Tuesday, September 25, 2012

India: A bigger role in Afghanistan on the horizon?

India: A bigger role in Afghanistan on the horizon?

Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad are wrangling for position in Afghanistan following the US drawdown, the always-interesting C. Raja Mohan writes in the Indian Express. The upshot: A first-ever triangular meeting between leaders from the US, India and Afghanistan this week sends yet another signal the US may look to replace Islamabad with New Delhi in its stabilization plans.
"China’s rising profile in Kabul and the prospects for Indo-US cooperation in Afghanistan are rooted in two important structural changes in our neighbourhood," Mohan writes. "One is the declining American military footprint in Afghanistan and the end to the US’s combat role there by 2014. The other is the growing international disappointment with Pakistan’s negative role in Afghanistan."
The US pullout means that India and China will have to take responsibility for their own security, and it looks like the action is heating up.
"India became the first country to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan a year ago," Mohan notes. "Beijing is the second non-Western power to develop such a partnership with Kabul. During his brief stay in Kabul, Zhou signed a variety of agreements with Afghanistan, including one to 'train, fund and equip' the Afghan security forces."

Laser weapons home in on military utility

Laser weapons home in on military utility

The Joint High-Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) system developed by Northrop Grumman is to be tested by the US Army within the next two weeks, in a further sign that high-energy lasers are maturing as a future weapons technology.
And that future may arrive sooner than may realize. Mark Neice, director of the Albuquerque-based High-Energy Laser Joint Technology Office (HEL-JTO), told delegates at SPIE Europe’s Defence + Security symposium in Edinburgh, UK, that such systems were “not something that’s five years out, not ten years out, but we hope that within the next couple of years we will demonstrate significant military utility of this laser weapons capability”.
That’s despite a large decrease in the overall funding for laser weapons development in the US, which has fallen from more than $1 billion per year while the expensive Airborne Laser Testbed was being funded, to around only $300 million per year in the near term.
Plenary speaker Neice, a retired US Air Force colonel who previously worked on the Airborne Laser Testbed, said that now was an exciting time for high-energy laser technology advancement, and that the HEL-JTO had high hopes in particular for the Robust Electric Laser Initiative (RELI), a project seeking to increase the electrical efficiency of laser weapons systems to make them more practical for deployment by the US Army, Navy and Air Force.

Army plans to buy battlefield radio that performed poorly in Pentagon tests

Army plans to buy battlefield radio that performed poorly in Pentagon tests

The Army is close to awarding General Dynamics Corp. a low rate production contract for a manpack radio to transmit broadband data on the battlefield, Nextgov has learned.
The service’s plans to buy the radio continue despite a July report by J. Michael Gilmore, director of operational test and evaluation for the Defense Department, deeming it operationally ineffective and unsuitable.
The Army anticipates fielding the Joint Tactical Radio System manpack radio to infantry brigades slated for deployment to Afghanistan in 2013, sources told Nextgov. Service officials plan to buy about 3,800 of the General Dynamics manpack radios at $78,000 each, sources said, for a total cost of $296.4 million.
The JTRS program, started in 1997, stands out as one of the Pentagon’s longest running and most troubled projects, with few radios fielded to date. It was designed to develop a family of radios that use software waveforms rather than hardware to define bandwidth, frequency, modulation, security and data rates. Its casualties to date include a refrigerator-size radio, developed by Boeing Co., whose cost peaked at $15.9 billion before the Pentagon canceled it in October 2011.
General Dynamics won a $295 million contract to develop the handheld and manpack JTRS radios in 2004 and this August, General Dynamics along with Thales Communications were awarded a contract valued at $53.9 million for 13,000 handheld radios, following successful real-world test by Army Rangers in Afghanistan.
JTRS radios need to be booted up like a personal computer to operate. Tests of the manpack in April and May at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., showed it took 20 to 25 minutes to start the radio, Gilmore said in a July 20 memo to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

US and China Team Up for Counter-Piracy Exercise

Guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and other U.S. Navy assets participated in a counter-piracy exercise with elements of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Navy) PLA(N) near the Horn of Africa, Sept. 17.

