Sunday, 12 August 2012

Submariners World Late Edition News SitRep

Syria opposition needs no-fly zone – rebel leader

­A Syrian opposition leader has said his fighters need a foreign-guarded no-fly zone over the country, as well as safe havens along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Jordan. His comments come a day after US State Secretary Hillary Clinton pointed out America and Turkey are considering measures to help the rebels, including a no-fly zone.

Afghanistan secretly contacts Taliban’s 2IC – reports

­Afghan officials have reportedly held secret talks with Taliban’s former second-in-command Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who has been in detention in Pakistan since 2010. The latest move could help reboot the Pakistan-brokered peace talks of the Afghan government with the terrorist network. It comes ahead of the planned 2014 foreign troops’ exodus from Afghanistan.

Peacekeepers deny Sinai attack as Egyptian soldiers kill Islamist militants

Peacekeepers in Sinai have denied they came under attack on Sunday, despite reports that gunmen opened fire on troops, according to the Jerusalem Post. In a separate incident, Egyptian soldiers killed at least six Islamist militants after storming their hideout in northern Sinai, AP reports. The troops found the insurgents as they searched for jihadists who killed 16 Egyptian border guards one week ago. No one has claimed responsibility for last week’s killings.

Terrorist act prevented in Afghanistan

­Afghan authorities, together with the coalition forces from NATO and ISAF, have prevented a major terrorist act in the country. This is according to a communique sent out by ISAF, which said "a number of insurgents were arrested as they were making their way to the capital, Kabul, to carry out an act of terrorism".

6.2 quake hits far-western China

­A strong quake measuring 6.2 has struck far-western China, with no initial reports of casualties or damage. However, the depth of the tremor was indicated at 30 kilometers, which increases the risk of harm to the area. The far-western region shaken by the quake is one of China’s most seismically active. It comes a day after Iran was struck by strong twin earthquakes, leaving 227 dead and at least 1,380 injured.

Arab League postpones meeting on Syria

Arab League foreign ministers have postponed to a later date a meeting in Saudi Arabia to discuss Syrian conflict, AFP sites top Arab League official as saying. Ministers were scheduled to meet on Sunday in the city of Jeddah. Arab bloc's Deputy Secretary General Ahmed Ben Helli said that they were going to discuss the latest developments in Syria and which policy actions to take after the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, resigned earlier this month.

August 13th - On This Date - USN Submarine Service

  • 1944 - USS Flier (SS-250) hits a mine in Balbac Strait and sinks in minutes. Thirteen men manage to exit the boat which was running on the surface at 15 knots. Eight manage to swim ashore on Mantangule Island. They were rescued by Coast Watcher units and the USS Redfin.

  • 1944 - USS Loggerhead (SS 374) is launched

  • 1945 - USS Sirago (SS 485) is commissioned

  • 1952 - USS Menhaden (SS 377) is decommissioned for the second time.

  • 1966 - Keel is laid for the USS Seahorse (SSN 669)

  • 1971 - USS Menhaden (SS 377) is decommissioned for the third and final time
  • August 12th - On This Date - USN Submarine Service

    • 1943 - Keel is laid for the USS Boarfish (SS 327)
    • 1972 - Keel is laid for the USS Philadelphia (SSN 690)
    • 1991 - USS Lafayette (SSBN 616) is decommissioned

    August 13th - On This Date - RN Submarine Service

    1908 C17 Submarine HMS C17 launched
    1910 C33 Submarine HMS C33 completed
    1943 Vortex Submarine HMS Vortex laid down
    1945 Anchorite Submarine HMS Anchorite laid down
    1945 Andrew Submarine HMS Andrew laid down
    1942 HMS Unbroken HMS Unbroken torpedoes and damages the Italian heavy cruiser Bolzano and the Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo in the Ionian Sea off the north coast of Sicily.
    1942 HMS United HMS United torpedoes and sinks the Italian transport ship Rosolino Pilo 50 nautical miles off Pantellaria.

    August 12th - On This Date - RN Submarine Service

    1918 R9 Submarine HMS R9 launched
    1919 L53 Submarine HMS L53 launched
    1917 Panama Canal Submarines HMCS CC 1 and CC 2 along with depot ship HMCS Shearwater become first ships flying the White Ensign to transit the Panama Canal
    1941 HMS Torbay HMS Torbay attacks an Italian convoy 4 nautical miles west of Benghazi, Libya. The four torpedoes fired against the Italian merchants Bosforo and Iseo all miss their targets and Torbay is heavily depth charged following this attack.
    1942 HMS Unshaken HMS Unshaken sinks the German merchant Georg L.M. Russ off Norway
    1942 HMS Porpoise HMS Porpoise lays a minefield (46 mines) off Ras el Tin, Libya and torpedoes and sinks the Italian transport Ogaden 9 nautical miles from Ras el Tin, Libya.
    1945 HMS Thorough HMS Thorough sinks the Malaysian sailing vessel Palange with gunfire off Bali.
    2000 Kursk The Russian nuclear submarine Kursk and its 118-man crew were lost during naval exercises in the Barents Sea

    US, Israel arranging roles in Iran war theater?

