India at Least 9 Months From Inking Rafale Deal

Government sources in India and France confirmed Jan. 31 that French firm Dassault has won a contract to sell its Rafale fighter jets to India. (Dassault Aviation)

Negotiations to build Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force won’t be complete for at least nine months, following news that the state-owned company tapped to build the jets in India has missed a deadline for filing its license production evaluation report.

Sources in the Indian Defence Ministry said Defence Minister A.K. Antony had directed the bureaucrats to finalize the contract to build Rafales within the next three months, but it cannot be done because state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) has yet to submit the license production plan, delaying negotiations by another six months.

India on Jan. 31 declared the Dassault Rafale the preferred bidder over the Eurofighter Typhoon, setting the French company up for a deal involving 126 aircraft and prompting soul-searching among the Eurofighter nations.

The Ministry of Defence last week also asked HAL to focus on building airframes, engines, and system and weapons integration of Rafale aircraft rather than on meeting its portion of the $5.5 billion offset requirements as part of the deal.

Under the new directive, HAL has been asked to submit the detailed license production plan within the next four weeks, the sources said. HAL officials privately acknowledge they are late in submitting the plan for completing financial and manufacturing tasks.

Meanwhile, Rafale has come closer to clinching the final selection in the program after India rejected accusations of manipulation in the selection of the French aircraft over Typhoon.

Antony ordered a probe into the allegations, which were leveled by M.V. Mysura Reddy, a member of Parliament, in February.

Antony, in his reply to Reddy two weeks ago, wrote, “The issues raised by you were examined by independent monitors who have concluded that the approach and methodology adopted by the Contract Negotiations Committee in the evaluation of the commercial proposals thus far, have been reasonable and appropriate and within the terms of the Request for Proposals and Defence Procurement Procedure, 2006.”

Rafale emerged as the preferred aircraft over the Typhoon based on life-cycle cost. MoD sources said Rafale had quoted nearly 15 percent lower than Typhoon, but the sources would not give a figure.

An executive with Eurofighter consortium member EADS said Eurofighter members will regard themselves out of the contest only after the deal is actually signed.

“A contract is finalized only when it is inked,” the executive said.

No executive from Dassault was available for comment.

India floated the request for proposals for the purchase of 126 fighter jets in August 2007, and it took nearly 4½ years to tap Rafale as the preferred vendor.

Besides Eurofighter and Rafale, the field included U.S.-made F-16s and F/A-18s, Swedish Gripens and Russian MiG-35s.

The Indian Air Force needs the fighters to shore up its dwindling fleet in the next five to seven years.

The Air Force should begin receiving the jets by 2015.

Under the terms of purchase, the first 18 aircraft will arrive in fly-away condition, while the remaining 108 will be manufactured under a technology transfer process.

Of the 108 aircraft to be license-produced in India, 74 will be single-seaters and the remaining 34 will be two-seaters. The first 18 aircraft will include 12 single-seaters and six two-seaters and will be equipped with all the weaponry required by the Indian Air Force.


U.S. House Passes Huge Defense Spending Bill

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. lawmakers passed a sweeping $606 billion defense bill July 19 that exceeds a budget cap and faces a veto threat from the White House for failing to sufficiently rein in spending.

The bill would provide $518 billion for the Pentagon and an additional $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations, specifically the war in Afghanistan and counterterrorism efforts, for the fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1.

The 2013 Defense Department spending bill had originally come in at $519 billion, an increase of $1 billion over 2012 spending, but in a surprise move just before the final vote, lawmakers approved an amendment bringing the spending into line with current figures.

It’s still roughly $2 billion more than President Barack Obama requested, and about $8 billion above the cap set by last year’s Budget Control Act.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 326-90.

Democrats and Republicans are promising a major budget tussle this election year as the two sides square off over whether to raise taxes for wealthy Americans as well as slash federal spending in a bid to pare down the skyrocketing debt.