The exercise, the first bilateral counter-piracy exercise ever conducted between the U.S. and China, paired Winston S. Churchill with PLA(N) frigate Yi Yang (FF 548) to conduct a combined visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) boarding.

The focus was on bilateral interoperability in detecting, boarding and searching suspected vessels as well as the ability of both Chinese and American naval assets to respond to pirated vessels.

"Piracy is a threat to the freedom of the seas, economic security, and the safety of mariners from all nations. Bilateral exercises such as this demonstrate the cooperative will of the international community and increases proficiency of multinational forces in confronting the threat," said Cmdr. Chris D. Stone, Winston S. Churchill's commanding officer. "We have common regional and global security challenges, and we are able to jointly address those by training together."

VBSS teams from both ships performed the boarding on Winston S. Churchill, which was simulating a pirated vessel. Executing the boarding side-by-side as a combined U.S.-Chinese team, the team successfully searched the vessel and provided assistance to the role-playing mariners.

Participants felt that the training was meaningful, providing a unique opportunity to operate alongside one another.

"It was exciting to interact with the Chinese Sailors and cooperate in a critical environment," said Lt. j.g. Edward R. Kellum, boarding officer for Winston S. Churchill's VBSS team. "Anytime we work with a foreign military, it adds a different perspective to how we operate. However, to collaborate with the Chinese in an anti-piracy framework is a rare opportunity and a real achievement for maritime security."

Following the exercise, leaders from both navies discussed the elements of the boarding in order to learn how to better operate together in the future.

U.S and Chinese leaders expressed how important and beneficial the training was, both in terms of building cooperative ties and development of techniques to counter piracy.

"We're appreciative of the opportunity to train with other nations to establish ties that will allow us to work together to face the piracy threat," said Stone. "As fellow mariners we have great admiration for our Chinese counterparts who are sailing alongside us and other coalition partners to keep the sea lanes safe."

Friday, September 21, 2012

US seeks to revive defence ties with N. Zealand

US seeks to revive defence ties with N. Zealand

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta flew into New Zealand Friday, the first Pentagon chief to set foot in the country in 30 years, as the two countries seek to revive long-dormant security ties. On the final leg of a week-long Asian tour, Panetta planned to thank New Zealand for its role in the Afghan war and to explore expanding defence ties that have begun to revive after a hiatus dating back to the 1980s, officials said. "Over the last couple of years, we've seen a dramatic uptick in US-New Zealand (military) relations," a senior US defence official told reporters before Panetta landed in Auckland. "There's a lot room for growth in this relationship."

Spain, U.S. strengthen security ties

Spain, U.S. strengthen security ties

Spain's top police official announced this week Madrid and the United States are working more closely to battle drug trafficking, cybercrime and terrorism. Ignacio Cosido, director general of the Spanish National Police Force, said Monday his recent trip to the United States yielded tighter links between Spain and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Customs and Borders Protection agency, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. A statement released by the Spanish government indicated one of main topics on the security agenda during the Washington meeting was the fight against cocaine trafficking from Latin America.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Despite concerns, most in US back China ties

Despite concerns, most in US back China ties

Despite the tough talk on China in the US election, most Americans support a strong relationship with the Asian power and do not view its rise as a major concern, a survey said Tuesday. The Pew Research Center poll found often contradictory sentiments among the US public who considered the Chinese to be hardworking but at the same time lacked trust in China and voiced concern over its economic strength. Some 56 percent of the public said the United States should "be tough" with China on economic or trade issues. But nearly two-thirds believed ties were in good shape and 55 percent supported a "strong relationship" with China

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Massive anti-mine naval exercise underway in Gulf

Massive anti-mine naval exercise underway in Gulf

Naval forces from more than 30 countries were on Monday engaged in a massive minesweeping exercise in the Gulf, US officials said, amid Iranian threats to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The US-led International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX), the first of its kind in the Middle East, comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran over the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear programme. The exercise kicked off on Sunday, the same day as the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards warned of retaliation against the Strait of Hormuz, Israel and nearby US bases if his country is attacked and as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Tehran is "90 percent" toward having a nuclear bomb.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

F-22 findings

Air Force and NASA leaders testified Sept. 13 before the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces about the F-22 Raptor.

