Thursday, July 21, 2011

U.S. Envoy Doubts North Korea Ready for Talks

WASHINGTON - The nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea voiced doubt July 21 that North Korea was prepared to return to serious negotiations despite its appeals for talks.
"We're not convinced that they really are ready to return to serious diplomacy and negotiations," Sung Kin, who is now the special envoy to moribund six-nation talks, told a Senate hearing on his nomination to Seoul.
"This is why I think Seoul and Washington have both been very cautious in just rushing back to the negotiating table.
"In light of what has happened in the past two years, I think the North Koreans need to prove that they will in fact be a serious partner when the negotiations resume," he added.
North Korea pulled out of the six-nation talks in 2009, accusing the United States of hostility. It then tested a nuclear bomb and last year fired on a civilian island in the South and allegedly sank a vessel, incidents that killed 50 people.
North Korea and China, its main ally, have both since called for a resumption of the talks. But the United States has urged Pyongyang to first show its clear commitment to previous denuclearization agreements and to lower tensions with South Korea.
President Barack Obama's administration has described its policy as "strategic patience" - waiting for North Korea to come around without the United States conceding ground.
Sung Kim, who is expected to win Senate confirmation, would be the first Korean American envoy to Seoul. His nomination came after Obama named Gary Locke, now commerce secretary, to be the first Chinese American ambassador to Beijing.
Some Asian American advocates have described the nominations as historic as the community has long voiced concern that it is perceived as perpetually foreign.
"When my parents brought me to the United States over 35 years ago, they could not have imagined that I would have the opportunity to serve as the first Korean American ambassador to the Republic of Korea," Kim said.
Kim said he would use his unique position to encourage people exchanges including in the arts, academia and sports.
"I hope that if confirmed, I will have an opportunity to really bring that to a new level," he said.

Turkey Defense Minister May Raise Prominence of Naval Programs

ANKARA - Turkey's naval programs are expected to gain prominence after the appointment of a maritime expert as the country's new defense minister, procurement officials said.
There may also be a reshuffle of personnel at the procurement office, excluding the top official, Murad Bayar, as well as a flurry of new procurement rules. But they said the government's doctrinal approach in favor of national/indigenous programs would progress on the same line regardless of a change at the Cabinet level.
The mildly Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month appointed Ismet Yilmaz as new defense minister after his party's third consecutive election victory June 12. Yilmaz replaced Vecdi Gonul, defense minister since 2002.
"The new minister may introduce some new procurement rules and order a personnel reshuffle, but the top bureaucracy will remain intact, and so will the government policy to go local as much as possible in procurement programs," a senior government official familiar with defense procurement said.
Yilmaz, born in 1961, graduated from the Maritime Academy in 1982 and from Istanbul University's Law Faculty in 1987. He holds master'sdegrees in maritime and law from Swedish and Turkish universities, and a doctorate in private law from Marmara University in Istanbul.
Yilmaz worked for public and private sectors for 20 years as engineer and lawyer. In 2002, he became the undersecretary for the government's Maritime Undersectariat. In government service, he also worked as deputy board director for the national telecom company, and as caretaker transport minister before the 2007 parliamentary elections. In November 2007, Yilmaz was appointed as undersecretary for the culture ministry.

U.S. Lawmakers in New Bid for Taiwan Jets

WASHINGTON - A congressional panel on July 21 urged the United States to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, the latest appeal for the weaponry the island says it needs to counter a rising China.
A Taiwan Air Force F-16 fighter jet takes off from a highway in Taianan, Taiwan, on April 12 during a defense drill. A House panel voted July 21 to urge President Barack Obama to sell more jets to the island nation. (Sam Yeh / Agence France-Presse)
With no dissents, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for a measure saying President Barack Obama "should take immediate steps to sell Taiwan all the F-16 fighter jets that are needed by Taiwan," as well as submarines.
The text quotes a report last year from the U.S. Defense Department stating that China was gaining in its military edge over Taiwan and developing the capability to "settle the dispute on Beijing's terms."
The bill has little immediate effect as it was included as an amendment to a spending bill, one step in a long process in both houses of Congress to approve funding for the fiscal year that begins in October.
But the vote was the latest sign of restlessness in Congress over the weapons. In May, nearly half of the U.S. Senate across party lines sent a joint letter urging the administration to approve the jet sales to Taiwan.
The United States last year approved $6.4 billion in weapons for Taiwan, including Patriot missiles and Black Hawk helicopters. But the administration did not include the F-16s and has said little since on the issue.
Even without the jets, China lodged a strong protest and temporarily cut off military exchanges with the United States.
In 1979, the United States switched its recognition to Beijing from Taiwan, where China's nationalists had fled 30 years earlier after being defeated in the mainland's civil war. But Congress, a stronghold of support for Taiwan, mandated that the United States provide the island with means for self-defense.
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly said that the island needs F-16s to upgrade its aging fleet, despite his drive to improve ties with the mainland since taking office in 2008.