U.S. lawmakers failed to reach a deal last year over how to reduce the long-term deficit by $1.2 trillion, and default spending cuts are scheduled to kick in next January that could see the defense budget slashed by an additional $50 billion in 2013.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers praised the bill, saying it “supports and takes care of our troops at the highest level possible, keeps America at the forefront of defense technologies, and boosts key training and readiness programs to prepare our troops for combat and peacetime missions.”

“But in this environment of fiscal austerity, we must also recognize that even the Pentagon should not have carte blanche when it comes to discretionary spending,” the Republican Rogers said, insisting that the bill makes “common-sense decisions” on spending cuts.

Some Democrats were keen on making even deeper cuts, but three of their proposals to slash some $23 billion from the bill were rejected.

“The bloated Pentagon budget must be addressed if we are serious about solving our nation’s deficit,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who authored several cost-saving amendments that were turned down.

But although Republicans have stood firm in their desire to see defense spending levels maintained, Lee had a partner in Republican Mick Mulvaney, who authored the measure that successfully cut the bill by $1 billion.

“Austerity to me means spending less,” the tea party conservative said.

The bill saw lawmakers express their disgust with Russia’s stance on Syria, as they voted overwhelmingly for an amendment that ends the Pentagon’s arms contract with a major Russian defense firm that provides weapons to the regime in Damascus.

House Democrat Jim Moran, who introduced the measure, lambasted the Pentagon for its contract with Rosoboronexport, which he said sells mortars, sniper rifles and attack helicopters to Syria.

The Pentagon has procured some 33 Mi-17 attack helicopters from the Russian firm  which are to be used by the Afghan military after U.S. operations wind down in Afghanistan.

“I should think it’s troubling to all of us that we are purchasing helicopters from a Russian firm that is directly complicit in the deaths of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women and children,” Moran said.

The Senate will now craft its version of the defense bill, but its fate is unknown. The House has passed several spending measures, but the Senate largely balks at them because they overshoot the spending agreement reached last year.


Syria: More Military Officers Desert Assad Regime

A Syrian brigadier-general and 20 other military officers have fled to Turkey, an Ankara official has said.

The latest defections bring the number of Syrian generals sheltering in Turkey to 22. A total of 43,387 Syrian refugees are now registered as living in the country.

The news comes as the Syrian army launches a new offensive against rebel-controlled areas of Damascus.

Rebels have already left the central Midan district after coming under heavy bombardment, opposition activists and rebel sources said.

The state broadcaster reported: “Our brave army forces have completely cleaned the area of the remaining mercenary terrorists.”

Rebel commander Abu Omar insisted that the group’s withdrawal was “tactical”, and said they were still in the city. Reports emerging from the country on Friday suggested that rebels had torched barracks used by Mr Assad’s militia in the Ikhlas district.Â

Fierce fighting has also been reported in several districts in Aleppo, Syria’s second city.

On Thursday, opposition fighters seized control of a number of Syria’s key border crossings after clashes with the army.

Rebels also attacked the main police station in the capital Damascus in another sign that the rebel movement is at its strongest since the 16-month uprising began.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 302 people were killed across the country on Thursday, including 98 soldiers, 139 civilians and 65 rebels. If correct, it would be the deadliest day of fighting since the beginning of the revolt.

Officials in neighbouring Iraq said Syrian rebels were in control of the Syrian side of the main Abu Kamal border checkpoint on the Euphrates River highway, one of the main trade routes across the Middle East.

However the Iraqi army later sealed the border crossing with concrete blast walls to guard against any escalation in fighting.

Television pictures also showed rebels in control of the border crossing of Bab al Hawa into Turkey at one point but it has been reported that they later withdrew.

Opposition activists also managed to seize the Jarablus crossing into Turkey in what appears to be part of a co-ordinated campaign to seize strategic crossing routes.

In Damascus a witness in the central old quarter district of Qanawat said the huge headquarters of the Damascus Province police was black with smoke and abandoned after being torched and looted in rebel attacks.

