Monday, February 22, 2010
U.S. Intel Report on Taiwan Air Power Released
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI - A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assessment that points out weaknesses in Taiwan's air power and air defense capabilities seems to support Taiwan's case for new F-16s.
Delivered to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 16, the report, DIA-02-1001-028, says that while Taiwan has nearly 400 combat aircraft in service, "far fewer of these are operationally capable."
The report is mandated by Congress under the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.
Since 2006, Taiwan has had a standing request for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters, but the United States has repeatedly rejected a letter of request for price and availability for the aircraft. The most critical problem is aging F-5E/F Tiger squadrons now used for training. The F-5s have "reached the end of their operational service life," the report says.
Taiwan claims it operates about 60 F-5s, but the report says "the number of operationally capable aircraft is likely much less, possibly in the low 30s."
The 126 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) have "limited combat range and payload capacity restricts [the aircraft's] effectiveness in air-to-air combat," according to the report, which acknowledges the Air Force is making some efforts to modernize a "portion" of its IDF fleet.
The Air Force's 56 Mirage 2000-5 fighters suffer from high maintenance costs and lack required spare parts. They are "technologically advanced, but they require frequent, expensive maintenance that adversely affects their operational readiness rate." There are also "chronic difficulties with the aircraft's turbine fan blades" that have "severely hampered the fighters' readiness rates."
The Air Force is considering mothballing the fighters and "focusing resources on a more sustainable aircraft," according to the report.
Taiwan's 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters are in need of upgrades that improve avionics, survivability and combat effectiveness, the DIA report says, but "the extent of the upgrades, and timing and quantity of affected aircraft is currently unknown. The F-16A/B can be armed with the AIM-120C [AMRAAM] active-radar air-to-air missile."
Taiwan has 120 AIM-120C-5 and 218 AIM-120C-7 missiles in its F-16 inventory.
"Despite the operational capability of Taiwan's fighter force, these aircraft cannot be used effectively in conflict without adequate airfield protection, especially runways," the report says. "Taiwan's ability to protect its aircraft and airfields from missile attacks and rapidly repair damaged runways and taxiways are central issues to consider when examining Taiwan's air defense capability."
Though Taiwan's request for new F-16C/Ds is not mentioned in the DIA report, the conclusion of the assessment points to the need for new fighter aircraft.
One U.S. defense industry source cautioned that the option of selling F-16s to Taiwan has a de facto deadline.
"If Taiwan is to have some credible air deterrent, then they need new, replacement aircraft. There is really no alternative to the F-16C/D. At some point this year, the F-16 supply chain will begin to shut down as there are no new orders and the U.S. and its allies switch to the F-35," he said.
"Once this happens … it is cost-prohibitive to restart the line. This industrial time constraint will force the political decision either to sell the aircraft to Taiwan or not. If no, for all intents and purposes, the island will have no real means of defending its airspace."
Taiwan legislators are pushing hard for the United States to release F-16s. In December, 24 legislators signed a letter addressed to four members of the U.S. Congress asking for the release of F-16s.
The letters were addressed to two members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and ranking minority leader Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; and two members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., and ranking minority leader Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
The bipartisan letter urged the follow-on procurement of F-16s to Taiwan, describing the issue as one of "utmost importance to our country."
The Taiwan legislators wrote, "Our nation has attempted to purchase follow-on F-16s since 2006 to upgrade our national defense by replacing our aging F-5s … and thereby respond to the growing threat that the People's Republic of China (PRC)" poses to the "peace and security in the Taiwan Strait."
The letter acknowledges improved economic and diplomatic relations between China and Taiwan over the past year, but adds, "we face a significant threat from the People's Liberation Army Air Force." China has a "lethal fleet" of advanced fighters and is "developing a fifth generation fighter" that will be deployed in 2017.
"Our air force is badly in need of replacement aircraft to maintain a viable deterrent fighting force to ensure a balance of power. Our military must be able to defend our airspace as a further deterioration in the air balance across the Strait will only encourage PRC aggression," the letter states.
