile systems and comprising three launchers and a command unit has been put on combat duty with the Teikovo missile division in the Ivanovo Region," Col. Alexander Vovk said.

The SMF commander, Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, earlier said that Russia's Topol-M ballistic missiles would be put on combat duty on schedule despite the current global financial crisis. He added that the division will be up to full strength by 2010.

Topol-M missiles are the mainstay of the ground-based component of Russia's nuclear triad. As of the beginning of 2009, the SMF operated 50 silo-based and six road-mobile Topol-M missile systems.

The missile, with a range of about 7,000 miles (11,000 km), is said to be immune to any current and future U.S. ABM defense. It is capable of making evasive maneuvers to avoid a kill using terminal phase interceptors, and carries targeting countermeasures and decoys.

It is also shielded against radiation, electromagnetic pulse, nuclear blasts, and is designed to survive a hit from any form of laser technology. (RIA Novosti)

Hand-Over and Commissioning of the Fourth Indonesian Corvette

March 9, 2009, Vsilingen -- After finishing of outfitting details and performing successful sea trials, the fourth SIGMA-class corvette, "KRI Frans Kaisiepo", built by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) was handed-over and commissioned to the Navy of the Republic of Indonesia.

The Minister of Defence of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Prof. Dr. Juwono Sudarsono, signed the hand-over documents on behalf of the Republic of Indonesia. The commissioning into the Indonesian Navy of the Corvette was done by the Chief of Navy of the Republic of Indonesia, Admiral Tedjo Edhy Purdijanto.

The delivery of the last of four corvettes took place within three years after the effective date of the contract.

The crew of the "KRI Frans Kaisiepo" will sail back home to Surabaya on April the 11th, after thorough crew training by the Royal Netherlands Navy. (defpro)

Russian-Chinese Su-33 Fighter Deal Collapses

March 10, 2009, Moscow -- Russia has refused to sell its Su-33 carrier-based fighters to China over fears that Beijing could produce cheaper export versions of the aircraft, a Russian daily said on Tuesday.

The Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper said that China and Russia had been in negotiations on the sale of 50 of the Su-33 Flanker-D fighters, to be used on future Chinese aircraft carriers, since 2006, but that the talks collapsed recently over China's request for an initial delivery of two aircraft for a "trial."

Russian Defense Ministry sources confirmed that the refusal was due to findings that China had produced its own copycat version of the Su-27SK fighter jet in violation of intellectual property agreements.

In 1995, China secured a $2.5-billion production license from Russia to build 200 Su-27SKs, dubbed J-11A, at the Shenyang Aircraft Corp.

The deal required the aircraft to be outfitted with Russian avionics, radars and engines. Russia cancelled the arrangement in 2006 after it discovered that China was developing an indigenous version, J-11B, with Chinese avionics and systems. The decision came after China had already produced 95 aircraft.

This time, Russia refused the Chinese offer even after Beijing had offered to buy 14 Su-33 aircraft, saying that at least 24 jets should be sold to recoup production costs.

However, the Moskovsky Komsomolets said that the Su-33 deal may be reviewed later because China desperately needs carrier-based aircraft to equip its first indigenous 48,000-ton aircraft carrier, due to be built by 2011. Beijing has also announced plans to build a nuclear-powered aircraft-carrier by 2020.

Chinese media recently quoted China fleet commander Adm. Xu Hongmeng as saying: "China will very soon have its own aircraft carrier."

The Su-33 is a carrier-based multi-role fighter, which can perform a variety of air superiority, fleet defense, air support and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft entered service with the Russian Navy in 1995 and are currently deployed on board the Nikolai Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Russian Su-33 naval fighters are significantly cheaper than any similar foreign models, such as the French Rafale-M, or the U.S F-35C or the F/A-22N Sea Raptor. (RIA Novosti)

Mexican Armed Forces to Receive 6 EC725 Helicopters

March 10, 2009, Mexico City -- Eurocopter has chalked up another success in Latin America: The Mexican Ministry of Defense has placed an order for six EC725 helicopters.

The medium-lift helicopters will mainly be used for transport and civil security missions.

