Senin, Januari 24, 2011

APMM Gets Six New Patrol Boats to Combat Maritime Crisis

MMEA receives six new patrol boats

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (APMM) is set to respond swiftly to crimes occurring in Malaysian waters with the addition of six new patrol boats worth RM3.8mil.
The 600hp rigid hull fender boats manufactured by a local maritime company Dalac Marine Engineering and Services Sdn Bhd are the fastest boats in the agency’s fleet of 138 vessels and helicopters nationwide.

Director-general Admiral Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish said the boats would be able to respond to maritime crimes and emergencies in half the time period it currently takes.

Speedy boats: The rigid hull fenders boats performing a boat manoeuvre demonstration after the boatswerehanded over to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

“The new boats will enhance the abilities of our men to combat maritime crimes nationwide as speed is an essential element in catching criminals,” he told the media after the boat handing-over ceremony here yesterday.

Admiral Mohd Amdan said the boats are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 50 knots, equivalent to 92.6kph.

Three boats would be used to ply the waters of the southern, northern and eastern regions while the remaining vessel would be for its Special Forces Unit.

Admiral Mohd Amdan added each region had crime activities unique to its location such as the northern region had more smuggling and human trafficking activities while maritime theft activities occurred in the southern area.

“Last year, we foiled 13 attempted robberies in the southern region,” he said.

He said that the number of smuggling cases in the southern region had declined from 28 cases in 2009 to 23 last year.

Admiral Mohd Amdan urged anyone with information on maritime crime activities to contact the APMM southern region hotline at 07-2199 401.

Minggu, Januari 09, 2011

NATO plans Europe-wide missile-defence system

NATO has decided to develop a missile defence capability able to provide full coverage and protection for all alliance European populations, territory and forces against the increasing threats posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles, the heads of state and governments participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Lisbon announced on 20 November.

The scope of NATO's current Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme's command, control and communications capabilities is to be expanded beyond the protection of NATO deployed forces to include the protection of NATO European populations, territory and forces.

This decision was taken in light of the perceived level of threat, the likely affordability and technical feasibility and the latest common threat assessments agreed by the alliance. An action plan addressing the steps to implement such a capability is to be drafted by the time of the planned NATO defence ministers' meeting in June 2011.

The current ALTBMD programme is a multiphase project intended to protect NATO-deployed forces against short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats up to a 3,000 km range. The final goal is to deploy a multilayered system comprising lower- and upper-layer defences around 2018. This would include battle-management, communications, command and control (BMC3I), early warning sensors, radars and various interceptors.

India authorises BrahMos integration facility

The Indian government has approved the expansion of BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited to set up an integration complex for the BrahMos missile on land owned by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Although funding has been provided for the new facility, construction cannot start until the land is made available. This can only be done once the IAF obtains suitable land for construction of housing for airmen, presumably to replace accommodation that will be demolished to make room for the planned new complex.

BrahMos is being developed under a collaborative project by Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya Machine Building Research and Production Centre and the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation to create a ramjet-powered cruise missile based on the Russian SS-N-26 (3M55 Oniks/Yakhont). Originally fielded as an anti-ship missile, BrahMos was later modified to serve as a land-attack cruise missile.

The most recent BrahMos firing was of a Block III+ version. This was test-fired on 3 December 2010 at the Interim Test Range in Orissa. The trial was intended as a further demonstration of the missile's ability to fly large-scale manoeuvres culminating in a steep dive onto the target.

Senin, Januari 03, 2011

Sri Lankan troops uncover LTTE submersibles

A construction facility containing four underwater vehicles has been discovered by the Sri Lanka Army following the capture of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE's) final urban stronghold of Mullaittivu on 28 January.

An armour-plated submersible, measuring about 35 ft (10.7 m) in length, and three smaller vessels were found at an LTTE base in Udayarkattukulam.

The smaller craft were "pedal-type suicide boats", according to the Sri Lanka Media Centre of National Security (MCNS). It is unclear whether the submersibles were used in operations. The Sri Lanka Navy lost two vessels to underwater explosions in 2008.

U.S. Army building smarter robots

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army is exploring ways to upgrade its fleet of roughly 3,000 small tactical robots in Iraq and Afghanistan designed to safeguard Soldiers by clearing buildings and caves and using sensors to sweep areas for Improvised Explosive Devices, service officials said.

New technologies bring the promise of deploying small robots which can search for bombs, map areas and detect hazardous materials -- all with little or no tele-operation or human intervention.