It warns that "if America softens its support for our country at this critical time, we believe it will have an adverse effect on cross-Strait relations as Taiwan's negotiating position is weakened and the PRC may then seek to capitalize on our situation."
Thursday, February 18, 2010
U.S. QDR Uses Veiled Language on China
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI - The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) makes little overt reference to China's military buildup. Missing from the 2010 version are several concerns of the 2006 edition, such as China's cyberwarfare capabilities, nuclear arsenal, counterspace operations, and cruise and ballistic missiles.
Instead, there's a stated desire for more dialogue with Beijing - and prescriptions for countering the anti-access and area-denial capabilities of unnamed countries.
Analysts say the QDR attempts to address the threat posed by China without further enraging Beijing.
"If you look at the list of 'further enhancements to U.S. forces and capabilities' described in the section 'Deter and Defeat Aggression in Anti-Access Environments,' those are primarily capabilities needed for defeating China, not Iran, North Korea or Hizbollah," said Roger Cliff, a China military specialist at Rand. "So even though not a lot of time is spent naming China ... analysis of the China threat is nonetheless driving a lot of the modernization programs described in the QDR."
Among the QDR's recommendations: expand long-range strike capabilities; exploit advantages in subsurface operations; increase the resiliency of U.S. forward posture and base infrastructure; assure access to space and space assets; improve key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; defeat enemy sensors and engagement systems; and increase the presence and responsiveness of U.S. forces abroad.
All of these could respond to China's development of anti-ship and intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missile defenses, anti-satellite weapons and submarines.
The report does offer concerns about transparency: "The nature of China's military development and decision-making processes raise legitimate questions about its future conduct and intentions within Asia and beyond."
It urges building a relationship with China that is "under-girded by a process of enhancing confidence and reducing mistrust in a manner that reinforces mutual interests."
The new emphasis on confidence-building measures (CBMs) and military dialogue is in tune with President Barack Obama's strategy of offering an "open hand rather than a clenched fist," said Dean Cheng, a Chinese security affairs specialist at the Heritage Foundation. "This includes, it would appear, a greater emphasis on CBMs, arms control proposals and the like toward the PRC [People's Republic of China]."
Compared with the 2006 QDR, the new report makes no reference to Taiwan, but the reasons might be more pragmatic. "The issue of Taiwan has receded since 2006, as cross-Strait tensions have distinctly declined," Cheng said. "The QDR is reflecting that change."
Still, Beijing reacted with unusual fury to Washington's Jan. 29 release to Taiwan of a $6.4 billion arms sale, including Black Hawk helicopters and Patriot missile defense systems.
China canceled military exchanges, threatened sanctions against U.S. defense companies and publicized calls by some People's Liberation Army officers to dump U.S. Treasury bonds.
China had already sold off $34.2 billion in U.S. securities in December, lowering its total holdings from $789.6 billion to $755.4 billion, but that appears unrelated to the arms sale.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Chinese Officials Threaten Economic War on U.S.
But Specialists Pooh-pooh Comments
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI — Chinese military officials are openly advocating the use of punitive economic measures against the United States should Taiwan arms deals continue, although some observers say the comments do not reflect official government policy.
The threats were published Feb. 8 in Outlook Weekly, a Chinese-language magazine published by the official, state-run Xinhua news agency. Members of the National Defense University and Academy of Military Sciences made comments advocating economic warfare against the United States.
Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan and Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, along with Senior Col. Ke Chunqiao, said China should dump U.S. Treasury bonds, now amounting to roughly $800 billion, to punish Washington for the Jan. 29 release of a $6.4 billion arms deal to Taiwan.
“Our retaliation should not be restricted to merely military matters, and we should adopt a strategic package of counterpunches covering politics, military affairs, diplomacy and economics to treat both the symptoms and root cause of this disease,” said Luo, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences.
The comments follow threats by Chinese military and government officials to sanction U.S. companies after the recent release of arms to Taiwan. The deal included Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot missiles and Navy minesweepers.
