Thursday, November 17, 2011

Falcons outfight Eagles in Red Flag

U.S. Marines Won't Fly Brit Harriers

An official announcement could come within days of Britain's sale of its remaining Harrier jump jets to the U.S. Marine Corps, but sources are saying privately the purchase will be strictly for spare parts and logistic support, and not a move to increase the operational fleet.
A GR9 Harrier lands at RAF Cottesmore following a retirement ceremony in 2010. Britain retired its joint force of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Harrier aircraft late last year. (U.K. Ministry of Defence)
"We have no intent at any point to ever fly any of these" British jets, said one U.S. source.
The two-part deal was revealed Nov. 10 during a conference in New York, when Rear Adm. Mark Heinrich, chief of the U.S. Navy's Supply Corps, told attendees he had negotiated a $50 million deal to purchase the spare parts inventory from the British.
A separate deal, he said, was being negotiated by the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to acquire all 74 remaining GR Mark 9 and Mark 9A Harriers and their spare Rolls-Royce engines from the British.
Neither NAVAIR nor the British Ministry of Defence would officially comment on the negotiations, but sources on both sides of the Atlantic confirmed the deal was in the works.
Heinrich said the spare parts deal was worth $50 million, but no value for the larger aircraft and engine deal has been revealed.
One U.S. source, however, said that acquisition of the British aircraft and their spares could save the Marines up to $1 billion over the life of the fleet. The Marines plan to operate the AV-8B at least until 2025, when conversion to the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is expected to be completed.
Britain retired its joint force of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Harrier aircraft late last year in one of the most controversial moves in a series of defense reductions, which also cut the aircraft carriers that operated the jets, other warships, maritime patrol planes and personnel.
British and U.S. Harrier II aircraft had a high degree of commonality from the beginning. The planes were developed and built in a joint arrangement between British Aerospace - now BAE Systems - and McDonnell Douglas, now a division of Boeing. While each company built its own wings, all forward sections of the British and American Harrier IIs were built by McDonnell in St. Louis, while British Aerospace built the fuselage sections aft of the cockpit.
"All the planes have to fit together," Lon Nordeen, a Harrier expert and author of several books about the aircraft, pointed out.
"There are significant differences between Royal Air Force GR Mark 9s and Marine AV-8Bs, which would be a challenge to overcome," Nordeen added. "However, the engines and spare parts would be very valuable for long-term sustainment of the Marine Corps Harrier fleet."
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps sources would not comment last week on media queries about their plans for the British jets, leading to speculation that the aircraft might be made operational.

U.S. House Panel Urges Fighter Jet Sale to Taiwan

WASHINGTON - A key U.S. House of Representatives panel on Nov. 17 approved bills urging the sale of new F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan and letting its leaders travel more freely to the United States, steps opposed by Beijing.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the legislation by voice vote.
President Barack Obama's administration on Sept. 21 announced a $5.85 billion upgrade of Taiwan's 146 aging F-16 A/B jets, saying that the move would allow the island to bolster its defenses against a rapidly growing China.
But a number of lawmakers have pushed the administration to sell 66 of the new and more powerful F-16 C/Ds, a longstanding request of leaders on the self-governing island which China claims as part of its territory.
The two bills that cleared the committee urge Obama to provide the more potent jets, which Taiwan had sought in response to China's military ramp-up.
One of the measures calls for adding Taiwan to the list of countries benefiting from a U.S. travel visa waiver program and boosting travel by senior Taiwan officials to the United States and vice versa.
"Why is it that the president of a democratic partner of the United States is not allowed to visit this country, except as part of transit stops to other countries?" said the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman. "It's time that all Taiwanese officials are afforded the proper respect and be allowed to visit the United States," he said.
One of the bills also urges the Obama administration to seek a free trade agreement with Taiwan.
The legislation could clear the full House but its fate is unclear in the Senate, where similar efforts to push for the sale of the F-16s has stalled.

DoD Successfully Tests Hypersonic Flying Bomb

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon held a successful test flight of a flying bomb that travels faster than the speed of sound and will give military planners the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
Launched by rocket from Hawaii at 1130 GMT on Nov. 17, the "Advanced Hypersonic Weapon," or AHW, glided through the upper atmosphere over the Pacific "at hypersonic speed" before hitting its target on the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands, a Pentagon statement said. Kwajalein is about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.
The Pentagon did not say what top speeds were reached by the vehicle, which unlike a ballistic missile is maneuverable.
Scientists classify hypersonic speeds as those that exceed Mach 5 - or five times the speed of sound - 3,728 miles an hour.
The test aimed to gather data on "aerodynamics, navigation, guidance and control, and thermal protection technologies," said Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The U.S. Army's AHW project is part of "Prompt Global Strike" program which seeks to give the U.S. military the means to deliver conventional weapons anywhere in the world within an hour.
On Aug. 11, the Pentagon test flew another hypersonic glider dubbed HTV-2, which is capable of flying 27,000 kilometers per hour, but it was a failure. The AHW's range is less than that of the HTV-2, the Congressional Research Service said in a report, without providing specifics.
The Pentagon has invested $239.9 million in the Global Strike program this year, including $69 million for the flying bomb tested Nov. 17, CRS said