"We are moving along that spectrum from tele-operating to semi-autonomy where you can send a robot from point A to point B without any intervention. If it has a problem, it will pop up and indicate it has found an obstacle," said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Thompson, project manager with the Robotic Systems Joint Program Office.

The Army and Marine Corps are working with industry and academic partners to look at ways to add new software to existing robots -- such as iRobot's PackBot and Qinetic North America's TALON -- enabling them to perform more functions and navigate uncertain terrain without needing their every move to be controlled or tele-operated by a human.

"We are looking at ways to make the systems that we already have out there better. We are working with infantry and the (Military Police) to look at how we can enhance the capabilities of our current robots to meet their needs," said Thompson.

Some of the newer robotic capabilities, such as automatic self-righting and retro-traversing, enable robots to correct course, change direction or turn right-side up -- by themselves.

"We're looking for modularity and interoperability. It will take the burden off the user. I want a robot to go from point A to point B by itself, and tell me when it gets there," Thompson said. "We're going to get better interface with the cameras and the grippers -- and a lot more understanding of where the robot sits in space."

A more autonomous robot allows the user to free up energy which would otherwise be focused purely on navigating the robot. This will allow the user to attend to additional concerns, robotic functions or threats.

"We want to be able to allow Soldiers to interact with the robots at a high level of supervisory input to the robots. To do that, the robot has to start understanding where it is, start understanding about what is in the way, and how to get around obstacles," said Colin Angle, chairman and chief executive officer, iRobot.

For instance, iRobot's AwareHead supervisory control system software enables semi-autonomous navigation; the robot uses infrared sensors to map an area by itself, allowing a human controller to point-and-click on a touch-screen to send the robot to a given destination.

"When we started, we had one robot and one controller, now you have much more operational and logistical flexibility. The exciting part is we're right at the cusp of much, much smarter robots. Yesterday's robots were head down, one guy controlling the robot every step of the way. Now, we are talking about robots that can do much more for themselves," said Joseph Dyer, chief operating officer, iRobot.

QinetiQ North America is also working with the Army and Marine Corps to advance robotics technology; at Fort Benning, Ga., their TALON Explosive Ordnance Disposal robot recently demonstrated an ability to navigate and map a room without human intervention, company officials said.

"We demonstrated a completely autonomous TALON robot with chemical, biological and radiological detection abilities. A map was created about 1,000 meters away from the building showing what was inside a building and where the hazards were -- the robot was able to do that without any tele-operation," said Robert Quinn, vice president, TALON Operations, QinetiQ North America.

"In Afghanistan, 80 percent of the IEDs are homemade explosives, so having the ability in 30 minutes or less to do a complete investigation of buildings and check for homemade explosives -- without Soldiers ever entering the building -- is awfully important," Quinn said.

In order to maximize the occasion to learn from Soldiers in combat and harness their critical feedback, the Robotic Systems Joint Program Office has several facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, Thompson said.

"Feedback that we need from the warfighters is critical," he said.

"You can send it out there where a man should not go in order to counter a threat and do the dull, dirty, or dangerous jobs," said Thompson. "I would rather have a robot blown up than a Soldier or Marine."

Chinese Stealth Fighter Unveiled?

The Chengdu J-20 (J-XX) reportedly undergoing high speed taxi tests in late December. (photo : australian aviation)

Reports and photographs from China indicate that country will soon test fly a large stealthy combat aircraft prototype from the Chengdu facility in the country’s north.

Grainy images of the aircraft, variously dubbed J-XX or J-20, show a long and wide fuselage with low observable engine intakes and a forward chine, a high set delta shaped main wing, forward canards, a bubble canopy, conventional round engine exhausts, and canted all-moving fins.

The aircraft appears to have been undergoing high speed taxi tests at Chengdu as late as December 22. It appears larger than the US’s F-22 Raptor, and similar in size to Russia’s T-50 PAK-FA prototype which flew in late 2009.

Minggu, Januari 02, 2011

Rapid Response: Investing in Light Patrol Boats

Modern naval missions such as fighting pirates have driven up demand for smaller, more nimble vessels. As Albrecht Muller finds out, the need for speed and agility is driving unprecedented interest in small patrol boats.

Besides protecting littoral boundaries and safeguarding borders, preventing drug trafficking, maritime salvage and protecting shipping are key areas where fast, agile boats are increasingly becoming the number one option for coast guard, police, customs and other government organisations.

