Friday, January 29, 2010
Vladimir Putin praised the maiden flight of Russia’s new stealth plane as “a big step” towards giving the air force a fighter fit for the twenty first century.
The Russian prime minister told a cabinet meeting he wanted the first batch of T-50 stealth fighters to be in service by 2013, well ahead of earlier deadlines. The fighter will be the first all-new military aircraft Russia has built since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.
Russian aviation and air force officials lost little time in boasting that the plane would equal if not better America's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
Experts believe the T-50s maiden test flight underlines the Kremlin's determination to overhaul its ageing Soviet-era military hardware even as it is locked in key nuclear arms reductions talks with the United States.
President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, discussed a new nuclear arms treaty as recently as last Wednesday. The putative treaty would slash the number of war heads both countries possess and is seen as the centrepiece of a thus far largely rhetorical "reset" in relations between Moscow and Washington.
Negotiators have been hammering out the details of such a deal for months and are said to be weeks if not days away from a final settlement.
But though Russia may be ready to scale back its ageing nuclear arsenal it has signalled it will continue to actively renew its nuclear shield. So far unsuccessful tests to develop a new submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile dubbed the Bulava continue apace, a new strategic nuclear bomber is in development, and the country's strategic rocket forces have asked for a new silo-based heavy intercontinental missile too.
The stealth project is so secret that until yesterday photographs of the prototype had not even appeared in the Russian media. But state TV broke that embargo on Friday and showed the plane soaring over snowy forests in Russia's far east more than 5,000 miles east of Moscow.
Sceptics believe that Russia's plans to negotiate cuts in its nuclear arsenal do not mean it is ready to downsize its military ambitions. The warheads are ageing and would need to be replaced soon anyway.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 2:34 PM
By JOHN T. BENNETT
The Pentagon's 2011 budget will seek nearly $11 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, while also putting $4 billion toward a new long-range bomber and boosting funds for special operations forces, according to a draft overview of the spending request obtained by Defense News.
THE FY2011 BUDGET calls for $10.7 billion to be spent on the F-35. (LOCKHEED MARTIN)
The Obama administration's 2011 Pentagon spending request follows a tumultuous 2010 Pentagon budget process that saw Defense Secretary Robert Gates cancel, restructure or otherwise alter about 50 major U.S. weapon programs.
Due to be sent to Congress on Feb. 1, the new budget will call for the termination of yet more programs while doubling the purchase of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft, according to the summary document, titled "Overview - FY 2011 Defense Budget" and labeled "Draft - Predecisional." And as in years past, the budget will push to finally kill purchases of the Air Force's C-17 cargo plane and an alternative engine for the F-35.
"Since taking office, Secretary Gates has taken decisive action to increase the capabilities available to our deployed forces - especially those forces in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," the summary says. "The FY 2011 budget builds upon his previous actions, which Congress generally has supported, and advances the [Quadrennial Defense Review's] emphasis on current conflicts."
Despite that current-war focus, the summary also describes a 2011 budget request that "funds a robust program to develop and procure superior [tactical] aircraft to guarantee continued air dominance over current and future battlefields."
The summary calls the F-35 program "the most important" and says its procurement quantities have been adjusted to reflect "new data on costs and on likely orders from our foreign nation partners and realigned development and test schedules." In 2011, the Pentagon wants $10.7 billion for more development and to buy 42 F-35s, according to the summary.
The summary does not include a DoD-wide top-line number, but is chock full of program funding lines.
For special operations forces, the 2011 budget will call for $6.3 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, which the summary calls a "6 percent" boost from this fiscal year. The added funds would be used to buy new gear and ISR assets and to improve existing ones, training, and communications systems.
"DoD plans to call for SOF funding to continue to increase sharply over the next several years," the summary says.
It also will propose adding 2,800 new special operations personnel.
One of the biggest questions about the closely held budget: will the Pentagon put new money toward an on-again, off-again effort to develop and field a new long-range bomber? The summary says yes: $4 billion over 2011-15.
Echoing public comments made in recent weeks by Pentagon and Air Force officials, the summary says the funds will be used for work on "a portfolio of initiatives to improve long-range strike capabilities." The $4 billion also would go for maintaining "the bomber industrial base" while the Pentagon studies what kind of bomber will be "appropriate for future decades."
