US scraps tons of gear as it leaves Afghanistan

The US military has destroyed more than 77,000 metric tons of military equipment — including mine-resistant troop transport  vehicles — as it prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan in late 2014, the  Washington Post reported Thursday.

More than $7 billion worth of military equipment is no longer needed, or  would be too expensive to ship back to the United States, and much of it is  being shredded and sold locally as scrap metal, the Post reported, citing US  military officials.

Donating the gear to the Afghan government is difficult because of  complicated bureaucratic rules, plus US officials do not believe the Afghans  could maintain the gear.

Plus, it would also be too expensive to sell or donate the gear to allied  nations because of the cost of getting the equipment out of Afghanistan.

Items being shredded by contract workers from Nepal and other countries for  sale as scrap metal include mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, the Post  said.

More than 24,000 MRAPs were built for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan starting  in 2007 in a crash program that cost some $45 billion, according to Pentagon  figures.

The MRAPs’ V-shaped hulls help deflect the force of explosions, and the  vehicle’s higher chassis keeps troops further from the main force of the blast  from improvised explosive devices.

US commanders believe the MRAPs helped save thousands of soldiers’ lives, and  cite figures that show the number of casualties from IEDs dropped more than 80  percent after the vehicles were introduced.

Some 2,000 of the 11,000 MRAPs in Afghanistan have been labeled “excess,” the  Post reported.

“We’re making history doing what we’re doing here,” Major General Kurt Stein,  who is overseeing the Afghanistan drawdown, told the newspaper. “This is the  largest retrograde mission in history.”

When the US military withdrew from Iraq it drove much of its gear across the  border into Kuwait, sent it back home on ships, or donated it to the Iraqi army, which has  the infrastructure to maintain vehicles with complicated mechanics.

US officials however told the Post they do not believe the Afghan army could  maintain such vehicles or other sophisticated equipment.


Netanyahu Pressured on Palestine Peace Freeze

TEL AVIV — Escalating pressures from abroad and within are pushing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to clarify once and for all his coalition government’s policy on two-state peace with the Palestine Authority (PA).

As world leaders, movie stars and other luminaries converged here last week to honor Israeli President Shimon Peres on his 90th birthday, Netanyahu was graciously supportive yet noncommittal to the nonagenarian’s US- and EU-backed vision of a secure Israel living alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state.

But Netanyahu is finding it increasingly difficult to bridge international expectations for a two-state peace with the gaping domestic dissent shaking his three-month-old government. With US Secretary of State John Kerry visiting the region this week to reactivate talks, Netanyahu soon will be forced to reconcile his professed, albeit conditional, support for a Palestinian state with prominent naysayers within his top ranks.

“Netanyahu can no longer count on the convenience of ambiguity to stave off competing constituencies. He’ll very soon have to reveal his true face with regard to the two-state solution,” said Alon Pincas, a former Israeli consul-general in New York who participated in  rounds of Palestinian peace talks.

In a week of events honoring Peres, the sole surviving partner of a 1993 agreement with PA, Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone, Bill Clinton and other celebrities joined forces in prodding the Netanyahu government back to the negotiating table. From Streisand’s nationally televised song of prayer to Clinton’s insistence that there is no “credible alternative… for preserving Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state,” high-profile visitors exhorted Israel to embrace the two-state plan.

“Democracy is not only majority rule, but also minority rights,” Clinton said in an address at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot, south of here.

Referring to the nearly 2.7 million Palestinians — according to latest CIA estimates — living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Clinton said, “The question [the Israeli public has to] confront is, is it really OK with you if Israel has people in its territory that will never be allowed to vote? If so, can you say with a straight face that this is a democracy? If you let them vote, can you live with not being a Jewish state?”

Closer to home, Netanyahu’s professed Palestine policy was openly maligned by leaders in his own government, some of whom threatened to quash any meaningful steps toward a two-state deal.

Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s political partner in the coalition government who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, suggested Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Ramallah is destined to fail, with negative consequences for both sides.

“If you keep spreading around hopes and expectations all the time and they cannot be realized, it only ends up causing disappointment and frustration,” said Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister in absentia pending a verdict in his ongoing corruption trial.

Netanyahu was further embarrassed by his minister for economy and trade, who essentially eulogized the notion of a Palestinian state and called for Israeli annexation of most of the West Bank.

