Japan seeks to win Thai air defense radar contract

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo | TOKYO

Japan is seeking to win a contract to supply Thailand with an air defense radar system built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp, as it looks to counter growing Chinese influence in the Southeast Asian nation, according to four Japanese government officials and one industry source.

The effort is part of a wider push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to bolster its position in the region along with its U.S. ally. The Chief of Staff of Japan’s Air Self Defense Force, Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, traveled to Bangkok last month to discuss areas of possible cooperation.

Japan expects the Thai military government to begin accepting competitive bids as early as next year as it upgrades and adds to its existing U.S. and European radar systems, the sources said. It is unclear who else may be bidding.

The value of such a contract is unclear as the specifications for the system have not yet been released. Radar systems built by Mitsubishi and other companies for Japan can stretch to hundreds of millions of dollars depending on the complexity and coverage. The sources said Japan would look to offer a lower price system because of Thailand’s limited defense budget.

Japan’s push for stronger ties with Thailand, will benefit the U.S. given the growing tensions over China’s claims in the South China Sea, according to the sources. Japan, which until 2014 had a ban on arms exports, has not previously sold military equipment to Thailand.

Since the 2014 coup brought the current Thai government to power, the U.S. has had strained relations with its old ally, which served as a staging ground for American forces during the Vietnam War, offering access to strategic airfields and ports.

In July, Thailand agreed to buy three Chinese-built submarines worth around $1 billion in a deal that illustrated Beijing’s willingness to fill the vacuum left by Washington. And last month, Thai and Chinese military planes performed acrobatic demonstrations together at the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, around 260 km (161 miles) northeast of Bangkok, as a prelude to the first joint military drill between the nations’ air forces.

A company spokeswoman said Mitsubishi Electric does not discuss individual deals.

“While we are aware that Thailand is moving ahead with the deployment of air defense radar, we can’t comment on the activities of individual corporations, » a spokesman for Japan’s defense ministry said.

A Thailand Defense Ministry spokesman, Kongcheep Tantravanich, said that “many countries want to sell it to us but we have to see if the system fits.” Spokesmen for the Royal Thai Navy and the Royal Thai Air Force said they had no knowledge of a plan for a new system.

Washington has a statutory obligation to withhold aid to militaries involved in coups against democratically elected governments. That includes restricting its arms makers from selling military kit to the country. Japan does not face such restrictions in engaging with the Thai government.

Tokyo is worried that China’s wooing of Thailand could further split members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and blunt criticism of China’s island building in the South China Sea. Beijing has claimed most of the resource-rich waterway as its own, sparking protests from other claimants, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

The radar Japan proposes for the deal is a variant on Mitsubishi Electric’s fixed-position FSP-3 radar, an older generation system that has been used by Japan’s Self Defense Forces to detect air threats, the sources said.

Source : Reuters



MRAP glut on the way?

09 March 2012 by defenceWeb

The world military vehicle market will likely soon be glutted with surplus Mine Resistant Armour Protected (MRAP) V-shaped hull armoured vehicles.


The Washington Post says the MRAP’s signature V-shaped undercarriage helped deflect the impact of blasts from improvised explosives and made the armoured vehicle exactly what troops needed in Iraq. In 2007, the military began ordering almost 28 000 MRAPs, most of which went to Iraq, though some were designed for Afghanistan and its more challenging terrain.


“The military had little intention of keeping the vehicles over the long term,” the paper says. But to get them to the battlefield as quickly as possible, the Pentagon ordered multiple versions from six manufacturers, drawing from the war funding appropriated by Congress.


The number includes several hundred RG31s built at BAE Systems’ Benoni plant in South Africa.


“At the time we bought MRAP, it was pretty clear to most people that this was a short-term buy for the current wars,” said David Berteau, senior adviser and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ defense -industrial initiatives group. But, Berteau said, “when you buy that many variants, it becomes a long-term nightmare.” What to do with the vehicles now is a complicated matter, particularly for the Army, which owns most of the MRAPs, and the Marine Corps, which has a sizable number.


David Hansen, programme manager with the office set up to manage the MRAP initiative, said none of the military services has decided how many to keep, the Post reports. Although the Army has completed two studies on the issue, one of its top officials recently sent staff “back to the drawing table” to take another look, he said.


The military will certainly keep some for training at US bases so troops know how to operate them, but most of the vehicles will probably be placed in some form of war reserve. Older models that haven’t been upgraded are likely to be shed, Hansen said.


The Defense Department will consider selling some of the vehicles to foreign countries or moving them to other federal agencies. Under one idea, some could be used by units patrolling the nation’s borders. “President Obama’s mantra for the future is versatility, flexibility, agility,” Thompson said. “None of those things sounds like an MRAP” or seems suitable for a future characterised by drones, cyberwarfare, and intelligence and surveillance technology.