    Reports are surfacing of a US-Israeli plan to attack Iran’s ballistic missile batteries, giving Israel extra space to tackle Syria and Hezbollah. While no talks have been confirmed, anonymous sources claim that war plans have been put to paper.

    ­While it’s unclear how far-reaching the US and Israeli plans are, some say the allies have detailed intentions to destroy the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missiles – and let Israel launch an assault on Syria and Hezbollah to boot.

    An anonymous US military source told DEBKAfile, a website covering Israel-related security issues, that the US Air Force will be tasked with destroying Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile batteries. Each of these missiles has a range of 1,280 kilometers (800 miles), making them capable of reaching Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    Upgraded versions of the Shahab-3's can reach targets 2,000 kilometers away. In the past, Iran has warned that its missiles will always be ready to launch in case of an attack.

    By destroying the Shahabs-3's, Israel would be able to focus its energy on taking on perceived threats from Syria, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas, without having to worry about an attack from Iran, the official told DEBKAfile.

    And last weekend, an anonymous senior US official told an Israeli newspaper that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon had briefed Israeli authorities on a contingency plan, in case of a showdown with Iran.

    Israel has denied reports of such a plan, but last week’s talks between US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have still caused a heated debate.

    If tensions with Iran increase, some predict the US may attack the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities in an attempt to protect Israel, the source said in a briefing.

    But Tehran is only estimated to have between 30 and 40 of these missiles – a small number that could hardly make a dent during times of war. If used against the US and its allies, the missiles would be quickly destroyed by the American Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems and Israel's Arrow guided interceptor rockets.

    Even if the missiles had a chance to reach their targets, the military source told DEBKAfile that Iran would probably not waste them all at once.

    “They are too canny to leave themselves without some Shahabs in reserve for crises even more acute than the outbreak of war,” the source said.

    But Iran has other missiles. Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the fourth generation of high-precision Fateh-110 missiles, with a range of over 300 kilometers (185 miles), was successfully test-fired on Saturday, showing Iran's ability to strike targets in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    “Using new guidance methods, target-striking systems were installed on the missiles and during the flight test … its ability to hit the target without deviation was proven,” Vahidi told the IRNA news agency.

    Last month, the Pentagon reported that Iran is working on a missile capable of reaching the United States, and is aiming for completion of the project within the next three years.

    And after the US angered Tehran by voting for greater sanctions last week, war seems ever more likely. Israel is now upgrading its Arrow II ballistic missile shield, which is designed to neutralize incoming missiles at altitudes high enough for non-conventional warheads to disintegrate safely.

    And whether or not the US Army is ready for another war, the latest sanctions, combined with Iran’s ballistic missile testing, continue to escalate tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic.

    North Korea complains 'US, South terrorist plot' to blow up Kim monument

    Statues of the nation's former leaders Kim Il-Sung (L) and Kim Jong-Il (R)

    North Korea has asked the UN to condemn an alleged terrorist plot by the US and South Korea to discredit Pyongyang by blowing up a statue of the late Eternal President Kim Il-sung.

    The alleged plot first surfaced in mid-July, when a man identified as Jon Yong-chul gave details of his plan to demolish statues with a remotely controlled bomb in a press conference in Pyongyang. He claimed South Korean and American agents paid him and sent him across North Korea’s border with China to demolish a Kim Il-sung statue in a nearby town. He was caught during a reconnaissance mission as he was trying to return to China, he said.

    Seoul said Jon, 52, was a defector from the North, who came to South Korea in 2010. South’s officials called the plot allegations “completely false” and “propaganda not worth responding to.”

    Pyongyang now seeks international condemnation of the alleged “attempted hideous terrorism” conspiracy, according to a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report. DPRK has mailed details of case to a number of UN bodies, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Anti-Terror Committee of Security Council of the United Nations, as well as the UN secretary-general and the president of the UN General Assembly.

    Several North Korean groups also sent copies to other international organizations, the agency said Saturday.

    North Korea is dotted with statues of Kim Il-sung, who is the grandfather of the country’s current leader Kim Jong-un. They serve as places of veneration of the Kim dynasty. Some defector groups in South Korea consider targeting the statues to foment dissent against the regime.

    “I thought that destroying Kim Il-sung statues was the spark needed to trigger a democracy movement in North Korea,” defector Kim Song-min said, as cited by The New York Times. “But we never put our plan into action.”

    Kim Song-min said he had met Jon only once, around last autumn, but did not trust him.

    Some South Korean media described Jon as a drug addict and criminal, who failed to adapt to life in the country.

    Russia and Iran: Heading for divorce court?

    Relations between Moscow and Tehran are strained over Russia's decision to cancel a missile defense delivery.

    Unless Tehran retracts its lawsuit over Moscow's refusal to deliver S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, Russia will take a tougher stand on the Iranian nuclear issue, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday.

