Category Archives: Aviation

Defence Market Speculation: Boom and Bust in Aerospace Industry

Following piece is written by Rick Whittington, taken from Aerospace And Defense Picks For 2011 (17-12-10). Recently both UK and USA defence budgets were revised with further revision in defence policies. Recent retirement of RAF’s Harrier, and delays in F-35 has created a big gap within RAF inventory. Not only that Both BAe Systems and Rolls Royce has seen declines after recent Qanatas Incident. From civilian market, Seattle Time cites that as Boeing prepares to announce yet another delay for the 787 Dreamliner — at least three months, possibly six or more — the crucial jet program is in even worse shape than it appears. A top Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official 10 days ago warned Boeing that without further proof of the plane’s reliability, it won’t be certified to fly the long intercontinental routes that airlines expect it to serve. Since then share prices are on continuous decline for Boeing. Among the 787’s lesser ongoing problems is “rain in the plane,” the term used for heavy condensation dripping inside the jet’s composite plastic fuselage. Yet that issue is piddling compared with the major flaws that have brought a wave of successive delays. Earlier this month, John Hickey, the FAA’s deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, visited Seattle and warned 787 executives that in the current state of the program, the jet cannot be certified for long-distance transocean and transpolar flights, according to a person familiar with the details. More on B787 can be found HERE

A fiscally focused trend in U.S. politics means defense spending may drop in 2011. Which aerospace companies will bust and which will boom regardless? Secular change in the U.S. political landscape augurs poorly for defense fundamentals, with fiscal rectitude offsetting China’s brusque ascent on the world scene–an ascent that would otherwise dictate modernization to offset an increasingly sophisticated major power. Following a near decade of above-trend reports, earnings of military suppliers are set for several difficult years, as hard-won margin gains in the Bush years reverse, revenues reduce and backlogs diminish. Just how far the decline will carry remains largely out of public view, as long-range budget details are classified, but Washington circles are already abuzz with steep funding drops in weapons modernization and force structure.

The company's original internal target for its own development costs was $5 billion. But with yet another delay, several Wall Street analysts estimate that fixing the litany of manufacturing problems, plus paying penalties to suppliers and airlines, has piled on an additional $12 billion to $18 billion.

Ongoing budget review, which in Washington goes on all year, is already producing shock waves in contractor circles as word leaks out of the bad news ahead. Actually, many had figured out the deteriorating trend two years ago when a new administration was swept into power, but most held their breath hoping the worst case wouldn’t develop. Unfortunate for the bull case, however, the Republican tidal wave this past election is distinctly tinged with fiscal austerity, with national security taking a back seat. The deleterious impact on defense contractors has finally begun trickling into Wall Street views and the stocks are rolling over.

Pure-play suppliers that have most benefited from the longest conflict in American history–the Revolution’s eight-year employment of Washington’s Continentals has been surpassed by forces in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan–are highly vulnerable to the downsizing that lies ahead. The likes of Lockheed, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon ( RTN – news – people ), L-3 and General Dynamics ( GD – news – people ) face big funding cuts that seriously compromise earnings integrity and could even create black holes necessitating serious corporate restructuring. Past periods like this have seen steep valuation discounts for the pure-plays.

On the other hand, commercial aviation and industrial infrastructure companies continue to guide up as the business cycle recovery of nearly two years ago gains steam. U.S. business confidence began improving as Congress promised to change hands, meaning additional unfriendly legislation was averted and commerce-centric policies were brought to center stage. Tax cuts will now be followed up with fiscal restraint, incenting hiring and fixed investment projects. Until money measurably tightens, a virtuous cycle encompassing developed world capital goods exporters and consumers will continue to fuel aggregate demand and push earnings higher.

Many think the best plays are in emerging markets, as their growth is much stronger than in far larger, developed economies. Our view, however, turns this consensus perspective on its head, seeing domestic U.S. equities as the preferred plays where they derive principal impetus from global growth. Our favorites include a host of commercial aviation and industrial suppliers that benefit from rising trade flows, demand for aircraft passenger travel and freight. Multi-industry aerospace and industrial companies bring the best of both worlds.

Delay-plagued Boeing ( BA – news – people ) will eventually right the 787 and surmount prior decade outsourcing and partnering decisions that have severely hampered program efficacy. As investors await word on when flight tests will resume and the extent to which deliveries are rescheduled, good news from other quarters is helping offset the latest disappointments. Increased production of other airliner models enjoying strong margins, notably the 777 but also 737 and a re-engineered 747, as well as price hikes combine with ongoing reports of airline profitability and upgraded air traffic forecasts.

Then, there’s also some good news unique to Boeing on the defense front. Overseas sales of fighter aircraft and helicopters to Saudi Arabia and possibly India combine with potentially quite consequential F-35 delays and new generation satellites for both government and commercial customers. As the Chinese build increasingly advanced twin-engine fighters, the U.S. and its Asian allies must confront single-engine, multi-mission F-35s without commensurate aerial superiority. With the F-22 now cancelled and its production base dismantled, there’s no ready response other than more Boeing F-18s. The Navy is already getting extras and we’d guess others will line up behind.