The military is paying a high price to keep MRAPs up and running. Last year, Navistar Defense received a US$133.7 million contract to service vehicles in Afghanistan and Kuwait, and Fairfax County-based ManTech received a contract this year worth up to US$507 million over 10 months to repair battle-damaged MRAPs and make upgrades. Once the vehicles are off the battlefield, maintaining them is expected to cost less, but they will still require regular maintenance, such as checking fluids and batteries, the Post says.

Honda out to shake up market with first jet next year

By Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO | Mon Jan 30, 2012

(Reuters) – Honda Motor Co (7267.T) expects to grab at least a quarter of the world market for small business jets soon after delivering its first aircraft next year, achieving the company’s long-standing goal of taking to the skies, an executive said.

Honda, Japan’s No.3 car maker and the world’s biggest manufacturer of motorcycles and engines, is in the final stages of getting its $4.5 million HondaJet certified. It aims to ramp up the pace of production to 80 a year in the first half of 2013.

Honda received more than 100 orders for the seven-seater jet in three days when it began taking orders in 2006, promising a quieter engine, 20 percent better fuel economy over competing models and operational costs of two-thirds or less.

It has not disclosed an updated number of orders, but Michimasa Fujino, a Honda executive and CEO of its North Carolina-based subsidiary, Honda Aircraft Company, said it held a backlog of about three years from orders taken through its nine dealerships in North America and Europe.

« I’m very optimistic about our prospects, » Fujino, who initiated Honda’s foray into aviation research in 1986, told a small group of reporters at the automaker’s Tokyo headquarters on Monday.

« We’re doing with HondaJet what the Civic did to American cars from the 1960s. Our competitors are still producing with technology from the 1990s, » he said, referring to Textron Inc’s (TXT.N) Cessna and Brazil’s Embraer SA (EMBR3.SA), which now dominate the 200-a-year small business jet market.

The Civic, known for its reliability, durability and mileage, has consistently been among the United States’ best-selling cars since its launch in 1973, forcing industry giants such as General Motors Co (GM.N) to follow suit with cars to meet the country’s tighter emissions regulations.

Honda’s ambition of making jets traces back to its iconic founder, Soichiro Honda. The HondaJet will make Honda the only car maker in the world to build its own aircraft.

Its engine is made by a joint venture between Honda and General Electric Co (GE.N).

Honda Aircraft is aiming to turn a profit by 2018, Fujino said.


The business jet industry is expecting a rebound in sales this year after the global economic crisis hammered sales over the past three years.

While the small business jet market has traditionally been limited to North America and Europe so far, Fujino said he was fielding about a call a week from China, both from prospective buyers and eager dealers, while interest was also greater than he anticipated in Brazil, India and the Middle East.

« Right now we want to focus on delivering on the orders that we have, but I’d like to enter Brazil and China earlier than we’d initially planned, » he said, declining to specify a timeframe. New demand from emerging markets could expand the global small-jet market to about 300 a year, he said.

Fujino said he was also seeing more interest in the smallest end of the market as medium-sized jet users look to downsize to get more for their fuel, much like the trend in the car industry.

« Most of our customers are owners of small- and medium-sized businesses, and many are looking to get the most out of the jets that they need, » he said.

With operational costs of about $1,000-$1,200 an hour, HondaJet could make travelling in a group of five or six cheaper and more efficient than flying commercially between small cities, he said. Competitors offer at best $1,800 by comparison, he added.

Honda Aircraft will add 300-350 factory staff to bring its total workforce to around 1,000 in the first half of 2013, Fujino said.

(Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Source: Reuters

Fiche Entreprise #1 – DCNS

La première fiche entreprise de l’observatoire vient de paraître. L’heureuse entreprise? Le groupe DCNS.

N’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour améliorer notre formule.


Le groupe DCNS est le principal maître d’œuvre français de systèmes navals de défense. Avec un chiffre d’affaires de 2,503 Mds€ en 2010, DCNS est un des leaders européens et mondiaux dans le domaine des constructions navales militaires. Le groupe opère dans la construction de navires militaires et les services associés. Il a notamment en charge la réalisation, la conception, l’entretien et le démantèlement des bâtiments de guerre. Depuis la privatisation de l’entreprise avec l’entrée de Thales dans le capital du groupe à hauteur de 25%, DCNS a mis en place une ambitieuse stratégie de diversification dans l’énergie (énergies renouvelables en mer et énergie nucléaire civile) et d’internationalisation de son activité (près du tiers du chiffre d’affaires est réalisé à l’export) ainsi qu’un plan d’optimisation des coûts de 30% sur 3 ans. Le groupe emploi plus de 12 500 collaborateurs en 2010.