Britain's Iraq Inquiry Delayed by 6 Months: Website

LONDON - The release of an official British inquiry into the Iraq war will be delayed by at least six months due to debates over access to secret files, a statement on the inquiry's website said Nov. 17.
Inquiry chairman John Chilcot previously said the five-member panel would publish its report on Britain's role in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion before the end of the year, but the conclusions are now not expected until mid-2012.
"The Inquiry has advised the government that it will need until at least summer 2012 to produce a draft report which will do justice to the issues involved," said the statement. "As well as drafting the report, the Inquiry will need to negotiate the declassification of a significant volume of currently classified material with the government, to enable this to be quoted in, or published alongside, the Inquiry's report.
"The Inquiry has made clear that it will need co-operation from the government in completing this in a satisfactory and timely manner," it added.
The inquiry was set up to learn lessons from the conflict, in which 179 British troops died. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in the conflict, according to the NGO Iraq Body Count.
Despite the delay, "very considerable progress has already been made," according to the statement.
The inquiry was launched after British troops left Iraq in July 2009 and public hearings began in London that November.
Former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were among the wide cast of diplomats, ministers, military chiefs and civil servants who were called as witnesses, some of them - including Blair - more than once.
The inquiry has looked at the justification for the invasion and its legality, the conduct of the war and the supply of military equipment to Britain's troops, and Iraq's descent into chaos after the invasion.

Libya's Old Army Appoints New Chief

AL-BAIDA, Libya - Commanders who defected from Moamar Gadhafi's armed forces in the heat of the civil uprising named a new chief on Nov. 17, confronting the new Libyan authorities with a done-deal.
Some 150 officers and sub-officers, gathered in the eastern city of Al-Baida, unanimously approved the nomination of Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar and announced the re-activation of the army, which has yet to be officially reconstituted.
"Participants agreed to choose Haftar as commander in chief of the national army due to his seniority, experience and capacity to command troops as well as the efforts he made to support the Feb. 17 revolution," said Gen. Fraj Bunseira, head of Al-Baida's military council.
The nomination will be presented for approval to the head of the governing National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Bunseira told an audience of senior military officers.
The announcement was welcomed by applause and cries of "God is greatest".
Haftar, who comes from the ranks of Benghazi's military academy and trained in the former Soviet Union, defected from the Kadhafi regime in the 1990s after the Libya-Chad conflict and went to live in the United States.
He returned to Libya in March to join the military campaign to unseat Gadhafi.
The members of the old army were keen to take the lead before a formal meeting scheduled for Nov. 20 to discuss the national army.
The officers believe the defense ministry is hostile to them and is ultimately responsible for the delays in reconstituting the armed forces.
Though many officers broke ranks and joined the NATO-backed fighters during the seven-month campaign to dismantle the Gadhafi regime, they are still viewed with suspicion by scores of civilian brigades who took arms against the former strongman.

Canada Dismisses 'Apocryphal' Talk of F-35

OTTAWA - Canada's defense minister said it was premature to signal the end of the F-35 fighter jet that is to become the backbone of its air force, after his U.S. counterpart said the program may have to be axed.
"This sort of apocryphal language that the Joint Strike Fighter program is coming to an end and that countries are pulling back is not correct. It's premature to make those kinds of judgments," Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Nov. 16.
"A lot of this, clearly, is brought about by budgetary pressures, and Canada, like every country, is concerned about delays in delivery and discussions around the cost."
MacKay said Canada is in discussions with the manufacturer Lockheed Martin as well as other countries that committed to buying the next-generation fighters.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he told reporters.
Pentagon chief Leon Panetta this week warned it would have to look at draconian measures, including possibly ending the F-35 fighter jet program if Congress fails this month to reach a deal to reduce the country's deficit and prevent deep defense budget cuts.
Canada has made plans to spend billions on its own F-35 fleet.
Earlier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed in parliament that Canada is proceeding with the purchase while a junior minister said the F-35 "is critical to maintaining Canada's sovereignty."
"There is no indication that anybody is walking away from the F-35 program," Associate Minister of National Defense Julian Fantino added.
"The aircraft are coming off the production line. Pilots are flying them," Fantino said. "They are being delivered to countries. Our program is on track, on time and we are staying with it."

Taiwan Drills Test Defenses Against China Attack

CHIATUNG, Taiwan - Taiwan's military on Nov. 17 carried out a major maneuver testing its ability to withstand a D-Day style attack by China.

A U.S.-made F-16 fighter of the Taiwanese air force flies at low-altitude over a highway in Chiatung during a drill Nov. 17 (Patrick Lin / AFP via Getty Images)
The drill, held on the south of the island, pitted a marine brigade, acting as an enemy landing force, against a motorized infantry brigade defending the island, according to the defense ministry.
The air force had planned to have four aircraft, including a U.S.-made F-16, land on and take off from a sealed-off section of a highway near the southern city of Pingtung but had to skip that part of the drill due to low visibility.
Ties between Taiwan and China have improved drastically since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party became president in 2008. Ma promised to boost trade links and allow more Chinese tourists to visit the island.
But China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949, and has vowed to get it back, by force if necessary.
As a result, China continues to build up its military facing Taiwan, focusing especially on weaponry that can help bring the island to its knees, should the need arise.
Taiwanese experts estimate that China has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island and has recently deployed a new type of ballistic missile despite improving ties.