Sunday, November 20, 2011

Qatar Discusses MEADS Partnership with Germany, Italy

Qatar is in talks to become a risk partner on the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) missile defense program with Germany and Italy, a source knowledgeable of the talks has told Defense News.
Qatar is in talks to become a partner on the MEADS missile defense program with Germany and Italy. (Lockheed Martin)
The gulf state started talks with Italy and Germany after the U.S. announced in February that it would leave the program at the conclusion of the development phase, without procuring the system.
Qatar is interested in the program as it looks to security requirements ahead of 2022 when it is hosting the soccer World Cup, the source said. The growing perception of a missile threat from Iran has also persuaded the gulf state to consider joining MEADS.
It is not clear how Qatar's entry into the program would save it, since 58 percent of the program has been funded by the U.S., with Germany and Italy funding 25 percent and 17 percent respectively. After the U.S. pulls out, Germany said it would not proceed with procurement.
The U.S. has spent $1.5 billion thus far on the $4.2 billion program. Pentagon officials plan to spend another $800 million to complete the design and development phase in 2014.
Lockheed Martin, which is developing the missile defense system, announced it completed its first successful flight test Nov. 17 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The test proved the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement could destroy a simulated target attacking from behind.
"Today's successful flight test is an important validation for the continuing MEADS development," said MEADS International President Dave Berganini in a statement.
"MEADS' advanced capabilities detect, track and intercept tomorrow's threats from farther away and without blind spots. The MEADS digital design ensures high reliability and significantly reduced operational and support costs."
The test comes as the U.S. Congress continues to rip the program and question why a nation struggling to shrink its defense budget would spend nearly another $1 billion on a missile defense system the Army has said it doesn't want. Congress left appropriations out of the defense authorization bill to pay the rest of the contract.
"The committee concluded that the course proposed by the Department is untenable and that the Department should explore all options with our allies before continuing to fund a program which we no longer need," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote in a statement.
President Barack Obama disagreed with the decision to cancel the program, saying he recommended the Pentagon complete the contract. He said it made sense to complete the design and development phase rather than cancel the program and potentially pay more in cancellation fees. Canceling now would also let down our international partners.
"This lack of authorization could also call into question DoD's ability to honor its financial commitments in other binding cooperative MOUs and have adverse consequences for other international cooperative programs," the statement from the Office of Management and Budget reads. France to Buy Airbus Tankers From 2013: Air Force Chief

PARIS, Nov 19 - France will buy the new Airbus A330 MRTT tanker aircraft from 2013, French air force chief Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros was quoted as saying Saturday by an aviation website.
But he added that the Telemos unmanned drone being developed by France and Britain would not enter service until 2020, Aviation International News (AIN) said.
Palomeros said France's missions during the NATO-led action in Libya had shown the need to replace its fleet of 14 Boeing KC-135s for in-flight refueling.
Paris planned to buy a similar number of Airbus multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft, beginning with five to seven in 2013 for speedy delivery, he said.
A second batch also would have the role of replacing France's A340 and A310 VIP and transport fleet.
The French defense ministry denied in September that it had fixed on the Airbus, and said that deliveries of a KC-135 replacement were not planned for earlier than 2017.
One option introduced was to lease A330s purchased by Britain under the two countries' 2010 military cooperation agreement.
Regarding the Telemos drone being developed by Britain's BAE Systems from its Mantis prototype in partnership with French Dassault Aviation, "We need to define the operational requirements and develop a clear roadmap," Palomeros said.
"The Mantis is a good platform, but we have real work to do regarding systems and communications."

DoD Lax in Monitoring Weapon Sales to Gulf: Audit

WASHINGTON - U.S. authorities have failed to adequately monitor weapons sales to Persian Gulf countries criticized for dismal rights records or recent security crackdowns on protesters, a government audit said Nov. 18.
The Government Accountability Office pointed to "gaps" in how the State Department and the Pentagon monitor military equipment, including sensitive technology, after it is sold.
Rising tensions in the Middle East and North Africa between long-standing regimes and protesters seeking their removal triggered concern from government auditors, especially ahead of a looming $53 million arms deal with Bahrain.
Although the State Department has vetted hundreds of individuals and units set to receive U.S.-funded training in the Gulf to make sure the equipment will not be used for rights abuses, it has not done so for $188 million in assets due to reach Oman and Bahrain, the GAO said.
"Such vetting is especially critical given Bahrain's use of its security forces to quell public demonstrations since Spring 2011," it said, noting the lapses mean that sensitive technology such as night-vision devices are left "prone to diversion."
Earlier this year, Bahrain's Sunni monarchy crushed pro-democracy protests, spearheaded by the majority Shiites, with the help of troops from other Arab states in the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia.
Twenty-four people died during the monthlong crackdown, according to official figures from Manama. Four protesters have since died in custody. The opposition said 40 people were killed.
Auditors also criticized the Defense Department for failing to document its efforts to verify the security and accountability procedures in countries receiving sensitive military equipment, while Pentagon staff in five of six Gulf countries did not document monitoring activities for less sensitive items.
"We need to ensure that the equipment is not being diverted to third parties, and that those groups and units who are the intended recipients are not implicated in human rights violations," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - are among the U.S. military's biggest clients, with some $22 billion in arms sales from 2005 to 2009.