    "We have already made it clear to Iran that lawsuits are not helping the development of our relations,” the newspaper quoted a Russian presidential administration source as saying. “But our requests to retract these documents from court went unnoticed."

    Moscow is prepared to stop supporting Tehran over its nuclear program, he said.

    "Prior to the next session of the six international mediators, we will try to make our position heard once again by sending a government delegation to Tehran,” the Kremlin official told Kommersant. “And if Iran once again refuses to do so, it will have to sort out its nuclear issues in the international arena on its own."

    Last year, Russia-Iran relations hit the skids when Iranian Ambassador to Russia Seyed Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi announced that Tehran had filed a suit against Russia with an international court over the latter’s refusal to supply Iran with S-300 air defense missile systems.

    Moscow reacted with surprise at the announcement.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said it was "impossible" for Russia to reverse its decision due to a resolution by the UN Security Council.

    "Russia's implementation of the contract is impossible due to adopted resolution 1929 of the UN Security Council and presidential decree 1154… which defines the procedure for its implementation," the spokesman said.

    Meanwhile, EU Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Catherine Ashton said last week that the next stage of negotiations addressing the Iranian nuclear program would be held in late August.

    Vienna is expected to play host to talks between Iranian officials and representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency Secretariat, a source close to the IAEA Secretariat told the newspaper.

    Experts say the meeting between the Group of Six world powers and Iran may be Tehran’s last chance to come clean over its nuclear program, which several countries, including Israel and the United States, say is a cover for a nuclear weapons program.

    Commenting on the Kremlin sources’ statement, Sergey Demidenko, an analyst from the Institute of Strategic Evaluation and Analysis, said this was Russia’s way of sending a strong signal to Iran.

    “We are showing to Iran that we have powers, that we have the leverage to control the situation and, in particular, to put pressure on Tehran,” he told RIA Novosti.

    Demidenko believes the two sides will manage to resolve the dispute over the S-300 contract in an extrajudicial proceeding.

    “Eventually, they will come to an agreement,” he said. “It’s not a key issue in our relations with Iran. Work in Bushehr (where Russian specialists helped in the construction of the nuclear power plant) is a lot more important, since there remains the prospect for Russia to be admitted into Iranian gas projects.”

    According to Georgy Mirsky, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow was concerned that if the Islamic Republic got the S-300 missile systems, President Ahmadinejad would have his hands untied to develop a nuclear bomb.

    Russia’s refusal to ship the system to Tehran “was an absolutely correct and timely step,” Mirsky stressed, adding that the decision may have helped to halt a military conflict between Iran and Israel.

    “Israel will not sit and wait till one day it is announced that Iran has held underground nuclear testing,” he said.

    The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has said it has no evidence that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon at this time. Nevertheless, Israel has warned that “all options are on the table” unless Iran fully cooperate with IAEA inspectors, something it has failed to do thus far.

    Meanwhile, much of the rancor between Moscow and Tehran seems to have a lot to do with the amount of financial damages that Iran is seeking from Russia.

    According to the Iranians, they are not responsible for what appears to be an inflated sum.

    The Iranian Ambassador to Russia told the Izvestia newspaper that Tehran is looking to recover US$900 million dollars from Russia, not $4 billion as reported.

    Ambassador Sajjadi explained the extra $3 billion was a “punishment for Russia” that was added by the Geneva Court of Arbitration "without the knowledge of the Iranian side and against its will."

    Analysts say that such a significant increase in the size of the claim, however, would have been impossible to levy without Iran’s knowledge

    Sky jubilee: Russia celebrates century of its Air Force

    The world`s best pilots have arrived in Moscow as Russia starts celebrating the centennial of its Air Force. The three-day jubilee show will see Russian and foreign aviation aces performing their best stunts for thousands of viewers.

    ­More than a hundred aircraft and helicopters are taking part in the magnificent air-show taking place in the city of Zhukovsky just outside Moscow.

    Display teams from the UK, France, Finland, Turkey, Poland and other countries are part of the air festivities. Britain’s famous Red Arrows will perform in Russia for the first time in 22 years.

    Russia`s aerobatic teams Russkie Vityazi (Russian Knights) and Strizhi (the Swifts) will wrap up the three-day show on Sunday.

    The show will also include planes from the First World War and the Second World War.

    Russian aviation was established in 1912 during the rule of Tsar Nicholas II when the country`s Defense department created an air division within the General Staff.

    At first the division was mainly used for intelligence operations, but after Igor Sikorsky designed his famous Ilya Muromets airliner, long-range aviation began to develop as well.

    Moscow to spend over $720 bln on new military aircraft

    Serviceman of the Baltic fleet marines' reconnaissance group setting a Grusha unmanned air vehicle in flight at the Khmelevka military range, the testing grounds for air drones.

    Russia’s air force will get 1,600 new warplanes and choppers by 2020, announced President Vladimir Putin. The program will cost Moscow some US $723 billion.