In an  intemperate June 19 address to a conference of Jewish settlers, Naftali Bennett said: “The idea of creating a Palestinian state is over.”

Israeli Justice Minister Tsipi Livni, Netanyahu’s lead negotiator with the Palestinians, has repeatedly threatened to quit the coalition if the Israeli premier cannot muzzle hardliners bent on undermining resumed peace talks.

Stabilizing Force

Meanwhile, at a June 18 meeting in Jerusalem with diplomats and foreign press, Israel’s top commander in the West Bank presented an operational assessment that appeared to support both sides of the two-state divide.

Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Central Command, said the shuttle diplomacy by Kerry had a stabilizing influence on the Palestinian streets of the West Bank.

Nevertheless, he said Hamas, the extreme Muslim authority in Gaza that rejects Israel’s right to exist, was maneuvering for control over the largely secular Fatah organization administering the PA in the West Bank.

“Hamas is restrained in Gaza, but trying to translate its vision into a plan to dominate Palestinian society in the West Bank,” Alon told the gathering at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “But I don’t think Hamas can get into power as long as we are on the ground.”

The commander credited Kerry’s push for resumed peace talks for a halt in PA financing and other forms of support for grassroots activity against the Israeli occupation.

“The last couple of months of intense American involvement has had a positive influence on the ground. The PA has almost stopped financing groups dealing with riots and protests against Israel,” said Alon.

At the same time, the IDF commander warned that expectations generated by ongoing diplomacy could trigger renewed violence should Kerry fail to relaunch peace talks. “If this happens, I’m afraid we’ll see the strain of escalation strengthened,” Alon said.

Defense News

British MoD Shut UFO Desk After Finding No Threat

LONDON — Britain’s defence ministry shut down its UFO unit four years ago after concluding that extra-terrestrials likely did not exist, and in any case did not pose a threat, previously secret files released Friday showed.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) closed its hotline in 2009 despite a trebling of reported sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) that year, many of them near national landmarks.

In a briefing for then-Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth, civil servant Carl Mantell said the UFO desk was using increasing amounts of staff time but had “no valuable defense output.”

He wrote in a memo that in more than 50 years, “no UFO sighting reported to (MoD) has ever revealed anything to suggest an extra-terrestrial presence or military threat to the UK.”

It added: “The level of resources diverted to this task is increasing in response to a recent upsurge in reported sightings, diverting staff from more valuable defence-related activities.”

The National Archives files reveal details of sightings recorded in the two years before the UFO desk was disbanded, including those around the Houses of Parliament and Stonehenge.

Between 2000 and 2007, the MoD received an average of 150 reports a year, but 520 sightings were recorded in the 11 months to November 2009, according to a briefing in the files.

Officials said one possible reason for the surge could have been the trend for releasing Chinese lanterns, which appear like floating lights in the sky.

Many sightings were made in the summer months by people out walking their dogs, having barbecues and, in one case, relaxing in a hot tub.

Defense News

US Pushing Hard To Sell Javelins to France

The US joint venture that builds the Javelin anti-tank missile came through town recently to introduce a new senior executive, underscoring American industry’s hot pursuit of a contract for a medium-range weapon for the French Army, sources briefed on the issue said.

The Javelin joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Raytheon presented its new business development manager for France, Ken Alexander, the week of April 15 to officials of the Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) procurement office and Army head­quarters, two sources said.

The company executives gave an update on the Javelin modernization program in a bid to replace the French Army’s aging MBDA Milan missiles. The visit follows  a presentation by the joint venture in June.

That puts Javelin in head-to-head combat with European missile maker MBDA, which hopes to develop and build a new weapon under the planned missile moyenne portée (MMP), medium-range missile program.

“MBDA is still the front-runner,” one source said.

But the Javelin joint venture is still pursuing a French order. Up to now, the requirement has been for 3,000 replacement missiles.

The US side raises questions as to whether there  will  be money to develop a new weapon and whether MBDA will be able to deliver by mid-2017, when the Milan is taken out of service, the source said.

MBDA confirmed that work started on MMP in 2010, with some funding from the DGA in late 2011 for the assessment phase, a company spokesman said.

“Work is on track for delivery to start in 2017 to avoid any capability gap when the Milan is withdrawn from the French Army,” the spokesman said.