Tag along suppliers to Boeing and Airbus, as well as a handful of business and regional jet makers, include predominantly civil aviation oriented Goodrich ( GR – news – people ), BE Aerospace ( BEAV – news – people ) and Spirit AeroSystems. Spanning a broad gamut of advanced capital goods and industrial materials are diversified suppliers Precision Castparts ( PCP – news – people ), United Technologies ( UTX – news – people ), Honeywell ( HON – news – people ), Eaton and Parker-Hannifin, each a proxy for global infrastructure growth. United Tech and Honeywell just issued bullish 2011 initial views that will likely see upsides as the New Year rolls out.

Then there are companies with greater military exposure, such as electro-mechanical automation supplier Moog, advanced composites supplier Hexcel ( HXL – news – people ) and electronics-denominated navigation, communications and avionics specialist Rockwell-Collins. Each of these should see non-defense segments outweigh prospective cuts in military spending. Other mixed suppliers straddling the two worlds that will have a more difficult time in the years ahead include Esterline, FLIR Systems ( FLIR – news – people ) and AAR Corporation ( AIR – news – people ). These shares could face growing headwinds, especially as U.S. troops begin to draw down in Afghanistan.

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Russia Sells; China Clones

Today, Russia's military bonanza is over, and China's is just beginning.

China and America are bound to be rivals, but they do not have to be antagonists, Is that really the case? In many ways China has made efforts to try to reassure an anxious world. Leaving politics aside, the rise of chinese millitary power is obvious to all, not only millitary, china is making its way in Civil aviation market as well. But what is interesting in all is, a “Cloning Factor”. After decades of importing and reverse-engineering Russian arms, China has reached a tipping point: It now can produce many of its own advanced weapons—including high-tech fighter jets like the Su-27—and is on the verge of building an aircraft carrier. Not only have Chinese engineers cloned the prized Su-27’s avionics and radar but they are fitting it with the last piece in the technological puzzle, a Chinese jet engine.

At Zhuhai 2010 one thing was clear: China is starting to export much of this weaponry, undercutting Russia in the developing world, and potentially altering the military balance in several of the world’s flash points. China, here laid on its biggest commercial display of military technology—almost all based on Russian know-how. The star guests were the “Sherdils,” a Pakistani aerobatic team flying fighter jets that are Russian in origin but are now being produced by Pakistan and China. Russia’s predicament mirrors that of many foreign companies as China starts to compete in global markets with advanced trains, power-generating equipment and other civilian products based on technology obtained from the West. This is not all, there is an additional security dimension, however: China is developing weapons systems, including aircraft carriers and carrier-based fighters, that could threaten Taiwan and test U.S. control of the Western Pacific. According to West, Chinese exports of fighters and other advanced weapons also “threaten” to alter the military balance in South Asia, Sudan and Iran. But if I am sitting in Iran or Pakistan, the story is otherway round. Interestingly China accounted for 2% of global arms transfers between 2005-2009, putting it in ninth place among exporters, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But no other Asian country has sought to project military power—and had the indigenous capability to do so—since Japan’s defeat in 1945.

As the Chinese leaders’ history lesson will have told them, the relationship that determines whether the world is at peace or at war is that between pairs of great powers. Sometimes, as with Britain and America, it goes well. Sometimes, as between Britain and Germany, it does not. There are also implications for U.S. weapons programs. Last year the Pentagon decided to cut funding for the F-22—currently the most advanced fighter deployed in the world—partly on the grounds that China wouldn’t have many similar aircraft for at least 15 years. But then Gen. He Weirong, deputy head of China’s Air Force, announced that Chinese versions of such jets were about to undergo test flights, and would be deployed in “eight or 10 years.” The Defense Intelligence Agency now says it will take China “about 10 years” to deploy stealth fighters in “meaningful numbers.”

J-11: many aviation experts believe AVIC is having problems developing an indigenous engine for the J-11B with the same thrust and durability as the original Russian ones.

Few things illustrate this more clearly than the J-11B (shown below), a Chinese fighter that Russian officials allege is a direct copy of the Su-27, a one-seat fighter that was developed by the Soviets through the 1970s and 1980s as a match for the U.S. F-15 and F-16. Before the early 1990s, Moscow hadn’t provided major arms to Beijing since an ideological split in 1956, which led to a brief border clash in 1969. In 1992 (after collapse of Soviet Union), China became the first country outside the former Soviet Union to buy the Su-27, paying $1 billion for 24. Beijing’s breakthrough came in 1996, when it paid Russia $2.5 billion for a license to assemble another 200 Su-27s at the Shenyang Aircraft Company. The agreement stipulated that the aircraft—to be called the J-11—would include imported Russian avionics, radars and engines and couldn’t be exported. The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars. Only the engine was still Russian, China said.

