08 April 2007

(Wherever individual credits are not mentioned, the news has been compiled from MOD press releases and news stories which appeared in the Indian/foreign media.)


Chinese Defence Budget

China's defence budget will soar by a massive 17.8 percent in 2007, and the United States was wary of the Chinese intentions.

China's armed forces will get 350.9 billion yuan (about $45 billion) for 2007, a rise of nearly 53 billion yuan over actual spending in 2006, said Jiang Enzhu, a spokesman for the National People's Congress, the legislature.

"In recent years, China has gradually been boosting its military expenditures," he told reporters at a briefing in Beijing.

"Our nation has all along rationally set out national defence spending by coordinating national defence with economic development."

Just hours after the announcement, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who was on a visit to Beijing, told reporters he would like to know more about what China plans to do with new military hardware.

"The way I phrase our concern is the concern about transparency and the desire to have a more extensive dialogue with China on what their military build-up involves, what the doctrine is that underlies it, and what their intentions are," he said.

Little more than a week ago, US Vice President Dick Cheney said China's military build-up clashed with its repeated claims to be a peaceful power.

Cheney cited a January ballistic missile test by China that destroyed one of its own satellites in space as evidence of the nation's increasing militarisation.

The new budget figures came a day after China voiced its opposition to US plans to sell 450 air and ground missiles to Beijing's arch rival, Taiwan.

A Taiwan government spokesman said Sunday the budget increase marked "China's rising threat" to the island, and that real expenditure could be higher.

Jiang, the Chinese spokesman, said the military expenditure would account for 7.5 percent of total government expenditure in 2007, compared with 7.4 percent in 2006.

"Overall, the proportion has been stable over the past few years," said Jiang, speaking ahead of Monday's opening of the annual session of the legislature, which is to approve the budget.

"The increases have been in order to make up for the weak basis of the nation's defence."

China's military expenditure in 2005 amounted to 1.35 percent of Chinese gross domestic product, compared with 4.03 percent for the United States, Jiang said.

"What I especially want to emphasise is that China persists in following the path of peace and development and in pursuing a defence policy that is defensive in nature," he said.

"China does not have the wherewithal nor the intention to engage in an arms race. China does not pose and will not pose a threat to any country."

China has increased its military spending by double digits nearly every year over the past 15 years, including 14.7 percent last year and 12.6 percent in 2005.

US officials have estimated China's annual defence spending at between 80 and 115 billion dollars, the highest in the world after the United States, and well above their stated budget announced in March 2006 of 35 billion dollars for that year.

Much of the funding is aimed at building a military force capable of reunifying Taiwan by force should the island territory claimed by China seek to realise formal independence, they said.

Jiang also reiterated that constitutional reform efforts by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian were moving the democratic island dangerously towards formal independence, and warned against such moves.

"To resolutely contain the separatist activities of Taiwan independence forces and safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait is the most important and urgent task facing compatriots on both sides of the strait," Jiang said.

China "will never tolerate an independent Taiwan and will never permit anyone under any form to split Taiwan from the mainland."

JF-17s Fighters Arrive in Pakistan for Trials

(From correspondents in Asia Pacific)

Two prototypes of the JF-17 advanced multi-role light combat aircraft (LCA) that has been jointly developed with China have arrived in Pakistan for evaluation trials, Online news agency reported.

The aircraft were formally received here Monday at a ceremony attended, among others, by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) head, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed.

The JF-17 is scheduled to make its first public appearance in Islamabad on March 23 during a flypast at the National Day Joint Services Parade.

The first JF-17 prototype flew in August 2003, and four such are currently flying. The third prototype was the first in a fully integrated configuration.

The two aircraft have been sent to Pakistan to speed up the development process.

The flight evaluation to be conducted by PAF will greatly help in improving the performance of aircraft and making it more competitive and reliable, officials said.

At Monday's ceremony, Ahmed inspected the JF-17 aircraft and met the pilots, engineers and technicians involved in its development to complement them on their hard work and devotion in translating a dream into reality.

Air Marshal Khalid Chaudhry, chairman of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Board, and Air Vice Marshal Farhat Hussain, the chief project director of the JF-17, also attended the ceremony.