    ­“We are talking primarily about providing our forces with state-of-the-art modern technology,” Putin said at an air show in the Moscow Region ahead of the 100th anniversary of the country's air force. “Over 600 new warplanes and 1,000 helicopters will come into service by 2020 – not mentioning the upgrade to already existing systems.”

    Putin thanked industry workers and officers for helping the aviation “endure the difficult times of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.” He also added that the role of a strengthened air force in Russia’s armed forces will be increasing.

    The renovation will primarily cover the long-range strategic aviation, tactical aviation, army air force, combined with the introduction of high-precision armament, electronic warfare defense systems, and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft systems.

    Speaking at the air show, Putin pointed out that much of this planned work has already begun.

    The Russian military faced tremendous spending cuts in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During his presidential campaign, Putin defined the strengthening of the country’s military as one of his primary goals.

    US and Turkey to consider no-fly zones for Syria

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are considering implementing no-fly zones for Syria after holding Saturday talks in Istanbul.

    ­According to Reuters, Clinton said that Ankara and Washington need to plan ways to assist the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad – including possibly implementing a no-fly zone.

    During an interview with reporters, Clinton indicated the no-fly zone was a possible option, but said the issue needed “greater in-depth analysis.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time the US used its power to aid opposition forces. The same tactic was used to help Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year.

    Until now, the US has been reluctant to take on a military role in Syria. But if the Libyan situation repeats itself, US military intervention could be a real possibility in the near future – only serving to escalate Syria’s 17-month-old conflict.

    During the meeting, Clinton also said a working group will be set up in Turkey to respond to the Syrian crisis, according to AP.

    The group would increase the involvement of the intelligence services and militaries of both the US and Turkey.

    “We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments,” Clinton said.

    Clinton is also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul – both of whom support the Syrian opposition movement.

    The US is aiming to lay groundwork for democratic transition in Syria.

    The meeting comes as reports of violence were taking place in Damascus.

    Earlier on Saturday, Syrian state TV reported that gunmen abducted three Syrian journalists and their driver, who work for a pro-government TV station, while covering violence in a suburb of Damascus.

    According to Middle Eastern history and politics Professor Jeremy Salt, the opposition has little hope of winning the conflict without the help of its Western allies.

    “As of now, Damascus has mostly been cleared of rebels. Aleppo on its way to being cleared. We can see that the army has a strategy here. It cleared out the Salah al-Din district within two days, and now it’s working its way through other suburbs. So unless the rebels get more support in terms of heavy weaponry, they are very much fighting on the back foot. So that’s why Hillary Clinton is in Istanbul. To ask the basic question, ‘What’s next?’” Salt told RT.

    Meanwhile, opposition fighters are still struggling to gain control of Aleppo – a key battle city.

    Rebels in Aleppo say they are preparing a counterattack against government forces, after heavy bombardment forced them to withdraw from the south-west district of Salah al-Din on Thursday.

    Aleppo is the cause of serious concern for Western countries, Foreign Affairs Analyst Richard Heydarian told RT.

    “The West is smelling blood right now because of the recent events, including the fleeing of the prime minister. What the Clinton administration [sic] is trying to do right now is try to coordinate some sort of military approach with Turkey and possibly also with the help of Israel and other Atab countries because they feel the opposition has a chance to retain its stronghold in Aleppo,” Heydarian said.

    Turkey, however, has its own motivations for taking part in the meeting. The country is dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis of its own, as it struggles to support 50,000 Syrian refugees who have fled into the country.

    Clinton has announced an extra US$5.5 million in help for displaced Syrians in Turkey.

    “Turkey has two sides to this. On the one hand, it is very much concerned with the tragedy and a lot of Syrians flowing in – it is one of the biggest recipients of refugees from Syria. On the other hand – it is a possible rise of Kurdish insurgency – and there is coordination between Kurds in Syria and Iran. Turkey fears Kurds could launch its own independence campaign against Turkey,” Heydarian said.

    US Border Patrol agents convicted in $2 million human smuggling case

    Two US Border Patrol agents have been found guilty of running a profitable human smuggling ring that may have earned US$2 million.

    The brothers Raul Villarreal, 42, and Fidel Villarreal, 43, were convicted of using their power for their own advantage, charging money to help hundreds of illegal immigrants enter the US from Mexico.

    The two heard their verdicts after a five-week trial that was concluded by a one-day deliberation by the jury.

    “They made the border work for them,” Assistant US Attorney Timothy Salel told jurors.

    The Villarreals, who used Border Patrol agency vehicles to illegally shuttle Mexicans and Brazilians to the US, were convicted of conspiracy, bringing in illegal immigrants for financial gain, receiving bribes and money laundering.

    Prosecutors say that Raul started the human smuggling ring and recruited his brother and fellow agent to join him. The brothers charged thousands of dollars to bring each illegal immigrant across the border. A 24-year-old Brazilian woman told prosecutors she paid $12,000 to ride across the border in what she called a “police car.”