Sukhoi 27: The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars. Only the engine was still Russian

The J-11B presented Russia with a stark choice—to continue selling China weapons, and risk having them cloned, too, or to stop, and miss out on its still lucrative market.many aviation experts believe AVIC is having problems developing an indigenous engine for the J-11B with the same thrust and durability as the original Russian ones. Photographs published recently on Chinese military websites appear to show engines fitted on the J-11B and a modified version—called the J-15—for use on aircraft carriers. The birth of J-15 can be read on my previous post Here Its not just Su-27 that concerns Russians, but also Su-33, a more advanced version of Su-27. The J-11B is expected to be used by the Chinese navy as its frontline fighter, capable of sustained combat over the entire East China Sea and South China Sea. Aircraft carriers and J-15 fighters would further enhance its ability to stop the U.S. intervening in a conflict over Taiwan, and test its control of the Western Pacific. China’s arms exports could have repercussions on regions in conflict around the world. Pakistan inducted its first squadron of Chinese-made fighter jets in February, potentially altering the military balance with India.The potential customer of greatest concern to the U.S. for JF-17 sale, is Iran, which purchased about $260 million of weapons from China between 2002-2009, according to Russia’s Centre for Analysis of the Global Arms Trade. Economist cites, that China and America have one advantage over history’s great-power pairings: they saw the 20th century go disastrously wrong. It is up to them to ensure that the 21st is different.

Detail about china’s rise and Russian arm deal, can be read on this extensive report published in Wall Street Journal, HERE

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War Toys: Artificial Intelligence on Battlefield

Humanity at High-Tech

The following article was published in New York Times (27 November), written by John Markoff and can be accessed HERE As I highlighted the importance of unmanned vehicles in modern warefare, and use of electronic warefare equipment – this article highlighting the application of Artificial Intelligence (A.I) takes the discussion further by introducing the How Robots can win War for humans (if they can). Althogh it will not be fair to undermine the potential of human on war-ground, but a combination of drones in air, and robots on ground may serve the purpose well. However, one must not neglect the ethics involved, warefare rules and most important of all laws of Robotics.

While smart machines are already very much a part of modern warfare, the Army and its contractors are eager to add more. New robots — none of them particularly human-looking — are being designed to handle a broader range of tasks, from picking off snipers to serving as indefatigable night sentries. In a mock city here used by Army Rangers for urban combat training, a 15-inch robot with a video camera scuttles around a bomb factory on a spying mission. Overhead an almost silent drone aircraft with a four-foot wingspan transmits images of the buildings below. Onto the scene rolls a sinister-looking vehicle on tank treads, about the size of a riding lawn mower, equipped with a machine gun and a grenade launcher. Three backpack-clad technicians, standing out of the line of fire, operate the three robots with wireless video-game-style controllers. One swivels the video camera on the armed robot until it spots a sniper on a rooftop. The machine gun pirouettes, points and fires in two rapid bursts. Had the bullets been real, the target would have been destroyed.

“One of the great arguments for armed robots is they can fire second,” said Joseph W. Dyer, a former vice admiral and the chief operating officer of iRobot, which makes robots that clear explosives as well as the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner. When a robot looks around a battlefield, he said, the remote technician who is seeing through its eyes can take time to assess a scene without firing in haste at an innocent person. Yet the idea that robots on wheels or legs, with sensors and guns, might someday replace or supplement human soldiers is still a source of extreme controversy. Because robots can stage attacks with little immediate risk to the people who operate them, opponents say that robot warriors lower the barriers to warfare, potentially making nations more trigger-happy and leading to a new technological arms race. “Wars will be started very easily and with minimal costs” as automation increases, predicted Wendell Wallach, a scholar at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and chairman of its technology and ethics study group.

Civilians will be at greater risk, people in Mr. Wallach’s camp argue, because of the challenges in distinguishing between fighters and innocent bystanders. That job is maddeningly difficult for human beings on the ground. It only becomes more difficult when a device is remotely operated. This problem has already arisen with Predator aircraft, which find their targets with the aid of soldiers on the ground but are operated from the United States. Because civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have died as a result of collateral damage or mistaken identities, Predators have generated international opposition and prompted accusations of war crimes. But robot combatants are supported by a range of military strategists, officers and weapons designers — and even some human rights advocates.

“A lot of people fear artificial intelligence,” said John Arquilla, executive director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “I will stand my artificial intelligence against your human any day of the week and tell you that my A.I. will pay more attention to the rules of engagement and create fewer ethical lapses than a human force.” Dr. Arquilla argues that weapons systems controlled by software will not act out of anger and malice and, in certain cases, can already make better decisions on the battlefield than humans.

“Some of us think that the right organizational structure for the future is one that skillfully blends humans and intelligent machines,” Dr. Arquilla said. “We think that that’s the key to the mastery of 21st-century military affairs.” Automation has proved vital in the wars America is fighting. In the air in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft with names like Predator, Reaper, Raven and Global Hawk have kept countless soldiers from flying sorties. Moreover, the military now routinely uses more than 6,000 tele-operated robots to search vehicles at checkpoints as well as to disarm one of the enemies’ most effective weapons: the I.E.D., or improvised explosive device.

Yet the shift to automated warfare may offer only a fleeting strategic advantage to the United States. Fifty-six nations are now developing robotic weapons, said Ron Arkin, a Georgia Institute of Technology roboticist and a government-financed researcher who has argued that it is possible to design “ethical” robots that conform to the laws of war and the military rules of escalation. But the ethical issues are far from simple. Last month in Germany, an international group including artificial intelligence researchers, arms control specialists, human rights advocates and government officials called for agreements to limit the development and use of tele-operated and autonomous weapons.