The long-range strike portion of the request also will seek funds for development of a Prompt Global Strike system, as well as efforts to upgrade B-2 and B-52 bomber aircraft, according to the DoD summary. The summary does not specify funding levels for those three initiatives.
"Later in this [2011-2015] time frame, funds are available to begin developing a new bomber and cruise missile," it says.
For the Army's ground forces modernization program, the budget plan will support a program to develop and field a new next-generation ground combat vehicle - but it does not include a funding amount.
"The design of the new program will take into account the success of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected [MRAP] vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan," the summary says.
Over the past year, senior Pentagon officials - including Gates - have sounded alarms about the U.S. military's helicopter fleet and industrial base. To that end, the budget will ask Congress for $9.6 billion "for the acquisition of a variety of modern rotary wing aircraft," the summary says. That list includes:
■ $1.4 billion for Army UH-60 Black Hawks.
■ $1.2 billion for Army CH-47 Chinooks.
■ $2.7 billion for V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
■ $1.7 billion MH-60R/S Seahawks for the Navy.
The budget also will propose creation of two "combat aviation brigades" by combining existing aviation platforms to create a 12th active duty brigade in fiscal 2011. It also will set in motion efforts to field a 13th in fiscal 2015.
Meantime, the 2011 spending blueprint also will support one of Gates' other primary focus areas: bolstering the military's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance portfolio.
The plan will ask lawmakers to approve the Pentagon's desire to "double procurement of the MQ-9 Reaper … over the next few years," the summary says. Such a buy rate is aimed at bringing about "an increase in the number of [combat air patrols] provided by this type of aircraft from 37 now to 65 CAPs" by fiscal 2015, the summary states.
The plan includes $2.7 billion for "increased capabilities" called for by the Gates-created ISR Task Force.
"ISR funding is supporting key enhancements for our deployed forces including: Introduction of innovative airborne collection platforms - such as new unmanned aircraft and ground-based collection systems; marked increases in the number of full motion video and signals intelligence collection systems optimized for counter-insurgency operations; enhanced ISR communications and its supporting infrastructure; and significant increases in processing, exploitation and dissemination capabilities - both people and systems," the budget summary states.
Also for ISR, the blueprint will "advance" the Pentagon's goal of fielding six CAPs per deployed Army brigade combat team by fiscal 2015.
On shipbuilding, the 2011 budget will reflect "the department's formulation of a realistic, executable shipbuilding plan" that will span 2011-15.
"The FY 2011 budget reinforces the on-going transition to a naval force that will address operational capabilities needed in the near term and to reduce the reliance on certain major combatants in the far term," states the summary.
For new ship construction, the spending plan will ask for $14.1 billion in 2011 monies. The sea service's shipbuilding plan will propose a nine-ship 2011, and 50 total through 2015, according to the budget summary.
On specific ship programs, the plan will seek:
■ Two DDG 51 destroyers.
■ Two Virginia class submarines.
■ Two Littoral Combat Ships.
■ One Amphibious Assault Ship Replacement (LHA-R).
■ One Mobile Landing Platform (MLP).
■ Two Joint High Speed Vessels (one Navy funded and one Army funded).
"This shipbuilding plan balances capability, affordability, and industrial base stability," the summary says.
The 2011-15 funding the budget plan will seek would put the Navy on track to maintain aircraft carrier production "on a five-year build cycle, resulting in a long term force structure of 10 aircraft carriers by 2040," it states.
It will put the Navy on pace to produce two attack submarines per year beginning in 2011, while also continuing development of a new "strategic deterrent submarine," according to the summary.
The Pentagon also will propose buying three Mobile Landing Platform vessels - one each in fiscal 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Further, the 2010 QDR will call for better electronic warfare capabilities.
To that end, the Pentagon will add $203 million in fiscal 2011 and $2.3 billion in fiscal 2012 for 26 additional EA-18G Growler aircraft. That would add to current plans two EA-18s in 2011, and 24 more in 2012, according to the budget summary.
Those jets would recapitalize four "expeditionary EA-6B squadrons the Navy plans to dissolve by fiscal 2012."
