Thursday, June 23, 2011

Japan, U.S. To Expand Missile Defense, Cyber Cooperation

The United States and Japan pledged to continue working together on missile defense, cyber and space initiatives, as well as expanding information-sharing and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities.
"We have … agreed on a framework to transfer jointly produced missile defense interceptors to third parties, to deepen our cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and to start new initiatives in space and cybersecurity," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a June 21 briefing.
As for missile defense, the ministers decided to study future issues in preparation for transition to a production and deployment phase of the SM-3 Block 2A. The ministers designated the Joint Arms and Military Technology Commission as the consultation mechanism for such future third party transfers.
In addition, the ministers agreed to promote dialogue on the diversification of supplies of critical resources and materials, including energy and rare earths, which are abundant in the region.
"The ministers decided to expand joint training and exercises, study further joint and shared use of facilities and promote cooperation, such as expanding information sharing and joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) activities, in order to deter and respond proactively, rapidly and seamlessly to various situations in the region," according to a joint statement by the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee.
The U.S. reaffirmed its pledge to defend Japan and the peace and security in the region through conventional and nuclear force.
The United States also pledged to "tailor [its] regional defense posture to address such challenges as the proliferation of nuclear technologies and theater ballistic missiles, anti-access/area denial capabilities, and other evolving threats, such as to outer space, to the high seas, and to cyberspace."
In space, the two countries acknowledged the potential for future cooperation in space situational awareness, a satellite navigation system, space-based maritime domain awareness and the utilization of dual-use sensors, according to the statement. The ministers also agreed to "promote the resilience of critical infrastructure, including the security of information and space systems."
The ministers also welcomed the establishment of a bilateral strategic policy dialogue on cybersecurity issues.
Many of the strategic agreements are related to recent activities by China and North Korea.
China has been developing anti-ship ballistic missiles that the U.S. views as a threat to its ships in international waters.
At the same time, North Korea has been developing strategic ballistic missiles.
In addition, much light has been shed on the need for space situational awareness in the wake of a Chinese anti-satellite test several years ago, which resulted in the creation of a large amount of space debris.

Obama: U.S. to Pull 30,000 Out of Afghanistan by Summer 2012

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama on June 22 ordered all 33,000 U.S. so-called surge troops home from Afghanistan by next summer, declared the beginning of the end of the war and vowed to turn to "nation building" at home.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks June 22 in the White House. (Pool photo via Agence France-Presse)
In a pivotal moment for U.S. national security strategy, Obama also signaled in a 13-minute primetime speech that the United States would no longer try to build a "perfect" Afghanistan from a nation ravaged by generations of violence.
"We take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding," Obama said in the East Room of the White House in an address blanketing U.S. television networks at a time of rising discontent on the war.
"Even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end," Obama said.
The president's speech came as domestic political support fades for the war following the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs on May 2, and as Washington backs fragile Afghan reconciliation talks with the Taliban.
His decision on troop numbers amounted to a rejection of appeals from the Pentagon for a slower drawdown to safeguard gains against the Taliban and to allow a new counterinsurgency mission to unfold in eastern Afghanistan.
The president said that he would, as promised, begin the U.S. withdrawal next month and that 10,000 of the more than 30,000 troops he sent to war in an escalation of the conflict in 2009 would be home this year.
A further 23,000 surge troops will be withdrawn by next summer, and more yet-to-be announced drawdowns will continue, until Afghan forces assume security responsibility in 2014.
"This is the beginning - but not the end - of our effort to wind down this war," Obama said.
"We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government."
Although Obama said the tide of war was receding, there will still be more than 65,000 troops in Afghanistan when he asks Americans to give him a second term in November 2012.
Obama also argued that his policy of escalating the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida had forged substantial progress and had allowed him to commence troop withdrawals from a "position of strength."
He said that documents seized from bin Laden's compound in Pakistan showed that al-Qaida was under "enormous strain."
"Bin Laden expressed concern that has been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that have been killed, and that al-Qaida has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam - thereby draining more widespread support," he said.
U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and top Pentagon officials had asked for a slower drawdown through summer 2012 to allow them to solidify gains in southern Afghanistan and to mount counter-insurgency operations in eastern districts.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Obama's decision, represented an "unnecessary risk" and noted Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates had recommended a "more modest withdrawal."
But Obama's timetable may be too slow for critics who want faster withdrawals from a war launched 10 years ago to oust the Taliban after it offered al-Qaida a haven before and after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Some of Obama's fellow Democrats and some Republicans are demanding a faster U.S. exit from Afghanistan, and questioning the huge $10 billion-per-month cost of the conflict at a time of deep fiscal pain.
Obama argued the surge had made progress towards key objectives he laid down at the start of the escalation, namely: reversing Taliban momentum, disrupting and dismantling al-Qaida and building Afghan forces towards an eventual assumption of security duties.
One official said the U.S. operation against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan tribal regions had "exceeded our expectations," saying 20 of the group's top 30 leaders, including bin Laden, had been killed in the last year.
Administration aides also rejected criticism that Obama's decision would put recent gains in danger and increase the chances that Afghanistan will slip back into an abyss of deep violence.
Obama also placed the Afghan mission in the context of his wider foreign policy and war strategy, arguing he has removed 100,000 troops from Iraq and will oversee the promised full withdrawal by the end of this year.
He announced that a NATO summit to review progress on Afghanistan will take place in his hometown of Chicago in May 2012, alongside the G8 summit of industrialized nations.