    Nearly a dozen immigrants who had been smuggled in by the ring testified at the brothers’ trial.

    To catch the Border Patrol agents in action, investigators mounted video cameras on cars, installed GPS trackers and used surveillance from airplanes to gather information about the ring’s operation.

    Accomplices and migrants who were caught entering the country illegally were also a source of information for the prosecution.

    In 2006, the two brothers caught word of the investigation and fled to Mexico, settling in the border city of Tijuana. Two years later, they were caught and extradited to the US to face federal charges.

    The brothers are facing a maximum of 50 years in prison and a minimum $1.25 million in penalties.

    Between 6 and 7 million illegal immigrants in the US evaded immigration inspectors by entering the country illegally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.  Each year, about half a million more make it across the border.

    The Border Patrol agency is a mobile uniformed law enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security, established to prevent illegal immigration.

    Joe Jeronimo, a special agent in charge of the professional responsibility office at the DHS, said the brothers’ actions are “atypical” of Border Patrol officials, but the case sends “a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate the laws.”

    The widely publicized case of human smuggling serves as an embarrassment for an agency whose mission it is to prevent the very crime that its officers partook in.

    Submariners World News SitRep

    US warship collides with oil tanker in Persian Gulf

    The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter collided with the Panamanian-flagged Japanese-owned oil tanker MV Otowasan early Sunday, the US Navy said. Nobody was injured in the incident, which happened near the Strait of Hormuz at the month of the Persian Gulf, which is crucial for world crude oil transportation. The American warship is part of the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.

    Kidnapped Saudi diplomat released in south Yemen - source

    Al-Qaeda-linked militants have released a Saudi Arabian diplomat who was kidnapped in southern Yemen, Reuters quoted tribal source as saying. The release was completed after tribal mediation efforts, the source said. Abdallah al-Khalidi, the Saudi deputy consul in the Yemeni port city of Aden, was abducted in March. The kidnappers threatened to kill Khalidi in May unless a ransom was paid and Al-Qaeda prisoners were freed from Saudi jails. No further details were provided.

    UN chief unveils new initiative to protect oceans

    ­The United Nations chief has announced a new initiative to protect oceans from pollution, over-fishing and to combat rising sea levels which threaten hundreds of millions of people. The new initiative is called the Oceans Compact and it sets out a strategic vision for the UN to work more effectively to turn around the dangerous state of world’s seas, stated UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In his speech the UN chief highlighted the grave threat from pollution, excessive fishing and global warming. He also called for action to curb piracy and irregular sea migration.

    Qatar grants Egypt $2 billion as central bank deposit

    Qatar has granted Egypt two billion dollars in financial support, AFP quotes Egyptian state news agency MENA as saying. The announcement was made Saturday after Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani met with Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi. The report said that Qatar has decided to deposit the sum in the Central Bank of Egypt. The central bank's reserves have fallen dramatically since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Reserves are at a low of $14.4 billion, compared to $36 billion a year-and-a-half ago.

    Indian police clash with Muslims over earlier unrest

    Demonstrations against religious riots turned violent in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai, leaving two people dead and 52 wounded. Thousands of Muslim protesters clashed with police, throwing rocks and burning TV broadcasting vans. They were protesting media coverage of last month's outbreaks of violence in Assam state, saying it was biased against the Muslim victims. The series of incidents claimed at least 53 lives and caused some 400,000 people to flee their homes.

    NY police shoot dead knife-wielding man near Times Square

    A man was fatally shot by police officers near New York City’s landmark Times Square on Saturday. Police say officers tried to stop him as he was running away from them swinging a knife. He repeatedly refused orders to drop the weapon and was threatening bystanders. The police confirmed that the man was killed but would not comment on how many shots the officers fired. The department did not immediately provide a description of what prompted the shots, The New York Times says.

    Armed men attack peacekeepers in Sinai Peninsula

    ­Armed men opened fire on peacekeeping troops in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Sunday. According to Reuters, who cited local security sources, the incident took place on the border with Israel. It comes one week after the onset of an operation against militants in the region. The attackers are believed to be responsible for last Sunday's assault on Egyptian border guards, which killed 16 people.

    US lawmakers urge Bahraini king to free Nabeel Rajab

    ­Nineteen members of the US Congress have addressed the King of Bahrain in a letter urging him to release prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, AP reports. Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is serving a three-month jail sentence for making anti-government statements on Twitter. In a letter sent to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Friday, the lawmakers acknowledged that the kingdom has taken reforms since last year’s uprising but stressed that Rajab’s prosecution runs “counter to the government's assurances that individuals will not be prosecuted for peaceful political speech.”

    4,700 people evacuated over fires on Canaries

    ­More than 4,700 people have been evacuated as wildfires rage on Spain’s Canary Islands, AFP reports citing regional officials. Hundreds of hectares were in flames on Saturday on La Gomera and Tenerife islands with fire threatening the Garajonay nature reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The firefighters are battling "high temperatures, low humidity and wind" that fanned the flames, said regional economy minister Javier Gonzalez Ortiz. "The fires are still burning on three fronts," an emergency services spokesman stated earlier. "There is no positive change for the moment." Garajonay is home to rare subtropical forests, which covered the Mediterranean region tens of millions of years ago but have now largely disappeared.

