Thursday, April 28, 2011

India Shortlists Rafale, Eurofighter for Jet Deal

NEW DELHI - India has shortlisted Dassault's Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon for a $12 billion dollar fighter jet deal, cutting out U.S. bidders from one of the largest military contracts of recent years.
A Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft (top) and a Dassault military jet Rafale are seen. India shortlisted the Rafale and the Typhoon for a $12 billion fighter jet deal on April 28, cutting out U.S. giants Boeing and Lockheed, sources said. (AFP FILE PHOTOS / PIERRE VERDY / PAUL ELLIS)
The U.S. embassy in New Delhi confirmed April 28 that Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet had both been ruled out of the running for India's planned purchase of 126 multirole combat aircraft.
Ambassador Timothy Roemer, who announced separately April 28 that he was resigning his post for personal reasons, said the U.S. government was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.
The long-delayed fighter jet deal has seen fierce competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Sweden's Saab AB, France's Dassault Aviation, a European consortium with its Eurofighter Typhoon and the Russian makers of the MiG 35.
It was also the object of intense lobbying during visits to India last year by U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
"It is confirmed Eurofighter and Rafale have been selected and the remaining four are off," a senior Indian defence ministry official told AFP.
"The grounds for their rejection have been individually conveyed,: said the official, who declined to be identified.
He added that the government hoped to sign the final fighter deal by March 2012.
Saab AB confirmed April 27 that it had been notified its JAS-39 Gripen fighter was no longer in contention.
The Eurofighter is made by the four-nation EADS, representing Germany and Spain, Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Finmeccanica.
The contract includes the outright purchase of 18 combat aircraft by 2012 with another 108 to be built in India.
India, the biggest importer of military hardware among emerging nations, issued the request for proposals to the six firms in 2007 and trials of the aircraft competing for the deal began a year later.
In his statement, Roemer said he had been "personally assured" at the highest levels of the Indian government that the procurement process for the multirole fighter "has been and will be transparent and fair."
The procurement of the fighter jets is a key part of India's military modernization program, aimed at securing its borders against its traditional and emerging rivals Pakistan and China.
International consultancy firm KPMG estimates New Delhi will hand out military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016.

France Using 'Training Bombs' in Libya: Military

PARIS - French jet are dropping inert bombs packed with concrete instead of explosives to destroy Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi's tanks without killing civilians, the military said April 28.
Military spokesman Thierry Burkhard denied rumors the use of the 300-kilogram (660-pound) training devices was prompted by a shortage of real bombs. He said the first such strike crushed an armored vehicle .
"The aim of this munition ... is to use the effect of the impact while limiting the risk of collateral damage," Burkhard said. "It is a very precise strike. There is no, or very little, shrapnel thrown out."
The military said French warplanes have made 216 sorties in Libya over the past week and destroyed targets including 15 armored vehicles and big guns, as well as a munitions depot.
Burkhard said French forces were also continuing to use real bombs against other Gadhafi targets in the NATO-led assault, which aims to frustrate Gadhafi's forces and protect civilians in his assault on rebels

Italian Jets Fly First Libyan Strike Mission

ROME - Italian aircraft launched their first strikes on Libyan targets April 28, two days after the Italian government said it would participate in NATO air raids on forces led by Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
Defence Ministry sources said "at least a couple" of Tornado aircraft took off from Trapani air base in Sicily to take part in raids.
The Italian government has hitherto refrained from launching strikes on Libya, citing sensitivities over its colonial role in the country. Italian Air Force jets have instead participated in no-fly zone patrols. Italian Tornado ECR aircraft have also monitored the status of Libyan air defense radars.
Italy has made its air bases available to air forces from other nations now flying over Libya.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly switched policy on strike missions after speaking to U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this week.

Australia to Boost Military Ties With China

SYDNEY - Australia will host more Chinese warships and increase live-firing and other defense exercises with the Asian powerhouse in a bid to boost ties, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said April 28.
Speaking to Australian media as she wrapped up a North Asia tour, including her first visit to Beijing as leader, Gillard said she discussed greater military cooperation during "friendly" talks with President Hu Jintao.
"(We) indicated a preparedness to keep discussing defense cooperation," she said. "We have indicated we are open to ships visiting Australian ports (and) there's some prospect that there will be some visiting before the end of the year. It's a few small steps on a journey to better understanding each other's military perspectives."
The U.S. and its allies have expressed concern over the motivation behind the Chinese military buildup and called for greater transparency.
Australia's 20-year defense plan, released in 2009, saw China on track to become Asia's dominant military power "by a considerable margin," but warned that the "pace, scope and structure" of its expansion could create tensions.
Beijing was troubled by the assessment, which was echoed in a foreign policy poll in Australia this week that found 44 percent of respondents believed China would become a military threat in the next two decades.
Of those, 87 percent said this would be because Australia would be drawn into any conflict with China as a U.S. ally.
Gillard said increased military transparency was key to combating tensions by helping to "build understanding about people's military methods and military protocols."
Defense cooperation was already being boosted, she added, "taking the form of discussions between counterparts. It is also taking the form of some shared exercises, including live firing exercises."
"The best way of working through these issues is to, at a step at a time, engage in increased cooperation and links," Gillard said in separate remarks to The Australian newspaper.
China is Australia's largest trading partner, buying mostly raw materials such as coal and iron ore crucial to the Asian giant's rapid industrialization.