The group, known as the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, said warfare was accelerated by automated systems, undermining the capacity of human beings to make responsible decisions. For example, a gun that was designed to function without humans could shoot an attacker more quickly and without a soldier’s consideration of subtle factors on the battlefield. “The short-term benefits being derived from roboticizing aspects of warfare are likely to be far outweighed by the long-term consequences,” said Mr. Wallach, the Yale scholar, suggesting that wars would occur more readily and that a technological arms race would develop.

As the debate continues, so do the Army’s automation efforts. In 2001 Congress gave the Pentagon the goal of making one-third of the ground combat vehicles remotely operated by 2015. That seems unlikely, but there have been significant steps in that direction. For example, a wagonlike Lockheed Martin device that can carry more than 1,000 pounds of gear and automatically follow a platoon at up to 17 miles per hour is scheduled to be tested in Afghanistan early next year. For rougher terrain away from roads, engineers at Boston Dynamics are designing a walking robot to carry gear. Scheduled to be completed in 2012, it will carry 400 pounds as far as 20 miles, automatically following a soldier.

The four-legged modules have an extraordinary sense of balance, can climb steep grades and even move on icy surfaces. The robot’s “head” has an array of sensors that give it the odd appearance of a cross between a bug and a dog. Indeed, an earlier experimental version of the robot was known as Big Dog. This month the Army and the Australian military held a contest for teams designing mobile micro-robots — some no larger than model cars — that, operating in swarms, can map a potentially hostile area, accurately detecting a variety of threats. Separately, a computer scientist at the Naval Postgraduate School has proposed that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency finance a robotic submarine system that would intelligently control teams of dolphins to detect underwater mines and protect ships in harbors.

“If we run into a conflict with Iran, the likelihood of them trying to do something in the Strait of Hormuz is quite high,” said Raymond Buettner, deputy director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. “One land mine blowing up one ship and choking the world’s oil supply pays for the entire Navy marine mammal program and its robotics program for a long time.” Such programs represent a resurgence in the development of autonomous systems in the wake of costly failures and the cancellation of the Army’s most ambitious such program in 2009. That program was once estimated to cost more than $300 billion and expected to provide the Army with an array of manned and unmanned vehicles linked by a futuristic information network. Now, the shift toward developing smaller, lighter and less expensive systems is unmistakable. Supporters say it is a consequence of the effort to cause fewer civilian casualties. The Predator aircraft, for example, is being equipped with smaller, lighter weapons than the traditional 100-pound Hellfire missile, with a smaller killing radius.

Remotely controlled systems like the Predator aircraft and Maars move a step closer to concerns about the automation of warfare. What happens, ask skeptics, when humans are taken out of decision making on firing weapons? Despite the insistence of military officers that a human’s finger will always remain on the trigger, the speed of combat is quickly becoming too fast for human decision makers. “If the decisions are being made by a human being who has eyes on the target, whether he is sitting in a tank or miles away, the main safeguard is still there,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, which tracks war crimes. “What happens when you automate the decision? Proponents are saying that their systems are win-win, but that doesn’t reassure me.”

Humanity at High-Tech

Robotics going at war doesn’t make sense to me, the whole idea of robots playing a meaningful role in a contemporary conflict is just sounds ridiculous – but apparently its not. A video based journey Humanity at High-Tech was compiled by Red Cross, who tend to believe that robots are playing an increasingly prominent role in modern conflict and throwing up all kinds of tricky ethical questions and dilemmas. The modern battlefield is changing beyond measure, from the Green Berets to Starship Troopers in the space of just 50 years. Who knows where we’re heading next? The whole idea of implementation and integration of Artificial Intelligence within battlefield will be in my next post.

Author: John Markoff

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Game Controllers to Drive Drones

In my previous post of I highlighted the issue of Playstation Mentality Warning that the technology is making target killings much easier and more frequent, a report issued by New York Times raised concerns that drone operators based more than thousand miles away from the battlefield, risk developing a PlayStation mentality towards killing.

War really is getting more like a video game, as hardware and software from the gaming industry is increasingly being adopted for military use. Although evidence of this statement can be found within U.S military camps, but amazingly this Farnborough (F-2010 Air Show) Raytheon showed off its new Universal Control System for robotic aicraft. It’s based on the same technology that drives Halo and Splinter Cell. Amazing Right ? These kind of projects or statements are usually balanced by either cost factor or Human machine Inteferance, since gaming industry is spending millions to develop high definition graphics and user friendly interface, why not put them on UAVs – this saves money to military. Post-1990 time has seen large increase in simulation use for pilot training within civilian and military market. Within civilian, simulations are used to provide airlines with a cost effective training, preventing risks by first time flyers but also its saves fortunes. Now the same arguments can be applied to gaming and warefare industry.