Specifically, the leaders testified about the comprehensive studies, findings and actions taken and also underway to address previously unexplained physiological incidents reported by F-22 pilots.

Retired Gen. Gregory S. Martin, Aircraft Oxygen Generation Study chair for the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board; Maj. Gen. Charles W. Lyon, Headquarters Air Combat Command director of operations and F-22 life support task force chair; and Clinton H. Cragg, NASA Engineering and Safety Center principal engineer testified before the subcommittee.

"Beginning in 2008 ... the F-22 began to experience a significantly higher rate of hypoxia-like instances with unknown causes as reported by the pilots," said Martin.

That's when the Air Force started an intense search for possible causes of what experts can best describe as physiological incidents and how to fix them.

After months of research, testing and analysis, Martin's study group provided eight near-term and three long-term recommendations to the Air Force in September 2011 and completed its investigative actions in January.

The Air Force task force also established in January, and led by Lyon, advanced the SAB's effort and through a multi-service, cross-governmental and functional team, determined that problems with the quantity of oxygen are the major contributors to the previously unexplained incidents.

"This is what we've come to know, which the Navy helped us with: ... breathing restrictions integrated into the pilot's flight ensemble forced them to work harder to get the required volumes of air, which can then lead to fatigue symptoms over time," said Lyon.

At the request of Air Force leaders, NASA's engineering and safety center also conducted an independent assessment of the F-22 life support system and the Air Force's efforts and conclusions to ensure all possible causes of the physiological incidents were examined.

The center performs independent testing, analysis and assessments for NASA, and assembled a team that included two NASA flight surgeons, two NASA human factor experts, an Environmental Protection Agency forensic chemist, an industry oxygen generator system expert and several specialized NASA life support systems engineers for the F-22 review.

"The (NASA Engineering and Safety Center) concurs with the Air Force that the F-22 incidents can be attributed to several factors," said Cragg.

They include restricted breathing due to inappropriate inflation of the upper pressure garment worn by pilots, pressure drops across the oxygen system, and high concentrations of oxygen, the effects of which are compounded during acceleration at lower altitudes.

Cragg said his team found no evidence of contaminants in the system. He did note, however, that as in any fighter aircraft, irritant compounds may be present in the cockpit. Additionally, each flight is physiologically demanding and symptoms such as difficulty in breathing during high-G maneuvers and coughing to reinflate the air sacs in the lungs after flight were considered a normal part of flying by the F-22 community.

"The acceptance of these phenomena as normal could be seen as a normalization of deviance," said Cragg.

As these studies were ongoing, the Air Force implemented most of the SAB's findings and hasn't had an unexplained physiological incident since March, said Lyon.

"Since that time, we've flown more than 10,000 sorties and more than 13,000 hours," said Lyon. "The trend is on a positive vector not seen in years." But he pointed out that there will most likely be some physiological incidents in the future.

"The harsh, high-altitude, high-G environment is extremely demanding, and our pilots are aware of those demands," said Lyon. "Just as other Airmen and members of the joint force accept risk in the conduct of their daily military duties, we accept risk in operating the F-22.

"We encounter physiological incidents in all high-performance aircraft," said Lyon. "The measures taken by the Air Force, in my opinion, will reduce the incident rates significantly and over time bring the F-22 incident rates in-line with comparable high-performance fighter aircraft."

Lyon told the committee the Air Force has completed seven of the eight near-term actions recommended by the SAB, and there is work ahead while the service transitions to normal flight operations.

"The path to assuming normal flight operations hinges on the successful development, testing and fielding of a modified combat edge upper pressure garment relief valve," said Lyon. "This modification will successfully integrate the key components in the F-22 life support system to ensure adequate oxygen flows to the pilot while providing protection in high-altitude and high-G environments where the F-22 flies."

The modification is expected to be fielded by the end of 2012.

Another modification to the F-22 will add a backup oxygen system in addition to the emergency oxygen system in place.

"The fielding of the automatic backup oxygen system will provide additional protection to F-22 pilots while flying in high altitude and in the most demanding oxygen delivery scenarios," said Lyon.

The first modified F-22 is expected to be operational in January 2013 with the first operational squadron complete in spring of 2013 and the entire fleet completed by the middle of 2014.