Zhu, who serves as dean of the National Defense University and advocates economic warfare, had been in hot water over past comments. In July 2005, Zhu remarked China would use nuclear weapons if the United States attacked China during a conflict over Taiwan. He later emphasized they were his personal views and not those of Beijing.
The remarks made in Outlook are not being taken too seriously by some Western observers because the military does not have a say in foreign and economic policy.
“I don’t believe that the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has any influence on Chinese decisions about U.S. Treasury holdings,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Moreover, China’s debt holdings aren’t a source of leverage over America’s economy.” If China dumped U.S. bonds, it would mean Beijing was willing to sacrifice its own economic prosperity to make a political point, she said. “China’s investment in U.S. treasuries is simply another example of how interdependent the U.S. and Chinese economies are.”
A Chinese academic who spoke on condition of anonymity said that, at a minimum, the comments reflect the Chinese government’s frustration and anger over arms sales.
“Too oftentimes, American policymakers tend to take for granted Chinese ‘acquiescence’ on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and that is something that has become increasingly counterproductive, if not dangerous, as the shifting balance of power, perceived or real, between China and the U.S. has unsettled the ‘equilibrium’ of the game,” the academic said.
However, not everyone in China’s academic community feels the comments reflect the government’s position.
“Don’t take them too seriously. I have to say that their views are very ‘emotional’ and ‘radical,’” said Zhu Feng, deputy director at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University. “It’s insane, inflammatory, totally pointless and clueless.” Zhu said the comments illustrate the importance of maintaining strong military-tomilitary relations with the United States.
“Their misperception does not come from their spontaneous or born-to-have resentment to the U.S., but from their lack of solid understanding of the world in general and the U.S. in particular,” Zhu said.
The objective of the Outlook article appears to be twofold. First, to demonstrate to internal audiences in the military “the degree of displeasure the PLA feels about the arms sales and its search for ways in which to punish the U.S., especially down the road if even more significant arms sales, such as with the F-16, were to take place,” said Tai Ming Cheung, author of the book “Fortifying China.”
Second, the remarks by military academics are a “speculative effort by the PLA” to see if it can influence international financial markets over the Taiwan issue in hopes Wall Street will pressure the White House to kill future arms deals. “A type of indirect economic warfare approach, but done at a low, measured level,” Cheung said.
Even though the remarks can be dismissed, there appears to be an increasing trend out of Beijing to use economic power to influence U.S. foreign policy decisions.
“It is interesting that Chinese military officers have been willing to make public comments in an officially sanctioned media outlet about the use of economic instruments to serve strategic ends,” Cheung said.
“This marks an evolution in how the Chinese military are using the media to signal their displeasure. In the past, unnamed Chinese military officials would make comments in the pro-Chinese Hong Kong media. For example, during the cross-strait military tensions in 1995-1996, bellicose remarks by anonymous PLA officials negatively impacted the Taipei stock market, and PLA studies have pointed positively to this type of indirect economic warfare,” Cheung said.
However, Glaser said a phase of allowing its citizens, including the PLA, “to vent their anger against the U.S.” could be ending. “I expect the window of allowing Chinese citizens to rail against the U.S. arms sale is about to end,” she said. “It doesn’t serve China’s interests to whip up too much nationalistic sentiment against the United States.”
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Putting Its Fortune on Wheels
Singapore Firm Sees New Markets in Europe, India
By Wendell Minnick
SINGAPORE - ST Engineering is moving beyond its regular product lines of small arms and ammunition, pushing into the armored vehicle market and further developing its integrated systems capabilities, said Patrick Choy, the company's executive vice president for international marketing.
The company is integrating the capabilities of its component parts into a single package for the customer, Choy said. ST Engineering is divided into four sectors: ST Aerospace, ST Electronics, ST Land Systems (also called ST Kinetics) and ST Marine.
"The customer wants integrated system solutions," he said. "We approach the market by harmonizing all of our business sectors."
The company has made new inroads into the European market with its armored vehicle line. ST Engineering secured its first armored vehicle sale from a NATO country in December 2008, when ST Kinetics won a $250 million contract with the British military for 100 Warthog tracked infantry fighting vehicles.