“Three patrol cars came to the site and were hit by roadside bombs,” said activist Abu Rateb.

“I saw three bodies in one car. Others said dozens of security men and pro-Assad militia lay dead or wounded along Khaled bin al Walid street before ambulances took them away.” The activistâ  s account cannot be independently verified.

There have been reports that Mr Assad has gone to the coastal town of Latakia where he has a presidential palace.

Latakia provides an easier location from which to make an escape if the president reaches the conclusion he has no option but to leave Syria.

There have been further reports that Syria’s first lady, Asma al Assad, has fled to the Russian capital Moscow. Again, these are unsubstantiated.

Meanwhile Russia has backed an unconditional 45-day extension of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, rather than Britain’s idea to add 30 days to their mandate.

“We will support it since we were involved in drawing up (the draft resolution) together with our Pakistani colleagues,” deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said.

His comments came a day after Russia and China to block possible UN Security Council sanctions against its Middle East ally.

Russia Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the blocked resolution was “absolutely unrealistic” and called on Western nations to put more pressure on Syrian rebels to stop fighting.


Thales Delivers Four Maritime Patrol Aircraft to Turkey

Thales has completed delivery of initial standard maritime patrol  aircraft under the Meltem II programme for Turkey, with four aircraft  entering service between February and June 2012.

Pierre Eric Pommellet, Executive Chairman of Thales Systèmes Aéroportés,  officially handed over the aircraft during a ceremony at the Tusas Aerospace  Industry (TAI) facility in Ankara attended by representatives of the Turkish  Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM), the Turkish Naval Command, the  Turkish Coast Guard Command, the local contractors involved in the programme – TAI, Aselsan, Havelsan and Milsoft – the French defence procurement agency (DGA)  and the French embassy in Ankara.

Thales is prime contractor for the Meltem II programme, which calls for  delivery of six maritime patrol aircraft for the Turkish Navy  and three maritime surveillance  aircraft for the Turkish Coast Guard. The aircraft are based on modified  CASA CN-235 platforms. The programme also includes the provision of 10  additional maritime patrol systems for integration on ATR 72 aircraft in service  with the Turkish Navy. Seven of these have already been delivered to the SSM.  The 19 mission systems are based on Thales’s AMASCOS solution (Airborne MAritime  Situation & Control System).

The four initial standard aircraft underwent significant modifications to  accommodate the mission system and have completed airworthiness qualification by  the DGA in France. Turkish Navy pilots and aircrews have been trained with the  new aircraft and mission systems and performed a series of test flights covering  a range of operational mission profiles: surveillance, search and rescue, target  designation, anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine  warfare. On the basis of these test flights, the aircraft have been accepted  into operational service.

The initial standard aircraft provide the Turkish Navy with an operational  maritime patrol capability.

Mr Yakup TAŞDELEN, Department Head in SSM, said: “this delivery marks a true  milestone in the development of our maritime patrol capability. The Turkish Navy  can now rely on Thales state-of-the art solution to conduct their mission.”

Pierre Eric Pommellet emphasised: “the climate of confidence and dedication  which drove Thales and its partners during the last couple of years and which  made possible the delivery of a solution tailored to the operational need of our  customer.” Pommellet added “Thales is now looking forward to delivering the next  systems to the Navy and to the Coast Guard.”

This success marks a major milestone in the Meltem II programme and is a  further endorsement of the high level of maturity of the AMASCOS solution. It  consolidates Thales’s market leadership in maritime patrol systems and its  positioning as a world-class systems supplier and integrator offering a wide  range of mission systems to meet the specific requirements of forces around the  world.

Designed around a latest-generation integrated tactical command system, the  AMASCOS solution ties together multiple sensors – radar, FLIR, ESM, acoustic  system, AIS, MAD, SLAR radar, IR/UV scanner – to detect, identify and track  threats, maintain real-time tactical situation awareness, manage NATO and  national tactical datalinks and deploy onboard weapon systems.