Another initiative recommended by the SAB is a medical registry tracking the long-term effects of flying the F-22 for every pilot, said Martin. Before they were allowed to return to flight in September 2011, every pilot underwent a battery of physiological tests to establish a medical baseline that was entered into the registry.

"We know who has flown the F-22. We know who has been exposed to this environment. And we will continue to track them through their Air Force career and, if necessary, beyond," said Lyon. "We have a moral imperative and we understand that."

He said that no long-term health issues have been tied to the F-22, and the Air Force is undertaking numerous improvements to ensure the inherent risk of flying high-performance aircraft is mitigated and the F-22 is used to its full potential.

"The F-22 Raptor contributes significantly to our nation's vital interests by providing air dominance when and where ordered to protect and enable the joint U.S. military force," said Lyon. "Flying high-performance fighter aircraft is not risk free. But the risk is measured against mission priorities and probabilities of success."

Panetta Set to Discuss U.S. Shift in Asia Trip

Panetta Set to Discuss U.S. Shift in Asia Trip

He will be working to dispel skepticism that the administration’s new Asia-Pacific strategy is an emperor with no clothes, and so is certain to offer rebuttals to those who say the regional “rebalancing” remains more rhetoric than reality.
At the same time, he will have to convince a specific audience — in Beijing — that relocating resources to the region after a decade of combat in the Middle East and Southwest Asia is not meant to confront China.
At each stop, Mr. Panetta will describe an American vision “that we continue to be what we have been now for seven decades: the pivotal military power in the Asia-Pacific region, which has provided peace and stability,” said Ashton B. Carter, the deputy defense secretary, who in late summer spent 10 days in Asia pushing the administration’s strategy.
Part of that strategy, Mr. Carter said, is to ensure that not just longtime allies like Japan and South Korea thrive, but that American policy helps other economic and political powers — he cited China and India — “to rise and prosper.”

Friday, September 14, 2012

Egypt, Hearing From Obama, Moves to Heal Rift From Protests

Egypt, Hearing From Obama, Moves to Heal Rift From Protests

Following a blunt phone call from President Obama, Egyptian leaders scrambled Thursday to try to repair the country’s alliance with Washington, tacitly acknowledging that they erred in their response to the attack on the United States Embassy by seeking to first appease anti-American domestic opinion without offering a robust condemnation of the violence.

Set off by anger at an American-made video ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, the attacks on the embassy put President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in a squeeze between the need to stand with Washington against the attackers and the demands of many Egyptians to defy Washington and defend Islam, a senior Brotherhood official acknowledged.
During a late-night, 20-minute phone call, Mr. Obama warned Mr. Morsi that relations would be jeopardized if Egyptian authorities failed to protect American diplomats and stand more firmly against anti-American attacks.
The rising breach between the United States and Egypt comes at a critical time for the longtime allies. For the Obama administration, it is a test of whether it has succeeded in efforts to shore up influence after the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and to find common ground with the new Islamist leaders of a country that is a linchpin of American policy in the Middle East.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mapping Military Needs, Aided by a Big Projection

Mapping Military Needs, Aided by a Big Projection

Three times so far this year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the regional war-fighting commanders have assembled at a military base south of the capital, where a giant map of the world, larger than a basketball court, was laid out on the ground, giving the sessions an appearance of a lethally earnest game of Risk.    

The generals and admirals walked the world and worked their way through a series of potential national security crises, locked in debate over what kind of military — its size, its capability — the nation will require in the next five years.
“Strategic seminar” is the name Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has chosen for these daylong sessions, which were not exactly a war game more than a tabletop military exercise, and unlike anything the Pentagon has done to plan its future.
Shortly after being sworn in as chairman last October, a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, General Dempsey said the military was confronting “a strategic inflection point, where the institution fundamentally re-examines itself.” The seminar project he started fits his goal: to try to build the right military force for five years from now — and not be driven by the budget cycle into a series of year-by-year decisions.   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Truth About Obama and Israel

Truth About Obama and Israel Haim Saban writes: AS an Israeli-American who cares deeply about the survival of Israel and the future of the Jewish people, I will be voting for President Obama in November. Here’s why. Even though he could have done a better job highlighting his friendship for Israel, there’s no denying that by every tangible measure, his support for Israel’s security and well-being has been rock solid. Mitt Romney claims Mr. Obama has “thrown allies like Israel under the bus,” but in fact the president has taken concrete steps to make Israel more secure — a commitment he has described as “not negotiable.”

