Thursday, January 26, 2012

USAF to Retire Block 30 Global Hawk

An Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft reconnaissance system arrives at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Pentagon officials say the Air Force's version of the UAV will be cut while it will keep the Navy's version.

The U.S. Air Force is likely to retire its fleet of Block 30 Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft, an industry source confirms, breathing new life into the five-decade-old U-2 program.
On Jan. 24, analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, Arlington, Va., said the Pentagon is planning to mothball its recently acquired Block 30 Global Hawks, which are designed to collect imagery and signals intelligence. Not only would the Air Force stop building the aircraft, but existing planes in the current inventory would be retired.
The Air Force had been planning to buy 42 Block 30 aircraft. According to 2011 budget documents, the cost of each aircraft was around $215 million. It was not immediately clear how many Global Hawks the Air Force has.
The aircraft is being terminated mainly due to its high cost to buy and maintain, but it has also failed to live up to the promises that the program had originally offered, sources said.A knowledgeable industry source confirmed that the Air Force is killing the program.
“Yes, this is accurate — been a lot of discussion on the possibility of this a long while,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak to the media. “There is a high probability it will come to pass now unless Congress takes a major exception.”
But the industry source said that’s not likely to happen due to budget constraints.
“I don’t think that’s likely in the economic environment of this year’s DoD budget, and there are no real ‘hawks’ in Congress from California,” he said. The aircraft is built is both built and based in California.
A senior Air Force official would neither confirm nor deny that the Pentagon had deleted the Global Hawk from its proposed budget. But “clearly, FY13 is going to be a particularly tough budget year for the DoD,” he said. The official is not authorized to speak to the media.
Northrop Grumman officials could not immediately comment.
The Air Force declined to provide an official comment, other than to say that no budget details will be made available before the budget is released.
If the program is killed, Thompson said the cost of the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) variant of the Global Hawk could go up, which could render that aircraft unaffordable. There is a proposal to equip the Air Force with the naval variant, he said, but that is unlikely to happen.
The Navy wants to use the BAMS aircraft as a communications relay and maritime surveillance tool with its 360-degree sensors that include radar, an electro-optical/infrared camera, Automatic Identification System receiver and electronic support measures.
One source close to the Air Force said the sensors, data links and other equipment on the Global Hawk are less accurate, and provide less resolution, less range and less collection capability than other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms, particularly the U-2.
“As for the Global Hawk system’s capabilities, it is good at long-endurance flight with its so-so sensors,” the source said. “They are currently and will continue to be well below par.”
The Global Hawk has never lived up to the Air Force’s original expectations, critics have said.
Even if additional resources were added to the program, “it will never live up to the hype the Military Channel, Aviation Week, etc., have been leading the public to believe,” the source said. “The technology advertised as currently on-board many UAVs is nothing short of science fiction, not mature and won’t be until billions are spent to make it happen.”
Additionally, the Global Hawk doesn’t have the U-2 Optical Bar Camera, which creates 6-foot-long wet-film images of the ground. Congress had barred the Air Force from retiring the U-2 until all of that aircraft’s capabilities are replaced.
The Global Hawk is also far less reliable than the Air Force had hoped, he said. The aircraft “spends most of its time hiding in its hangar broke.”
The fate of the Block 40 Global Hawk, which is equipped with the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) radar, is not clear. The MP-RTIP is a powerful ground surveillance radar designed to create photo-quality imagery of the Earth’s surface and overlay moving ground targets over those.
Nor is it clear if NATO’s proposed buy of five modified MP-RTIP-equipped Global Hawks for its Alliance Ground Surveillance program or if Germany’s EuroHawk program will be affected.
The demise of the Global Hawk means that the U-2 has a new lease on life. Thompson said the venerable aircraft will now remain in service till at least 2023.