This new order—the first ever placed with Eurocopter by the Mexican Ministry of Defense—will help reinforce the European helicopter manufacturer’s presence in Mexico. The Mexican Naval Ministry already operates Panther helicopters manufactured by Eurocopter, and the EC225 and Super Puma currently serve the Mexican President. Some 350 Eurocopter helicopters are in service in the region, and the Group's market share has progressed steadily to more than 50% today.

Eurocopter has been present in Mexico for more than 25 years. In 1982, the subsidiary Eurocopter de Mexico SA (EMSA) was opened to cover Central America, the Caribbean, Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The main activities of the subsidiary, which now has a staff of 165 employees, are maintenance, aircraft assembly, customization, and technical and logistics support for the Eurocopter fleet in the region. In response to rapid market growth, the Group has become a major provider of training for pilots and technicians in the region through partnership agreements with educational institutions such as the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), (CONALEP) Mexico’s National Technical Professional School and the country’s Pilot Training Academy. Another response to this rapid growth has been the development of the Group’s industrial activities in Mexico, and talks are currently underway with the Mexican authorities to decide on the location of an industrial plant.

The EC725 is the latest member of the Cougar family. The medium-lift, twin-engine helicopter in the 11-ton class is equipped with five main rotor blades. With its impressive fuel capacity, the EC725 offers flight endurance of 5.5 hours. It can carry up to 29 passengers in addition to the two pilots. The EC725 was designed to perform a wide range of missions, including search and rescue, long-distance transport, emergency medical services and logistics support. Before the current contract was signed, 151 orders for the EC725 and its civil version (the EC225) had already been received from 17 different customers. Its multi-purpose capabilities made it the logical choice of the Mexican Ministry of Defense. (defpro)

Boeing Delivers Operational Flight Trainer for Australia's Wedgetail AEW&C Program

(Photo Credit: Boeing photo by Edward Cross)

March 10, 2009, Seatlle -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has delivered an operational flight trainer (OFT) to Australia for the Project Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) program. The OFT, which the customer accepted on Feb. 27, is the first segment of the Wedgetail program to be delivered to Australia.

The Wedgetail aircraft is a derivative of the commercial 737-700 and the OFT is based on the proven technology of the Next-Generation 737 simulator platforms. The motion-based flight simulator was designed, built and installed by Thales and managed under a subcontract by Boeing Defence Australia.

The OFT is customized to account for the unique characteristics of the Wedgetail AEW&C system, including controls for the communication, aerial-refueling and Electronic Warfare Self Protection systems.

"Delivering the OFT is a major step forward in the program because it enables the training of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilots in anticipation of delivery of the first two Wedgetail aircraft later this year," said Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice president, AEW&C Program.

Prior to delivery, the OFT passed a series of certification tests and was awarded zero flight time status, the highest level of accreditation under Australian standards. This accreditation allows experienced pilots to train using this type of simulator instead of an actual aircraft.

RAAF pilots have used the OFT since October 2007 to familiarize themselves with the Wedgetail AEW&C flight deck and to develop training scenarios.

The simulator was installed at the Wedgetail AEW&C Support Center at RAAF base Williamtown. (Boeing)

Missile Defense: Interceptor Missile Tested Successfully

March 8, 2009 -- The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has flight tested its third Ballistic Missile Interceptor on 06 March 2009 at 1624 hrs from Wheeler Island, Integrated Test Range (ITR).

It has said it has successfully achieved the mission objectives set. The two stage Interceptor Missile fitted with advanced systems neutralized the target enemy missile at a 75 km altitude.

To mimic the incoming enemy's ballistic missile trajectory, a Dhanush missile went to an altitude of 120-km and was launched from a ship about 100-km off the coast. The Interceptor missile was launched from mobile launcher located on the Wheeler Island Launch Complex.

"The third consecutive interception of a ballistic missiles once again demonstrated the robustness of the Indian BMD system. DRDO have already conducted two interception trials, first in Exo-atmospheric region at 48 Kms altitude on 27th November 06 and second in endo-atmospheric region at 15 kms using AAD missile on 06 Dec 07," the DRDO said. (india-defence)

Iranian Fighter Jets Armed with New Missiles


March 8, 2009, Tehran -- Iran successfully armed its fighter jets with a new type of air-to-surface missiles.