USAF Expands Oxygen-Systems Investigation

The U.S. Air Force has released a few additional details about its safety investigation into aircraft oxygen systems.
In May, the service's Air Combat Command had said that a safety investigation board, led by Maj. Gen. Steven Hoog, had been looking into the oxygen systems on a number of Air Force aircraft since January.
Now a July 21 press release says Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has ordered the service's Scientific Advisory Board to conduct a "quick-look study, gather and evaluate information, and recommend any needed corrective actions on aircraft using on-board oxygen generation systems."
The release said the Scientific Advisory Board started its study in May, but not whether it supersedes, replaces or merely accompanies the Hoog investigation.
The release indicates that the service is now looking at more types of aircraft. Previously, Air Force officials had said the investigation concerned the On-Board Oxygen Generation Systems (OBOGS) on the F-16, F-15E, A-10, F-35 and T-6 aircraft.
The release adds the B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, CV-22 Osprey and "other aircraft as appropriate."
The Scientific Advisory Board study is being led by retired Air Force Gen. Gregory Martin, who commanded Air Force Materiel Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
"The team will expand on previous safety and accident investigations and may include other agencies or industry partners," the Air Force release said.
According to the release, the investigation will conduct a "series of carefully controlled in-flight tests, the team will examine the subsystems identified in reported incidents. These include the pressurization system, mask and cockpit oxygen levels."
The Air Force, which grounded its F-22s in May, has not grounded any other types in connection with the investigation into oxygen systems.
Earlier July 21, the Air Force had said it had no additional information when asked whether carbon monoxide leaking into the cockpit was the most likely culprit behind the F-22 grounding.

Euro Hawk Arrives in Germany After Flight From U.S.

LONDON - The first Euro Hawk unmanned air system for the German armed forces has flown into the EADS air base at Manching after a 22-hour flight from California. The signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform should eventually replace a capability lost last year when the last of a fleet of Atlantic aircraft were retired.
Northrop Grumman's high-altitude, long-endurance platform will be fitted out with sigint sensors developed by EADS subsidiary Cassidian ahead of the Euro Hawk demonstrator being handed over to the Air Force for flight testing in mid-2012.
The Germans could order another four systems for delivery between 2015 and 2017. The U.S. contractor said July 21 the program and the timings are "tentative."
Nicolas Chamussy, the head of UAVs at Cassidian Air Systems, said the Euro Hawk work "reinforces Cassidian's role as a leader for complex UAS solutions in Europe."
Euro Hawk, a joint venture between Northrop Grumman and Cassidian, is a HALE system based on the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Additional Northrop Grumman machines are expected to be added to European capabilities in the next few years.
NATO is expected to contract for six Block 40 Global Hawks later this year to meet the Alliance Ground Surveillance requirement.

Indian Consortium May Vie for MTA

NEW DELHI - India could soon have a domestic competitor to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), if several private-sector defense companies form a consortium to bid for the Air Force's Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) program.
The Air Force supports such a move because it would give the service more than one local military aircraft supplier and bring healthy competition to the market, one Air Force official said.
The service is slated to invite bids this year on the expected $2.2 billion MTA program, Defence Ministry sources said.
Among the companies discussing a potential group bid are Godrej and Larsen & Toubro, both of Mumbai; and Mahindra Defence Systems and Tata Power SED, based here.
There is broad agreement that the consortium should include three to five major Indian companies, which would lead a group of foreign and domestic subcontractors, said one executive with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI), an industry lobby group.
Despite broad agreement, the firms seem to be stuck on the question of a lead contractor, the FICCI executive said, with Tata Power SED and Larsen & Toubro appearing to be the favorites.
The executive said a group of three to five major Indian companies can handle the job.
The consortium could be created on the lines of the Chinese ARJ-21 project, which has about 58 overseas and domestic private-sector vendors supplying various parts, said an executive of another industry lobby group, The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
One Air Force official said private companies already supply equipment and material to HAL-led efforts to build and upgrade aircraft and helicopters.
Aero structures, simulation material, avionics, metals and composites, and system engineering support have been supplied by domestic private-sector defense companies, including Larsen & Toubro, Tata Consultancy Service, Godrej, HCL Technologies and Tata Power SED, the Air Force official said.
MTA Program
The initial MTA contract calls for the manufacture of 56 aircraft to replace Indian Air Force Avros.
The service's Russian-origin Antonov An-32 transport aircraft are already being upgraded.
HAL, which has annual sales of $3 billion, has its hands full. Outstanding orders include the Russian-licensed production of Su-30MKI; BAE Systems Hawk 100; the Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft program; an upgrade of 51 aging French Mirage aircraft; and production of a variety of helicopters for the Indian defense forces.
The MTA program eyed by the proposed consortium is in addition to the finalized MTA deal with Russia.
The joint Indo-Russian deal is targeted to have an initial market of 200 MTAs, with Russia buying 100, India 45 and the remaining 60 earmarked for exports.
A 50-50 joint venture of Russia's United Aircraft Corp. and Rosoboronexport have agreed to participate with HAL on an equity-sharing basis to build the 15-ton MTA.
There are about 100 medium-lift An-32 aircraft and about 30 heavy-lift Il-76 aircraft in the Air Force's fleet.
India has already contracted purchase of C-17 heavy-lift aircraft and the C-130J Hercules from the U.S., and repeat orders are planned to augment the cargo aircraft force.
Last month, Ukrainian company Antonov handed India five updated An-32 transports, the first batch in a 105-aircraft upgrade deal.
India inked a $400 million contract with Ukraine in 2009 to upgrade the An-32 aircraft.
"India needs a competitor to HAL, especially a private-sector consortium, so that the Indian defense forces are able to get aircraft and helicopters on time and integrated with superior and advanced technologies and systems," analyst Nitin Mehta said