Fast Coastal Patrol craft (FCP), Fast Coastal Interceptor (FCI), Fast SWAT Patrol craft (FSP), Fast Search and Rescue (FSR), Fast Attack Craft (FAC), Fast Patrol Boat (FCB), Medium Patrol Boat (MPB), Rigid-Inflatable Boat (RIB), Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RHIB) or Riverine Combat Boat (RCB) are only some of the patrol, strike and assault craft types, offered by various companies world-wide.


One government which is currently investing in this type of boat is the Indian Ministry of Defence, which in September announced a tender for four Fast Interceptor Craft (FIC), to improve the protection of its long coastline. The boats will be longer than 9m and have a maximum speed of over 40kts.

It's easy to see why the Indian Navy wants such vessels when you consider that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008 went in by sea. Beyond the rapid interception of suspicious vessels or the increasing proportion of littoral operations, however, many navies are considering these boats as cheaper options.

Navies world-wide are currently also facing budget cuts or simply do not have as extensive 'blue water' ambitions as others. Modern high-tech boats can be a cheaper, but also capable alternative.

"We do see a great interest in our platforms as we can accommodate quite complex equipment in a relatively small fast platform," says Bo Axelsson, president of the Swedish company Swede Ship Marine.

Without giving any details he confirmed ongoing dialogues with different customers for various different series of vessels, that will be either large, flexible and reconfigurable for various mission types, or smaller and very fast, with speeds exceeding 50kts.

His company has also contracted a new program with the UAE Navy for twelve fast offshore patrol vessels. The design of these new 26.5m boats will be based on the company's 24m Ghannatha class high-speed transport vessels. The first three boats will be constructed at Swede Ship Marine and the following nine at Abu Dhabi Shipbuilding as CKD with material kits from Swede Ship Marine.

Another shipbuilder in this sector is US company Tampa Yacht Manufacturing, who offer a line of 13 different crafts, all marketed under the name TEMPEST. While also unable to give any details, CEO Bob Stevens confirmed that his company currently had multiple international orders filled for its FCI, FSR, FSP, FAC type vessels by defence ministries and government agencies worldwide. According to Stevens, they would also be participating in international tenders for FCI, FPB and MPB and developing a craft, exceeding 20m in length.

Other countries investing in small patrol vessels include Trinidad and Tobago and Iraq.

To protect the country's oil platforms after the pullout of the US troops, Iraq is currently rapidly boosting its navy. Part of this will be 15, 35m-long patrol boats with a maximum speed of 30kts, which are being built by US Company Swiftships Shipbuilders.

The Coast Guard of Trinidad and Tobago received the last of six new high-speed patrol crafts already this January. The 30m-long aluminium boats, built by Australian company Austal, are capable of a speed of more than 40kts.

The Romanian Border Police received three SHALDAG MK IV type fast patrol crafts this year. The boats, built by Israel Shipyards, exceed 40kts and will serve in the Black Sea with tasks of law enforcement, fighting illegal immigration and smuggling.

Estonia's Baltic Workboats also completed the construction of three WC 1500 patrol boats, which had been ordered by Azerbaijan State Customs Committee. The 15m-long WC 1500 can also reach a speed of about 34kts.

Refurbishing and refitting patrol boats is also a growing market segment for companies. For example Australian company DMS Maritime recently won a contract, worth around $50m, to support 19 patrol boats, used by Pacific island nations. It runs for five years and has options to extend for a further twelve years.

At the same time the US Navy is experimenting to decrease the cost of operations of its Riverine Command Boat (RCB). At the end of October it demonstrated for the first time publicly an experimental RCB, operating on an alternative fuel. It was a blend of 50% algae-based and 50% NATO F-76 shipboard fuel. The 14.7m-long RCB can reach speeds of 40kts and therefore, provides the US Navy with a platform that can effectively navigate in challenging shallow waters.

Another small boat with unique features is the new Hurricane MACH II RIB, which was launched by French company Zodiac this year. According to its developers this 11m-long vessel is capable of speeds over 60kts.

New MBT122B Evolution with Unprecedented Protection

The Swedish MBT122 has already been recognized as one of the best-protected main battle tanks in the world.

In a recent study program of the tank for the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV) in Sweden, IBD Deisenroth Engineering succeeded in the development of a further improved protection dedicated to the tank. The concept is thereby designed to protect against the actual and future threats in theatre, especially in asymmetric and urban warfare.

IBD's focus in this development was the optimization of the protection against the actual threats in theatre: new variants of RPGs, IEDs and EFPs as well as keeping high protection against “conventional threats”. A new light weight and highly efficient SLAT armour was designed as an amendment of the protection concept. The effectiveness of the new solutions has been verified against all threats in a broad test campaign. Thanks to all these efforts the concept provides an outstanding 360 degree protection of the crew.

