Belarus denies plans to sell Syria, Iran weapons

May 8, 2009, Minsk -- The Belarusian president denied on Friday the country had any plans to sell weapons to Syria or Iran.

Earlier this month some Russian and foreign media reported Belarus was planning to sell S-300 surface-to-air missiles and Iskander tactical missile systems to Iran, and said that Tehran had arranged to transfer some of the systems to Syria.

"As far as S-300 and Iskander [missiles] are concerned, these complexes cannot be exported without my approval. There is not a single contract or project related to these systems that I have been asked to approve. This is utter nonsense," Alexander Lukashenko said.

He added that Belarus "has no Iskander missiles, while S-300s are all in operational service."

The latest version of the S-300 family is the S-300PMU2 Favorit, which has a range of up to 195 kilometers (about 120 miles) and can intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles at altitudes from 10 meters to 27 kilometers.

The Iskander-M system (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) is equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage 9M723K1 guided missiles with "quasi-ballistic" capability.
(RIA Novosti)

Boeing to Develop, Fly 'Phantom Ray' Technology Demonstrator

May 08, 2009, ST. Louis -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] plans to develop and demonstrate an unmanned flying test bed for advanced air system technologies. The internally funded program, called Phantom Ray, will use the prototype vehicle that Boeing originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Navy Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) program.

The Phantom Ray demonstrator is scheduled to make its first flight in December 2010. The aircraft will conduct 10 flights over a period of approximately six months, supporting missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; hunter/killer; and autonomous aerial refueling. The Boeing Phantom Works organization is employing rapid-prototyping techniques that facilitate the speed and agility needed to meet the 2010 flight schedule.

"Boeing's goals for the Phantom Ray program clearly demonstrate our commitment to rapid prototyping and are an important part of the company's efforts to be a leader in the unmanned aircraft business," said Phantom Works President Darryl Davis. "We have mobilized our assets to continue the tremendous potential we developed under J-UCAS, and now will fully demonstrate that capability."

Boeing's X-45A UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) had a flight-test at the Edwards Air Force Base, California Aug 10, 2005. The mission includes identifying, attacking and destroying ground-based radars and missile launch pads. (Foto: People)

Phantom Ray will pick up where the UCAS program left off in 2006 by further demonstrating Boeing's unmanned systems development capabilities in a fighter-sized, state-of-the-art aerospace system. The Boeing UCAS program began with the X-45A, which successfully flew 64 times from 2002 to 2005. Those flights included a demonstration exercise with two X-45A aircraft that marked the first unmanned, autonomous multivehicle flight under the control of a single pilot. Boeing also designed a larger UCAS aircraft, the X-45C, which will serve as the basis for the Phantom Ray demonstrator.

"What is particularly exciting about Phantom Ray is that we will incorporate the latest technologies into the superb X-45C airframe design," said Dave Koopersmith, vice president of Boeing Advanced Military Aircraft, a division of Phantom Works. "As we gradually expand the vehicle's flight envelope, potential users will have access to a full range of unique capabilities that only this type of autonomous platform can provide."

Lab testing for the Phantom Ray air vehicle is scheduled for late 2009, followed by ground testing and first flight in 2010.

Nicaragua plans to buy Russian combat aircraft, helicopters

The Mi-8 helicopter, one of the machines presented at the HeliRussia 2008 first international helicopter exhibition. (Foto: RIA Novosti/Ruslan Krivobok)

May 8, 2009, Mexico City -- Nicaragua intends to buy Russian aircraft and helicopters for its armed forces, regional media quoted the country's top military official as saying on Friday.

"We are holding talks with Russia on the purchase of 4 to 8 helicopters and two aircraft for Nicaragua's Armed Forces," said Gen. Omar Halleslevens, the chief of the Nicaraguan army.

Halleslevens did not specify the type of the aircraft, but said the purchases would be used in the fight against drug-trafficking in the country and would not undermine the military balance in Central America.

According to open sources, the Nicaraguan air force currently has several Soviet-made M-8 Hip military transport helicopters, at least five Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters, and two An-26 Curl military transport planes.

Russia and Nicaragua concluded several bilateral agreements after talks between the two countries' presidents, Dmitry Medvedev and Daniel Ortega, in Moscow in December last year.

Moscow recently announced plans to establish an increasingly strong presence in Latin America.
(RIA Novosti)

Bell Helicopter Sells 24 Model 407 Helicopters Destined for Iraqi Air Force

May 4, 2009 -- Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, today announced that the U.S. Army has awarded the company a $60.3 million contract for 24 of its Model 407 helicopters, which the Army will provide to the Iraqi Air Force as part of a planned Foreign Military Sale to Iraq.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense has selected the Bell Model 407 as the basis for a new Iraqi Air Force armed scout helicopter. Initial aircraft deliveries to the U.S. Army are expected to begin later this year. The 24 Model 407 helicopters, built at Bell's commercial aircraft manufacturing facility in Mirabel, Canada, will be militarized by the U.S. Army to meet Iraqi Air Force requirements.