Also dubbed "the Beast," the U.K. vehicle is a variant of ST Kinetics' Bronco person-nel carrier. It was chosen in response to an urgent operational requirement from the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) for British military forces in Afghanistan.
Europe has a long history of buying ammunition from ST Engineering, but this was the first major purchase by a NATO member of a military vehicle from an Asian nation.
"We've had our first success with a vehicle sale to the U.K,," Choy said. "Traditionally, NATO countries have never bought any major hardware, especially armored vehicles, from Asia. So this has become a good reference point as to where we are as a company."
However, ST Engineering could experience difficulties in breaking into the military vehicle market.
"Both armored and 'B' class are already crowded, and virtually all major countries have their own domestic suppliers," said Tim Huxley, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS-Asia), based here.
"It is hard for their governments to justify buying from ST Engineering or other relatively new entrants to the market, even if there is a price advantage," said Huxley, who wrote the book "Defending the Lion City: The Armed Forces of Singapore."
However, there is still hope for the company to break into the U.S. market with a strategy that leverages its involvement in coalition efforts in Afghanistan, he said.
"I wonder if it might be possible in the future for 'Singapore Inc.' to leverage its militarily minor, but still politically significant, involvement in Afghanistan, alongside the [Singapore Armed Forces'] massive procurement of U.S. defense equipment to improve the chances of sales," Huxley said.
PROSPECTS IN INDIA
Beyond the U.S. market, ST Engineering is making a new effort to enter the howitzer market in India, Choy said. The company has entered the Indian competition with the FH 2000 155mm 52-caliber towed howitzer for the Army's towed gun requirement, and the Pegasus 155mm 39-caliber lightweight howitzer for the country's ultra-lightweight howitzer competition. ST Kinetics also is exploring the sale of its SAR 21 assault rifle to India.
"We did an analysis of where the defense market is going, and there are some conclusions we've drawn," Choy said. "The first one is in some of the major markets, we see capital buys decreasing," such as for warships, fighter aircraft or large numbers of tanks or missiles.
"A lot of countries are not making huge capital buys," he said. "For one, the threat has changed; two, the budgets have been cut; and number three, they feel that equipment they have is good enough."
Many countries are moving away from large capital procurements because potential military threats are more asymmetrical and require "more boots on the ground," Choy said.
There will continue to be a need for conventional weapons, he said, but in many countries, there is a lot more upgrading and retrofitting of older gear taking place to save costs as defense budgets decline.
"They want more bang for the buck," Choy said. "This is an area that ST Engineering is looking at closely."
Connectivity and integration also have become important, but "capital buys will continue to drop," he said, and ST Engineering will offer new smart solutions to meet customer requirements.
ST Engineering also is looking at multitasking for vehicles and other platforms. In many countries, the military is not just involved in traditional combat, Choy said. Military operations other than war - such as peacekeeping, humanitarian missions, civil defense and disaster relief - are becoming more common.
"So how do we enhance the war fighter's capability in that environment?" Choy asked. For example, "the Bronco is not just for combat operations," he said. "It can easily be reconfigured for disaster relief."
At the Singapore Airshow earlier this month, the company displayed for the first time both the Warthog and the eight-wheel-drive Terrex armored infantry fighting vehicles. The Trailblazer countermine vehicle also made its debut.
The company also showed off its unmanned aerial vehicle systems, including the FanTail and Skyblade.
In addition, Choy said ST Engineering has developed the 40mm Soldier Parachute Aerial Reconnaissance Camera System, a camera round for grenade launchers that allows troops to survey their immediate area in conflict zones.
ST Engineering announced Feb. 1 that ST Kinetics won a $41.6 million contract for the demilitarization of ammunition for an unidentified country in Africa.
"The contract involves the supply of specialized equipment and related services, such as training and operations assistance," said a company news release issued at the air show. "The first delivery is scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2010, with the final delivery expected within the first half of 2012."
