Tuesday, January 24, 2012

N. Korean Air Arm steps up training missions

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s air force has conducted more training than normal this winter despite the death of leader Kim Jong Il, a report said Jan. 24.
The North’s military drills for winter began in late November and are showing no “abnormal” activities following Kim’s death on Dec. 17, the South’s Yonhap news agency said.
“We, however, witness a slight increase in the number of air force flights taking part in training,” an unnamed government official was quoted as saying.
The South will go ahead with its planned joint exercise with U.S. troops in March as Pyongyang has not eased its tough stance towards Seoul, Yonhap said.
Kim Jong Un, the late leader’s youngest son, has visited army units as head of the armed forces in an attempt to burnish his military credentials.
Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, was proclaimed supreme leader and appointed commander of the 1.2-million-strong military following the death of his father.
The new regime has vowed retaliation against Seoul for alleged disrespect during the mourning period for its late leader.
Cross-border tensions have been high since the South accused the North of torpedoing a warship with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.
The North denied involvement but eight months later shelled an island near the tense Yellow Sea border and killed four South Koreans.
Kim chaired a Lunar New Year banquet on Jan. 23 for senior officials, the Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.
At the meeting, leading ruling party official Choe Thae Bok urged North Koreans to glorify 2012 as “a year of shining victory when an era of prosperity is unfolding,” the agency said.
The regime has pledged to turn the impoverished, nuclear-armed country into a “powerful and prosperous nation” this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding president Kim Il Sung, father of Kim Jong Il.

Oman seeks Bid for Euro-fighter

The government of Oman has requested that BAE Systems submit a formal bid for the supply of Typhoon fighter aircraft. The move clarifies the Middle East nation’s continuing commitment to the program following delays in completing negotiations.
A spokeswoman for the U.K.-based defense company said it expected to complete negotiations by the end of the year, with deliveries of the first aircraft taking place 36 months later.
The request for proposals involves a squadron’s worth of Tranche 3 standard aircraft — about 12 airframes — a support package and training for the Omani air force.
Last month, Oman ordered a second batch of 12 F-16 Block 50’s from Lockheed Martin in a $600 million deal
The Omanis formally stated their intention to purchase the Eurofighter Typhoon in early 2010, and company executives said at the time that the deal could be ready for signing within months.
In a statement, BAE said it welcomed the release of the request for proposals, adding that the news underpins its long-standing defense and security relationship with the sultanate as a major equipment supplier.
The most recent major equipment sale was signed in 2007 to deliver three corvettes to the Omani navy in a deal valued at 400 million pounds.
The warships remain undelivered for technical reasons.
The first of the Khareef-class vessels should have been handed over in 2010 but have been delayed following the discovery of technical problems during sea trials.
The spokeswoman denied that the signing of the fighter deal between the two sides is dependent on the agreement of a get-well package for three corvettes.
The spokeswoman said the first of the corvettes is now scheduled to be handed over at the end of the second quarter.
The Omanis’ commitment to Typhoon follows recent competition losses for the fighter in Japan and Switzerland.
A decision by India on whether to select the Eurofighter aircraft or its French rival, Dassault Rafale, is imminent.
Earlier this month, BAE announced that talks with the Middle East’s first Typhoon customer, Saudi Arabia, over amendments to a deal to supply 72 fighters, were dragging on and would likely affect its 2011 earnings.
The original deal called for the first 24 aircraft to be delivered from the BAE production line in the U.K., with subsequent assembly in Saudi Arabia.
BAE and the Saudis announced a change of plan last February over where the final 42 aircraft would be built but are still haggling over the details.
Typhoon is a four-nation program involving the Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. So far, it has exported the aircraft to Austria and Saudi Arabia

Syria Inks deal for Russian Fighter Jets

MOSCOW — Syria has signed a $550 million (425 million-euro) contract to purchase 36 Yak-130 advanced training fighter planes from Russia, the Kommersant business daily reported Jan. 23.
The deal was signed in December with Russia's Rosoboronexport state defense corporation, Kommersant cited a source close to the agency as saying, adding that production of the jets would begin once the advance payment was made.
The two-seater entered serial production in 2009, with the defense ministry placing an order for 55 of the combat trainers from the Irkut defense corporation, according to Russian press.
The jets destined for Syria will be built separately from the ones commissioned by the Russian air force, Kommersant said.
"As soon as Syria transfers the advance to Russia, the factory will immediately assume the assembly of the second set for Syria," the unnamed source told the paper.
A Rosoboronexport spokesman declined to comment.
The U.S. has expressed repeated concerns over Russia's military trade ties with Syria, which have continued despite the violent crackdown on protests pursued by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia, which, along with China recently blocked U.N. Security Council action against Assad, has defended the ties as legal under international law.
"We are only trading items with Syria that are not banned by international law," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week.