The missiles, which have a range of 110km, were successfully mounted onto the fighter jets and test-fired.

Experts from the Iranian Armed Forces in charge of the project told FNA that the air-to-surface missile, weighing 500kg, can hit and destroy maritime targets up to 110 kilometers in distance.

The Iranian experts also developed and installed a modern radar and launching system on the fighter jets in a bid to enhance the target precision capabilities of the jets.

The automatic guidance capability of the missile and its special warhead designed for destroying major maritime targets are among the other important features of the missile. (Fars)

General Dynamics NASSCO Delivers USNS Carl Brashear

March 4, 2009 - San Diego -- General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), today delivered USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7) to the U.S. Navy. The ship is named in honor of the first African-American to qualify and serve as a Master Diver. Brashear’s life story was portrayed in the 2000 movie Men of Honor.

Construction of the USNS Carl Brashear began in May 2007. NASSCO has incorporated international marine technologies and commercial ship-design features into T-AKE-class ships, including an integrated electric-drive propulsion system, to minimize operating costs during their projected 40-year service life. With a cargo capacity of more than 10,000 tons, the primary mission of T-AKE ships is to deliver food, ammunition, fuel and other provisions from shore stations to combat ships at sea.

Including the Carl Brashear, NASSCO has delivered the first seven ships of the T-AKE class and has construction contracts for five additional ships. The Navy has also awarded contracts to NASSCO for the long-lead material for two more ships for a total class of 14 T-AKE vessels.

“As we pass the halfway mark for this highly successful, U.S. Navy auxiliary program, the performance of the NASSCO team and the ships have been outstanding,” said Frederick J. Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. “As a result of numerous production and process improvements, we are delivering each hull more efficiently and with fewer man-hours than the previous one. And from all reports, the deployed ships have proven their ability to ably serve the fleet in their primary mission and in a variety of other roles.” (nassco)

Production Moves Forward on Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet for Australia

ST. LOUIS, March 08, 2009 -- The outer skin of the first Boeing [NYSE: BA] F/A-18F Super Hornet for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is fitted to its forward fuselage on a pulse assembly line in St. Louis. The aircraft is approximately three months ahead of schedule and set for an early delivery date in July.

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, a multirole aircraft equipped with the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, is able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum. The RAAF has 24 Super Hornets on order.

Each of the more than 380 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets Boeing has delivered to the U.S. Navy has been delivered on or ahead of the original delivery timeline. (Boeing)

RAAF Has Successfully Fired ASRAAM at a Target Located behind the Wing-Line of the ‘Shooter’ Aircraft

March 6, 2009 -- In a world first for an Air Force and an infra-red guided missile, Air Combat Group (ACG) of the Royal Australian Air Force has successfully carried out the first in-service 'Lock After Launch' firing of an ASRAAM (Advanced short-range air-to-air missile) at a target located behind the wing-line of the ‘shooter’ aircraft. The firing was conducted from an F/A-18 fighter aircraft, at low level and typical fighter speed, at a target located behind the fighter at a range in excess of 5km. The result was a direct hit on the target.

The engagement simulated a "chase down" situation by an enemy fighter and successfully demonstrated the potential for an all-round self protection capability with the ASRAAM. This capability is inherent on all platforms that provide pre-launch 'over the shoulder' designation information such as F/A-18, Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 JSF.

Commenting on the firing, a representative from Air Combat Group said “this demonstration of ASRAAM capability is a major step forward for the RAAF and greatly increases the lethality of ACG’s F/A-18 fleet. It is a credit to the RAAF-MBDA-DSTO team who worked together to deliver this capability edge to the fleet.”

ASRAAM entered service with the RAAF in July 2004. To provide unique levels of in service support, facilities for deeper maintenance and software support were established in Adelaide injecting some AUS$20 million into the South Australian economy over a period of 6 years. The software support facility, located at the Defence Science & Technology Organisation at Edinburgh (SA), allows Australia to modify the ASRAAM software in response to the Australian Defence Force's specific requirements. The deeper maintenance facility established at BAE Systems at Edinburgh Park provides the in-country capability to support the front line equipment.