Mitt’s World: Thimas Friedman's Take on Foreign Policy under Romney

Mitt’s World Mitt Romney has been criticized for not discussing foreign policy. Give him a break. He probably figures he’s already said all that he needs to say during the primaries: He has a big stick, and he is going to use it on Day 1. What’s odd is that Romney was in a position to sound smart on foreign policy, not like a knee-jerk hawk. He just needed to explain what every global business leader learned long before governments did — that, since the end of the cold war, the world has become not just more interconnected but more interdependent, and this new structural reality requires a new kind of American leadership. Why?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mitt Romney Taxes Enriched Foreign Governments At U.S. Expense

Mitt Romney Taxes Enriched Foreign Governments At U.S. Expense Mitt Romney sought and received $787,455 in foreign tax credits from the U.S. Treasury to cover his tax payments to other nations in 2008. While there is no evidence that his actions violated the law, abuse of the foreign tax credit has been a problem for the Internal Revenue Service. The agency has prosecuted a number of international fraud cases in the last few years involving such credits. And the size of Romney's claim in 2008 raises questions about the sources of his foreign income. The Huffington Post had previously reported that Romney received more than $25 million in foreign income between 2005 and 2010. At the time, he was governor of Massachusetts. His 2010 return also lists foreign tax payments that Romney made dating back to 2000. Through 2004, the payments were tiny -- for Romney -- averaging $37,000 a year. In 2005, however, his foreign tax bill shot up to $333,149 and stayed high for the next three years, prior to the Great Recession. "Romney had a significant amount of foreign income," observed Rebecca J. Wilkins, senior counsel for federal tax policy with the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice. "We don't know what the source of his foreign income is."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

F-22's employ small diameter bombs during WSEP

During a Combat Hammer exercise at Hill AFB (Utah), Alaska-based F-22 Raptors became the first operational F-22 unit to drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs. Although small diameter bombs have been employed by test pilots, Combat Hammer, a weapons system evaluation program sponsored by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron, provided an opportunity for an operational unit to employ them in a realistic tactical training environment. "The Utah Test and Training Range is the only location in the United States where the F-22s can employ SDBs at speeds and altitudes unique to the Raptor," said Maj. Wade Bridges, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron. The 3rd Wing F-22s that have the upgraded increment 3.1 software, were able to drop the GBU-39 SDB. The GBU-39 SDB is a 250-pound precision-guided glide bomb that is intended to provide aircraft with the ability to carry a higher number of bombs and to employ with greater stand-off. "The employment of the GBU-39s was very successful," said Bridges. "The ammo and weapons personnel that built and loaded the weapons did so with amazing professionalism and technical expertise. They were evaluated during the entire process and received nothing but praise for their work. The pilots who employed the weapons did an excellent job delivering the weapons in a tactical environment. The entire process from building to employing the weapons was a tremendous success resulting in 100 percent of the SDBs being released successfully." This training event allowed for Total Force Integration across the F-22 fleet. The 302nd Fighter Squadron led a Total Force team from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardso, Alaska. Pilots from both the 302nd and the 525th Fighter Squadrons and maintainers from the 3rd Maintenance Group and the 477th Fighter Group filled the deployment roster, making it a true total-force effort from Alaska. In addition to the Alaska-based effort, pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons and their associated maintainers participated in this Combat Hammer. This was the first time operations and maintenance personnel from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons, stationed in Hawaii, have deployed. "The successful deployment experience and delivery of air-to-ground weapons is a major milestone for the Hawaiian Raptor operations and maintenance team towards declaration of initial operational capability," said Lt. Col. Robert Jackson, the 19th FS commander.

Energy weapons: Zap, Crackle and Pop

Energy weapons: Zap, Crackle and Pop Military technology: Energy weapons are finally moving from the laboratory to the real world. But they are hardly the super-weapons of science fiction.