In February, the U.S. Army purchased three Model 407s from Bell that are currently being used as prototype aircraft for the development and testing of military-unique modifications. Once the Army has finished qualification with the initial prototype aircraft, military-unique modifications will then be applied to these 24 production aircraft before they are delivered to the Iraqi Air Force.

The Model 407 is Bell Helicopter's most popular commercial product and has accumulated more than 2.3 million hours of proven commercial service in a variety of configurations, including law enforcement, medical evacuation, offshore support and executive transport.
(India Defence)

Marinette Marine, a Fincantieri Company, and Boeing Team for Navy LCAC Replacement Program

Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC)69

May 04, 2009 -- Marinette Marine Corporation, a subsidiary of Fincantieri Marine Group, LLC, and The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today announced a teaming effort to capture the U.S. Navy's Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) program and provide a lower cost, higher availability, next-generation platform. The Navy plans to replace the existing Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) with the new SSC, a priority to support the joint warfighter.

"In the process of creating this team, we carefully considered all of the innovative and unique requirements the Navy has outlined for this platform," said Richard McCreary, president and CEO of Marinette Marine. "Our team combines Fincantieri's world-class expertise in naval architecture and ship construction with Boeing's advanced rotorcraft systems, integration and program management expertise to help the Navy fill its sea basing-to-shore transport needs. Boeing, as a leader in rotorcraft technology and expert in systems reliability, durability and integration, augments Marinette's capabilities perfectly."

Marinette Marine will be the prime contractor and hull form shipbuilder; Boeing will design, supply and integrate the platform's advanced rotorcraft systems.

"We are excited to team with Marinette for this important program," said Phil Dunford, vice president and general manager of Boeing Rotorcraft Systems. "The SSC is essentially a low-flying rotorcraft designed to carry heavy loads. This mission plays right into Boeing's strengths for innovative heavy-lift rotorcraft, systems integration and global support services."

Australia buys around 100 F-35 JSF

May 4, 2009 -- Australia’s new White Paper confirms the procurement of around 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with a final decision in the third quarter, in addition to a host of new weapons for all three services. (Lockheed Martin photo)The 2009 Defence White Paper, released today, delivers an Air Force for the 21st century that will be better equipped, fully networked and better prepared to meet Australia’s air power requirements.

The Government today confirmed that it will acquire around 100 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters for the Royal Australian Air Force. “After an extensive Air Combat Capability Review and further detailed analysis associated with the White Paper, I am confident the Joint Strike Fighter is the right aircraft to meet Australia’s future air combat needs,” the Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP said.

Mr Fitzgibbon said that the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter represented value for money for the Australian taxpayer and the detailed review of the program gave him confidence that the aircraft presented the best available option to guarantee the Royal Australian Air Force maintains air superiority in the Asia-Pacific region well into the future.

“The Air Combat Capability Review found that a potent and flexible air combat capability is a cornerstone of Australia’s defence posture. The review concluded that control of the air over our territory and maritime approaches is critical to all other operations in the defence of Australia.” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The Review determined that the transition of Australia’s air combat capability to fifth generation air combat aircraft technology, will enable Air Force to maintain a regional air combat superiority and a significantly enhanced ability to contribute in a broader Asian and global context if required.

The Review concluded that a fleet of around 100 fifth generation multi-role combat aircraft would provide Australia with a potent and flexible air combat capability to 2030 and that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the preferred platform. Other combat aircraft considered by the Review were judged to be unsuited to Australia’s multi-role air combat capability requirements.

The findings of the review were subsequently supported through extensive analysis in support of the White Paper. Importantly the Force Structure Review considered the mix of military capabilities needed to ensure the security of our nation and to protect our strategic interests. This included the vital enabling capabilities provided by the KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport and Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft.

Separate projects will also be undertaken to deliver state of the art air-to-air, air-to-surface and maritime strike weapons to complete the capability that will be delivered for use by Australia’s Joint Strike Fighter multi-role aircraft.

The first stage of the acquisition will be to acquire not fewer than 72 aircraft, to provide three operational squadrons and a training unit. Second Pass approval for the first stage of acquisition is scheduled for the third quarter of 2009 at which time the detailed delivery schedule will be considered.

Acquisition of the fourth operational squadron of Joint Strike Fighters will be made at a later date in conjunction with a decision on the timing of the withdrawal of the 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet bridging air combat fleet.

“Australia’s future air combat capability will therefore be based on four operational air combat squadrons consisting initially of three squadrons of Joint Strike Fighters and one operational squadron of Super Hornet aircraft, which will eventually be replaced by a fourth squadron of Joint Strike Fighters,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“The Australian public can be reassured that the exhaustive review conducted into our future air combat needs has proven the Joint Strike Fighter has the flexibility and growth potential to meet our needs. Additionally, our knowledge of the cost, capability and schedule risks surrounding the Joint Strike Fighter project has also matured to the point where we now have greater confidence committing to what is undoubtedly one of the largest and most important military acquisition in our nation’s history,” Mr Fitzgibbon concluded.

Russian warship escorts first commercial convoy off Somali coast

April 4, 2009, Vladivostok -- Russia's Admiral Panteleyev destroyer is escorting its first convoy of merchant vessels through the Gulf of Aden, the Russian Pacific Fleet said Monday.