Le reste en PDF 2011-08-10-FE1_dcns


DoD Might Cut Jets from 5th F-35 Batch

Published: 8 Aug 2011 16:01

The Pentagon might have to cut the number of F-35 Lightning II fighters it purchases in an upcoming buy to cover increased development costs in early model jets, unless Congress approves a $151 million funding transfer, according to U.S. Defense Department documents.

DoD asked Congress to approve the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) money transfer in a 91-page, June 30 omnibus reprogramming. Congress has yet to OK the measure.

The cost overruns surround 31 of the single-engine jets purchased over the past five years, according to a Pentagon acquisition document. The aircraft were part of the first three low-rate initial production (LRIP) buys.

« If the reprogramming request is not approved, additional funding within the JSF program will be diverted to cover these costs, » the document said.

The additional funds would cover development cost increases involving « both airframe and propulsion contracts, » the reprogramming document said.

In addition to F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems build parts of the fuselage. Pratt & Whitney builds the engine that powers the stealth jet.

The cost increases came before then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates restructured the multiservice F-35 program earlier this year, according to the acquisition document.

« The JSF program is already working to cover most of the cost overruns internally, » the document said.

Last year, the Pentagon and Lockheed negotiated an LRIP-4 contract for jets that caps the government’s vulnerability to cost increases and rewards the contractor for controlling cost growth. DoD plans to use a similar fixed-price structure during LRIP-5 negotiations later this year.

But if Congress does not approve the $151 million reprogramming, the Pentagon might have to shrink the number of jets purchased in LRIP-5.

« The diversion of additional JSF funds could result in the purchase of fewer aircraft in LRIP 5 and result in future cost increases for the JSF program, » the acquisition document said.

The F-35 is the Pentagon’s largest acquisition program ever, with a total price tag estimated at more than $380 billion, which includes development and production. An updated program cost is expected this fall.

The Pentagon plans to buy 2,443 F-35s, which will be flown by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Hundreds of foreign sales are also expected.

The Air Force jet flies from traditional runways and the Navy jet from aircraft carriers. The Marine Corps version can take off from short runways or smaller amphibious ships and land vertically.

The jet will replace a number of combat aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and A-10 Warthog.

After years of development issues, the program had gained steam in recent months, completing flight test objectives faster than most recently planned. However, all 20 F-35 test jets were grounded Aug. 2 following a failure of the aircraft’s power system.

Source: defensenews

Italian Austerity Likely To Hit Aerospace

Aug 9, 2011

By Andy Nativi

GENOA, Italy — Italian defense spending and other public allocations backing aerospace are expected to face a difficult future under Rome’s newly minted fiscal reform package aimed at soothing market fears over its ability to repay its debt.

The effect on the individual ministerial line items has not yet been decided, but the accelerated move to a balanced budget and other reform commitments make cuts to spending on aerospace, defense and security inevitable. The goal of the reform package – which also includes welfare cuts and tax increases that could trigger labor turmoil – is to bring the ratio of public debt to GDP to a more sustainable level.

To raise funding, Rome also may be forced to sell its stake in some industrial “crown jewels.” Even disposal of part of its 30% stake in Finmeccanica is not being ruled out; a potential option is to reduce the involvement to a mere golden share to protect the company from foreign takeover. However, that move is seen as unlikely.

Finmeccanica’s share price has fallen sharply in recent days, owing to a combination of factors including disappointing earnings, slow progress in streamlining the business and broader concerns over the Italian market. Any disposal is unlikely until the share price recovers to make the sale financially attractive.

The increased budget pressure also is expected to hit the ministries of economic development, research and public instruction, and transportation. The first pays for research and development, as well as procurement of many major platforms – including Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, navy Fremm frigates, army wheeled combat vehicles and military satellites. The research and public instruction ministry provides the Italian space agency’s funding resources and the transportation ministry finances the bulk of the coast guard.

The squeeze has been on aerospace for some time. Prior to the latest move, the government cut €5 billion ($7.1 billion) from public spending under the 2012-14 budget plan, with €250 million taken from defense in 2012 and another €413 million in 2013, More cuts in 2014 were planned. The ministry of economic development was to surrender a total of €2 billion, although only a small fraction would have hit aerospace and defense activities. The ministry currently is looking to obligate €400 million to support R&D programs, money which was approved but has not been earmarked.

The defense ministry still has to detail how it will cope with the budget crunch, and a communication on that strategy could be submitted to parliament by the end of September. That deadline may slide if the new spending adjustments have to be built into that plan.