U.S. To Transfer Upgraded F-16s to Indonesia

The White House issued a statement Nov. 18 saying that it will transfer more than two dozen surplus F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters to Indonesia.
"The Government of Indonesia has chosen to improve its internal air defense capability through the upgrade and regeneration of Excess Defense Articles (EDA) USAF F-16 Block 25 aircraft provided to the Government of Indonesia via a grant approved in August 2011," the statement reads.
The deal represents the largest transfer of defense articles between the U.S. and Indonesia, according to the statement.
The White House statement called the move "a signal of the growing commitment to regional security under the bilateral Comprehensive Partnership."
Indonesia currently operates an aging fleet of 10 Block 15 F-16 A and B model jets. Indonesia wants a total of 30 fighters; 24 of those would be F-16 Block 25 aircraft that would be refurbished and modernized.
"At the conclusion of the regeneration, Indonesia will possess a fleet of 24 F-16 aircraft updated with the most advanced Modular Mission Computer (MMC) produced by Raytheon," the statement reads. "The aircraft will also have vastly improved radar, avionics, and the capability to carry and field more advanced weaponry and sensors."
An additional four Block 25 jets and two Block 15 aircraft would be transferred to use as spare parts. The grant also includes 28 Pratt & Whitney F100 afterburning turbofan engines.
Indonesia will pay to refurbish the 24 F-16s destined for operational use and will also pay for the overhaul of the 28 engines.
The U.S. Defense Department is working with the Indonesian Defense Ministry to draft the final documents and is waiting for the final congressional notification to be completed. The notification and the final Letter of Offer and Acceptance should be completed by early 2012. If all goes as planned, the first modernized aircraft will be delivered by 2014, the statement reads.

Turkey Launches Defense Techno-Park

ISTANBUL - The Turkish government Nov. 18 laid the foundation of a technology center, called Teknopark Istanbul, that will house hundreds of mainly defense companies and their research and development efforts, hoping to create a Silicon Valley for the country's defense industry.
Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergun said Teknopark Istanbul, on the city's Asian side, would become the largest of its kind in Turkey.
Teknopark Istanbul will operate a 700,000-square-meter space at Sabiha Gokcen Airport near here, accommodating 30,000 personnel and targeting up to $5 billion in defense and nondefense business annually, to become one of Europe's largest technology parks, said Turgut Senol, the technology center's CEO.
Its major shareholders are the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM), Turkey's arms procurement agency, with a 45 percent stake, and the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO) with a 40 percent stake. ITO, which also runs a university with the same name, has some 300,000 member companies.
"The site will bring together companies and 27 universities in Istanbul, targeting strategic fields like aviation, maritime, electronics, information technology, nanotechnology, energy and automotive, biotechnologies, automation systems and robot technologies," he said.
Some of the world's technology giants are in talks with Teknopark Istanbul to build their own offices there, Senol said.
"The site will offer its residents tax advantages and logistical benefits, as they will be located within a major airport and have quick access to a trans-European motorway," he said. "Here, we will be hosting both Turkish and foreign techno ventures."
In recent years, Turkish companies have won subcontracts from multinational programs, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, attack helicopters and naval vessels, as well as contracts for vehicles, electronics and software for Turkey's military.
"Foreign contractors surely will benefit from Teknopark Istanbul, as international production programs involving Turkey are on a visible rise," Senol said.
According to Senol, the first resident companies will start operations at the Teknopark by the end of next year. Partners SSM and ITO have earmarked an initial construction budget of $100 million for the project.
"Our principal mission is to contribute to the national innovation system and to boost the local industry's international competitiveness through multinational partnerships and technological advancement," Senol said.
Defense analysts said the technology park is intended to further boost local companies with a first-ever serious investment in research and development.