    US drone kills at least three civilians in Somalia

    ­At least three civilians were killed and 15 others injured on Saturday in an attack by a US drone in Somalia. Two missiles were fired at a base of the Somali rebel group al-Shabab, also hitting a civilian area. US officials claim unmanned aircraft are targeting militant bases, but authorities have reported civilian deaths in the latest series of drone attacks in Somalia this week.

    Saturday, 11 August 2012

    Russia Plans ICBM Test Launch From New Submarine

    Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov has said one of the country's new submarines will test launch one of Russia's newest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

    Sukhorukov said on August 8 that the launch would come from the "Aleksandr Nevsky" but not from the "Yuri Dolgoruky," the first two of the new Borei class submarine, capable of carrying 16 Bulava ICBMs.

    The "Yuri Dolgoruky" is the lead vessel but Sukhorukov said "some defects were uncovered during trials" and launches from that submarine were postponed until repairs and modifications were made and new trials were conducted.

    Sukhorukov did not say when the launch of Bulava ICBM would happen.

    He also said Russian forces would be receiving new cruise missiles this year.

    U.S. Navy Eyes More Subs, But CBO Says Shortfalls Remain

    The U.S. Navy is looking at buying more submarines in the coming years, but the most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the service’s shipbuilding plan says more boats will be needed to address fleet shortfalls.

    The Navy’s recently released 30-year shipbuilding plan includes more subs this year than the service had a year ago, CBO notes.

    The number of ballistic missile submarines was changed from 12 to a range of 12 to 14, CBO points out, while the number of guided missile submarines was changed from zero to a range of zero to four. Buying subs adds more to the Navy budget bottom line.

    “According to this year’s plan, in the near term, building new ships will cost an average of $15.1 billion per year,” CBO says. “In the midterm, replacing the Navy’s current Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines drives up the average cost of new-ship construction to $19.5 billion per year.”

    Submarine contracts and contract modifications — excluding the nuclear reactors — ranked fourth among all Navy expenses with about $16.2 billion in transactions between 1999 and 2009, according to an Aviation Week Intelligence Network analysis of contracting data aggregated by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting.

    Despite all the investment, CBO says the Navy sub fleet will still come up short. “The current shipbuilding plan delays buying the first replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines [SSBN(X)s] by two years, until 2021; it would then enter the fleet in 2030,” CBO says. “The Navy’s inventory of SSBNs will fall below the stated goal of 12 to 14 between 2029 and 2041.”

    Under the 2013 plan, the Navy would purchase 46 attack submarines through 2042, which would not be enough to keep that force up to the stated goal of 48 throughout the next 30 years, the report says. “In 2014, the Navy expects to begin retiring Los Angeles class attack submarines (SSN-688s) — which were generally built at rates of three or four per year during the 1970s and 1980s — as they reach the end of their service life. It would then replace them with Virginia class attack submarines (SSN-774s) and their successors, mostly at rates of one or two per year,” CBO says.

    To prevent the ballistic missile submarine force from falling below the inventory goal of at least 12 subs, the Navy could begin purchasing the SSBN(X) in 2019, as scheduled under the 2012 plan, rather than in 2021, as under the current plan.

    To prevent the attack submarine force from falling below the inventory goal of approximately 48, CBO says, the Navy could purchase a total of five submarines earlier in the 30-year plan and reduce construction of attack submarines later in the plan. “Specifically, it could purchase five additional attack submarines from 2014 through 2023,” CBO says, “increasing the production rate to three submarines per year for many of those years.”

    New report suggests Navy should build three submarines annually

    Congressional Budget Office says Navy's ship-construction schedule of two per year would result in vessel shortage

    The Navy could buy three attack submarines annually for many of the years between 2014 and 2023 to prevent a shortfall in the fleet, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    The office recently reviewed the Navy's shipbuilding plan and found that if the Navy follows it, the service will have too few attack submarines, ballistic-missile submarines and destroyers.

    To prevent that shortage, the office says, the Navy could step up the production rate for both attack submarines and destroyers in the near term, and begin purchasing the new ballistic-missile submarines in 2019 as originally planned. The current plan delays the start of construction on the new class by two years.

    "I am pleased that we're getting that kind of validation from a neutral source because I think when some of us are making the case for stronger production levels, it sometimes gets discounted as parochial," U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Thursday. "This report really demonstrates that there are going to be real challenges with the fleet size if we're not careful."

    If the Navy buys five attack submarines earlier in the 30-year plan and five fewer from 2025 to 2034, it could "maintain the desired inventory level," CBO said in its report.

    U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that in theory, the accelerated schedule "certainly makes good sense." But, he said, the question remains whether funding would be available and how the change would affect the industrial base, since more employees would be needed through 2023 but not after.

