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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

From Today's Papers - 05 Jan 10

Army medical charts not revised for 50 years
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
In a revelation that could have serious health implications for the armed forces and on the medical classification of soldiers, charts used to define the correct weight for height and age are not only outdated, but are apparently based on data applicable to western population that is inherently different from Indian population.

A study, conducted by three armed forces medical specialists, has found that the weight for age and height calculated in the study after recording anthropometric measurements of about 1,000 healthy armed forces personnel was at considerable variance with the charts currently being used in the Army.
This, according to some medical experts, implies that all along the army may have been using inappropriate parameters to gauge the physical standards ot the troops. Further, police and para military organisations may also be affected by this.
Pointing out that the existing reference weights have not been revised in the last 50 years, the study has recommended a large-scale multi-centric study should be taken up for replacing the existing charts. The study has been published in a recent issue of the Medical Journal Armed Forces India.
The average weight for a majority of height and age category among the surveyed individuals was found to be higher than in the Indian Army chart. For example, as per the old scale, individuals in the height category of 178 cms and 28-32 years should have an ideal weight of 68.5 kg, whereas the study found the average weight to be 71.19 kg. Similarly those who should have an ideal weight of 72.5 kg were found to be 81.23 kg.
The study states that the origins of the anthropometric charts used in the Army are obscure and it is widely believed that these were obtained from life insurance tables made for British and American civilian population.
Anthropometry is an accepted method of measuring obesity, the prevalence of which has increased globally. In India alone, there are over 100 million obese people, which indicates that they are amidst an obesity epidemic.
The Indian Armed Forces, the study points out, are not immune from this epidemic and studies indicate a rising trend of obesity in the armed forces. Although armed forces personnel are subjected to periodic medical examinations, the standards for body weight used to classify individuals as overweight are very old. Overweight and obesity not only have serious health consequences, but also are a cause of lowering the medical classification in the forces, which adversely affects a soldier’s career.
Therefore, the study noted, it was imperative that reference anthropometric values related to overweight and obesity for the Indian Armed Forces should be established based upon data for the same population instead of using outdated data meant for individuals of different ethnic origins.

India's provocative military doctrine
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
By Dr Maleeha Lodhi
The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

In remarks reported last week, Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor reaffirmed that India was evolving a new military doctrine, and he outlined some of its key elements. The changes in the strategic environment held out by this pronouncement have significant implications for Pakistan and should give the country's security managers much pause for thought.

In November India's army chief spoke of the likelihood of a limited war "under a nuclear overhang" in the subcontinent. His latest remarks go further to indicate that:

* The Indian army is revising its five-year-old doctrine to meet the challenge of war with China and Pakistan.

* The development of the "cold start" strategy is progressing "successfully."

* Five "thrust areas" will determine the new doctrine:

i) Dealing with the eventuality of a "two-front" war.

ii) Countering "both military and non-military facets of asymmetric and sub-conventional threats."

iii) Enhancing "strategic reach and out-of-area capabilities" to protect India's interests from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait.

iv) Attaining "operational synergy" between the three services.

v) Achieving a technological edge over adversaries.

The emerging doctrine appears to be both aspirational and emulative. Aspirational because its breadth and sweep reflects a mindset that seeks to create "big power" dynamics by projecting India as a rival to China and aiming to develop a capacity to act in two combat theatres simultaneously. How and whether this can actually be attained is another matter.

The doctrine also emulates the US Pentagon's Quadrennial Defence Review undertaken every four years and borrows superpower language to assert the need to build "out of area" capabilities and acquire "strategic reach." This is the most presumptuous tenet of the doctrine which employs the idiom of big powers without, however, the capability to back it.

It raises other questions. What exactly are the interests that these capabilities are intended to defend? Protecting the littoral states of the Indian Ocean against whom? Will the pursuit of "strategic reach" not run up against the strategic interests of other powers in the Persian Gulf?

For Pakistan several aspects of the doctrine have serious implications that need to be assessed. The "cold start" doctrine seeks to counter the Pakistani argument that, however "limited," a war is not possible between two nuclear-weapon states – an argument that was validated by the 2001-02 military standoff between the two neighbours.