M-346 Jet Trainer Crashes Near Dubai

An Alenia Aermacchi M-346 jet trainer crashed Nov. 18 near Dubai, a company spokesman said.
"A prototype M-346 aircraft owned by Alenia Aermacchi suffered an accident today while flying in United Arab Emirates air space on its return journey to Italy," wrote Alenia spokesman Jim Meltsner in an emailed statement. "The on-board crew successfully ejected from the aircraft, and no serious injuries were reported."
The UAE and company officials are investigating what happened, but there was no word yet on what caused the Italian-made twin-engine advanced jet trainer to crash.
"The causes of the accident are currently being investigated and, in accordance with company procedures, an internal investigation committee has also been set up," Meltsner wrote. "Alenia Aermacchi representatives are cooperating closely with the local authorities, through the Italian embassy in the United Arab Emirates."
A derivative of the M-346 called the T-50 is a potential candidate for the U.S. Air Force's nascent T-X program to replace the five-decade-old T-38 Talon advanced jet trainer.

Indian-U.S. Joint Venture To Produce Radar, Surveillance Systems

NEW DELHI - India's automobile maker Mahindra & Mahindra has forged a joint venture with U.S. aviation communications equipment major Telephonics to produce radars, surveillance systems and communications solutions for the Indian military and civilian use.
Mahindra & Mahindra already has a joint venture with the U.K.'s BAE Systems to build a variety of military vehicles in India.
In the Telephonics joint venture, Mahindra & Mahindra will hold 74 percent equity and the U.S. company 26 percent, said Khutub Hai, chief executive of Mahindra Defence Systems, the defense arm of Mahindra & Mahindra.
Under law, an overseas defense company can have no more than 26 percent equity in a joint venture in defense, and a request for approval of the venture will be made to the government this month, Khutub said.
Apart from the radars, surveillance systems and friend-or-foe identification systems, the joint venture will manufacture air traffic management services, and equipment for homeland security and other emerging surveillance requirements.

German Navy Christens New High-Tech Sub

BONN - The German Navy on Nov. 15 christened its most modern submarine at the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) shipyard in Kiel. The vessel includes improved communication, sensor and combat systems.
The U35 is an updated version of the Navy's four 212A-class submarines, which were put into service between 2005 and 2007. After having bought the four boats, the German military in 2006 placed an order with ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems subsidiary HDW for two additional vessels. While staying with the basic design, the U35 and U36 will benefit from recent experiences with the first batch of subs.
With an air-independent propulsion system that combines hydrogen fuel cells and diesel engines, they can remain submerged for weeks.
At about 56 meters, both boats are about 1.2 meters longer than the earlier version. The two submarines have a displacement of about 1,450 tons and are operated by a crew of 27 sailors.
The two new submarines feature a communications system suitable for network-centric warfare, as well as an integrated German sonar, command and weapon control system. The Callisto B submarine communication system, with its towable transmitter buoy, allows each boat to communicate while remaining deeply submerged.
The flank antenna array will be substituted with a superficial lateral antenna. One periscope will be replaced by the Carl Zeiss Optronics OMS 100 Optronic non-hull penetrating mast system. It can be remotely controlled via a multifunctional combat system console.
The mast system offers various automatic functions such as sector scan or quick look-round. The sensor unit consists of a third-generation thermal camera and a high-definition TV camera, and it can be refitted with a laser rangefinder.
The improved boats also feature a special diver lock-out system integrated into the sail to deploy special forces.
U35 is expected to be officially put into service in the summer of 2013. Until then, systems checks and sea trials will be conducted. U 36 is scheduled to be put into service in the winter of 2013.

Norwegian Defense Firms Hacked, Intel Reports

OSLO - The biggest wave of hacking and espionage attacks in Norway's history has hit key defense and energy companies, the National Security Agency (NSM) said Nov. 18.
At least 10 companies have over the past year fallen victim to hackers in a string of attacks believed to be the work of one group, the NSM said in a statement.
"We have to suppose that the actual number (of victims) is much higher, but that many (companies) have not been in contact" with authorities, the agency said.
The security agency said it was difficult to track down the perpetrators, who used servers based abroad for their attacks, refusing to point fingers at any suspects.
"This is the first time that a hacking campaign of this magnitude has been detected in Norway," said NSM spokesman Kjetil Berg Veire.
The hackers in each case tried to gain access to the corporate network by sending seemingly legitimate emails to specific people, along with a well-concealed virus handing them remote access to the computer in question, according to the agency.
But each attack was "tailored" for the specific company, making it possible to escape detection by anti-virus programs, it said.
The main targets of the attacks were companies in the oil, gas and overall energy sector, as well as in defense.
The names of the targeted companies were not divulged.
"The attacks have, on several occasions, come when the companies have been involved in large-scale contract negotiations," NSM said.
The attacks had allowed the hackers to gain access to documents, industrial charts, usernames and passwords.
According to Berg Veire, however, it is impossible to quantify the possible losses, as no overview exists of what had been taken