Although a program decision has not been taken due to financial uncertainty, planners see MBDA’s role as a given in the upcoming military budget law, a defense specialist said. That’s partly because MBDA acts as a channel for British-French cooperation, which  could one day lead to a common long-range version of the MMP that could replace the US Hellfire on the Tiger attack helicopter, the specialist said. Such cooperation between Britain and France makes a selection of the US-made Javelin seem impossible, the specialist said.

For the Americans, a lack of French defense money is seen as a powerful ally in their push for the Javelin. For MBDA, however, there are hopes the ministerial investment committee will decide on a program launch of MMP in June or July, with July 21 ringed in on some calendars.

MBDA Chief Executive Antoine Bouvier has said MMP is one of the three big decisions this year, along with an anti-ship missile dub­bed anti-navire léger, and boost­ing range on the Aster Block 1 air defense weapon.

A second defense specialist said the  defense staff chief sees the MMP as “the priority of priorities,” more so than the anti-ship missile.

Javelin’s Pros and Cons

The Javelin joint venture, meanwhile, points to the US Army’s order for a modernized model to enter service in 2016.

That clears the way for  a first delivery to France in 2016 or 2017, and in time for the Milan replacement date.

Under the US Javelin cost reduction initiative, which would cut unit prices by 25 percent,  the request  is to extend the range beyond the existing requirement  of 2.5 kilometers of the current model.

In firings on a US Army test range late last year, the Javelin in-service model hit targets at 4.7 kilometers, with one missile missing the target and going out to 5 kilometers, the second source said. Therefore, the tests show the current model already has the longer range.

The Javelin, however, is designed as a fire-and-forget weapon, while the French Army calls for a man in the loop to limit harm to civilians. The  joint venture offers fire-and-forget in Phase I, and adaptation to French needs under a possible MBDA co-development in a later phase.

The US Army is expected to keep the Javelin in its inventory to 2050, which allows the European local partner to sign up for a spiral development if France picked the weapon.

The US is open to co-development, seen as a necessity given budget cuts. The joint venture is also negotiating with the US government for a multiyear contract for the Javelin, intended to lower costs.

Another argument for the Javelin is French interoperability with British and US forces, which both use the weapon and are often deployed alongside in multinational missions, the first source said.

French officials have ruled out the Rafael Spike missile for undisclosed reasons, the source said.

MBDA displayed a model of the MMP at its stand at the special operations forces innovations network seminar, a trade show and conference near Bordeaux, which ran April 9-11.

The European company has signed an export contract for an undisclosed client for its Milan extended response weapon, a company executive said at the show. Milan ER, developed using  company money,  lost to Javelin in 2009, when the French Army picked the US missile for troops in Afghanistan.

Anti-tank weapons are among the arms key to  special operations forces, according to  a glossy brochure produced by the French special operations command.

President François Hollande has said the 2014 defense budget will be the same as this year’s, but there is still huge doubt how that figure will be reached, leaving uncertainty over what new programs will be picked.


Greece’s crackdown targets immigrants

Greece plans to  deport 1,600 illegal immigrants following a twin-pronged crackdown by police in  central Athens and along the border with Turkey, a main entry point to the EU  used by people traffickers, a police official said on Monday.

Some 6,000 immigrants were detained over the weekend in the biggest police  operation in the capital for several years, though many were later released, the  same official said.

At the same time about 1,800 police officers were posted to the 200km  Greek-Turkish border marked by the river Evros to join Greek soldiers and the  EU’s Frontex mission patrolling the river bank.

The unprecedented crackdown followed a sharp increase this year in the  numbers of illegal arrivals from Turkey, with an estimated 120 migrants a day  managing to avoid the military patrols. Most illegal entrants head for Athens to  join large communities of African and Asian migrants and asylum seekers hoping  to make their way to northern Europe.

Athens has faced criticism  from EU partners over its handling of illegal immigration because of the  failure to stem the flow of arrivals. It is also accused of foot-dragging over  plans to set up reception centres for illegal immigrants with EU funding.

An official at the public order ministry said the latest measures were  intended to address two issues: an expected surge in illegal immigration as  refugees from the conflict in Syria sought shelter in the EU, and mounting  problems with drugs and crime involving immigrants living in poor conditions in  central Athens.