    "What's really maybe most significant is the recognition that the shortfall, or the shortage in submarine building, needs to be addressed and we need to build more, not fewer," Blumenthal said.

    Electric Boat in Groton and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia build two Virginia-class submarines annually under a teaming agreement, and EB is designing the ballistic-missile submarine to replace the Ohio-class boats.

    The number of attack submarines in the fleet will drop below the stated requirement of 48 as the Los Angeles-class submarines - which generally were built at rates of three or four per year during the 1970s and 1980s - retire more quickly than they are scheduled to be replaced.

    "We ought to be building two submarines a year, at a minimum, but in no way imperiling our defense industrial base and specifically our skilled workforce by creating uncertainty and instability in the program," Blumenthal said.

    Courtney said there's "no question" EB could build more submarines. "Both in terms of the space that's down there and the employee base, they could handle it," he said.

    He added that the three-per-year rate merits consideration and funds could be reallocated within the budget.

    "Priorities can be changed based on changing perceptions of our security needs," he said. "We've been talking about the shortfall on the (House Armed Services) Seapower Subcommittee for the last five years. This report suggests that the message is getting through."

    JASSM-ER nears operational employment

    The 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron is scheduled to complete the final-phase of operational testing for the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile - Extended Range in late August, marking a significant step toward operational employment.

    JASSM-ER is an autonomous, air-to-ground, precision-guided standoff missile designed to meet the needs of U.S. warfighters. It shares the same powerful capabilities and stealthy characteristics of the baseline JASSM, but with more than two-and-a-half times the range.

    "Although it looks the same and provides all the capabilities of the baseline missile, it has a new engine and larger fuel load capability," said Capt. Philip Atkinson, who works with the 337th TES. "This allows it to extend its range to more than 500 nautical miles, compared to the old system's range of 200 nautical miles."

    This additional reach allows aircraft to deploy JASSM-ER against high-value, well-fortified, fixed and relocateable targets, while remaining clear of highly defended airspace and long-range surface-to-air missiles.

    Like the original JASSM, the new missile uses its inertial navigation and global positioning systems to find its intended target, then its infrared seeker for pinpoint accuracy right before impact.

    Furthermore, the cruise missile is able to operate in heavily degraded GPS environments.

    "One of the emphasis items is to be able to operate in contested and degraded environments," Atkinson said. "One of the things the military relies heavily on is GPS, and we have demonstrated the ability to operate with intense GPS jamming. Even without GPS, the JASSM can find its target due to its internal sensor."

    The 337th TES is scheduled to complete the final live JASSM-ER flight test Aug. 30 with the B-1 Lancer, the missiles' threshold aircraft and premier platform for JASSM employment.

    "The B-1 is the very first aircraft to get it, so we will be the only JASSM-ER platform for years to come," Atkinson said. "As we shift our emphasis from the Middle East to the Pacific, as heavily defended as that region is, the JASSM combined with the B-1 presents a top choice for combatant commanders."

    Like the baseline version, JASSM-ER will be capable of employment on the B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. However, the B-1 is able to carry 24 of the long-range missiles; that is twice as many as the B-52.

    "The B-1 is the premier aircraft to employ this new weapon due to the quantity we can carry, flexibility in terms of mission sets we take care of and targeting flexibility," Atkinson said. "Also, JASSM shots can be either mission planned against fixed targets or can be retargeted dynamically in flight with waypoints, a feature unique to the B-1."

    The JASSM-ER will be officially fielded late next year, when B-1s can be called upon for operational use.

    India test-fires nuclear capable Agni-II missile

    Sharpening its missile teeth, India on Thursday successfully test-fired its medium range nuclear capable Agni-II missile with a strike range of 2000km as part of a user trial by the Army from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. "The trial of the surface-to-surface missile was conducted from a mobile launcher from the Launch Complex-4 of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at around 8.48am," defence sources said.

    Describing the launch as a complete success, ITR Director MVKV Prasad said, "All mission parameters were met during the trial of the indigenously developed missile."

    Agni-II Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) has already been inducted into the services and today’s test was carried out by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Army with logistic support provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

    "The 2000km range versatile missile, already inducted and part of countries arsenal for strategic deterrence, was launched as a training exercise by the armed forces," a DRDO scientist said.

    The two-stage missile equipped with advanced high accuracy navigation system, guided by a novel scheme of state of the earth command & control system was propelled by solid rocket propellant system, he said.

    The entire trajectory of the trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and naval ships located near the impact point in the down range area of the sea.

    The 20-metre long Agni-II is a two-stage, solid-propelled ballistic missile. It has a launch weight of 17 tonnes and can
    carry a payload of 1000kg over a distance of 2000km.

    The state-of-the-art Agni-II missile was developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory along with other DRDO laboratories and integrated by the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Hyderabad, the sources said.

    Agni-II is part of the Agni series of missiles which includes Agni-I with a 700km range, Agni-III with a 3,000km range, Agni-IV and Agni-V.