China Ballistic Missile Submarine Force Growing: US Navy

(Agence France-Presse | Mar 3, 2007)

China is conducting sea trials of the first of five new nuclear-powered submarines armed with longer-range ballistic missiles, according to a US naval intelligence report made public Friday.

The sea trials are part of a broader push by China to check US naval power in the western Pacific with a more modern fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile and attack submarines, the Office of Naval Intelligence said.

The first of the new nuclear ballistic missile submarines, designated the Type 094 SSBN, could begin operating as early as 2008, it said.

The submarine "will provide China with a modern and robust sea-based nuclear deterrent force," the ONI reported.

It will be equipped with the JL-2 sea-launched ballistic missile with range of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles), a big gain over China's only other ballistic missile submarine.

A Chinese submarine berthed in Hong Kong waters in 2004. US Naval intelligence reports that China is conducting sea trials of the first of five new nuclear-powered submarines armed with longer-range ballistic missiles. (AFP/File/Mike Clarke)  

It said China also is concluding sea trials of a new Type 093 nuclear powered attack submarine that is expected to be quieter and armed with more advanced weaponry than its predecessor, the HAN SSN class submarines.

It will have anti-ship cruise missiles and more modern torpedoes than the HAN, the report said.

"China has built these features into the Type 093 in an effort to improve the PLA(N)'s (Peoples Liberation Army Navy) to conduct anti-surface warfare at greater ranges from the Chinese coast than its diesel submarine force offers," it said.

The report said the China's navy currently has about 55 attacks submarines, most of them diesel electric.

It is a smaller but more technologically advanced force than the one China had in the 1980s.

Each of the attack submarines are armed with anti-ship cruise missiles and designed to be quiet enough to operate in the open ocean.

A key focus of China's maritime strategy is to keep outside powers beyond striking range in a Tawan scenario.

"Much of China's military modernization effort of the past five years, and particularly the modernization of the Chinese Navy, has been designed to improve China's anti-carrier capability," the ONI said.

"China envisions an attack on a carrier strike group as incorporating submarine-launched ASCM (anti-ship cruise missile) strikes and ASBM (anti-ship ballistic missile) strikes," it said.

It said China is equipping theater ballistic missiles with maneuvering reentry vehicles with radar and infrared seekers to attack a ship at sea.

China has focused on submarines because its surface warfare ships are harder to defend against air or submarine attack, it said.

China's maritime strategy is also aimed at protecting a growing sea trade crucial to its economy, the report said.

"In order to protect oil and other trade routes, the PLA (N) is beginning to develop the foundations of a naval capability that can defend sea lines of communications," the report said.

Two Russian Fighter-Jets Collide in Mid-air

By IANS, Wednesday March 21

Moscow, March 21 (DPA) Two Russian fighter-jets collided in mid-air in southern Russia Wednesday, with both pilots ejecting in time to avoid serious injury, Russian air force officials said.

The MiG-29 jets crashed outside an air base in the town of Millerovo, about 800 km south of Moscow in the Rostov region, Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, an air force spokesman, said in remarks carried by Interfax.

The pilots, he said, ejected from their planes before the collision and had been retrieved by helicopters. One pilot received facial injuries, but the condition of both was stated to be 'satisfactory'.

Neither of the planes was carrying weapons, and no destruction was reported on the ground, Drobyshevsky added.

The incident, which occurred at 7,000 metres above ground, came during 'planned flights'.

After ejecting, the pilots independently went to a village hospital and contacted the air base.

Russian military prosecutors said they opened a criminal investigation on charges of 'violation of flight rules or preparations toward it'.

The MiG-29 is an interceptor, designed to intercept and attack enemy aircraft. It is one of the most widely flown fighter jets in the Russian air force.

Russia sold 40 of the fighters to Algeria in 2006 for a reported $1.5 billion, valuing the planes at approximately $35 million each.

Tajikistan Denies Plans for Indian Military Base

RIA Novosti | Feb 28, 2007

DUSHANBE: A senior Tajik military official Tuesday denied media reports that India is set to deploy an air base in the Central Asian country.