India May Buy Honeywell Engine for Jaguars

NEW DELHI - The Indian Defence Ministry is considering a proposal by the Indian Air Force to order 280 Honeywell F125N engines via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales route. That would make the U.S. company the winner of the $2 billion tender to supply engines for the Air Force's Jaguar fighter aircraft.
The procurement process for Jaguar engines, floated in 2008, was halted and reduced to a single vendor when British competitor Rolls-Royce withdrew from the program early this year.
The Defence Ministry is considering the Air Force's proposal as retendering the program would delay the upgrade of the British-built Jaguars, something which the Indian Air Force does not want, ministry sources said.
The ministry as a practice does not place orders in single-vendor competitions, but it will make an exception here as the Air Force has demanded that higher-thrust engines be made available as soon as possible for its 130 Jaguars .
Honeywell's F125N is a 43.8 kilo Newton (kN) thrust engine. Rolls-Royce, whose Adour Mk811 (32.5 kN) presently powers the Jaguars, had offered its Adour Mk821 turbofan.
The British engine maker pulled out of the competition because it could not meet the requirements set forth in the request for proposals, sources said.
A Rolls-Royce executive said at the time that the company was in competition only to upgrade the Jaguar's existing Rolls-Royce engine, not to re-engine the aircraft.
The Indian Air Force wants to replace the Jaguar's Adour engine with a higher-thrust engine that would allow improvements to the Jaguar's mission performance, especially in medium- and high-level sortie profiles; undertake missions that are not possible with the existing engine; reduce pilot workload; and cut maintenance costs, an Air Force official said.
As the Jaguar, which is being used for strike missions, has gotten heavier because of added capabilities, the Adour engine's lack of power has become a serious issue, the service official said.
State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) already has ties with Rolls Royce but could also work with Honeywell to re-engine the Indian Jaguars, a HAL official said.
The Air Force bought the Jaguars in 1978 for deep strike missions, and HAL began licensed production of the aircraft in the 1980s.
HAL has also upgraded of some Jaguars with avionics from French company Sextant and Israeli company Elta

U.S. Navy UAV Crashes In Recon Mission Over Libya

A U.S. Navy unmanned helicopter crashed while flying a reconnaissance mission over Libya on June 21, Navy and NATO officials said.
At 7:20 a.m. local time, the MQ-8B Fire Scout, which was flying over Libya's central coast, lost contact with a command center and crashed.
It is unclear exactly from where the unmanned helicopter was being controlled, where it was attached, or where it flew from. The Navy referred inquiries to NATO. NATO would not provide details about the aircraft's origin or operators. NATO, for its part, would only say that it was an unmanned aircraft that crashed on the coast and that an investigation is underway.
NATO has been using such craft to build up a "knowledge base," according to an Operation Unified Protector spokesman. NATO has used "a number of intelligence, surveillance, [and] reconnaissance platforms ranging from the whole spectrum available" including drones, since the organization began leading operations March 31, Royal Air Force Wing Commander Mike Bracken said at a news briefing in Naples, Italy.
The crash marked the first military hardware loss since NATO took over operations, and it was the second time the U.S. lost an aircraft in Libya. A U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle crashed on March 21, when the campaign was led by American, British and French forces. Crew members safely ejected and were rescued.
There have been previous control problems with Northrop Grumman's Fire Scout. During an Aug. 2 test flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. operators lost their communication link to the aircraft. The unmanned helicopter flew for around 30 minutes toward Washington before entering restricted airspace. While the aircraft was around 40 miles outside the district, operators switched control to another ground station and regained command of the aircraft before directing it to Webster Field in southern Maryland. Navy officials blamed a software problem but said they developed a fix.