Pakistan Responds Harsh to NATO strike

ISLAMABAD — While the Pakistani military is in no mood to quietly return to full cooperation with NATO/ISAF forces in the aftermath of the Nov. 25-26 attacks on Pakistani border posts, a “restart” in the Pak-U.S relationship is still possible, experts said.
Brian Cloughley, former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, said the Pakistani military — specifically the Army — does not want to settle for a low-key response from the U.S.
“The Army doesn’t want a ‘quiet’ acknowledgement. What it wants is a proper apology — publicly,” he said.
The Army is united in this opinion, and if a public apology is not forthcoming the considerable ill-will directed toward the U.S. will continue, “and there will be continuing lack of cooperation.”
The Pakistani response to the Jan. 23 NATO/ISAF report into the attacks, which killed 24 Pakistani troops, was predictable, he said.
The accompanying Inter Services Press Release (ISPR) statement says Pakistan disagrees with “several portions and findings” of the NATO/ISAF report, which are deemed to be “factually not correct.”
The basis of the NATO/ISAF report, “self defense” and “proportional use of force,” is rejected as “contrary to facts.”
The ISPR statement reiterates Pakistan contacted NATO/ISAF forces “within minutes of initiation of US/NATO fire,” and rejects attributing partial responsibility for the attacks to Pakistani forces as “unjustified and unacceptable.”
It also states, “The fundamental cause of the incident of 26th November 2011 was the failure of US/ISAF to share its near-border operation with Pakistan at any level.”
In addition, it lists “the complicated chain of command, complex command and control structure and unimaginative/intricate Rules of Engagement, as well as lack of unified military command in Afghanistan,” as further causes of the attacks.
It ends by stating NATO/ISAF forces “violated all mutually agreed procedures with Pakistan for near-border operations put in place to avert such uncalled for actions,” and reiterates the attacks were an “unprovoked engagement” that took place inside Pakistan and were therefore a violation of NATO/ISAF’s mandate.
Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, associate professor at the school of Politics and International Relations at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University, said Pakistan’s response to the NATO/ISAF report has tried to prove what has already been stated by the Pakistani side, and that there “doesn’t seem to be a desire to let this go.”
It details that NATO/ISAF forces had carried out previous operations in the vicinity and were fully aware of the course of the border and location of Pakistani positions. It also says that some operations on the Afghan side of the border were undertaken by NATO/ISAF forces in support of Pakistani anti-Taliban operations on its side of the border.
Using photographs and aerial images to reinforce its assertions, the Pakistan statement also rejects claims NATO/ISAF forces were fired upon by the Pakistani posts. It specifically criticizes the NATO/ISAF report’s mandate, which did not include affixing direct responsibility for the attacks, and that it implied “Pakistan was considered in an adversarial role.”
Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, ISAF spokesman, was unable to comment on the Pakistani response and referred questions to CENTCOM as the investigative report into the attacks was carried out by CENTCOM, not ISAF.
He said ISAF was only able to comment on “the recommendations that CENTCOM made in the original report.”
“The recommendations in the CENTCOM report are designed to work toward building a positive relationship and constructive cross-border coordination measures to ensure this type of incident does not ever occur again. US and ISAF are taking these recommendations and are moving forward toward full implementation,” he said.
No response was forthcoming from CENTCOM, however, or from the defense section at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
Jaspal is optimistic there is a chance for the Pak-U.S. relationship to be “restarted,” but “not as it was previously” “There won’t be a ‘blank check’ as there was previously; there will restrictions,” he said.
The main factor is the ongoing block on NATO supplies transiting Pakistani territory.
“The Pakistan supply route will probably remain closed, and the northern routes will continue to be used and expanded, if possible,” said Cloughley. “There is already a mammoth increase in air supply. The costs are horrific.”

Poland spent Around half a Billion on Afghan Missions

WARSAW — Poland spent 2.02 billion zloty ($606 million) on arms for its military mission in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011, Jacek Sonta, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said in a statement.
Poland spent the most in 2010 at 925.6 million zloty for new gear, and the least in 2008, at 125.5 million zloty, the spokesman said.
Since April 2007, when the country increased its military presence in Afghanistan from 150 to 1,200 troops, the Polish Ministry of Defense has launched a series of arms procurement programs, dubbed “the Afghan package.”
The purchases include 8,400 assault rifles, radio communication systems, 10 Israeli-made UAVs, C4ISR systems, five Russian-built Mi-17 transport helicopters and a wide range of munitions.
A significant portion of Poland’s 380 Rosomak armored modular vehicles was also deployed to Afghanistan. The eight-wheel-drive Rosomak is made by Polish state-owned manufacturer Wojskowe Zaklady Mechaniczne Siemianowice under a license from Finland’s Patria.
In 2009, Poland’s military took over responsibility for the troubled Afghan province of Ghazni. A year later, the Polish force in Afghanistan was increased to 2,600 soldiers, making it the fifth-largest among NATO states present in the country.
Poland plans to withdraw all combat troops from Afghan soil by the end of 2014 along with the remaining NATO forces. Over the past five years, 37 Polish soldiers were killed while on duty in Afghanistan.

Eurocopter Eyes Brazil Export

RIO DE JANEIRO — Helicopter-maker Eurocopter wants its Brazilian affiliate Helibras to develop and build aircraft for export to the world by 2025, the company’s CEO said in an interview published Jan. 25.
“In 2023 or 2025 we will begin to have models designed in Brazil, built in the country and that will be sold on the world market,” Lutz Bertling said in the interview with the business daily Valor.
Currently, Eurocopter helicopters are designed in Europe. A Brazilian factory in Itajuba, Minas Gerais, only assembles Ecureuils helicopters.
Brazil is the only country in the BRICS group of emerging powers — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — that does not have a helicopter industry, said Bertling. Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European aeronautics giant EADS and the world’s top manufacturer of civilian helicopters, “wants to become the national helicopter maker of Brazil,” said Bertling.
The company has invested 186 million euros ($241 million) in a new factory at Itajuba, which is scheduled to open in February or March and begin production by mid-year.
The expansion was part of a 2008 contract to sell 50 EC725 helicopters to the Brazilian military, which calls for the first 16 to be built in France and the rest in Brazil.
Eurocopter sees a promising future in the Brazilian market and is pursuing some big deals, according to Valor.
The Brazilian police have announced plans to buy 100 helicopters and the private sector demand is expected to rise with the country hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“Even without big events, Brazil is one of the helicopter markets with the fastest growth in the world,” said Bertling.
Eurocopter announced Jan. 24 in Paris sales of 5.4 billion euros ($7 billion) in 2011, up 12.5 percent over the previous year.