So far, the defense ministry has tried to absorb spending cuts without sacrificing major procurement activities or cutting personnel. However, with operations and maintenance accounts already stretched, curtailing modernization funding may emerge as the ministry’s only tool to decrease spending, especially if there is continuing political pressure not to cut uniformed or civilian personnel.

Operational reductions have been made. In its commitment to the NATO mission against Libya, Italy will replace its aircraft carrier with a smaller amphibious platform (its navy Harriers are no longer in action), while the air force has added the AMX to the F-16s, Typhoons and Tornado it is flying. Those steps will help shrink operational outlays for the full year below the €1.8-2 billion forecast.

Source: Aviationweek.com

Drone Impact On Pace Of War Draws Scrutiny

Jul 8, 2011

By Paul McLeary, Sharon Weinberger, Angus Batey
Washington, Washington, London

There is an unofficial but lethal drone war taking place over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya that has expanded the area of operation for U.S. forces beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, with no real acknowledgement from the government that anything extraordinary is happening. The undeclared conflict on these three fronts might be the first Drone War, and warfare has never seen anything like it.

On just one front of this undeclared war, in Pakistan, the U.S. had launched 37 drone strikes this year as of June and 118 in all of 2010.

The simultaneous use of remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) over Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, typically operated by crews in the Nevada desert, raises certain questions. Would the U.S. engage in such a wide-ranging air campaign if it were conducted only with manned aircraft flying from overseas bases and carrier strike groups? Has the use of unmanned systems led to more warfare, in more places, because of the smaller logistics tail and the fact that pilots’ lives are not at risk?

“The issue is not whether or not the aircraft is manned,” says Lt. Gen. (ret.) David Deptula, former U.S. Air Force first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and principal air attack planner during Operation Desert Storm, the runup to the 1991 Persian Gulf war. “We would do what we’re doing if the only way we could do it is with a man in the aircraft.”

Deptula maintains that operating over permissive environments such as Yemen or Pakistan—where the tacit or explicit approval of the host government has been granted—means that the threat to pilots is limited, and that “taking the human out of the cockpit simply allows the capability of persistence to be exploited.” In other words, the ability of remotely piloted systems to hover over targets for hours before striking is what leads policymakers and combatant commanders to make use of them in these situations, not because there is no risk to American lives.

In his view, UAVs don’t “lower the threshold to the application of force,” but enable “a perspective that we didn’t have when you had a person in the cockpit”—namely, persistence. A General Atomics Predator or Reaper drone can loiter well beyond the capability of a manned aircraft, which gives it the ability to wait out an enemy while it gathers the intelligence needed for a planning a strike. Deptula has long railed against the word “unmanned” when it comes to drones, since “it nominally takes about 180 people to maintain a single orbit. The majority of those people are analysts. You don’t have that in manned aircraft.”

From a legal standpoint, U.S. government officials are adamant that using a drone to kill an enemy is no different than employing manned aircraft. “[The] rules that govern targeting do not turn on the type of weapon system used, and there is no prohibition under the laws of war on the use of technologically advanced weapon systems in armed conflict—such as pilotless aircraft or so-called smart bombs—so long as they are employed in conformity with applicable laws of war,” Harold Hongju Koh, legal adviser to the U.S. State Department, said at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington. “Indeed, using such advanced technologies can ensure both that the best intelligence is available for planning operations and that civilian casualties are minimized in carrying out such an operation.”

A secondary question is whether drone operators are more or less likely to drop bombs than manned aircraft. Precious little research has been done on how the people operating drones—particularly those responsible for the weapons—are affected psychologically, or more importantly, whether they are affected differently than those flying manned aircraft. An Air Force Research Laboratory study in 2010 compared drone operators to gunship pilots and found similarities.

But there are also differences. For example, subject matter experts interviewed by the study’s authors cited cases where sensor operators, after having to kill enemy forces, decided they weren’t comfortable doing so and changed jobs. “They reported such SOs (sensor operators) performed their surveillance and reconnaissance duties well, but emotionally struggled with their role in taking lives of others, regardless of the threat enemy combatants posed to U.S. and allied forces,” the study found. “[Subject matter experts] reported such SOs experienced significant internal conflict with their role, and that such a conflict did not become apparent until the SO was faced with a real-life situation or fully educated about the nature of their combat-related duties.”

In other words, UAV sensor operators may have more problems with releasing weapons than gunship crews, and thus might require even more motivation to do their jobs, the authors wrote.