U.S. Navy Experimenting With Ultra-Fast Kinetic Weapon

The range safety officer announced "two bells" over the phone circuit - U.S. Navy shorthand for "Firing is imminent" - and a gun tech began drawing the enormous electrical charge needed to fire the Navy's newest, most powerful gun.
"We're charging now," came the report. After two minutes, a two-tone horn sounded: full charge was near.
Housed in a large research building on a test range at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, Va., the railgun hardly looks like the prototype of a weapon that could reshape naval gunnery. It is 10 meters long, low to the ground, its barrel shielded. Heavy cables tether it to banks of capacitors towering nearby.
"Charge has stopped. ... System is enabled," range safety reported. The alarm changed to an escalating whoosh, and the railgun fired.
A 22-pound test projectile blasted down the barrel. Sparks jumped. Smoke wafted into the empty building where the experimental gun is housed while observers, in a nearby building, felt the ground reverberate for a half-second.
Two live-fire demonstrations took place Dec. 10. The first, at just over 33 megajoules, set a new world record for the most powerful shot of an electromagnetic railgun. (An entry has been sent to the Guinness Book of World Records.)
The firings were part of a 100-shot series required to prove that the railgun, rated at 32 megajoules, works. Over the course of the five-year project, the weapon has cost $211 million to design and test.
The gun's operation is relatively simple. When the firing circuit is closed, a jolt of current magnetizes twin rails running the length of the barrel. The force instantly propels the round, which rests on a magnetic plate and sliding armature, through the barrel at staggering speed.
The armature and the sabot, which guide the round through the chamber, peel off like petals of a flower after exiting the barrel, according to diagrams of the firing mechanism. This releases the 2-foot-long, low-drag projectile, which resembles a metallic icicle, for its Mach 7.5 flight.
The projectile packs enough kinetic punch, engineers say, that an explosive warhead is not needed. And since the railgun does not use an explosive charge, the test gun doesn't have a closed breech, or back end.
At this power, an operational railgun can fire up to 100 nautical miles, far enough that engineers are developing guidance systems for projectiles. Their goal is to be able to fire from six to 12 rounds a minute and land them within 5 meters of a target. (The boxy test round fired in the Dec. 10 demonstration flew 5,500 feet and was recovered, still hot, for examination.)
If successful, that could rejuvenate naval gunnery. Project managers believe the railgun also could be deployed for strike and ballistic missile defense.
Initially, the goal had been to develop a railgun capable of 200-mile shots. That goal remains, but a push is on to start getting it fleet-ready sooner, officials said.
"We are focused on taking it to long-range strike," said Elizabeth D'Andrea, the project's strategic director, but added, "There's some interest in moving the technology into the fleet sooner."