Ukraine Secretly Ramps Up Ties With NATO: Report

MOSCOW - Ukraine is ramping up cooperation with NATO, dealing a blow to Moscow's hopes that its neighbor would align itself more closely to Russia under President Viktor Yanukovych, a report said Tuesday.
The Kommersant Ukraine daily newspaper, citing a secret document on Ukraine's program with NATO for 2011, said Yanukovych sought closer ties with the bloc even more earnestly than his openly pro-Western predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.
The dramatic turnabout in Kiev's foreign policy comes despite Ukraine last year cementing in law its non-aligned status, and amid disappointment over terms and conditions of rapprochement with the Kremlin, the paper said.
The confidential document approved earlier this year includes a schedule of 64 bilateral events, the newspaper said, adding that the two sides were set to discuss such sensitive issues as Ukraine's energy security, missile defense, and the future of Russia's Black Sea fleet based in Crimea.
Two meetings scheduled for this month are set to address basic principles and strategy of Ukraine's foreign policy.
Asked about the report June 21, Yanukovych said that Ukraine remains a neutral country. The Ukrainian president is visiting Strasbourg, France, the home of the European Parliament.
"Our position remains unchanged: We have been and remain a non-aligned country, just as is dictated by our law," Yanukovych said in comments released by his office.
He added that Ukraine "has not and does not plan" to take any part in the new NATO missile defense shield for Europe, which Russia fears is aimed at its own defenses.
Yanukovych has worked hard to improve relations between Moscow and Kiev since defeating the leaders of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in presidential elections last year.
Soon afterward, he signed a landmark deal with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to keep Russia's Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea at least until 2042, in exchange for a 30 percent discount on Russian gas exports to its neighbor.
But over the past few months, Kiev has grown disillusioned with the prospects of closer ties with Moscow, which it says has tried to strong-arm Ukraine into joining a Russian-led customs union and threatened it with sanctions, the newspaper said.
"Moscow wants us to be in its orbit and pay for that, too," a high-ranking source in the Ukrainian government told Kommersant. "It's not us who are pulling away from Russia. It is pushing us away."
Earlier this month, Russia protested the arrival in the Black Sea of a U.S. Navy cruiser equipped with a ballistic missile defense system. The ship will take part in naval exercises with Ukraine, but Russia said it is a threat to its national security.
Ukraine's foreign ministry shot back, saying the exercises did not present any "real or potential threat" for the countries of the Black Sea region.

India, China Resume Frozen Military Relations

NEW DELHI - India and China resumed military exchanges that were halted in July 2010 after Beijing refused to provide a visa to a top Indian commander intending to visit China.
Even as an eight-member military team begins six-day military exchanges in Beijing, analysts here say, the resumption of military ties has not altered the threat perception about China among military planners.
"The resumption of military ties between the two countries is merely confined to routine exchange of military personnel, or a military exercise. Defense planners here are, in fact, very anxious about the buildup of Chinese weaponry and equipment," said Mahindra Singh, retired Indian Army major general and defense analyst.
India is redrawing its requirements of weapons and equipment so that it can meet the challenges from the eastern front, Indian Defence Ministry sources said.
India and China, which fought a brief battle in 1962 over a territorial dispute, have yet to reach any settlement despite more than a dozen rounds of border talks.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has drawn a plan to spend over $2 billion to upgrade the Karwar naval base, which will be home port for the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshokov - to be renamed INS Vikramaditya - which is being procured from Russia, and also the six French-built Scorpene submarines.
The improvements at Karwar are seen as a response to Chinese warships using Pakistan's Gwadar port.