Some Internet sources earlier cited the Indian press as saying that India was planning to deploy a helicopter squadron at the Aini military airfield, 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the country's capital, Dushanbe. It was alleged that Russia, whose jet fighters are based at the airfield, would provide maintenance.

"Information that the air base will house Indian helicopters is untrue, we only have an agreement, signed in 2002, on [India's] assistance in the reconstruction of the Aini military airfield, and there is no suggestion that the airfield is to be used by the Indian Armed Forces," said Major General Maruf Khasanov, head of the international cooperation department at Tajikistan's Defense Ministry.

Saimumin Yatimov, Tajikistan's first deputy foreign minister, in late January confirmed media reports that Aini was being renovated in cooperation with India, but said its status was not yet settled and would be determined some time in the future, "with Tajikistan's national and international interests in mind."

According to the media, Tajikistan is planning to use the facility jointly with India and Russia.

A narrow strip of Afghani land separates Tajikistan from Pakistan, with which India has been entangled in a protracted conflict over the disputed Kashmir region. But an airbase in Tajikistan could have implications far beyond Indo-Pakistani rivalry in South Asia.

Although both Tajik and Indian officials have denied the presence of Indian forces at Aini, an Indian base in the country might be useful in New Delhi's efforts to promote stability in Afghanistan and contain Islamic terrorism in South and Central Asia.

Central Asia is rich in energy resources, and India's presence in the region might also pose serious competition to its energy-hungry neighbor, China.

Two British Sailors Killed on Nuclear Submarine

March 22

LONDON (Reuters) - Two British sailors were killed in an accident on a nuclear submarine on exercise in the Arctic, the Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday.

The ministry said the nuclear reactor on board HMS Tireless was not affected by the accident. The submarine "quickly surfaced and is complete safe", a ministry statement said.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An explosion aboard a nuclear-powered Royal Navy submarine under an Arctic ice cap killed two British sailors and injured a crewmember, officials said Wednesday.

The forward compartment of the HMS Tireless was damaged in the explosion at 8:20 p.m. local time Tuesday, but the British Ministry of Defense said its nuclear reactor was not affected.

The attack submarine, which does not carry nuclear missiles, was conducting a joint exercise with U.S. forces when its air purification system malfunctioned while the vessel was submerged about 170 miles north of Deadhorse, in northern Alaska's Prudhoe Bay.

According to the U.S. Navy, a self-contained oxygen generation candle exploded.

The submarine surfaced, breaking through the ice, and a private helicopter brought the injured sailor to Deadhorse, where an Alaska Air National Guard aircraft transported him to Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage, 625 miles south.

The sailor's name was not released, but he was reported in stable condition at a civilian hospital.

The Tireless was operating with the USS Alexandria in a joint operation to test submarine operability and tactical development in Arctic waters.

"I am deeply saddened at the loss of the crew members from the Tireless," said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly, commander of the Submarine Force. "We stand by to assist in any way we can."

Lt. Col. Andy Price, a Royal Navy spokesman, said the submarine will be evaluated over 12 hours, performing a dive to test its safety systems, before officials decide whether the vessel will continue the joint operation.

It was not immediately clear what went wrong with the air purification system in a forward section of the submarine, a ministry spokesman said while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

Since 1986, every Arctic tactical exercise has involved both U.S. Navy and Royal Navy submarines. The current two-week exercise was scheduled to end March 30.


Increase Investment in Defence Research or the UK’s Military Capability Will Suffer

Mar 5, 2007

A failure to increase investment in defence research will impact on the UK’s future defence capability, says the House of Commons Defence Committee in a report published today (Eighth Report of Session 2006-07, The work of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Funding of defence research, HC 84). 

The Committee reports its concern that the gap between the UK and the US in defence research spending is widening and that the UK will also fall behind other nations which are increasing their investment in defence research. 

UK operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are having an impact on defence research. The Committee acknowledges that support for these operations is the priority, but says that the MoD must not make reductions in the funding of longer-term defence research to fund these operations. 

