Monday, April 25, 2011

US Navy issues BAA for carrier-borne UAS

The US Navy (USN) has taken the next step towards its ambitious goal of fielding a stealthy carrier-borne unmanned combat aircraft system by the end of this decade with the release of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for its projected Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system.
The BAA, issued by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 28 March, is to support pre-Milestone A programme activities, including crafting an analysis of alternatives, developing the concept of operations and system requirements documents, and analysing potential material solutions to meet a goal for operational capability in the 2018 timeframe. Proposals are required no later than 29 April.
Plans for UCLASS were first revealed in March 2010 when the USN issued an initial request for information (RfI) for a carrier-based system providing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike capabilities. This move came in response to a need identified by Vice Admiral David Dorsett, the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance (N2/N6), to give carrier-based aviation a new degree of versatility in long-range combat operations.
Last year's RfI described a notional system that would include four to six air vehicles, each capable of flying for 11 to 14 hours from a nuclear-powered carrier (CVN) without refuelling, plus mission control interfaces (afloat and ashore), sensor payloads, weapon interfaces and personnel.

Iran to open new cruise missile production line

Iran plans to inaugurate a new production line for cruise missiles in the near future, defence minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi announced on 7 April.
During a visit to Kermanshah in western Iran, Vahidi said: "Iran's Defence Ministry will unveil important arms, marine, aerospace and electro-optic achievements in the new Iranian calendar year." The new Iranian year started on 21 March.
According to Iran's FARS news agency, the Iranian Navy has successfully test-fired missiles "mounted with laser technology" with ranges from 45 km to 300 km.
The latter figure probably refers to the new Khalij Fars antiship variant of the Fatah A-110 tactical ballistic missile, which was revealed in February 2011.
The FARS report did not elaborate on the role played by laser technology in these missiles, which could be a reference to inertial navigations systems based on laser-gyroscope technology.

After Gates: Asymmetric Threats

When Robert Gates began his service as U.S. secretary of defense, his priorities were clear: "Iraq, Iraq and Iraq," as he said at his Senate confirmation hearing.
The priority was not misplaced; the situation in Iraq was dire in late 2006. But a new counterinsurgency strategy implemented by a new commander given increased resources led to a dramatically different situation by the end of 2008.
Under President Obama, Gates switched his focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, overseeing a dramatic increase in resources devoted to that conflict. And over the past two years, he focused on implementing a culture of accountability and on reforming the defense budget to prepare the Pentagon for the leaner years ahead.
Yet the business of defending the United States never stops, and much remains to be done by whoever replaces Gates later this year. His successor's overarching objective will be to maximize U.S. national security in an era of increased budget constraints and decreased certainty about the shape of future conflict. In other words, he or she will need to spend less money to prepare for a wider range of threats.
The most serious of these threats will be asymmetric in nature - that is, they will target American weaknesses to circumvent its conventional superiority. Asymmetric threats come in two basic forms. The low-end version, which the U.S. military has spent the past decade combating, is terrorism and insurgency.
The asymmetric attacks of Sept. 11, followed in short order by virulent insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, demonstrated that conventional military force was insufficient to protect the interests of the nation. Gates led a remarkable rebalancing of American military power that improved U.S. irregular warfare capability.
He was particularly insistent on the procurement of armored vehicles that resisted improvised explosive devices and the development of UAVs to provide intelli-gence on and strikes against insurgent cells.
Unfortunately, these changes have not yet become part of the DNA of America's fighting forces, which still struggle to build the capacity of foreign military forces - a task that Gates has said is "arguably the most important military component in the war on terror." Building our allies' capacity to fight is an effective, affordable but often overlooked way to ensure the future security of the United States. Despite its rhetorical emphasis on building partner capacity, the Pentagon has not yet demonstrated an effective approach to execute this mission.
The next secretary of defense will have to fight hard to institutionalize advising foreign forces and ensure that the many lessons learned about countering insurgencies and terrorists are not once again forgotten.
High-Tech Challenge The second, equally troubling variant of asymmetric warfare involves the use of high-technology capabilities to negate traditional American military strengths. The most prominent looming asymmetric challenge is in the Asia-Pacific region. China has the potential to present a significant military threat but not in a strictly conventional sense.
Although China is rapidly developing its conventional military capabilities, including an aircraft carrier and a fifth-generation fighter plane, more worrisome is its improving ability to threaten America's allies and interests in this region with missile, cyber and other asymmetric capabilities. As a result, the world's greatest Navy is at increasing risk of being checkmated by very precise and relatively cheap guided munitions.
China's growing anti-access and area-denial capabilities are likely not only to prevent ships and manned aircraft from approaching its shores but to prevent current-generation UAVs and ISR platforms from providing intelligence or filling a strike role.
Adapting to the development and proliferation of high-end asymmetric capabilities will require embracing a more rapid evolution of our own traditional capabilities and operating concepts. This will be a major task for the next secretary. Gates had to take extraordinary measures to procure sufficient numbers of UAVs to meet the demands of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, but those systems faced almost no air-to-air threat. The next secretary of defense should oversee major investments in unmanned vehicles - aerial, ground, water and underwater - that can survive and succeed in contested spaces against a capable enemy. With costs that compare favorably to manned platforms, these unmanned systems present affordable long-range strike options that impose defensive costs on China or other adversaries using Chinese weapons.
Deterring the use of military power in the western Pacific will depend in no small part on how wisely those investments are made, and how soon.
Gates faced the huge challenge of turning around a war that was rapidly being lost when he assumed leadership of the Department of Defense. Gates' successor will also face challenges: institutionalizing progress in irregular warfare and deterring high-end asymmetric challengers, while continuing to whittle down defense expenditures.
"Asymmetry, advisers and UAVs" doesn't roll off the tongue any more trippingly than did "Iraq, Iraq and Iraq," but it will be just as important for the next secretary of defense to get his or her priorities straight.
John Nagl is president of the Center for a New American Security and the author of "Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam."