Having entered service with the Royal Air Force in 2002, and deployed on Tornado, Typhoon, and shortly F-35 JSF, the ASRAAM programme has provided a unique opportunity for information exchange between the respective air forces, government departments and scientific organisations. (defpro)

China Offers HQ-9 SAM for Export

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

March 9, 2009, Hong Kong, China — China has put its HQ-9 surface-to-air missile on the export market, under the name FD-2000. Brochures advertising China’s latest missile appeared at the most recent African Ground Force Equipment Exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa and also at the Defense Exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan last November.

The China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation is the exporter of the long-range SAM. The name FD-2000 was first revealed by the Kanwa Information Center in 1998 as the export name of the HQ-10; more than 10 years later China has finally introduced this missile system to the international market.

The PLA Air Force has already deployed the HQ-9 at its bases in Xi’an and Lanzhou.

The HQ-9/FD-2000 unveiled at those exhibitions included its guidance radar. A model of this phased array guidance radar was put on display at the PLA Equipment Exhibition in Hong Kong last summer.

The four-celled HQ-9 launcher is very similar to that of the Russian S-300 SAM. The Chinese introductory brochure says that the missile’s range for aircraft targets is 7-125 kilometers, much lower than the 150-kilometer range of the Russian S-300 PMU1. This is the main reason China continues to import Russia’s S300 PMU2, which has a range of 200 kilometers. The HD-9/FD-2000’s firing altitude is 0.025-27 kilometers.

The HQ-9’s range for missile targets, or air-to-ground missiles, is 7-50 kilometers, with a firing altitude of 1-18 kilometers. Its range for cruise missiles is 7-15 kilometers, at a firing altitude of 0.025 kilometers. The range for ballistic missiles is 7-25 kilometers at a firing altitude of 2-15 kilometers.

The HQ-9’s guidance system is composed of inertia plus uplink and active radar terminal guidance systems. The manufacturer claims that its response time is 15 seconds and it is capable of dealing with 48 targets simultaneously.

The brigade-level combat system is composed of one command vehicle, six control vehicles, six track-radar vehicles, six search-radar vehicles, 48 missile-launch vehicles and 192 rounds of missiles. In addition, there is one positioning vehicle, one communications vehicle, one power supply vehicle and one support vehicle.

The composition of the combat system indicates that one HQ-9 battalion is equipped with eight missile launch vehicles, which is consistent with what satellite photos of the system have shown.

One industry source said that China has also developed a new version of the HQ-9/FD-2000 for naval ships, which can be installed on the export versions of combat ships. However, the source did not disclose the firing rate of the HQ-9.

A careful comparison of the Chinese FT-2000 anti-radiation missile and the FD-2000 launch system reveals that the transport vehicles of the two missile systems are quite different in exterior structures. Nonetheless, both have 8x8 wheels, and their launch tubes both have 11 reinforcing bands. The FT-2000 has a maximum range of 12-100 kilometers, a firing altitude of 3-20 kilometers, a missile length of 6.8 meters and a diameter of 466 milimeters.

These figures indicate that the FT-2000 and FD-2000 use different types of missiles. At present, only Pakistan is believed to have expressed an interest in purchasing the FT-2000. But according to a source from Islamabad, even Pakistan is not considering importing the missile system at this stage.

The FD-2000 may be able to compete with the Russian S300 PMU SAM, which has only a 90-kilometer range, on the international market, due to the lower cost of the China-made missile.

But the effective ranges alone show that a substantial technological gap must be overcome before the HQ-9 can replace the S300 PMU2. Nonetheless, the Chinese designers claim that in terms of the technological standard of its computer design and display and control systems, the HQ-9 is superior to the Russian S300 PMU1.

Given the fact that the HQ-9 has already been approved for export sales, there is a possibility that China has upgraded the missile system on the foundation of the original, bringing it closer to the standard of its Russian competitor.(upiasia)

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