Right now, every military command post and every training center is packed with PCs. In the future, many of those machines might be replaced with game consoles — if the armed forces can ever work out their disagreements with the console-makers. Surveys show that young people now spend more time gaming on consoles than on PCs. It’s the older (well, at least over 30) crowd who prefer to play games on computers, and that crowd is likely to shrink over time. If the Pentagon is going to rely on games, then it makes sense to use a platform designed for games, as well as one that’s familiar to your audience.

UAVs at your door: Call of Duty UAV simulation

Yet the real beauty of consoles, as far as the Army’s game gurus are concerned, isn’t really technical sophistication. More war games are available in market today, then there were few years back. Games like Halo, Warcraft, Conflict: Global Terror, Sniper Elite, America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, H.A.W.X, Call of Duty and many more. For some reason, a major resurgence of the war-themed videogame has occurred for the this-gen Xbox. Awhile back, you couldn’t miss a Vietnam-era title on the shelf, but now it looks like the World War era is the subject matter of choice. So will the Army go out and buy the Xbox? I don’t know how serious military personal are on buying these consoles, but one thing for sure, if they do buy then there will certainly be a shortage of these consols. Microsoft was concerned that “do we want the Xbox 360 to be seen as having the flavor of a weapon? – Offcourse

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Between Threats and War – Living in a World Addicted to UAVs

The New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow have conducted the first comprehensive public opinion SURVEY covering sensitive political issues in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. According to these polls people in tribal areas strongly oppose the US military pursuing al-Queda and Taliban fighters based in their region; American drone attacks deeply unpopular. The report concludes that nearly nine out every ten people in FATA oppose the U.S. military pursuing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their region. Nearly 70 percent of FATA residents instead want the Pakistani military alone to fight Taliban and al- Qaeda militants in the tribal areas. This strongly suggests the high intensity opposition to the U.S military operations. For civilian officials, the military’s ability to find and destroy things from a safe distance never ceases to amaze. The CIA’s ongoing drone strike campaign is a particularly redoubtable example, with drone operators in the United States taking out targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

UAV – A New Way to Wage War

UAV – Unmanned Arial Vehicle, will only exist if they offer advantage compared with manned aircraft. Contrary to advantages, disadvantages are obvious to some of us as we see and hear every day. An old military adage (which also applies to civilian use) links the use of UAVs to roles which are dull, dirty or dangerous (DDD). To DDD add covert, diplomatic, research and environmentally critical roles.
Recently (as per 27 Oct 2010) Raytheon – major American defence contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in defence systems and defence and commercial electronics, who has tested a new UAV weapon Small Tactical Munitions (STM) (0.6m-long (2ft), 13lb (5.9kg) bomb) at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The dual-mode, semi-active laser seeker and GPS inertial navigation system enable it to engage fixed and moving targets in all weather conditions.

With US army moving its concentration from Iraq to Afghanistan and continuous use of UAVs in Pakistan tribal areas by USA the demand for small unmanned air vehicles is moving into higher gear as well. US Army plans to buy 3,000 Raven small UAVs with already 2,000 in hand.

From the CIA’s silent war in Pakistan – two UAVs extensively used, the Predator and the Reaper, both made by General Atomics, a San Diego defence contractor. The Predator is the older of the two; the first one was delivered to the Air Force in 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the CIA was using it to track bin Laden. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours without refuelling, the drone was a “brilliant intelligence tool,” recalls Hank Crumpton, then the CIA’s top covert-operations man in Afghanistan. Although the CIA was keen to weaponize the drone early on, the Air Force resisted the idea until 2000. Even then, firing the weapons was another matter. The Predator’s firepower is limited, but the Reaper can deliver laser-guided 500-lb. bombs like those commonly found on the F-16 jet, together with Hellfire missiles. Marc Herold, in looking at casualties in Afghanistan, quotes an ‘effective casualty radius’ for the Mk82 of 200 feet: this is radius inside which 50% of those exposed will die. Quite often the target is taking cover or lying down and the effect is reduced, but if you can catch people standing up or running then the full effective casualty radius will apply.

But why use UAV; Times (CNN) published a report in June 2009, The CIA’s Silent War in Pakistan saying:

“If we were sending F-16s into FATA–American pilots in Pakistani airspace–they might have felt very differently,” says James Currie, a military historian at the U.S.’s National Defence University.

“The basic problem with all aerial reconnaissance is that it’s subject to error,” says George Friedman, who heads the security firm Stratfor. “But in a place like Pakistan, errors have enormous political consequences.”

Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. And yet Pakistani leaders like army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani seem to have concluded that using drones to kill terrorists in FATA is generally a good thing. This is a major change in direction; although former President Pervez Musharraf allowed drones to operate, he placed severe limits on where and when they could strike. After Musharraf resigned last summer, the shackles came off. The U.S. struck a tacit bargain with the new administration in Islamabad: Zardari and Kayani would quietly enable more drone operations while publicly criticizing the U.S. after each strike. The arrangement has worked well for the U.S.

PlayStation Mentality

We are now more facinated with War Games then before, even COD now includes Karachi and Kabul in their Missions

Warning that the technology is making target killings much easier and more frequent, a report issued by New York Times raised concerns that drone operators based more than thousand miles away from the battlefield, risk developing a PlayStation mentality towards killing. Target killing outside the war zone, never likely to be legal but US administration argues their legality after September 11-2001. Inaccurate and unprofessional attitude by military drone operators from remote locations, do indeed led to civilian killings. CIA so far has carried out more than 80 drone attacks in 2010 alone, according to The Long War Journal, which tracks these strikes. Surprisingly of vast majority of the attacks involved firing multiple missiles or bombs.