Nikos Dendias, the public order minister, said: ”The immigration issue is a  ticking bomb in the foundations of our society and state . . . We will handle it  with full respect for human rights and European regulations.”

“Illegal immigrants have been without human rights, living in unhealthy  conditions and conned by smuggling rings into believing they would be able to  find a job and travel within Europe.”

About 8,000 immigrants have applied to leave Greece under a voluntary  repatriation programme arranged by the International Organisation for Migration,  paid for out by EU funds.

Eliamep, an Athens think-tank, estimated last year that more than 450,000  illegal immigrants were living in Greece, amid rising social tension as  unemployment soared among Greeks because of the economic crisis.

The far-right Golden  Dawn party, accused of staging racist attacks in Athens, sometimes in  collusion with the police, entered parliament for the first time this year on an  anti-immigrant platform.

Financial Times

The Specter of Syrian Chemical Weapons

By Scott Stewart

The unraveling of the al Assad regime in Syria will produce many geopolitical  consequences. One potential consequence has garnered a great deal of media  attention in recent days: the possibility of the regime losing control of its  chemical weapons stockpile. In an interview aired July 30 on CNN, U.S. Secretary  of Defense Leon Panetta said it would be a “disaster to have those chemical  weapons fall into the wrong hands — hands of Hezbollah or other extremists in  that area.” When he mentioned other extremists, Panetta was referring to local and transnational  jihadists, such as members of the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been  fighting with other opposition forces against the Syrian regime. He was also  referring to the many Palestinian militant groups such as Hamas and the Popular  Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which have long had a  presence in Syria and until recently have been supported by the al Assad  regime.

The fear is that the jihadists will obtain chemical weapons to use in  terrorist attacks against the West. Israel is also concerned that Palestinian  groups could use them in terrorist attacks inside Israel or that Hezbollah could  use such weapons against the Israelis in a conventional military battle.  However, while the security of these weapons is a legitimate concern, it is  important to recognize that there are a number of technical and practical  considerations that will limit the impact of these weapons even if a militant  group were able to obtain them.

Militant Use of Chemical Weapons

Militant groups have long had a fascination with chemical weapons. One of the  largest non-state chemical and biological weapons programs in history belonged  to the Aum Shinrikyo  organization in Japan. The group had large production facilities located in  an industrial park that it used to produce thousands of gallons of ineffective  biological agents. After the failure of its biological program, it shifted its  focus to chemical weapons production and conducted a number of attacks using  chemical agents such as hydrogen cyanide gas, phosgene and VX and sarin nerve  agents.

Jihadists have also demonstrated an interest in chemical weapons. The  investigation of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing found that bombmaker Abdul  Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) had added sodium cyanide to the large vehicle-borne  improvised explosive device detonated in the Trade Center’s basement parking  garage. The cyanide was either consumed or so widely scattered by the huge blast  that its effects were not noticed at the time of the attack. The presence of the  cyanide was only uncovered after investigators found a list of the chemicals  ordered by conspirator Nidal Ayyad and debriefed Basit after his arrest.

In his testimony at his 2001 trial for the Millennium Bomb plot, Ahmed Ressam  described training he had received at al Qaeda’s Deronta facility in Afghanistan  for building a hydrogen cyanide device. Ressam said members of the group had  practiced their skills, using the gas to kill a dog that was confined in a small  box.

Videos found by U.S. troops after the invasion of Afghanistan supported  Ressam’s testimony — as did confiscated al Qaeda training manuals that  contained recipes for biological toxins and chemical agents, including hydrogen  cyanide gas. The documents recovered in Afghanistan prompted the CIA to  publish a report on al Qaeda’s chemical and biological weapons program that  created a lot of chatter in late 2004.

There have been other examples as well. In February 2002, Italian authorities  arrested several Moroccan men who were found with about 4 kilograms (9 pounds)  of potassium ferrocyanide and allegedly were planning to attack the U.S. Embassy  in Rome.

In June 2006, Time magazine broke the story of an alleged  al Qaeda plot to attack subways in the United States using improvised  devices designed to generate hydrogen cyanide gas. The plot was reportedly  aborted because the al Qaeda leadership feared it would be ineffective.