Bombing Destroys Presidential Building in Tripoli

TRIPOLI - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's office in his immense Tripoli residence was destroyed in a NATO airstrike early April 25, while loud explosions were heard in several districts of the capital as warplanes roared overhead.
A Libyan official accompanying journalists at Gadhafi's compound said 45 people were wounded, 15 seriously, in the bombing. He added that he did not know whether there were victims under the rubble.
"It was an attempt to assassinate Colonel Gadhafi," he said.
Seif Al-Islam, Gadhafi's son, described the bombing as "cowardly."
"This cowardly attack on Moammar Gadhafi's office may frighten or terrorize children, but we will not abandon the battle and we are not afraid," he said, claiming that NATO's battle was "lost in advance."
At about 3 a.m. local time smoke was still rising from part of the building that was hit, watched by dozens of people shouting slogans.
A meeting room facing Gadhafi's office was badly damaged by the blast.
African leaders had met with Gadhafi two weeks ago to propose a peace plan that was accepted by the regime but turned down by the rebels.
The international coalition had already destroyed a building in the presidential compound, calling it a command center.
Heavy explosions had shaken the center of Tripoli shortly after midnight April 25 as warplanes overflew the Libyan capital. The blasts, the strongest to have hit the city so far, shook the hotel in which foreign correspondents here are staying not far from downtown.
The explosions hit several districts of Tripoli, which has been the target of intense NATO raids since April 22.
Libyan state television transmissions were briefly cut off right after the explosions, before resuming a few minutes later.
The official state news agency JANA quoted a military source as saying that "several military and civilian sites in the city of Tripoli were the targets of raids by the crusader colonialist aggressor (NATO) which caused human and structural damage."
An international coalition intervened in Libya on March 19 under a U.N. mandate to end the bloody suppression of a revolt that started in mid-February against the Gadhafi regime, which has been in power for 41 years.
NATO took over command of the military intervention March 31.

S. Korea Deploys Rockets Near Border: Reports

SEOUL - South Korea has deployed rockets on two islands near its tense Yellow Sea border with North Korea to guard against possible attacks, reports said April 25.
The Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing government sources, said more than 10 130-millimeter Kuryong multiple rocket launchers have been positioned on Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands.
The North attacked Yeonpyeong with artillery and rockets last November, killing four people including two civilians and damaging dozens of buildings.
Baengnyeong is the closest island to the North's coastline. Each launcher has 36 rockets with a range of 23 to 36 kilometers (14 to 22 miles), Chosun said.
"This is the first time for us permanently to deploy multiple rocket launchers to the northwestern islands," the newspaper quoted a Seoul official as saying.
Yonhap news agency carried a similar report but did not specify the number of rocket launchers.

China To Launch Carrier This Year: Taiwan

TAIPEI - Taiwan's spy chief on April 25 said China could bring its first aircraft carrier into service before the end of the year, kindling fears in Taipei over Beijing's continued naval buildup.
The former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag berths at Dalian, northeast China, in May 2002. Taiwan's spy chief said April 25 that China could bring the carrier into service before the end of 2011. (File photo / Agence France-Presse)
Tsai Teh-sheng, head of the island's National Security Bureau, said Varyag - a half-completed Soviet-era aircraft carrier Beijing obtained from Ukraine in 1998 - is expected to make its maiden voyage before the end of 2011.
The warship has been docked in China's Dalian harbor, where it has undergone extensive refurbishing work since 2002.
"Varyag has restored its sailing capability, and is expected to start providing training missions before the end of 2011," Tsai said in response to a parliamentary question by Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang party.
Tsai said the warship will have "certain combat capability" and will serve as a base for an unknown number of China's home-grown fighter jets, which are modeled on Russian-made Su-33s.
Taiwan's defense ministry has expressed alarm at China's naval buildup although experts say it may still take time for the People's Liberation Army to operate its first carrier group complete with fighter jets.
"The Chinese communists' acquisition of their first aircraft carrier will threaten not only Taiwan but the stability of Asia," said David Lo, spokesman for Taiwan's defense ministry.
Taiwan plans to build a new "stealth" warship armed with guided missiles next year in response to China's naval build-up, military officers have said.
An aircraft carrier group would potentially double the military threat posed to Taiwan by China by allowing the Chinese to approach from directions other than across the strait, experts warn.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved significantly since Ma Ying-jeou became the island's president, vowing to adopt a nonconfrontational policy toward the mainland. But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting to be reunified by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since 1949, when a civil war ended.