Unmanned Sail Prototype Offers Open-Ocean Intel Options

SAN DIEGO - A sleek vessel with a triple hull and 6-story-tall mast will leave San Diego Bay this fall for the open waters of the Pacific Ocean in a show of the potential of unmanned watercraft.
The craft will be the latest prototype of the first "Harbor Wing," which has plied the waters off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for several years as a concept vehicle for an autonomous unmanned surface vessel. This unmanned boat is like a seagoing robot that provides the eyes and ears - and information and intelligence - without the need for humans aboard.
"I've removed the sailor from the sailing," said Mark Ott, executive vice president of Harbor Wing Technologies, who built the first prototype with a catamaran he bought for $12,000 to fill a Navy need for unmanned surface vessels.
Buoyed by the Navy's input and $10 million in research and development funds, Ott's company intends to get its second Harbor Wing, dubbed X-2, sailing by September once construction and final assembly of the 40-by-50-foot, 10-ton craft is completed. The company showed off a model this month during the annual Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, hosted by Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center-Pacific's C2 technologies and experimentation division.
With a composite mast mirroring the famous "sail wing" that gives America's Cup contenders their speed, and an all-electric engine for backup, Harbor Wing is designed as a fast and modular sailing platform outfitted with radar, sonar, cameras, navigation and a collision-avoidance system. It also will house advanced network communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
The vessel is controlled by radios and a commercial global positioning satellite system that Ott said allows it to sail "within three meters of accuracy." It could be used for missions including coastal surveillance, counterdrug, interception operations and patrols for the Navy and Coast Guard, company officials say.
Although Harbor Wing will operate without a captain and crew by sailing on a pre-programmed course, "the man is always in the loop," Ott said.
An operator, seated at a computer that could be hundreds of miles away, can control the craft with keystrokes that relay commands via satellite.
The transmission gap, from order to receipt, is only 18 seconds, which "on the open ocean is not much," he said, "so you have very close control."
While unmanned, Harbor Wing won't necessarily be a sitting duck if it enters a more hostile environment.
"It will have a multilayered self-defense capability," said Ott, noting possible systems like sound, noxious gases and lasers to thwart threats and prevent someone from commandeering the craft.
"The boat can also be told it's time to run," he said, and it can reach 15 knots under sail or 30 knots with the engine running.
The triple-hull, hydrofoil design planned for the third vessel, X-3, will serve as "great big shock absorbers" and give the vessel greater sea legs, he added, enabling it to operate up to Sea State 5 - that's 6-foot waves and moderate winds - and survive in rougher waters up to Sea State 8, or 18-foot waves, without upending itself.
The X-2 vessel will encounter higher sea states off San Diego than the first craft endured in Hawaii during longer periods at sea to further test technologies, Ott said.
President Larry Colangelo said the company hopes to send X-2 to Hawaii and back to San Diego on orders but with a manned boat trailing along.
About HWT X-3
Specifications for Harbor Wing Technologies' third prototype, a triple-hull hydrofoil.
■ Length: 50 feet
■ Beam: 40 feet
■ Mast height: 60 feet
■ Draft (hydrofoils lowered): 10 feet
■ Payload: 1,500 pounds
■ Stowage capacity: 600 cubic feet
■ Speed: 25-plus knots
■ Time at sea: 3-plus months
Source: Harbor Wing Technologies

France Taps Dassault To Supply MALE Drones

PARIS - France is in talks with French group Dassault Aviation to buy medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drones to enter service in 2014, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said July 21.
"This acquisition will replace the drone system currently used by the armed forces, pending the entry into service around 2020 of the next generation of machines, developed as part of a Franco-British cooperation agreement signed in November 2010," Longuet said in a statement.
Dassault Aviation is offering a French version of the Israeli Heron TP drone, built in cooperation with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
No further details on a possible deal were provided, but the announcement is seen as a victory for the French group over U.S. rival General Atomic, which makes the Reaper drone, and European group EADS, which makes the Harfang currently used by French forces and also based on an Israeli design.
Two next-generation European drones are competing for markets to enter service toward the end of the decade: the Telemos developed jointly by Dassault Aviation and Britain's BAE Systems and EADS's Talarion.

India Tests New Tactical Missile

NEW DELH - India has tested a little-known tactical missile, the Prahaar, which it says is comparable to the US. Army Tactical Missile.
"The test-firing was conducted successfully at 0820 hours on Thursday. Prahaar has the capability to strike targets at 150 kilometers," said an official of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has developed the missile.
An Indian Army official said the Prahaar is like an artillery rocket that can be effective as a battlefield support system and can carry multiple payloads. A unique feature of the system is that in one salvo, six missiles can be fired at multiple targets in all directions.
The 7.3-meter-long missile with a 420mm diameter weighs 1,280 kilograms and can reach a height of 35 kilometers before striking its target at 150 kilometers distant in four minutes and 10 seconds, the DRDO official said.
The main advantage of the Prahaar missile is that it is powered by solid fuel, and as such is easier to transport. It can be readied for launch in two to three minutes.
"Prahaar can fill the gap between the homemade Pinaka multirocket launcher with a range of 40 kilometers and the homemade ballistic Prithvi with a range of 250 kilometers," said the Army official, adding that the missile can be used to take out tactical and strategic targets.