First announced in 2004, after the failure of India's coercive diplomacy and military mobilisation (Operation Parakram) of 2001-02, the doctrine tries to build the case that India does have a war-fighting option – "cold start" under a WMD overhang.

This seeks to convey to Pakistan and the world that the capability being developed to wage "limited war" will enable India to operationalise its forces within 96 hours to strike offensively against Pakistan without crossing the nuclear threshold.

The concept of limited war in the "cold start" strategy is dangerous strategic thinking. As Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has emphatically pointed out, proponents of the use of conventional force in "a nuclear overhang" are charting a course of dangerous adventurism whose consequences can be both unintended and uncontrollable.

The notion of limited war will push the subcontinent onto a slippery slope and heighten the danger of escalation. India's strategy aims to achieve surprise and speed in a conventional strike against Pakistan. It overlooks the fact that in a crisis the nuclear threshold will be indeterminate. The threshold cannot be wished away by speed in mobilisation.

In fact, the shorter the duration needed for a mobilisation the greater the risk of escalation and the likely lowering of Pakistan's nuclear red lines. Squeezing the timeframe will only make the situation more dangerous and unstable. The long fuse in a crisis provided by the time required for assembly and deployment of forces has so far helped to avoid a catastrophic war.

If operationalised, the "cold start" doctrine will force Pakistan to re-evaluate its policy of keeping its nuclear arsenal in "separated" form and move towards placing its strategic capability in a higher state of readiness, including deploying a "mated" capability -- i.e., mating warheads to delivery systems. The action-reaction cycle will move the subcontinent to a perilous state of hair-trigger alert.

Similarly destabilising would be the espoused goal to secure a "technological edge" by India's effort to acquire a missile-defence shield and build its PAD (Prithvi Air Defence) capabilities. India may feel that the acquisition of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems (possessed by only the US, Russia and Israel) will give it the capability to neutralise Pakistan's missile capabilities. This would be a dangerous presumption.

The deployment of ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities is likely to enhance fears that an offensive pre-emptive strike, conventional or nuclear, could be undertaken behind the BMD shield. Such a capability in the context of the "cold start" doctrine would increase the possibility of a military adventure by providing an illusion of "comfort."

This would enhance the incentive for Pakistan to multiply the numbers of missiles and increase operational readiness to avoid the destruction of these assets in a pre-emptive strike. Pakistan will likely be obliged to take a series of other counter-measures to break through the BMD system.

This is a recipe for a costly and unnecessary arms race. A much better option is to pursue the strategic stability regime offered by Islamabad to Delhi that would stabilise nuclear deterrence by, among other steps, the mutual commitment not to develop or induct BMD systems into the region. But this does not seem to fit into India's ambitions.

As for the "threat from China," the Cold War-like language of the Indian doctrine seems out of sync with the times. It indicates Delhi's continuing desire to play the role of a balancer or strategic counterweight to China and employ its burgeoning relationship with Washington to counteract Beijing's rising influence.

But the international environment is at present not favourable to the fulfilment of this strategy. Unlike its predecessor, the Obama administration seems not to buy into fanciful schemes to contain China by promoting countervailing power centres. Instead, it is more interested in deepening the engagement with Beijing in an era being referred to as the G2 partnership, an alliance of overlapping US and Chinese interests. The symbiotic relationship between the two countries is today the pivot of the global economy.

The emerging Indian doctrine seems to over reach in seeking a capability to deal with a two-front war. This becomes even more apparent when seen from the perspective of the experience of the world's most powerful military. The US has struggled to simultaneously prosecute, much less successfully conclude, two protracted wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) despite the central and long-standing premise of its strategic doctrine of being prepared to fight "two wars" at a time.

It is therefore rather rich for India to claim that it can acquire the capability to deal simultaneously with two fronts, and that too against two nuclear powers. This is reckless translation of rhetoric into doctrine.

Given how unrealistic it is to think that such a capability can be built, is the purpose of the doctrine, then, to use the China "threat" to acquire the latest military technology from the West? This raises another question: is that capability intended to be eventually deployed against Pakistan?