Pakistan’s Latest Military Gadgets

Pakistani officials were fortunate to be greeted with a fresh offer of military hardware – possibly totalling as much as $2 billion over the next five years. This latest gear includes (likely to include) night vision goggles, and helicopter spare parts. This is not new for Pakistanis, since 9/11 Pakistan’s gotten lots of big-ticket items from the U.S. military. According to the Congressional Research Service’s tally, that includes eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft; six C-130 cargo planes; over 5000 TOW anti-armor missiles; 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; and even an Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile frigate. And by next year, Pakistan will receive 18 new F-16 combat jets from the U.S. — fighters capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Considering the latest gear what options does Pakistan have? According the Spencer Ackerman of Wired MAGAZINE

“Unless al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban have developed an armor corps and a submarine-heavy Navy while no one was looking, these weapons have more utility against the Indians than the terrorists.”

This gear is either a treat from US for Pakistan to use against terrorists or U.S. military seeks to prevent a deepening erosion of a relationship that US can’t live with. This especially true after recent wikileaks suggesting a strong ties between Pakistan and Insurgents. WikiLeaks has freaked out the White House, though, by clearly raising questions about whether Pakistani aid to the Afghan insurgency is far deeper than typically acknowledged. How much truth is in it, I think it will be too early to say anything. However, it’s not a surprising news that the Pakistani ISI has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami. How much of this money or gear will go to Afgan pockets no one knows, it is only a time who will show a true motivation behind these large spendings on US non-NATO ally. But Is there a silver lining to Pakistan’s relationship with the insurgents? Not known, at least to me. Are things still Koran, Kalashnikov and laptop or do I have to add heat seeker missiles to it as well? I am not so sure.

A Silent War in Waziristan

The wilds of Waziristan, an unlikely showcase for the future of warfare

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a new report on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report is based on the study conducted by former national security advisor and former Deputy Secretary of State. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the report broadly endorses U.S. policy of trying to build a long-term partnership, while also aiming to persuade it to turn convincingly against all militant groups. It reiterates a U.S. complaint that while Pakistan is ready to act against militants that threaten the Pakistani state. Reuters cited, that the report’s endorsement of U.S. support for Pakistan comes with a hard edge, warning that failure to achieve results, or an attack on the United States traced back to Pakistan-based militants, could lead to a much more aggressive U.S. policy:

“There are several strategic options available to the United States if the administration concludes that the current strategy is not working. In Pakistan, Washington could turn away from its present emphasis on rewarding and encouraging long-term bilateral cooperation. Instead, it could undertake increasingly aggressive, unilateral U.S. military strikes against Pakistan-based terrorists deeper into Pakistani territory, coercive diplomacy and sanctions, or a range of financial, diplomatic, and legal restrictions to control the flow of people, money, goods, and information to and from Pakistan. This strategy of containment and coercion could be coupled with a distinct diplomatic ’tilt’ toward India, with New Delhi serving as Washington’s main strategic and counterterror partner in the region.”

Almost week after the report was published US showed its interest to expand the operations for drone within Pakistan up to Quetta, which Pakistan has rejected, with an agreement to practise more modest measures. US intend to expand the boundaries where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight boxes over the country’s tribal belt but not other provinces such as Baluchistan. In reference to the arguments put forward by both countries, it is evident that the disagreement over the scope of drone programme underscores broader tensions between the US and Pakistan, who are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising level of insurgent violence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan officials stressed that Quetta is densely populated city where strike is more likely to result in civilian causalities, however US officials have long suspected that there are other reasons for Pakistan’s aversion including the surveillance of Pakistan nuclear facilities based in Baluchistan.

The subject is quite intrinsic and needs a historical background to understand and reach the root cause. But to take the current situation only in account, in my opinion this is a reaction to the US Obama-Led administrations cohesive gesture and voices of triumphs for India, has shunned the Pakistan’s political and military regimes expectations as Pakistani’s are engaged in a large scale war on terror in alliance with the United States.

On the very other side, it may be taken into account the tribesmen residing on the western borders of Pakistan, have been so badly hit by their own army in alliance with the foreign intervention that the Pakistani military and government is now thinking of changing their footprints towards a dialogue to settle the area down, which indeed is a good option not good for the United States to continue with its military voyage to hunt down the terrorists.

Now when NATO summit concludes that the foreign forces shall handover the military command of Afghanistan to the National Afghan Army, they plan to flee this place till 2014. I also wonder role played by the Pakistani intelligence by supporting the pro-Pakistani Taliban likewise the silent war fought against the USSR 3 decades back.

This may be taken into consideration that the public opinion against the American intrusion has crossed the limits, and the Pakistani- Government now fear that this may not burst up and may not be end of its times.