Demilitarization entails the destruction of ammunition through a series of processes such as disassembly, size reduction, melt-out of explosives and incineration of nonrecyclable explosives.
"This is an important endorsement of our demilitarization services," said Sew Chee Jhuen, the president of ST Kinetics.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
China To Fit Attack Helo With European Engine
By WENDELL MINNICK And PIERRE TRAN
SINGAPORE and PARIS — China is outfitting a new attack helicopter with a European engine despite export restrictions put in place after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The move comes as European officials push hard for lifting restrictions on defense exports to China.
China’s new Harbin Z9WE attack helicopter is being outfitted with two Arriel 2C turboshaft engines, according to a brochure distributed by China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC) at the 2010 Singapore Airshow.
The Safran Group’s Turbomeca firm, which developed the engines, granted licenses for production to China several years ago. Chinese factories have produced more than 200 Arriel 2Cs for use on utility and transport helicopters, a Turbomeca spokeswoman said.
Turbomeca’s China business goes back decades. One older engine, the Arriel 1, has been built there under license for more than 30 years. In the past nine years, the Arriel 2B1A has been licensed for installation on the Changhe Z11 utility helicopter, and the Arriel 2C licensed for the H410A military helicopter and its VIP-transport variant, H425, according to the company’s Web site.
“All our Turbomeca engines assembled in China have the necessary export approvals,” the Turbomeca spokeswoman said.
The Z9WE is an updated version of the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corp.’s Z9G attack helicopter, which flies on a pair of the Chinese-designed WZ8A turboshaft engines. The new helicopter can carry an assortment of indigenously produced weapons: HJ-8 Red Arrow anti-tank missiles, 57-1 rocket launchers, 23-II cannons and 12.7mm machine guns, “which are enhanced by advanced fire-control system.” It also has a sophisticated day/night targeting turret and advanced avionics and mission equipment, the brochure said.
This is not the first time that a Chinese promotional brochure has revealed that a foreign engine is going aboard a military helicopter.
In 2007, a Changhe Aircraft brochure on its then-new Z10 attack helicopters listed the power plant as the PT6C-67C engine manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Canada. The engine had been diverted from a civilian to a military aircraft.
Privately, U.S. officials are concerned that the civil EC175 medium-lift helicopter, which Eurocopter co-developed with China, could be put to military use.
One U.S. official in Paris noted that Eurocopter armed its EC145 to compete in the U.S. Armed Aerial Scout competition, and that China converted the company’s Dauphin helicopter for submarine-hunting missions.
Another example is the Eurocopter EC120 Colibri Hummingbird, a single-engine light helicopter funded by China, France and Singapore and developed by a list of companies that includes CATIC, Eurocopter, Harbin and Singapore Technologies Aerospace. China now produces an HC120 variant of the Hummingbird for military training and police surveillance. ■
Eurocopter Wins Taiwan Deal As U.S.-China Tensions Rise
By WENDELL MINNICK And VAGO MURADIAN
SINGAPORE — Eurocopter has beaten Sikorsky to supply search-andrescue helicopters to the Taiwan Air Force — the first aerospace sale by a European contractor to the island nation in nearly two decades.
The $111 million contract, which covers the purchase of three EC225 helicopters with options for 17 more, comes as tensions rise between the United States and China over arms sales to Taiwan and as the European Union rekindles its campaign to lift an embargo on weapons exports to Beijing.
Europe has shunned defense deals to Taiwan for fear of angering China, a far more important market for European aerospace and non-offensive defense systems.
That has left the United States as Taiwan’s armorer. In late January, the Obama administration notified Congress of plans to sell $6 billion in arms to Taiwan, including Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries made by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters by Sikorsky and a dozen Harpoon anti-ship training missiles by Boeing.
The proposed U.S. deal has enraged China, which severed military-to-military links with the Pentagon and vowed to retaliate against firms supplying weapons to Taiwan.
The proposed U.S. deal has enraged China, which severed military-to-military links with the Pentagon and vowed to retaliate against firms supplying weapons to Taiwan.