Pilots or drone operators can only fly where their military and civilian bosses tell them to and conduct the missions they’ve been tasked to do. The notion that having access to armed, unmanned platforms may make it easier for the order to be given to fly lethal missions, and therefore permit politicians to take nations to war sooner, or without the planning and deliberation that is essential to engaging in conflict, is one that the U.K. Defense Ministry has considered. The ministry’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Center released a report titled “The U.K. Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems” in March, which states “ . . . the recent extensive use of unmanned aircraft over Pakistan and Yemen may already herald a new era. That these activities are exclusively carried out by unmanned aircraft, even though very capable manned aircraft are available, and that the use of ground troops in harm’s way has been avoided, suggests that the use of force is totally a function of an unmanned capability.”

“I actually disagree that [the U.K. is] doing anything differently because of the unmanned technology,” says Wing Cdr. Chris Thirtle, Royal Air Force desk officer and policy lead for remotely piloted air systems. “From a U.K. perspective, I sense there is no change in political appetite just because of the advent of unmanned aircraft. They don’t change what we do, they don’t influence what we do; they just give us a better, and hopefully safer, way of doing it.”

In Afghanistan, too, experience suggests that decisions to strike are not being taken more hastily because of remotely piloted platforms. Rather, it is another factor inherent in the current generation of unmanned aircraft that is changing the nature of warfare.

Thirtle and Deptula have much in common in their assessments of what capabilities UAVs give the U.S. and U.K., with the aircraft’s ability to loiter above a target for hours being the critical factor that changes the potential battlefield below. “What the unmanned system gives that we’ve not had before is the persistent presence that enables us to know when we want to deliver an effect and where we need to deliver it,” says Thirtle. “In a congested, cluttered, complex battlespace, persistence is becoming more and more valuable. A single snapshot just gives you a picture. Your understanding of that picture could change if you saw what was happening there 5 minutes before or 5 seconds later. That is what’s changing the way we consider how we use our pieces on the chessboard. I think we’ve understood the benefits of persistence,” he adds, “and you’ll see a drive to keep that card in hand.”

DTI saw the benefits of persistence at Bagram AB, Afghanistan, in September 2009, while embedded with the U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN, an acronym for observe, detect, identify and neutralize. The task force’s mix of contractors and enlisted personnel teamed up to operate General Atomics MQ‑1C Warrior drones on surveillance and overwatch missions as well as lethal runs (DTI November 2009, p. 16).

Since the aircraft can fly 24 hr. at a time, teams would swap out every 7 hr. to keep a fresh set of eyes on the ground at all times. DTI was allowed into the flight-control pod to observe a live night raid at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, and the hours on station that the drone provided gave the insertion team on the ground an unprecedented look into the “pattern of life” inside the compound’s walls hours before their helicopters touched down—intel that was pored over in real time by analysts in multiple locations via a secure online chat function.

Another mission the ODIN crews were practicing at the time—and which has since been put to lethal effect—was teaming with Army Apache helicopter crews. During the test runs DTI observed, an Apache crew would laser-designate a target that a Warrior UAV would hit, or a Warrior designated a target that an Apache would strike. In this mission the value of keeping a persistent watch on a target is combined with the ability of a helicopter crew to see a wider view of an area, something unavailable to a drone’s operators.

The stress operators can experience on long missions is a concern, however. There are advantages to removing a pilot from an airframe—the calm, comfortable “cockpit” environment of a drone operator and access to more intelligence and advice should enable greater concentration and better decision-making. But unmanned aviation technology has its own unique set of pressures—everything an operator sees, hears and reads is stored, and all decisions taken can be subject to a greater degree of analysis and evaluation after a mission than would be possible with a manned platform. The remote operator may be under increased pressure to justify every decision taken during a mission. Greater persistence also means longer time on station than for a manned platform, and the view through the “cockpit windshield” is not of ground several miles below, but close-up sensor footage of buildings, vehicles and people—friend and foe alike.

Air Cdr. Stuart Atha, the U.K. Defense Ministry’s head of Joint Capability, and in 2009-10 the air component commander in Afghanistan, addressed the question of the effect “prolonged exposure to death and destruction via near-real-time video” may have on aircrews in a recent speech to defense experts in London.

“The crews are distant but not detached,” he said. “While they operate at no direct physical risk they are subject to psychological and emotional stresses. Yet the evidence shows that occupational rather than operational issues, such as the long hours worked, the need to maintain a heightened awareness over long periods, and in particular the constant juggling of domestic and professional life, are the more prevalent causes of stress.”