Turkish president says downing of fighter cannot be ignored

Turkish President Abdullah Gul

Turkish President Abdullah Gül said today it was not possible to ignore the fact that Syria had shot down a Turkish fighter jet and said everything that needed to be done following the incident would be done, Turkish media reported.

“It is not possible to cover over a thing like this, whatever is necessary will be done,” Gul was quoted as saying by state news agency Anatolia. It was not immediately clear where he was speaking.
Gul said it was routine for jets travelling at high speed to cross borders for a short distance. He said an investigation into the incident would look at whether the plane was downed in Turkish airspace, media reported.

Gul also said Ankara had been in telephone contact with Damascus and that a search operation for the plane and missing pilots was still under way.

“Syria shot Turkish plane without warning” Ankara says

The Turkish government has refuted a statement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry that said Damascus acted in self-defense in shooting down a Turkish warplane on June 22, Turkish sources told the Hürriyet Daily News today.

“We have necessary information showing that the Turkish plane was shot at without any warning,” an official source said on condition of anonymity.

“We are 100 percent right and the act of Syrian regime is against all dynamics of international law,” Ömer Çelik, the deputy chairman in charge of foreign policy for the ruling Justi ce and Development Party (AK Parti), said on his Twitter account. “All data about the incident confirms that.”

A more detailed announcement about Turkey’s reaction is expected to be made tomorrow (Sunday) morning by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who has attended all three high-level security meetings and has been engaged in intense diplomacy since the incident took place.

One June 22, a Turkish F-4 Phantom reconnaissance plane which took off from an air base in the eastern province of Malatya, which also hosts the NATO-run missile shield radar, was shot down by Syria’s air defense system near the Syrian city of Latakia, which is close to the Russian naval base at Tartus.

The Syrian government said it shot down the plane in Syrian air space in self-defense before realizing that it was a Turkish plane. The aircraft’s two Turkish pilots are still missing.

Davutoğlu’s telephone diplomacy included the secretary general of the United Nations, the foreign ministers of all P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China and Germany), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Iran (which also called Ankara to “express concern”), the foreign and security commissioner of the European Union and the secretary general of the Arab League, a diplomatic source told the Daily News.

In another important development, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has asked for appointments from the leaders of the other three main political parties in the Turkish Parliament on Sunday in order to explain the details of the incident and discuss the matter, the Prime Minister’s Office has announced.

This is an unusual move and has caused speculation about a possible parliamentary decision which is a requirement for any foreign military action according to the Turkish Constitution. “We are not considering a military action now,” a source told the Daily News. “But we want to inform the opposition and we want to keep all options open.”

The opposition has taken an unusually calm stance regarding the downed plane. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP),  told reporters that there were “a lot of questions to ask” but that the situation currently had to be dealt with calmly.

Turkish-Syrian relations have been deteriorating since the Bashar al-Assad regime started to crush the Syrian opposition, which has been demanding more rights as a result of the Arab Spring.

Currently there are more than 33,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, including 12 army officers above the rank of brigadier-general or higher. Also, the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army have their main headquarters in Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has recently denied press report saying that Ankara is financially supporting the smuggling of arms from the CIA to Syrian opposition groups.


Brazil and Turkey, a Natural Defense Partnership Deepens

The defense ministers of Brazil and Turkey met in Brazil last month, where they signed a letter of intent to improve bilateral military ties and increase technology transfers. In an email interview, Oliver Stuenkel, an assistant professor of international relations at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, discussed the military relationship between Brazil and Turkey.

WPR: What is the extent of the current defense relationship between Brazil and Turkey in terms of military-to-military relations and defense-industrial ties?

Oliver Stuenkel
: The defense relationship between Brazil and Turkey is still small and incipient, yet in 2003, Brazil and Turkey signed an agreement to work together in defense matters. As with the broader bilateral relationship, there is significant potential for stronger cooperation in defense. The recently signed letter of intent formalizes a move to “develop cooperation between the defense industries of both countries, including technology transfer and joint projects.”