“This is obviously a violation of the code of conduct between nations,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Feb. 5 in an opening speech to the Munich Security Conference, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. “Of course the Chinese government and the people have to react. It is within its sovereign right to do what is necessary.”
The U.S. Air Force’s top foreign affairs official called the Chinese reaction to the arms sale very disheartening.
“I think China has very legitimate interests in the region,” said Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force for international affairs during a Feb. 3 interview here.
“That’s why it is so disheartening to see [China’s] reaction to our latest Taiwan arms sale, a very deliberate process that they are well aware of due to our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. We have been completely transparent in ensuring we carry out our obligations to see that Taiwan has the appropriate capabilities to provide for their own defense.”
Lemkin applauded Beijing’s efforts to reduce cross-strait tensions, but said that “to cut off dialogue, in my view, is ridiculous.
“If you talk to one another, you can understand one other. That, in and of itself, is a confidence-building measure, so to cut off that dialogue doesn't make any sense.”
Fitting a Pattern
One longtime China observer said the reaction follows a long-set pattern.
“Military exchanges between the U.S. and China are always the pawn in the Chinese game, and often, since the U.S. military is the ardent suitor and the PLA is very interested in these exchanges, they are the first line of retaliation by Beijing,” said Larry Wortzel, vice chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
“Of course, Congress has been more skeptical of the value of these exchanges, so I don’t think anyone on the Hill will complain.”
Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunited by force if necessary, and it has consistently threatened to sanction companies that do business with Taipei.
While pure-play defense contractors like Lockheed and Raytheon have virtually no business in China, Boeing regards the country as one of its most important markets, valued at some $400 billion, and would be hit hard should Beijing levy sanctions. Boeing competes with Airbus as the world’s top maker of commercial airliners.
U.S. contractors maintain they are contractually bound to support their largest customer, the Pentagon, when it strikes government-to-government sales, such as the recent Taiwan deal.
Lifting the Embargo?
A week before the arms sale row, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the European Union (EU) was working to lift the arms embargo against China, which was imposed following Beijing’s brutal 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The EU in 2004 sought to lift the embargo, but backed down after the U.S. State Department suggested that it would block efforts by European contractors to sell their wares to the Pentagon.
“At the same time, the Europeans have been skirting their own arms ban on China by permitting the continued transfer of nonlethal equipment sales to the PLA, such as helicopters,” said Richard Bitzinger, senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based here.
Analysts said the Eurocopter victory also stands to jeopardize Europe’s longstanding commercial ties to China. Eurocopter, based in Marignane, France, operates a helicopter production plant there.
Despite summit meetings, China’s human rights record remains checkered, and European analysts have shifted from arguing for engagement with China to frustration at the lack of progress.
As for lifting the EU’s arms embargo on China, current and former U.S. officials were skeptical.
European officials say that the code of conduct that would replace the embargo is tougher and more effective at controlling the sale of dual-use technology and other gear. But American diplomats say that the arms embargo should only be lifted if China alters the repressive conditions for which the ban was imposed. The human rights situation in China has not improved much since Tiananmen.
They also say there needs to be a way to confirm that the code of conduct is stronger than the embargo it would replace.
In Paris, French Defense Ministry officials were unavailable for comment.
The leading question debated at the 2010 Singapore Air Show here was whether and how China would retaliate, and the significance of Beijing’s severe response to the Taiwan deal.
“The shadow that China is throwing across Asia is huge, and everybody that lives out there feels they have to react to it, and the behavior of the United States has caused some to question our long-term goals a bit,” said one retired senior U.S. military officer.
When President Barack Obama visited Asia last year, he spent about one day in Japan and one day in Singapore, but was in China for three days, a move that some in the region saw as a signal that Washington is more interested in courting China than supporting its longtime allies.
“You’ve got an emerging India, a rising China and a flat Japan, and we have never had that before,” the retired officer said. “I don’t know what China is going to do. I am hopeful and optimistic that this is going to blow over, but it’s all part of China’s continuing crescendo. The worry is that some of the things they have said have been stronger.”