In the present climate, with Britain’s economic uncertainties pointing to further cuts in defense budgets, remotely piloted operations offer a rare area of growth. And while the Reaper drone remains an Urgent Operational Requirement and is not at present expected to remain in the RAF inventory after the U.K. withdraws from Afghanistan, the Scavenger Istar (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) UAV requirement, set to be finalized in 2012 with a view to initial operating capability around 2018, will keep the RAF invested in remotely piloted air system capabilities. From being an uncertain berth in a changing service, remotely piloted aircraft may offer one of the more secure career paths in the British military.

While the U.S. isn’t hiding the fact that it is flying missions against targets in Pakistan and Yemen, the U.K. is more careful about its Afghanistan operations. Penetrating foreign airspace is still penetrating foreign airspace, Thirtle says, echoing Deptula’s contention that not having a pilot in the cockpit doesn’t really change the nature of the situation. “Speaking hypothetically,” Thirtle continues, “there’s much less political fallout from having a bunch of wreckage found on the wrong side of the border than a captured airman or a body. However, I’ve seen and heard nothing that gives me any sense that wreckage falling on the wrong side of the border is acceptable just because it’s unmanned.

“The U.K. operates remotely piloted aircraft systems only in Afghanistan. The border is considered so sacrosanct that you put another border inside the real border, so that even if your navigation system drifts slightly, there is no danger you will have infringed somebody else’s airspace.”

In the U.S., remotely piloted aircraft are also creating career paths. The Air Force Academy’s class of 2011 was the first in which graduates planned to specialize in operating remotely piloted aircraft—32 of 1,021 graduates selected this field. In the Army, enlisted soldiers operate the UAVs and surveillance equipment, though Army pilots or contract pilots handle takeoffs and landings.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the CIA is now preparing to launch a major drone operation over Yemen. The aircraft will conduct surveillance and attack missions, using operations over Pakistan as a blueprint. This, of course, adds another wrinkle to the debate over the increasing use of unmanned platforms for targeted killings in countries where the U.S. isn’t technically at war.

Source: defense technology international

Etats-Unis : Panetta met en garde contre des coupes supplémentaires dans la défense


Le secrétaire américain à la Défense, Leon Panetta, a mis en garde mercredi contre des coupes supplémentaires dans le budget de la défense qui seraient décidées « à la hâte », au lendemain de l’adoption de l’accord sur le plan de réduction du déficit par le Congrès.
Dans un message aux troupes et employés civils de la défense, le ministre juge que les réductions dans le budget de la défense sont « en ligne » avec ce qu’avait anticipé le Pentagone.
« Je pense que nous pouvons mettre en oeuvre ces coupes tout en maintenant l’excellence de notre armée », soutient-il.
Mais pour éviter les erreurs passées, notamment après la guerre du Vietnam où la réduction arbitraire du budget militaire avait abouti à une force « sous-dimensionnée et sous-financée par rapport à ses missions et responsabilités », les coupes budgétaires doivent être effectuées en fonction des missions et de la stratégie du Pentagone pour les années à venir, dit-il.
« Réaliser des économies fondées sur une politique nationale de sécurité avisée servira notre intérêt national », promet M. Panetta.
L’accord entériné mardi prévoit 350 milliards de dollars de réductions sur 10 ans dans les dépenses de défense.
Une commission spéciale bipartite du Congrès devra ensuite trouver des économies supplémentaires, faute de quoi un mécanisme automatique imposera 1.200 milliards de réductions budgétaires, dont la moitié dans les dépenses militaires.
La perspective d’une mise en oeuvre de ce mécanisme provoquerait de « réels dommages à notre sécurité », craint M. Panetta.
« Je ferai tout ce qui est en mon pouvoir pour assurer que des coupes supplémentaires dans les dépenses de défense ne soient pas mises en oeuvre à la hâte ou de façon mal-conçue, ce qui minerait la capacité de l’appareil militaire à protéger l’Amérique et ses intérêts vitaux dans le monde », déclare-t-il.
Leon Panetta, qui a pris ses fonctions début juillet, est un spécialiste des questions budgétaires. Le président Barack Obama a annoncé mardi la nomination de son futur adjoint, Ashton Carter, un spécialiste des acquisitions de matériel militaire, un signal supplémentaire de l’austérité qui attend le Pentagone, selon le Washington Post.

Source: AFP

South Africa Stars On Top Gear

Posted by Bill Sweetman at 6/27/2011

Paramount’s Marauder protected vehicle has become a TV star. In the premier show in the latest series of BBC’s cultural icon Top Gear, co-host Richard Hammond drove the Marauder over cars, through walls, through a McDonalds in Johannesburg and through a pride of lions, after which the TG team tried to blow it up.