Gortney named Head of U.S. Fleet Forces

. President Obama has nominated Vice Adm. Bill Gortney as the next commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, a move that if approved by the Senate would likely occur this summer.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement Monday.
Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, would be promoted to admiral and replace Adm. John Harvey, who has commanded what was once known as U.S. Atlantic Fleet since July 2009. Gortney reported to the Pentagon in July 2010.
Harvey, with three years on the job come summer, is expected to retire.
Naval observers and industry insiders told Navy Times in late December that Gortney appeared to have the inside track on the job, saying he possesses the right combination of experience in preparing ships and aircraft to deploy, knowledge of overseas combatant commander requirements and understanding of wartime fleet operations.
Gortney will bring extensive experience in the war theater of operations to the job; since 2002, he’s commanded Carrier Air Wing 7 and Carrier Strike Group 10, both of which operated in the Central Command area of operations, and U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. He also has a previous hitch at Fleet Forces Command under his belt, having served as deputy chief of staff for global force management and joint operations from 2004-2006.
Gortney’s current job is his second go-round on the Joint Staff; he worked at the J-33 Joint Operations Department, Central Command Division, from 1998-1999.
That pallet of experience, particularly in the war zones, will serve him well at the helm of Fleet Forces, says retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly, chief executive officer of the U.S. Naval Institute and a former Fleet Forces deputy commander under Harvey.
“It’s very important because Fleet Forces … generates all the forces coming off the East Coast, and also has a special responsibility for standards for training all strike groups, East and West Coast,” said Daly, reached in San Diego, where USNI is holding its annual West Coast Conference and Symposium. The commander of Fleet Forces Command, Daly said, has to be someone “who understands what it takes to get there, what’s needed and what’s required when they’re at the tip of the spear. And Bill Gortney represents that.
“He’s an affable guy, but he’s no-nonsense when it comes to the warfighting piece,” Daly said. “I think he’s an excellent choice.”
In addition to its responsibilities for manning, training and equipping all Navy forces east of the Mississippi and providing same to overseas combatant commanders, Fleet Forces Command advises the chief of naval operations on all integrated warfighter capability requirements. It also handles the Navy’s anti-terrorism/force protection, individual augmentee and sea basing programs for the CNO.
Gortney is a 1977 graduate of Elon College in North Carolina. He earned a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve in September 1977 and, in December 1978, was designated as a naval aviator. He has flown more than 5,360 “mishap-free hours,” according to his official biography, and made 1,265 carrier-arrested landings, primarily in the A-7E Corsair II and the F/A-18 Hornet.

Nominees Announced for 4 Pentagon Posts

The White House has asked Congress to approve nominees for four key U.S. Defense Department positions, including undersecretaries for acquisition, policy and personnel.
President Barack Obama has nominated Frank Kendall to be the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, James Miller to be the undersecretary of defense for policy and Erin Conaton to be the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
In addition, Obama nominated Jessica Lynn Wright to be assistant secretary of defense for Reserve affairs.
Kendall previously served as the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and is now the Pentagon’s acting acquisition executive. If confirmed, he would fill the slot previously held by Ashton Carter, now the deputy defense secretary.
Miller is currently the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. If confirmed he would replace Michèle Flournoy, who is stepping down as undersecretary of defense for policy on Feb. 3.
If confirmed, Conaton, the current undersecretary of the Air Force, would replace Clifford Stanley, who resigned last fall.
Wright is currently the deputy assistant secretary of defense for manpower and personnel.

USAF to get 5 more Globemasters

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Boeing a $693 million firm-fixed price contract modification to buy five additional C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters.
The original compact was an indefinitely-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that was awarded on May 13 to buy the first five planes in the Air Force’s 2010 requirement. The contract was issued by the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
The aircraft will be built at Boeing’s Long Beach, Calif., factory and work should be completed by March 20, 2013, according to a Pentagon release.

KMW buys Armoured Vehicle Manufacturer

BONN — German tank maker Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) has reached an agreement with the EDAG Group to take over its production of armored civil vehicles.
KMW announced the deal Jan. 23, saying the purchase of the German automotive development specialist still requires approval by the cartel authorities.
The acquisition is a move by KMW to strengthen its role in the market for protected military wheeled and tracked vehicles using EDAG’s technologies, as well as developing activities in the highly protected civil vehicles sector.
The acquisition also complements KMW’s strategic activities to establish itself in Central and South America. EDAG manufactures its protection systems at sites in Ingolstadt, Germany, as well as a facility in Mexico.
“The extension of our numerous protection activities through the EDAG protection branch is a logical step and, with a view to the site in Mexico, a consistent continuation of our Central and South America strategy,” Frank Haun, chief executive and president of KMW, said in a press statement.
The EDAG protection business develops and integrates ballistic protection systems for civil vehicles produced by a range of global manufacturers

Iraq considers Czech made Fighter jets

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is looking to sell dozens of Czech-made L-159 subsonic jet fighters to Iraq, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said after talks Jan. 23 with his Iraqi counterpart in Prague.
"The talks are very intensive ... and concern dozens of planes," Vondra told reporters after meeting Iraq's acting Defence Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi. Al-Dulaimi said Iraq was "really very interested in the planes," which it wants as soon as possible.
Vondra said the Czech side was offering new fighters made by Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody, as well as 36 unused L-159s, which the defense ministry has been trying to sell for years.
"Iraq is logically interested in new planes ... but it also wants the fighters as fast as possible, so we can use at least part of the unused planes owned by the defense ministry," Vondra said, refusing to give details about the price of the planes, which are facing competition from Britain's Hawk and South Korea's TA-50.
Aero Vodochody, controlled by Czech-Slovak private equity group Penta, is the largest Czech aircraft producer and a subcontractor for Sikorsky, Saab and EADS and other manufacturers.