Monday, May 23, 2011

Attack Inflicts Severe Blow on Pakistani Naval Aviation

ISLAMABAD - The attack on PNS Mehran, the Pakistan Navy's main operational airbase in Karachi, has spectacularly underlined shortcomings in both intelligence and airbase security.
Wreckage of a P-3C Orion aircraft is seen at a major Pakistani naval air base following an attack by militants in Karachi on May 23. (Asif Hassan / AFP via Getty Images)
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan and the military's Inter Services Press Release, one officer and a rating are confirmed casualties, and two other personnel have been wounded in the attack, which commenced at 11:30 p.m. local time Sunday.
As the operation wound down, media reports here claimed 12 soldiers to have been killed.
The navy declined to give any further details of the operation against "a dozen" hand and rocket propelled grenade wielding Taliban terrorists who infiltrated the base and destroyed at least one aircraft.
It is thought to be a P-3C Orion, but the naval spokesman would not confirm this.
He said further details would be given when they could be confirmed after the completion of the operation.
The spokesman did, however, categorically state that there was no hostage situation, and no foreign personnel were present.
Confusion reigns however, as other media including the BBC have cited the navy as confirming there was a hostage situation and that there were Chinese personnel present.
It is thought any Chinese personnel present would be technicians connected with the Harbin Z-9EC ASW helicopter program.
Analyst Haris Khan of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said he believes the destroyed aircraft to be a P-3C, saying it had been "gutted." He also said he believes another P-3C to have been badly damaged.
Though the larger patrol aircraft are kept on the flight apron at PNS Mehran, rotary assets are usually housed in hangars, which officials have admitted were attacked.
He said the attack was a potentially crippling blow to the navy as nearly all its naval assets were based at Mehran.
"An additional naval air base has been under construction at Omara/Jinnah Naval Base since 2002, but has not been completed due to lack of funds", he said.
Visually, security at Mehran was tight, but having long been surrounded by an expanding city, it proved to be a relatively easy target.
Khan said he believes the "national security structure" is in a poor state, and the attack to be the result a long list of intelligence failures that have allowed terrorist cells to remain undetected in Pakistan's cities.
Unless this is reversed, he said, "terrorists will be able to mount such operations with impunity."
With the Taliban seeking revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden, further attacks are expected.

Supreme Court Overturns A-12 Ruling Against Contractors

The U.S. Supreme Court vacated a federal appeals court ruling that defense contractors General Dynamics and Boeing owed the Pentagon billions of dollars stemming from the cancellation of a Navy stealth aircraft program.
An artist's impression of the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II. (U.S. Navy)
The ruling is the latest chapter in a more-than-two-decade saga involving the cancellation of the program and the disclosure of state secrets.
The Navy awarded General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas - now Boeing - a $4.8 billion fixed-price contract to develop the A-12 Avenger, a carrier-based stealth aircraft. After falling years behind schedule and exceeding costs, the government terminated the contract for default in January 1991.
The companies challenged the termination, claiming the government did not share its extensive stealth knowledge, which was used to previously build the Air Force F-117 Nighthawk fighter and B-2 Spirit bomber.
Subsequently, a federal claims court ruled General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas did not default on the contract, and ordered the Pentagon to pay them $1.2 billion in expenses. However, a federal appeals court overturned the decision and ordered a new trial. DoD prevailed in that trial, which "reaffirmed that petitioners' superior-knowledge affirmative defense could not be litigated," due to state secrets.
The Pentagon wants a return of the $1.35 billion it paid petitioners for work never accepted, plus interest.
But the Supreme Court on March 23 vacated the appeals court ruling and sent the case back to the federal circuit.
"Whether the Government had an obligation to share its superior knowledge about stealth technology is left for the Federal Circuit to address on remand," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court's opinion, which ruled unanimously.
A Boeing spokesman in Chicago said the company was reviewing the ruling. DoD and General Dynamics officials were not immediately available for comment.