A flotilla of Pacific Fleet ships, comprised of the Admiral Panteleyev, salvage tug SB-37, the Izhora and Irkut tankers, a naval infantry unit and two combat helicopters, arrived from Vladivostok to the Gulf of Aden on April 27 to take part in international anti-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa.

The convoy is expected to pass through the dangerous waters by Tuesday evening, when a new one will be formed for the return journey.

Russia's defense minister said last Wednesday Russian warships would continue to patrol pirate-infested waters off the Somali coast to ensure the safety of commercial shipping in the area.

The Admiral Panteleyev is an Udaloy-class missile destroyer armed with anti-ship missiles, 30-mm and 100-mm guns, and Ka-27 Helix helicopters.

The warship replaced another Russian destroyer, the Admiral Vinogradov, which joined the anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia at the beginning of January.

During its mission, which ended in mid-March, the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer escorted 12 convoys comprising a total of 54 ships from 17 countries, and thwarted several pirate attacks on various vessels.

Around 20 warships from the navies of at least a dozen countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. According to the United Nations, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships in 2008, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million.
(RIA Novosti)

Latest Air Warfare Destroyer Combat System Contracts Signed

Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers

May 4, 2009 -- Minister for Defence the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, today welcomed an announcement by the AWD Alliance of the signing of a further two contracts for provision of elements of the combat system for Australia’s three Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs) during his visit to Techport South Australia.

“These latest contract signings mean that the AWD Alliance now has in place contracts for the majority of the AWD combat system, and since mid-2008 the Alliance has signed contracts for the provision of combat system capability worth more than $350 million,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The Alliance has signed a contract worth $40 million with Raytheon Missile Systems, USA for the provision of the Very Short Range Defence-Air capability and with Adelaide-based Babcock Strachan and Henshaw Australia for the ships’ Torpedo Launch Tubes worth $10 million.

“The Torpedo Launch Tubes will be manufactured under licence from the US with around 60 per cent of the contract value undertaken in South Australia, providing a boost to the local economy,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“Final assembly and testing will be carried out at Babcock’s new Techport facility in Adelaide.

“This follows the award late last year of a $40 million contract to BAE Systems Australia for the provision of a satellite communications capability for the AWDs, of which about 45 per cent will be spent in South Australia,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
(Australia Defence)

Australia To Boost Military Might: Government

F-35 JSF

April 2, 2009,Sydney -- Australia will spend more than $70 billion boosting its defenses over the next 20 years in response to a regional military build-up and global shifts in power, the government said May 2.

A long-term strategic blueprint for the future of Australia's armed forces warned that war could be possible in the Asia-Pacific region in the next two decades, as emerging powers such as China flexed their military might.

The United States would continue its military dominance and be an "indispensable" ally for Australia, the defense white paper said.

But as emerging or resurgent powers such as China, India and Russia tested U.S. primacy, the paper said there was "a small but still concerning possibility of growing confrontation between some of these powers."

"China will be the strongest Asian military power, by a considerable margin," the paper said. "A major power of China's stature can be expected to develop a globally significant military capability befitting its size.

"But the pace, scope and structure of China's military modernization have the potential to give its neighbors cause for concern if not carefully explained, and if China does not reach out to others to build confidence regarding its military plans," it said.

If it did not take these steps, the paper said, there would be "a question in the minds of regional states about the long-term strategic purpose of its force development plans, particularly as the modernization appears potentially to be beyond the scope of what would be required for a conflict over Taiwan.

"China will have even more interest in convincing regional countries that its rise will not diminish their sovereignty," the paper said.

Greater engagement with Beijing was essential for encouraging transparency about Chinese military capabilities and intentions, and securing greater cooperation in areas of shared interest, the paper said.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao in March vowed to modernize his nation's military across the board, asking legislators for a 15.3 percent increase in defence spending for 2009 to 472.9 billion yuan ($69 billion) - double 2006 funding levels.

The global financial crisis was likely to accelerate a shift of power to the Asia-Pacific, and regional security would pivot on how strategic dynamics were managed between the U.S., China and Japan, the blueprint said.

A major conflict on the Korean peninsula remained a possibility, and the paper said the collapse of North Korea could not be ruled out, while Myanmar remained a "serious challenge."

An escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan was also of "significant concern," and the paper said Islamist extremism would pose a direct threat to Australia and its interests.

The paper reiterated Canberra's commitment to the conflict in Afghanistan, which it said could endure another decade or longer.

Canberra will acquire long-range cruise missiles, double its submarine fleet to 12 and buy 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets and eight new warships under the plan, titled "Force 2030."

"Force 2030 will mean the best fighter jets, the most versatile armored vehicles and the most sophisticated submarines available to defend Australia's national security," said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the report's Sydney launch.

The Sino-focused strategy, which was widely leaked to the press, was met with unease in Beijing, where it was reportedly perceived by some as Australia aligning itself with the United States against China.

"China definitely will not accept Australia adopting the so-called 'China threat' thesis," Beijing professor Shi Yinhong told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Friday.

"[China] will have to publicly criticize [the paper]," added Yinhong, international relations specialist from the People's University.
(Defense News)

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