For example, Chinese generals — who historically have kept a low profile — appeared on television to make the case against the arms deals to Taiwan.
There are concerns China could orchestrate an incident similar to the 2001 EP-3 surveillance aircraft collision or the harassment of a U.S. naval vessel in the South China Sea, as occurred in early 2009 after the U.S. released a billion-dollar arms deal with Taiwan.
“I think the processes that are in place now are satisfactory. This is something that we all look at,” said Gen. Gary North, commander of all U.S. Air Force assets in the Pacific. “Frankly, in environments where there are political tensions, it provides an opportunity for careful operational overwatch and oversight,” North said. “So as things continue, clearly we have the desire to continue to have the opportunity for liaisons and visits and understanding.”
Senior U.S. officials said they remain committed to fostering a close relationship with China, but made clear they are equally committed to supporting longtime allies.
“Regarding the Chinese reaction, the United States is committed to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China,” said Vice Adm. Jeffrey Wieringa, the director of the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. “The decision to sell Taiwan defense arms is based on our evaluation of Taiwan’s defense needs, is consistent with the U.S. one-China [policy] based on the three joint communiqués in the Taiwan Relations Act, and contributes to maintain[ing] security and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said. ■
John Reed contributed to this report from Singapore, Pierre Tran from Paris.
Singapore To Buy Israeli Iron Dome
By WENDELL MINNICK
SINGAPORE — Singapore is moving forward on the procurement of the Rafaelbuilt Iron Dome for a short-range air defense system effective against artillery rounds and rockets, said defense industry sources at the Singapore Airshow.
Built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Iron Dome can shoot down incoming rockets and missiles from 4 to 70 kilometers away in all weather conditions.
The Iron Dome radar detects and identifies the rocket or artillery shell launch and monitors its trajectory. Target data are transmitted to the battle management and weapon control system for processing and engagement.
“Right now, we’ve almost finished development,” said Joseph Horowitz, Rafael’s business development and marketing director for air defense systems. “We are now manufacturing the systems. Since January, we are starting on the first battalion. By midyear, there will be an IOC [initial operational capability].”
However, Horowitz denied any Iron Dome deal with Singapore, saying there is “no Singapore involvement at this time.” Singapore’s Ministry of Defense also declined comment.
Raytheon promoted its Centurion Weapon System, a land-based Phalanx Weapon System, for the competition until 2008, when Singapore dropped all interest in it.
The silence occurred after Singapore selected Rafael’s SPYDER (Surface-to-air Python and Derby) short-range air defense system, a U.S. defense industry source said.
The SPYDER beat U.K.-based MBDA Missile Systems’ Vertical Launch MICA Short Range Air Defence System and Raytheon’s Surface-Launched Advanced Air-to-Air Missile system as replacements for Singapore’s aging Rapier Low Level Air Defense system.
The two deals may be connected. Singapore wants to integrate its air defense systems under one umbrella.
Horowitz confirmed that “some of the SPYDER elements could be integrated with Iron Dome, but not the radar,” but said Singapore “did not fund the program.” A U.S. defense industry source said part of the problem is that Rafael can offer Singapore technology transfers that are restricted under U.S. laws and regulations.
Rafael has moved into low-rate production of Iron Dome missile interceptors for the Israeli military in November after an 18-month program to reduce technical risks associated with the active defense system against short-range threats.
Singapore Airshow: China Promoting New VTOL UAV
By Wendell Minnick
Singapore - China is promoting exports of a new vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the 2010 Singapore Airshow.
China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) provided brochures for the first time on the U8E VTOL UAV.
CATIC did not exhibit a model or the actual aircraft, but was more than willing to provide new data on a platform that has remained a mystery to many analysts.
The U8E is a light multi-role UAV with some impressive specifications:
■ Maximum takeoff weight of 220 kg
■ Maximum speed of 150km/hour
■ Cruise speed of 120 km/h
■ Ceiling of 3,500 m
■ Range of 150 km
■ Maximum Endurance of four hours
■ Maximum Payload of 40 kg
"With EO [electro-optical] and multi-function payload, U8E can play a very important role both in civil and military operations. Using U8E is the best solution for surveillance operations and anti-terrorism action," said a CATIC press release.