In 2007, jihadist militants deployed a series of large  vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices augmented with chlorine gas  against targets in Iraq. However, the explosives in these attacks inflicted far  more casualties than the gas. This caused the militants to deem the addition of  chlorine to the devices as not worth the effort, and the Iraqi jihadists  abandoned their chemical warfare experiment in favor of employing vehicle-borne  improvised explosive devices without a chemical kicker.

There have also been several credible reports in Iraq of militants using  chemical artillery rounds in improvised explosive device attacks against  coalition forces, but those attacks also appear to have been largely  ineffective.

Difficult to Employ

Using chemical munitions on the battlefield presents a number of challenges.  The first of these is sufficiently concentrating the chemical agent to affect  the targeted troops. In order to achieve heavy concentrations of the agent,  chemical weapon attacks were usually delivered by a massive artillery  bombardment using chemical weapons shells. Soviet military chemical weapons  doctrine relied heavily on weapons systems such as batteries of BM-21 multiple  rocket launchers, which can be used to deliver a massive amount of ordnance to a  targeted area. Additionally, it is very difficult to control the gas cloud  created by the massive barrage. There were instances in World War I and in the  Iran-Iraq War in which troops were affected by chemical weapon clouds that had  been created by their own artillery but had blown back upon them.

Delivering a lethal dose is also a problem in employing chemical weapons in  terrorist attacks, as seen by the attacks outlined above. For example, in the  March 20, 1995, attack on the Tokyo subway system, Aum Shinrikyo members  punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin on five different subway trains.  Despite the typically very heavy crowds on the trains and in the Tokyo subway  stations that morning, the attacks resulted in only 12 deaths — although  thousands of other commuters were sickened by the attack, some severely.

The Syrian regime is thought to have mustard gas as well as tabun, sarin  and VX nerve agents in its chemical weapons inventory. Mustard gas, a blistering  agent, is the least dangerous of these compounds. In World War I, less than 5  percent of the troops who were exposed to mustard gas died. Tabun and sarin tend  to be deployed in a volatile liquid form that evaporates to form a gas. Once in  gas form, these agents tend to dissipate somewhat quickly. VX, on the other  hand, a viscous nerve agent, was developed to persist in an area after it is  delivered in order to prevent an enemy force from massing in or passing through  that area. While VX is more persistent, it is more difficult to cause a mass  casualty attack with it since droplets of the liquid agent must come into  contact with the victim, unlike other agents that evaporate to form a large  cloud.

But there are other difficulties besides delivering a lethal dose. Because of  improvements in security measures and intelligence programs since 9/11, it has  proved very difficult for jihadists to conduct attacks in the West, even when  their attack plans have included using locally manufactured explosives. There  have been numerous cases in which plots have either failed, like the May  2010 Times Square attack involving Faisal Shahzad, or been detected and  thwarted, like the September  2009 plot to attack the New York subway system involving Najibullah  Zazi.

Because of the improved security, it would be very difficult for jihadists to  smuggle chemical agents into the United States or Europe, even if they were able  to obtain them. Indeed, as mentioned above, the chemical artillery rounds used  in improvised explosive devices in Iraq were employed in that country, not  smuggled out of the region.

This means that jihadists not only face the tactical problem of effectively  employing the agent in an attack but also the logistical problem of transporting  it to the West. This difficulty of transport will increase further as awareness  of the threat increases. One way around the logistical problem would be to use  the agent against a soft target  in the region. Such targets could include hotels, tourist sites, airport  arrival lounges or even Western airliners departing from airports with less than  optimal security.

Another option for jihadists or Palestinian militants could be to attempt to  smuggle the chemical agent into Israel for use in an attack. However, in recent  years, increased security measures following past suicide bombing attacks in  Israel have caused problems for militant groups smuggling weapons into Israel.  The same problems would apply to chemical agents — especially since border  security has already been stepped up again due to the increased flow of weapons  from Libya to Gaza.

Militants could attempt to solve this logistical challenge by launching a  warhead or a barrage of warheads into Israel using rockets, but such militant  rocket fire tends to be very inaccurate and, like conventional rocket warheads,  these chemical warheads would be unlikely to hit any target of value. Even if a  rocket landed in a populated area, it would be unlikely to produce many  casualties due to the problem of creating a lethal concentration of the agent —  although it would certainly cause a mass panic.