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The Buzz on China’s Drones

Chinease Ajain - Dark Sword

Since UAV (or Drones, as known to Asia Pacific) are very much in main-stream these days. So, I had to dedicate some more space within my blog to these unmannes vehicles. In an ongoing Chinease 8th International Airshow – Zhuhai 2010, Chinese commercial and defense aviation companies are exhibiting more than 25 UAV models. That is a record number of UAVs, according to show officials, and continuing evidence of China’s growing interest in unmanned technology. So Chinease are not only competing western industry for civilian or military jets, but UAVs also, as the show reveals. Some of the UAVs will serve as combat and battlefield reconnaissance roles. In one video, a UAV locates a U.S. aircraft carrier and relays the information for a follow-on attack by Chinese anti-ship missiles. Three Chinese companies – ASN Technology Group, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) produced most of the UAVs on display.

ASN Technology is the largest UAV production company in China, with a history of developing unmanned aerial platforms, including drones, since 1958, said a company press release. The primary customer is the Chinese military and the company controls more than 90 percent of the UAV market in China. ASN showed off 10 different UAVs, including the new ASN-211 Flapping Wing Aircraft System, which simulates a bird in flight. The prototype on display has a take-off weight of only 220 grams with a maximum speed of six-to-10 meters a second and an altitude ranging from 20-200 meters, primarily for low-altitude reconnaissance missions.

The largest UAV on display by the company was the ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV. Equipped with a satellite data link, it can perform aerial reconnaissance, battlefield surveys, target location and artillery fire adjustment during the day or night. It has a take-off weight of 800 kilograms and a cruising speed of 160-180 kilometers per hour with an endurance of 20 hours. Weighing in at 800 kg, ASN’s largest system was the armed ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV, which is still under development. Able to cruise at 180 km/h, the 5.5 m-long ASN-229A can perform reconnaissance, target location or artillery observation missions via a satellite data-link. Also among the 600 exhibitors were China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Both state-owned companies showcased sophisticated missile-armed UAVs. CASC displayed the CH-3 carrying two air-to-ground missiles akin to the AGM-114 Hellfire. This 640 kg medium-range craft with 220 km/h cruising speed is optimised for reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, artillery fire adjustment and electronic warfare, as well as the depicted attack platform.

CASC displayed the CH-3 multipurpose medium-range UAV system suitable for battlefield reconnaissance, artillery fire adjustment, data relay and electronic warfare. A company official said the CH-3 could be modified as an attack platform carrying small precision-guided weapons. Weapons outfitted on the display included two air-to-ground missiles similar in configuration to the U.S.-built Hellfire. CASIC took the prize for UAVs capable of intimidating the U.S. military. These included the jet-powered WJ-600. Aerospace Science and Industry Group, according to the material, WJ-600 can be mounted opto-electronic reconnaissance, synthetic aperture radar, electronic surveillance and other mission equipment, with fast response, and strong penetration ability, and can all-time effect of all-weather reconnaissance and damage assessmenttask, you can also load other types of equipment to achieve the task of ground attack, electronic warfare, information relay, and target simulation and other military tasks. Moreover, this means that WJ-600 drone is capable of trabelling faster than both U.S Predator and Reaper, currently opnerational in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The general speed of the UAV flying only about 30 m/s (58.3 knots), while the WJ-600 can be up to 200 m/s (389 knots – about 100knots greater than U.S MQ-9 Reaper who is equipped with turboprop engine), better on the flight altitude, up to ten thousand meters altitude – thanks to its jet engine. At this stage the project look rather ambitious

Other UAVs displays included a little-known company called Zhuhai X.Y. Aviation, which exhibited two new reconnaissance platforms, the 200-kilogram Blue Arrow (UR-J1-001) and 40 kilogram Sky Eyes (UR-C2-008). A company spokesperson said there were three prototypes of the Blue Arrow now being test-flown and that the prop-driven engine was from an unidentified “German company.”

Closing the UAV Gap

The recent display of 25 UAVs at the Zhuhai was not only the surprise for westeran but also flet by Japan, North and South Korea, and the Taiwanese officials.Drone technology, thus far, has been led by the U.S. and Israel. China now has UAVs that are comparable, although not equal, to the American Predator and Global Hawk. most of the ASN models in use by the Chinese military are older, more like the 1990s technology found in the U.S. Army Shadow 200 (now being replaced by the Predator-like, 1.2 ton Gray Eagle). One of the most numerous Chinese army models, the ASN-206/207, is a 222 kg (488 pound) aircraft, with a 50 kg (110 pound) payload. The 207 model has a max endurance of eight hours, but more common is an endurance of four hours. Max range from the control van is 150 kilometers and cruising speed is about 180 kilometers an hour. A UAV unit consists of one control van and 6-10 trucks, each carrying a UAV and its catapult launch equipment. The UAV lands via parachute, so the aircraft get banged up a lot. A UAV battalion, with ten aircraft, would not be able to provide round the clock surveillance for more than a week, at best. But Chinese planners believe this is adequate.