The completely modular design of the concept allows the use of any mixture of old and new protection modules. This solution is of great advantage in theatre with regard to maintenance and repairs.

Despite the improved overall protection level of the MBT 122B Evolution the weight increase of about 350 kg is only minimal such maintaining the high mobility of the tank. Also the width of the vehicle could be kept to exactly 4.0 m which is also an important factor for the use in urban environment.

The new protection concept is the latest variant of similar high level protection solutions (defined as Evolution Concepts) from IBD for different platforms that have been developed, where the kits based on the platform Leopard 2 A4 Evolution have already been supplied to customers.

Pakistan to build radar for JF-17 'Thunder' fighter

The chief of staff of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has told Jane's that Pakistan has built its first facility to manufacture radars for fighter aircraft.

Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman said the indigenously produced radar, built with China's assistance at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), in Kamra, north of Islamabad, would equip the JF-17 'Thunder' fighter aircraft jointly produced by the two countries.

"This is a major step forward. This will be the first such [radar manufacturing] facility in Pakistan," ACM Suleman said in an interview on 21 December at PAF headquarters in Islamabad. He confirmed that the radar would be fitted on the JF-17, which, along with US-supplied F-16 Fighting Falcons, is set to be the PAF's front-line combat aircraft.

Previous reports suggest that the radar to be manufactured will be the Chinese-built CETC/NRIET KLJ-7 radar set. At the 2010 Farnborough Air Show, at which two JF-17s made their debut in the West, Jane's reported that the KLJ-7 had received full marks from the JF-17's designers at PAC.

A PAC programme officer told Jane's : "I have flown with this radar and with other models that we have looked at fitting to this aircraft, such as the Thales RC400, and the Chinese radar is every bit as capable as its contemporary analogs."

Sabtu, Januari 01, 2011

Israel deploys APS-equipped Merkavas to Gaza border

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) has decided to deploy its Merkava Mk 4 main battle tanks (MBTs) equipped with Rafael's Trophy active protection system (APS) along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip amid fears that Hamas has obtained advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs).

Hamas militants fired a Russian-made Kornet (AT-14 'Spriggan') ATGW at an Israeli Merkava tank stationed along the border with Gaza in early December that penetrated the tank, although none of the crew was injured. The laser-guided Kornet has a range of up to 5,500 m.

The attack prompted the IDF to reconsider its use of armoured vehicles and led to a decision to deploy Battalion 9 of the 401st Brigade, which operates Merkava Mk 4 tanks equipped with the Trophy system to the border.

China reveals aircraft carrier ambitions

China has stated publicly for the first time its intention to acquire two or more indigenously designed and built aircraft carriers for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

A brief reference to the strategy has appeared in an annual report from the the State Oceanic Administration (SOA). Although it was published in May, the reference was buried at the end of the 570-page document and has only now been picked up by news outlets in the Asia-Pacific region.

A translation of the SOA's 2010 Ocean Development Report, published by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post on 19 December, stated: "In 2009, China put forward an idea and plan for building aircraft carriers. These indicate China has entered the historical era of building a maritime superpower."

The translation continued: "Building China as a maritime power is the mission of China in the whole 21st century, and 2010 to 2020 is the critical period for accomplishing this strategic mission, with the goal to place China among mid-tier maritime powers."

In addition, unconfirmed reports published by the several newspapers in the region are suggesting that construction of a conventionally powered carrier (CV) may have started.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun stated on 17 December: "Construction has already begun at six military affiliated companies and research institutes in Shanghai and other locations."

Russia agrees to acquire French amphibious assault vessels

Moscow has agreed to buy two French Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels and could acquire two more under a controversial deal announced on 24 December.

The 20,000-ton vessels will be constructed by French companies DCNS and STX at the latter's yard in St Nazaire in defiance of protests over the sale by the United States and Russia's neighbours in the Baltic and Black Sea regions. Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) will also work on the programme.

In a joint statement French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart, Dimitry Medvedev, said the agreement underscored "the determination and capacity of France and Russia to develop extensive partnerships in all spheres, including defence and security".

The value of the contract was not revealed, although French sources said the ships, known as Batiments de Projection et Commandement (BPC), are likely to cost Moscow EUR400 million to EUR500 million (USD527.78 million to USD659.73 million) apiece.

The official statement also failed to mention the controversial issue of technology transfers.