An initial focus will lie on initiating personnel exchanges between the armed forces, developing platforms for regular meetings and knowledge exchange, and working together on issues around cybercrime. For example, Turkish soldiers are set to participate in a Brazilian military center that focuses on jungle warfare in the Brazilian Amazon. Both Brazil and Turkey are keen on increasing their capacity to develop modern military technology on their own rather than depending on foreign equipment. In some areas this is already the case — as with Brazil’s Embraer — but neither country currently possesses cutting-edge knowledge in naval technology, space technology, defense against cyberattacks or unmanned aircraft. The ability to develop such technology would not only provide both countries with greater strategic autonomy, but also allow them to export high-tech military equipment.

WPR: What are the main opportunities and challenges for the two as they attempt to strengthen the relationship?

: While they face very different regional security threats, both countries are intent on modernizing their armed forces. Brazil, for example, is keen on strengthening its naval capacity as it seeks to boost its dissuasive force to protect the natural resources located off the Brazilian coast in the South Atlantic. With commercial shipping trends dramatically increasing the strategic importance of the South Atlantic, the Brazilian government is also beginning to articulate a vision for a South Atlantic Security Space. It is currently building a fleet of nuclear and diesel-engine submarines to give it a meaningful presence there.

At the same time, both Brazil and Turkey may increasingly assume political tasks that require them to increase their military capacity. Brazil is engaging in defense cooperation with many of its neighbors, and has led the Minustah peacekeeping mission in Haiti since 2004. The Brazilian army is now withdrawing from Haiti, but we can expect to see a growing number of Brazilian peacekeepers in many future conflicts around the world.

NATO-member Turkey has an active deployment in Afghanistan, and its soldiers participate in U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world, including difficult missions such as the ones in Lebanon, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

WPR: What are both sides looking for from heightened defense ties, in terms of both political goals and concrete outcomes?

: Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly over the last decade, both Brazil and Turkey have sought to diversify their partnerships. Turkey continues to be a candidate for European Union accession, but it has also established stronger ties with other rising powers such as India and China. In addition, it has built an impressive diplomatic presence in Africa, indicating that Turkey may seek to extend its sphere of influence to all the territory that once formed the Ottoman Empire. Brazil, for its part, has spent the past decade strengthening ties to Africa as well as emerging states such as China, India and Turkey. In addition, the Brazilian-Turkish partnership is an important element in both countries’ strategies to strengthen their global economic and political presence. For Turkey, Brazil is the most important actor in South America, while Turkey is Brazil’s preferred partner and platform to strengthen its presence in the Middle East.


Lockheed Martin remains sole bidder for new frigates

U.S. defense industry giant Lockheed Martin has been left as the only bidder in the $3 billion project for the joint manufacture of six frigates for the Turkish navy after Ankara rejected the remaining contender BAE Systems’ proposal.

The project, however, may still not be awarded to Lockheed Martin if an agreement cannot be reached on the technical aspects of missile integration. Such an eventuality would cause the project to be shelved and then reshaped.

The long-delayed project envisions the TF-2000 frigate as a regional anti-air warfare vessel that would respond to aerial threats and also provide support functions such as command control, communication, reconnaissance and early warning. It would be bigger, heavier and more efficient in terms of war capacity than the vessels the navy has today.

The Defense Ministry last month sent a letter informing their British counterparts that Turkey was “no longer interested” in BAE Systems’ offer, an official familiar with the tender told the Hürriyet Daily News.

BAE is currently working on a new type of frigate, Type 26, which is internationally known as the Global Combat Ship (GCS). “BAE has already started the project. It was late to join. Our needs would have increased the cost. Or we would have had to review our requirements in accordance with the British Navy, but our requirements are different. BAE had also asked for a ‘license fee.’ The partnership offer would have become a model in which Turkey was financing BAE’s project,” the source told the Daily News.

Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretary of Defense Industries (SSM), has come close to formally selecting Lockheed Martin, but it needs to hear the Turkish Navy’s decision on the choice of missile systems, which is the most critical part of the project. The ship will be designed according to the missile systems, because of their enormous weight.

Missile Issue

Selecting the Lockheed SM2 missile system would simplify everything, as it is not heavy. The SM3 system would mean more negotiations on many aspects. It has a wider range, which means that the system would overlap with some of the Air Forces’ air defense duty. Missile integration is another subject to be solved.

Lockheed uses AN/SPY1 radar, while Turkish company Aselsan has started working on a smaller system called Multifunctional Phased Array Radar project (ÇAFRAD). Lockheed Martin has a Ship Integrated War Administration System called Aegis, which includes the AN/SPY1 radar, but Turkish Havelsan has already manufactured a smaller version called Genesis. Turkey wants ÇAFRAD to be inserted into AN/SPY1, Genesis to replace Aegis, and this combination to be integrated with the SM3 system.

If the two sides fail to resolve the missile integration question, then a second option will be considered. Turkey has successfully manufactured a corvette under the so-called Milgem project.

Milgem would be re-designed to manufacture a light frigate for air defense warfare and would be named TF100. “We have to develop something based on Milgem or we will waste all our know-how,” an industry source said.


Brazil, Turkey vow to deepen military ties

Brazil and Turkey’s defense chiefs vowed Monday to boost military ties and  technology transfers between the two emerging nations.

At a meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim and his  visiting counterpart Ismet Yilmaz signed a letter of intent formalizing a move  to “develop cooperation between the defense industries of both countries,  including technology transfer and joint projects.”

Yilmaz, at the start of a week-long visit to Brazil, has expressed interest  in the South American nation’s aerospace technologies, cybernetics and the  unmanned aerial craft.

At a leadership meeting in October, the two countries moved toward a closer  relationship with vows to boost trade and strengthen ties.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on a visit to Ankara that trade  between the two countries stood at $2 billion in 2011, and Turkey’s President  Abdullah Gul said the countries have a target of reaching $10 billion “in a very  short period of time.”

Co-development of a new regional airliner by Brazilian aerospace giant Embraer and Turkey’s TAI is expected to be among the projects topping their bilateral agenda.


US, Turkey to produce 600 Blackhawks

Turkey and the U.S. are seeking to sell some 500 “made in Turkey” Blackhawk helicopters to third countries, according to Francis J. Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara. “We will see over 600 Blackhawk helicopters, very high technology helicopters, produced here in Turkey. The great majority of these helicopters will go to third markets, third countries,” said Ricciardone during a Turkish-American business council lunch in Istanbul on May 4.

Around one hundred of these helicopters will be used by the Turkish Armed Forces, the ambassador confirmed. U.S. firm Sikorsky Aircraft won a $3.5 billion competition in April 2011 to lead the production of more than 100 large utility helicopters for Turkey over Italy’s AgustaWestland. The defense firm is mainly set to cooperate with local Alp Aviation in production. Along with Alp,
Ricciardone said some other important firms would also contribute to the making of the utility helicopters.

Sikorsky also became the first major international company to formally announce it would also seek to win the light utility helicopter contest in May last year. However, no exact date had been decided for the production of Blackhawks, said an Alp Aviation spokesperson.

Possible buyers were also not clear yet, public relations representative Melek Akdoğan told the Hürriyet Daily News during a phone interview on May 4.

Riccardione also said that the U.S. supported Turkey’s ambitious 2023 target to become one of the world’s largest 10 economies.

“Yesterday I met with the representatives of Turkey’s Economy Ministry and we had talks with more than 70 firms,” he said during his speech.

“The ministry found a chance to show them all the opportunities in Turkey,” he said.

The envoy also said that Turkey and the U.S. should cooperate more in the fields of defense, technology, information and aerospace, adding that the dynamism in the Turkish economy could be seen by the newly built roads, airports, residences and malls across the country.