    The first prototype of Agni-II missile was carried out on April 11, 1999.

    Though trial conducted on May 19, 2009 and the first night trial on November 23, 2009 from Wheelers Island could not meet all the parameters, all other trials including the last one carried out on September 30, 2011 from the same base were successful.

    Boeing X-48C Blended Wing Body first-ever flight

     The Boeing X-48C Blended Wing Body unmanned research aircraft took to the skies on its first-ever flight at 7:56 a.m. Pacific Time on Aug. 7 from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

    The vehicle climbed to an altitude of 5,500 feet before landing 9 minutes later.

    Aircraft carrier will have a provincial name

    China's first aircraft carrier will be commissioned by the end of the year and is very likely to be named after one of China's provinces, a military expert said yesterday.

    All the necessary facilities have been installed on the carrier through the nine sea trials since last August, Li Jie, a researcher of the China Navy Military Academy, said in an interview carried on the People's Daily website.

    China has three major naval forces - the East China Sea, North China Sea and South China Sea fleets. Many speculated the aircraft carrier will join the South China Sea fleet to stabilize the situation in tension there, but Li said the vessel could be commissioned in different fleets.

    However, the aircraft carrier will be mainly used for training and experiments, he said.

    The carrier completed its ninth sea trial last month, the longest yet, and returned to the Port of Dalian in northeastern Liaoning Province.

    The sea trials have been running smoothly so far and attained anticipated objectives, Lin Bai, a colonel of the General Armament Department of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, has said.

    Previously, some observers speculated that the aircraft carrier might be named after Mao Zedong, founder of the New China, or the capital Beijing, but Li said that was unlikely.

    He also said China would have more than three aircraft carriers in the future.

    US Warship Leaves Builder's Yard for Commissioning

    The Navy's littoral combat ship, the future USS Fort Worth sails from Marinette Marine's shipyard for Galveston, Texas.

    Fort Worth is the third littoral combat ship delivered to the Navy, and the second LCS of the steel, semi-planing, mono-hull Freedom variant is scheduled to be commissioned on Sept. 22, 2012.

    Prior to sail-away, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) conducted acceptance trials aboard Forth Worth. INSURV found the ship to be "highly capable, well-built and inspection ready," and recommended the vessel be accepted.

    A number of design changes have been incorporated in LCS 3 based on lessons learned from the first ship of class, USS Freedom (LCS 1). These changes are now part of the baseline design and will be incorporated into future ships of the class prior to construction. 

    The littoral combat ship is a high-speed, agile, shallow-draft, focused-mission surface combatant designed for operation in near-shore environments yet fully capable of open-ocean operation.

    Fort Worth, a high-speed steel mono-hull ship, is designed to defeat asymmetric "anti-access" threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.

    The 387-foot Fort Worth will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed over quickly, and focus on three mission areas: mine countermeasures, surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

    Lockheed Martin Performs First Ever Outdoor Flight Test Of Laser Powered UAS

    Lockheed Martin and LaserMotive, Inc., have completed a series of flight tests of the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to further validate the performance of an innovative laser power system. These tests mark the first-ever outdoor flight of a UAS powered by laser.

    Stalker is a small, silent UAS used by Special Operations Forces since 2006 to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. In a recent wind tunnel test, the UAS demonstrated 48 hours of continuous flight powered by this innovative laser system.

    “This series of proof-of-concept tests took place in a remote desert location where environmental factors like wind and heat were constants. Not only did we demonstrate that the laser powered Stalker could perform well in this type of environment, we flew during both day and night without incident,” said Tom Koonce, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Stalker program manager. “Ultimately we hope to provide our customers with remarkably long endurance to extend and expand the mission profiles possible for a small UAS like Stalker.”

    For the demonstration, the Stalker was fitted with a lightweight photovoltaic receiver and on-board power management hardware. The ground-based laser transmitter was based on LaserMotive’s hardware developed for its winning entry in the 2009 NASA Centennial Challenge. Accomplishments of these proof-of-concept flights include:

        Demonstrated net positive power to Stalker in flight, at ranges up to 600 meters.
        Proved that the laser did not damage the Stalker and that the addition of the laser receiver did not impact its normal flight operations or aerodynamics.
        Operated multiple test flights in a range of desert conditions (day and night, high temperatures, and strong winds), demonstrating the ruggedness of the Stalker-mounted laser receiver power system.
        The beam director tracked the receiver for long periods, with centimeter accuracy at 500 meters, despite turbulence and aircraft maneuvers.
        Met all operational and safety requirements, including coordination with the Laser Clearinghouse and flight operations.

    “We’re excited to work with Lockheed Martin to validate the ability of lasers to power Stalker in the field,” said Tom Nugent, president of LaserMotive. “Wireless power via laser is an important emerging technology, and I look forward to continuing to work together to further prove this technology in future experiments.”

    Headquartered in Kent, Wash., LaserMotive is a privately held research and development company specializing in wireless power via laser for commercial applications.