In its report the Committee examines the work of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), which provides vital support to military operations and is regarded as a world authority in many fields of defence research. The MPs note Dstl’s successful performance against its targets but says there could be benefit in Dstl operating in a more competitive environment. The Committee also calls on Dstl to draw on outside project management expertise to monitor the progress of its major change programme – which is rationalising its sites at a cost of some £92 million. 

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said “The Government’s own analysis has shown that military advantage depends on the Research and Development investment made over the previous 25 years. The UK’s defence research is currently amongst the best in the world, but this is at risk. If the UK continues to fall behind other countries in defence research spending, our armed forces will lose their capability advantage and fighting edge. The Government cannot just rely on industry to fund research, but must itself invest for the future. We want to see this reflected in the outcome of the Spending Review.”  (Perhaps there is a message here for India's Defence R&D - Ed)

US Offers Advanced Missile System to India


NEW DELHI: The US is offering India one of the world's most formidable shipboard missile systems that has the potential of being integrated with the country's indigenous missiles.

There was "some interest" in the Indian defence establishment in the Aegis system but neither has the US made an offer nor has India made any formal request for it, says Royce Caplinger, managing director of Lockheed Martin India, whose US parent manufactures the system.

"I am sure though that if you ask for it, you will get it," India Strategic defence magazine quotes him as saying.

The feelers to sell the Aegis are obviously part of the US government's agenda to help India become what the State Department called in its May 2005 policy statement "a global power."

Apparently, it is also part of the steps that are systematically being taken - like the civil nuclear deal - to draw New Delhi closer to Washington.

Aegis is named after the shield of mythological Greek god Zeus. Its sale, like of most military systems, is governed through government-to-government deals under Foreign Military Sales (FMS) or other US programmes. It appears, though, that Lockheed Martin, the world's biggest military vendor, has informal clearance to showcase the system to India.

The integrated combat system can track more than 100 missiles through its supercomputers and engage them according to priority, depending upon their velocity and height, including the sea-skimming attackers.

It is designed for multi-pronged, simultaneous warfare to engage and strike targets in the air, on sea, on the surface, as also sub-surface. Aegis has also been successful in half a dozen tests to intercept ballistic missile targets outside the earth's atmosphere.

Caplinger said Aegis had been successively modified and upgraded in technology over the years and that it was "the most advanced shipboard system" in the world to counter a variety of threats, including from aircraft and ballistic missiles.

Asked if it could be integrated with India's indigenous missiles, including the India-Russian BrahMos, he replied: "Theoretically yes." It could even be matched with the new anti-missile missile that India recently tested, "but that would depend entirely on the Indian scientists and India's requirements."

"The MK 41 Vertical Launching System (that is integrated into the Aegis system) is not currently configured to integrate the BrahMos or Agni, but it can be adapted," Caplinger added.

The fact that the Aegis system could manage vertical launch of missiles was important, particularly as the Indian Navy had a long-term plan to build several ships equipped with the facility to meet its projected requirements.

Its sophisticated SPY-I phased array radar and high-speed supercomputers read each oncoming threat 360 degrees, prioritize them according to their threat value, and then automatically launch appropriate missiles to neutralize them.

The latest version of the system is called Aegis BMD 3.6. In June 2006, it successfully intercepted even the separating warhead of a target missile in a test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

The system's command and decision-making core is notable. Its computers differentiate between missiles, debris, and friendly aerial vehicles - and attack only what needs to be attacked.

Thus far, Aegis has only been sold to close US allies, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Norway and Australia. It is deployed on 69 US destroyers and cruisers and is being added on 17 more destroyers.

Thus, it is the mainstay "total weapon system" of the US Navy. According to Caplinger, Aegis was a very powerful system and would give an edge like no other to the Indian Navy.

The Aegis programme was launched in 1969 due to the changing nature of warfare that required transition from guns to missiles.

In 1967, a Soviet-built missile had sunk an Israeli destroyer in the Arab-Israeli war while in 1982, Argentina successfully used an Exocet missile to sink a Royal Navy frigate during the Falklands conflict. In 1988, when two Iranian vessels fired on US ships, the US Navy had used Harpoon missiles to neutralise them.

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