Quite the PR coup for South Africa’s Paramount. At the LAAD show in Rio de Janeiro in April, I had a chance to talk to Paramount CEO John Craig about the fast-growing company’s plans. A few highlights: The mine/blast-resistant Marauder and the Matador personnel carrier are in production in Baku, Azerbaijan (a follow-on order was announced in May) and the company is collaborating with the United Arab Emirates to set up a plant there to serve the Middle East market. The bigger 6X6 Mbombe is likely to be marketed the same way.

Under an agreement with India’s Ashok Leyland, Paramount is chasing the Indian market — with Paramount-designed vehicles tailored to local defense and security requirements — and also offering a low-cost Marauder option with Ashok Leyland running gear. You can also, Craig says, get the up-market Marauder with a MAN diesel and ZF transmission, or a Cummins/Allison version if you want commonality with US vehicles.

Another Paramount line of business involves ex-South African AF Mirage F1AZs. Through Aerosud (in which Paramount has a 19 per cent stake), Paramount refurbishes and updates the French fighters and has supplied them to Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, together with a complete turnkey training, maintenance and spares package. Paramount has « the world’s largest supersonic private air force », Craig says.

The company offers a package to support peacekeeping forces working under contract to the United Nations and African Union. Mostly from African states, these forces often don’t have the equipment and logistics required to deploy outside their home country. Paramount arranges finance for the new equipment, and gets paid back from UN and AU payments to the participating country. Expect more news from Paramount soon.

Source: Ares Blog AviationWeek.com

Paris Orders Recast Airliner Battlefield

Jun 27, 2011

By Robert Wall, Joseph C. Anselmo, Jens Flottau, Guy Norris
Le Bourget

A week of massive order intake has aircraft makers wondering how much further and faster they need to ramp up production to meet demand. But it also raises strategic product policy concerns for some, including Boeing, which is grappling with whether to re-engine the 737 or launch the New Small Airplane (NSA).

The scale of the business deals brought to the market is staggering. Airbus secured more than 660 orders for its A320NEO (new engine option) family, driving its six-month order total since program launch to more than 1,020 aircraft. This year was “the best air show ever for Airbus in terms of aircraft numbers sold,” says Tom Enders, Airbus CEO. Most of the 730 deals are firm orders, he says, valued at over $73 billion. “I was pretty much amazed that we sold that many aircraft here,” Enders says of the NEO.

The U.S. airframer, meanwhile, beat Airbus in widebody orders, securing deals for 19 Boeing 747-8s, 27 777s, four 787s and one 767. The company booked $22 billion in commercial aircraft deals.

And it was not just Airbus and Boeing that secured large numbers—Embraer took orders for more than 60 aircraft. That has Frederico Curado, Embraer’s CEO, saying a production ramp-up is under consideration, although it will depend on how much the orderbook grows in the second half of this year.

Still, Airbus’s NEO order surge has left an impression on airlines and industry observers and raised the stakes for Boeing to make a narrowbody strategy decision. The U.S. aircraft manufacturer has said a Boeing 737 replacement or upgrade choice will be made by year-end. But Boeing is receiving mixed signals from the increasingly important lessor market about which path to take. Air Lease Corp. CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy, one of the commercial aircraft industry’s most influential buyers, is urging it to pursue an all-new design. “Boeing needs to show leadership,” he says. “My feelings are heavily biased toward a new family of aircraft.”

Udvar-Hazy downplays concern that Boeing risks losing a lot of business to the NEO as it takes time to decide on a strategy. “Airbus won’t have many positions left after this air show,” he noted here. “If [Boeing] can get it out by 2019 or early 2020, we’re very interested.”

Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle, says he is “lining up in the long queue of airlines that tell Boeing they have to build a new aircraft.”

Another major European airline buyer says a new aircraft is a must for Boeing.

But International Lease Finance Corp. CEO Henri Courpron believes it is best left to Boeing to determine which option to take. “Does a child want a new toy? Of course,” he said here. “Everybody wants a new airplane, but there comes a time to ask the parental, adult questions [such as], ‘How much will it cost?’ and ‘Do we need it?’”

At the air show, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO James Albaugh reiterated the company’s position that it does not have to make a decision on re-engining until the end of the year. “We have the design pretty much on the shelf to do the re-engine,” he said. “The question is, do we want to evolve . . . or do we want to take more risk and design an airplane for the next 50 years?”

Mike Bair, vice president of advanced 737 product development, adds that “there’s no need for an artificial deadline, and by the end of the year we’ll have got more direction.” A slip of an announcement into 2012 may indicate a decision to go for an all-new product. However, he says, “we’re still going to have re-engining available to us if we hit a show-stopper with NSA.”

Airbus has long suspected Boeing will launch a new program and then pull back, as it has done before, to pursue a more modest effort. Bair says re-engining would produce a 10-12% improvement. For the new aircraft, CFM International, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney all could offer viable engines that could be ready by 2019, according to Bair.