The use of chemical weapons would also undoubtedly spur Israel to retaliate  heavily in order to deter additional attacks. This threat of massive retaliation  has kept Syria from using chemical weapons against Israel or allowing its  militant proxies to use them.

Hezbollah may be the militant organization in the region that could most  effectively utilize Syrian chemical munitions. The group possesses a large  inventory of artillery rockets, which could be used to deliver the type of  barrage attack required for a successful chemical weapon attack. Rumors have  been swirling around the region for many months that Libyan rebels sold some  chemical munitions to Hezbollah and Hamas. While we have seen confirmed reports  that man-portable air-defense systems and other Libyan weapons are being  smuggled into Sinai en route to Gaza, there has been no confirmation that  chemical rounds are being smuggled out of Libya.

Still, even if Hezbollah were to receive a stockpile of chemical munitions  from Syria or Libya, it has a great deal to lose by employing such munitions.  First, it would have to face the aforementioned massive retaliation from Israel.  While Israel was somewhat constrained in its attacks on Hezbollah’s leadership  and infrastructure in the August 2006 war, it is unlikely to be nearly as  constrained in responding to a chemical weapon attack on its armed forces or a  population center. Because of the way chemical weapons are viewed, the Israelis  would be seen internationally as having just cause for massive retaliation.  Second, Hezbollah would face severe international repercussions over any such  attack. As an organization, Hezbollah has been working for many years to  establish itself as a legitimate political party in Lebanon and avoid being  labeled as a terrorist organization in Europe and elsewhere. A chemical weapon  attack would bring heavy international condemnation and would not be in the  group’s best interest at this time.

So, while securing Syrian chemical munitions is an imperative, there are  tactical and practical constraints that will prevent militants from creating the  type of nightmare scenario discussed in the media, even if some chemical weapons  fell into the wrong hands.


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.


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.


Turkey’s changing role in NATO

A two-day NATO Summit in Chicago was concluded May 21 with the adoption of a new “Smart Defense” strategy, just as it had been announced in advance.

The 28 members agreed to coordinate use of their military resources under dire circumstances of global economic difficulties to overcome global threats together.

In an environment where the United States is in the process of shifting its focus from the Atlantic-Europe zone to the Pacific-Asia zone, the new NATO strategy fits into American needs to entrust interests in the Atlantic-European zone to their allies there by providing them new ways, means and tools to do that. And lessening the burden on its shoulders is one of the reasons behind all that smart defense resource sharing thing.

The missile shield is an important part of that strategy. The shield project, which NATO said yesterday was officially in active use, consists of five units: The command center in Ramstein, Germany, the intercepting missiles on board the U.S. missile ships off the Spanish coasts, land-based missile batteries in Poland and Romania, as well as an early warning radar site in Kürecik, Turkey. A White House Fact Sheet yesterday revealed that only the Kürecik radar, an AN/TPY-2 type one (which has been effectively in use since January) has been transferred by U.S. President Barack Obama from U.S. to NATO operational control; the others will remain U.S. sites.

There is a detail here. Israel has the same radar on its soil, and if that radar would fully satisfy the U.S.’ needs, it would be hard to find any reason why Washington would ask Ankara to hear their needs and demands in return. NATO control, of course, gives a different hand to Turkey vis-à-vis its relations with northern neighbor Russia and eastern neighbor Iran; both are not very happy because of the presence of the radar as they feel like the targets.

Turkey comes into this picture in a different way. When the U.S. focus was on the Atlantic-Europe zone, Turkey was on the eastern fringe bordering Russia and the energy basins of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea; now in the Pacific-Asia focus, Turkey remains in the picture at the western fringe and with the capabilities to have an influence on the Islamic political geography. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in Pakistan yesterday to discuss their future role in Afghanistan on behalf of the Western alliance while the Western leaders were discussing the same issue in Chicago some ten thousand miles away.

These qualities bring an upgraded role to Turkey in the NATO system as well and are not limited to a new (Land Forces in İzmir) command and more officers. It is a political one and in order to enhance it, the U.S. and major European allies are seeking two improvements in two main fields: Upgraded democratic standards which are expected to come with the new constitution that is being prepared and better relations with the neighborhood – that usually means Israel, Cyprus and Armenia nowadays. If the new coalition in Israel comes closer to an apology over the killing of nine Turks in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla tragedy, that could be a good start for the process.