The aircraft has a helicopter configuration with a wingspan of 3.86 meters, fuselage width of 1 meter, length at 3.738 meters and a height of 1.47 meters.
CATIC also showed off a model of ASN-209 tactical UAV system. The 209 is a medium altitude and medium endurance (MAME) multi-role fixed wing aircraft with systems that include a direct line-of-sight (LOS) data link, UAV airborne data relay used for beyond LOS missions and a ground-based data relay for beyond LOS missions. It can be fitted with a synthetic aperture radar, EO payload and multi-function payload.
The 209 mission capabilities include a 200 km range, 180 km/h maximum speed, 50 kg payload and a 5,000 meter operational ceiling. Configurations include ground moving target indication (GMTI), electronic intelligence, electronic warfare, ground target designation (GTD) and communications relay.
Singapore Airshow: Licenses in Place for SABR
By Wendell Minnick
SINGAPORE - Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) program has secured two DSP-5 permanent export license approvals by the U.S. State Department for two unidentified counties, said J. Dave Silvia, manager, business development, global sensor solutions, Northrop. SABR is a full-performance fire control AESA radar
Silvia would only acknowledge the two countries were in two different regions, but no other details on the identity were given. The licenses, acquired over the past two months, allow Northrop to provide technical briefs to the customers. "We can't offer any timelines at this point," he said.
Internationally there are between 1,500-2,000 F-16 platforms that could qualify for a retrofit with SABR.
"We unveiled SABR at the Singapore Airshow in 2008. It can be retrofitted in legacy fighter aircraft with little or no structural modification," he said.
Northrop is still awaiting a decision from the U.S. Air Force (USAF). In November 2009 the first USAF F-16 outfitted with SABR conducted a flight demonstration. "Whether the USAF will make a decision soon is still unknown," Silvia said.
SABR modes demonstrated so far include air-to-air search and track, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator, and air-to-surface ranging.
He said there were a number of advantages over M-scan radars, including greater situational awareness, greater detection and range, faster area search and target acquisition, and more precise multiple target tracking.
Singapore Airshow: Eurocopter Secures Sale to Taiwan
By Wendell Minnick
SINGAPORE - Taiwan's air force has selected the Eurocopter EC225 helicopter against a Sikorsky bid for the S-92 for a medium-lift helicopter requirement for search and rescue missions.
The contract for three helicopters was awarded to Eurocopter in December for $111 million. The deal includes an option for a total of 20 helicopters. The contract will be signed in the next few days, said a Taiwan defense source.
The deal comes as a surprise since European defense companies have shied away from arms sales to Taiwan in favor of lucrative commercial sales to China. There has not been a European arms deal with Taiwan since the early 1990s when France sold La Fayette-class frigates and Mirage 2000 fighters to Taiwan.
The sale comes on the heels of a $6 billion U.S. arms deal that included Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, Patriot missiles, navy mine sweepers and Harpoon training missiles.
What is equally odd about the contract award is China has remained silent on the issue after it threatened to sanction U.S. companies selling arms to Taiwan, and occurs at the same time European leaders have been pushing for a lifting of arms exports to China.
Singapore Airshow: Bell Debuts New 429 Helo
By Wendell Minnick
SINGAPORE - Bell Helicopter Textron's new Bell 429 helicopter made its Asia debut at the Singapore Airshow.
The new light twin-engine, single-pilot helicopter was certified by the Canadian, European and U.S. authorities in mid-2009 and is scheduled to enter service with its first customer this month in the U.S.
"The 429's versatile design and impressive performance make it extremely adept for use by various sectors," including corporate, emergency medical services (EMS), offshore oil and gas support, airborne law enforcement, and search and rescue (SAR) missions, a press release issued by Bell said.
John Garrison, president and CEO of Bell, provided Airshow attendees with extensive briefs on the capabilities of the helicopter.