Sources suggests that many of the Chinese UAVs demonstrate an American influence, some appear to be using Israeli technology. That’s no accident, as four years ago, Israeli UAV manufacturer EMIT got busted after it was caught shipping UAV technology to China. EMIT was not a major player in the UAV industry, having only three models; the 450 kg Butterfly, 182 kg (400 pound) Blue Horizon, the 48 kg (hundred pound) Sparrow. The twenty year old firm has been scrambling to stay in business. The Chinese helped set up a phony cooperative deal in a Southeast Asian country, to provide cover for the transfer of EMIT UAV technology to China. Most of EMIT’s production is for export, but Israel has agreed to consult with the United States about transfers of technology to China. This is because Israel has been caught exporting military equipment, containing American technology, to China (in violation of agreements with the United States.) China tends to get technology wherever, and whenever, it can.

Chinease Xianglong

Two years ago, China revealed that it was developing a new UAV, similar to the U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk. Called Xianglong (Soaring Dragon – shown above), it is about half the size of the Global Hawk (shown below), at 7.5 tons, with a 14.5 meter (45 foot) wingspan and a .65 ton payload. Max altitude will be 18.4 kilometers (57,000 feet) and range will be 7,000 kilometers. It has a faster cruising speed (750 kilometers an hour) than the RQ-4. The Chinese Xianglong is intended for maritime patrol, as is a U.S. Navy model of the RQ-4. The shorter range of the Xianglong is apparently attributable to the lower capabilities of the Chinese aircraft engine industry.

U.S Global Hawk

Interestingly, This year’s models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could in theory fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The large number of UAVs on display illustrates clearly that China is investing considerable time and money to develop drone technology, not only that the equation is equally balanced by promoting these products to international market. The implications of this is not only China’s internal security, also this is also an opportunity for nations alike China or Pakistan who have sought in vain to acquire drones either for military purposes or for police surveillance and antiterrorist operations. However, this is of particular concern to the U.S. and Israel, whose drones are unrivalled in the world today, and could worry China’s neighbors. A further details about Chinease buzz on drone technology can be read at the Wall Street Journal who has recently published a detailed resarch about the Chinease catch-up to U.S and Israel.

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Sino-Pakistani Ties: JF-17 to carry Chinese missiles SD-10

Domestic SD-10 medium-range air-intercept missile

Further signs of deepen military cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing was seen today, when recently Pakistan Air Force decided to buy air-to-air SD-10 (shown above) – (said to be a variant of Italian Aspide missiles supplied to China in late 80s) missiles and avionics to arm its 250 JF-17 Thunder fighter fleet from China. Air Chief Marshal also revealed that his country may also opt to acquire other advanced defence missile systems including Chinese Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) systems. Pakistan has opted to go in for full Chinese armament systems for the jointly developed fighters, furthermore, SD-10 (mid-range missile) will become the standard Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapon of the JF-17. This clearly seems that Pakistan Air Force has no plans to install wetern devices on its recently built combat aircraft. The first 50 JF-17s entering Pakistan Air Force service will most likely incorporate only Chinese avionics and other systems, however this may only be temporary. Once JF-17 enters full production, retractable in-flight refueling probes will be added and avionics from other sources may be integrated. Like other partnerships between two nations, it is obviously very impressive but “so called” chinease replicas do not sound appealing to me, what concerns me here is SD-10s’ life span compared to fifth generation amrs out there. However, I do hope they have long enough shelf life.

JF-17 can be armed with up to 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, as well as other equipment, mounted externally on the aircraft’s seven hardpoints. One hardpoint is located under the fuselage between the main landing gear, two are underneath each wing and one at each wing-tip. Internal armament comprises one 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon mounted under the port side air intake, which can be replaced with a 30 mm GSh-30-2 twin-barrel cannon. The PAF is also seeking to arm the JF-17 with a modern fifth generation close-combat missile such as the IRIS-T or A-darter. These will be integrated with the helmet mounted sights/display (HMS/D) as well as the radar for targeting.

JF-17 Thunder

Global Times quoting unnamed sources claimed that the French consortium has withdrawn from a reported 1.2 billion euro contract to supply radars and missiles for the first wave of 50 JF-17 fighters, after pressure from India. French sources had reported that a joint bid had been made by French aeronautic company ATE along with Thales Group and MBDA. The Pakistan Air Force Chief is currently on a visit to China to attend the Zhuhai Air Show now underway in southern China, where the JF-17s were a major attraction.

Nov. 16 (China Military News cited from APP): Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Chief of Air Staff, pakistan Air Force (PAF), said on Tuesday that pakistan-China joint production JF-17 Thunder fighter jet has bright prospects in the international aviation market. It has many added features which make it much more attractive than any other fighter aircraft of its category, said the Air Chief. A low price tag and much less maintenance and operational cost compared to the other planes of its class make it attractive for the buyers, he said. Pakistan, having the second biggest fleet of aircraft after host China, is participating for the first time in this exhibition. As many as ten K-8 trainer aircraft and three JF-17 fighters are taking part in the show that demonstrates the all-weather and time-tested friendship between the two countries. To a question regarding further expansion of cooperation between Pakistan Air Force and China, Rao Qamar Suleman replied that the two brotherly neighboring countries have a long history of cooperation in all fields particularly defence. He expressed the confidence that with the passage of time these bonds of friendsip would further consolidate.

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