Regardless of what Boeing does, Jeffrey Knittel, CIT Group’s president of transportation finance, says Airbus will be in good shape. “We believe the NEO can stand on its own, whether there is a re-engined 737 or an all-new aircraft,” he said after placing an order for 50 NEOs. Still, he added, “I would hope [Boeing] will come to a decision soon.”

For the time being, Knittel says, “we think the A321 specifically presents a unique opportunity to fill a gap we see in the future.” He notes that it “gets as close to filling the [Boeing] 757 void as any aircraft out there.”

In addition to the NEO orders, Airbus also secured strong sales for its standard single-aisle product and, perhaps equally importantly, a big commitment from JetBlue to retrofit all its A320s with winglets. The winglet upgrade is part of JetBlue’s deal for 40 A320NEOs and conversion of some backlog A320s to A321s. The retrofits are available for A319s, A320s and A321s beginning in 2013 and should offer 3.5% fuel-burn savings, similar to the forward-fit winglets, Leahy says. The winglet’s price will also be similar to the forward-fit, around $950,000, although the retrofit kit could add to the cost. For JetBlue, the winglets promise range assurance on transatlantic flights.

Another key NEO order—from Republic Airways—fuels the competition with Bombardier’s CSeries, which the U.S. carrier is also buying. Airbus secured a deal to sell 80 NEOs to Republic, including the first 40 A319NEOs to be sold. Republic officials insist they have no plans to change their CSeries order, noting that the Canadian narrowbody will arrive in 2015 and the A319NEO a year later.

However, Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia says it makes no sense that Republic would want both jets. “Competition doesn’t get any more direct than the A319 and CS300,” he says. “Republic can talk forever about not cancelling [the CSeries order], but what is their rationale for two planes that do effectively identical jobs?”

At Le Bourget, though, the CSeries showed signs of gaining traction in the market. While it failed to win any orders at last year’s Farnborough air show in the midst of a 15-month drought, on the opening day here the Canadian airframer announced a firm order for 10 CS100s, with options for six more, giving new momentum to a program that some competitors have written off as a lost cause. The orders came from an undisclosed “major airline” that will become the launch operator for the 110-145-seat CSeries family.

Bombardier also received a letter of intent from Korean Air to acquire up to 30 CSeries jets, including 10 firm CS300 orders, potentially giving the CSeries its first customer in the Asia-Pacific region and its second global airline operator after Lufthansa. Walter Cho, Korean Air senior vice president in charge of fleet planning, said the deal should be finalized in the near future. He added that the airline intends to exercise its rights for the 20 remaining aircraft once the CSeries flies and demonstrates its advertised capabilities, which include fuel burn 20% lower than existing jets and 12% lower than the A319NEO.

The CSeries is scheduled to make its first flight next year and enter service in late 2013, powered by new Pratt & Whitney 1000G geared turbofan engines.

Despite the relatively low order intake compared with the NEO, Ben Boehm, Bombardier vice president for international business, says, “we’re not threatened by them.”

It is not just the jet airliner market that is clearly out of the doldrums of the past three years. ATR has announced orders for 88 aircraft through the first six months of 2011, a record for the turboprop maker, supporting its plans to boost output.

But for every upside, there is a downside. One is concern about the ability to satisfy the tremendous demand. “We certainly don’t want to get to the point that slots are constrained,” says Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice president for programs. The company has already talked with engine makers about a further production ramp-up, having recently moved to increase single-aisle output to a record 42 aircraft per month.

“We will investigate if we can go considerably higher,” Enders says. Airbus has a few production slots for standard A320s free in 2014 and for NEOs in 2018-19, depending on the turnover from standards to NEOs. Production for the A350 is sold out until 2018-19 and for the A330 until 2013-14.

Curado also notes that supplier issues are a concern as Embraer considers boosting output. “We may have some bottlenecks,” he says, adding that any production increase would be modest at first.

Boeing’s Albaugh says, “We have seven years’ worth of backlog, but it really needs to be in the three-to-four-year range. We need to burn down the backlog, and we have to respond to the marketplace.” Although Boeing has ramped up production, the order surge in recent days has taken up many of the new slots created through planned production increases.

Some skeptics wonder if the tens of billions of dollars in orders reaped at the Paris air show are too good to be true. Several institutional investors are privately questioning whether the market is growing fast enough to absorb so many new aircraft. Others fret about the ability of the supply chain to keep pace with the production buildup of the Boeing 787 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as well as the robust rate increases in narrowbody and widebody jets that Airbus and Boeing have planned for the next few years.

Source: Aviationweek