UAE F-16 Crashes While Landing In Italy: Report

ROME - A fighter jet taking part in military operations over Libya crashed April 27 on landing at an air base in Italy, a NATO official told AFP.
"An F-16 crashed on landing at Sigonella Air Base. The pilot ejected and his further condition is being assessed," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The plane was not on a combat operation and was being transferred from Decimomannu Air Base in Sardinia to Sigonella, the official said.
The official declined to give further details on the condition of the pilot.
Italy's ANSA news agency reported that the fighter jet belonged to the United Arab Emirates and said the base had been temporarily shut down.
The UAE, which is not a member of NATO, last month deployed 12 fighter jets at Decimomannu, including six F-16s and six Mirages, for the enforcement of a no-fly zone on Libya mandated by the U.N. Security Council.

China Army Chief to Visit U.S. in May

BEIJING - China's army chief of staff will visit the United States in mid-May, the defense ministry said April 27, as the two countries try to bolster military relations despite their growing rivalry.
"Chen Bingde will pay an official, friendly visit to the United States from May 15 to 22," spokesman Geng Yansheng told reporters at the ministry's first monthly briefing, held in what it said was a move toward greater openness.
Geng said Chen would hold talks with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; meet with military and political leaders; and visit military command centers, troops and academies.
"Chen's visit to the United States ... is one of the most important events in this year's Sino-U.S. military exchanges," Geng said, adding that it was the first in seven years by an officer of his rank. "It will play an important role in the healthy, stable development of Sino-U.S. military ties."
Tensions soared early last year when China suspended high-level defense contacts with the United States over Washington's sale of more than $6 billion in arms to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its own territory.
Tentative plans for U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to visit were subsequently called off, but he finally came to China in January this year - his first trip to Beijing since 2007.
Geng's comments confirmed an earlier report by the official Xinhua news agency, which quoted Chen as saying that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan accounted for the "largest obstacle" in bilateral military relations.
But he added that ties between the two countries' armed forces "face good opportunities now," according to the report.
U.S. military leaders and China's neighbors are increasingly anxious about the pursuit by the People's Liberation Army of sophisticated missiles, satellites, cyber-weapons and fighter jets.
Amplifying these concerns, China last month announced a fresh double-digit hike in military spending in 2011 after funding slowed last year, saying the budget would rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.7 billion).
But Beijing has repeatedly sought to alleviate these fears, stressing that the nation's defense policy is "defensive in nature."

Taiwan Missile Can Reach Beijing: Report

TAIPEI - Taiwan has developed a missile capable of reaching Beijing and tested it successfully three years ago, a report said April 27, citing a former defense minister.
Taiwan's military successfully fired the medium-range missile in early 2008 in a secret test attended by then President Chen Shui-bian, said former Defense Minister Michael Tsai in memoirs released this week.
Tsai did not specify the range of the missile but the United Daily News said April 27 it was capable of reaching major Chinese cities including Beijing, Chengdu and Shenyang with a 2,000-kilometer (1,250-mile) range.
The newspaper said Tsai is the first official to confirm the island has developed the technology, though local media have previously reported that Taiwan possessed mid-range missile capabilities.
Stephen Young, Washington's then-de facto envoy to Taipei, had expressed concerns over the test, but Tsai assured him that Taiwan would not initiate any attack, the former minister said in the book.
The Chinese military was prepared to go to war should the Beijing-friendly candidate Ma Ying-jeou lose the 2008 president election, Tsai wrote, citing Taiwan and U.S. intelligence.
Tensions with China mounted during Chen's 2000-08 rule over policies promoting Taiwan's independence from the mainland but have eased significantly since Ma became president in May 2008.
But China still refuses to renounce the use of force against Taiwan should it declare formal independence, prompting the island to seek more defensive weapons.
The island has governed itself since it split from the mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war.