"To sustain EW capabilities while new EA-18Gs are procured, about $26 million in [fiscal] 2011 and $22 million in [fiscal] 2012 was added to extend the availability of EA-6Bs previously slated for retirement," the budget summary states. "This initiative will help fill an EW shortfall that has been consistently highlighted by the Combatant Commanders as one of their highest war fighting priorities."
The summary says the Air Force's budget plan will put the service on track to award a KC-X tanker contract in "summer 2010." It would start buying the aerial tankers in fiscal 2013 under this time frame.
On the F-35 alternative engine, which the Pentagon has for years proposed terminating only to see lawmakers keep alive with annual budget plus-ups, the summary says defense officials "considered all aspects of this program and decided that - because of cost and management issues - the department should not develop and procure an alternate engine."
The budget request also will seek $9.9 billion for ballistic missile defense programs, including $8.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency.
"This funding supports the development and fielding of an integrated, layered Ballistic Missile Defense System [BMDS] architecture that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads before they can reach their targets," according to the summary.
The 2011 budget will propose terminating the Navy's next-generation cruiser program, the sea-service's EP-3 replacement effort (known as EP-X), the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance system, and the Net Enabled Command and Control program.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:26 AM
Russia Unveils Fighter Seen as Rival to F-22
By STUART WILLIAMS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Published: 29 Jan 2010 07:53 PRINT | EMAIL
MOSCOW - Russia on Jan. 29 unveiled a new fighter aircraft touted as a rival of the U.S. F-22 stealth jet and developed amid the highest secrecy as part of a plan to modernize the armed forces.
THE SUKHOI FIFTH generation fighter jet, currently known as the PAK FA, makes its maiden test flight on January 29. (SUKHOI via AFP)
The fifth generation fighter, manufactured by the Sukhoi company and known as the PAK FA, made a maiden flight of just over 45 minutes at the firm's home base of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Far East region.
"The flight lasted 47 minutes during which all the aircraft's systems were tested. It was successful," Sukhoi spokeswoman Olga Kayukova told AFP.
"This is the first time it has been unveiled."
Pictures broadcast on state television showed the fighter jet - which has been kept closely under wraps for years - flying at altitude and then landing on a snow-surrounded runway.
"The aircraft performed well in all stages of the flight program. It is easy and comfortable to pilot," said Sergei Bogdan, the pilot for the flight, in comments published on the Sukhoi website.
The new plane can fly long distances above the speed of sound as well as simultaneously attack different targets, according to the Interfax news agency.
It can also collate information from satellites and other planes in line with the demands of modern warfare.
Until now, even Russian state television had only shown artist's impressions of the plane.
Only the United States has such a fifth generation fighter in its armed forces - the F-22 - although it is also developing the lighter F-35.
China is also working to develop a fifth-generation model.
"The PAK FA project is one of the most complicated technological projects realized in the post-Soviet era," said the daily Vedomosti. "Without PAK FA, Russia will not be able to independently assure its own security."
Russia is currently embarking on a major program to re-equip its military, not least the air force which is still using largely Soviet-era equipment and suffers from frequent crashes.
The new fighter, which has been in development since the 1990s, is due to enter the armed forces in 2015, Russian news agencies said.
The first flight of the PAK FA (Prospective Aviation System of Frontline Aviation) is being seen in Russia as a major boost for the military after the project was hit by repeated delays over the last years.
"There is no doubt that the plane is needed," the ex-commander of the Russian air force, Anatoly Kornukov, told the Interfax news agency.
"Our Su-27 and MiG-29 planes are good but have aged. They are 20 or more years old and it's time to have something as a replacement," he said.
He said the new plane could easily stand comparison with the U.S. F-22. "It's going to be no worse than an F-22. I've been in an F-22 and I know."
Russia's liberal Nezavisimaya Gazeta struck a more circumspect tone, saying the test version was only a prototype that did not yet contain an advanced engine and it was still unclear what weapons it would carry.
Russia's campaign to modernize its military has been marred by repeated setbacks with new equipment, above all a string of failed tests of its new Bulava sea-based intercontinental nuclear-capable missile.
Its main defense partner India has also been involved in the PAK FA project and will develop a two seater version of the aircraft under an intellectual property agreement made with Russia.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 8:21 AM