Once the full dimensions of India's military doctrine have been evaluated Islamabad will need to review its own options and reassess its operational plans and assumptions. Its strategic calculations should entail a careful reading of Indian capabilities and intentions while also making a distinction between ambition and reality.

Gen Kapoor's enunciation of a provocative doctrine is one more reason why Pakistan cannot ignore the more enduring challenge to its security, even as it confronts the urgent internal threat posed by terrorism and militancy.

India eyes light US howitzers
TNN 5 January 2010, 03:20am IST
NEW DELHI: Even as US secretary for defence Robert Gates is expected to visit India later this month, New Delhi is now actively exploring the option of importing 145 air-mobile ultra-light howitzers (ULHs) for around Rs 2,900 crore from Washington in a direct government-to-government deal.

This comes in the backdrop of the Army getting desperate to kickstart its long-delayed Rs 20,000 crore artillery modernisation programme, with the acquisition of different types of 155mm/52-calibre guns still stuck in different stages due to scandals.

Army needs the ultra-light howitzers to ensure that artillery can be swiftly deployed in forward, inaccessible areas with the help of helicopters. In fact, the two new mountain divisions being raised primarily for the eastern front with China, with around 15,000 soldiers each, are also to be equipped with ULHs.

But, as reported by TOI earlier, the field trials of the only ULH to make it to the trial stage in the Army's procurement project, the Pegasus gun of Singapore Technology Kinetic's (STK), have been put on hold after STK's name surfaced in connection with the corruption scandal against former Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) chairman Sudipto Ghosh.

Consequently, the direct foreign military sales (FMS) route with US government is now "also being progressed" for the BAE Land Systems' M-777A1 ultra-light howitzers.

"An Army team will soon go to US to witness how the gun performs in trials there. We will also later hold trials in India to see if the gun is suitable for us," said a top defence ministry official.

Obama's surge becomes scourge for Afghanistan and Pakistan
by Zia Sarhadi
(Monday, January 4, 2010)

"Obama’s surge has another dimension as well: it is aimed at Pakistan hence the demand that it must deal with the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda “sheltering” in Pakistan. This is merely a pretext; America’s real aim is the dismantling of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. This explains the constant harping on the issue. The specter of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists is constantly invoked. The US would like to take them out because these weapons are viewed as a potential threat to the Zionist entity... There is widespread concern in Pakistan, backed by ample proof that US Blackwater mercenaries are behind the terrorist campaign. The aim is to destabilize Pakistan to such a degree that a case can be made at some international forum, such as the UN, that these weapons must be removed before they fall into the hands of the terrorists."

In the midst of all the chatter about US President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop surge in Afghanistan, it might be worthwhile to remember some basic facts. December 27 marked the 30th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of and, therefore, continuous war in Afghanistan. This is longer than the two world wars and the Vietnam War put together. By next month the US will also have been at war in Afghanistan longer than it was in Vietnam. Most American commentators now fondly talk about the Vietnam War as if it was a beer drinking contest the US had won. Obama knows better; he was at pains in his West Point speech to dispel any comparisons with Vietnam.

Reaction to Obama’s December 1 speech was predictable. Cheerleaders in the media were beside themselves over Obama’s rhetoric and the “agonizing” choices he had to face to make a decision. This included, with minor exceptions, the entire army of journalists and commentators working for the corporate-owned/controlled media, both print and television. Peter Baker of the New York Times (December 6) was typical of this crowd giving a blow by blow account of how Obama, huddled with his advisors, “agonized” for weeks over the choices. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are waged to advance the corporate elite’s agenda of greed. The other, more important reason is to ensure the military/political dominance in the region of the Zionist State of Israel. The latter is also the reason why the US is being pushed to attack the Islamic Republic of Iran, the one country that refuses to surrender to the Zionist entity or its cash cow, America, on whose back Israel thrives as a parasite.

Dissenting voices against the surge and futility of war were heard from the antiwar movement but these are largely confined to the internet. The only exception in the corporate media was Frank Rich of the New York Times. In his December 6 column, Rich pointed to the two fundamental ingredients missing from Obama’s plan that would doom his surge: a legitimate Afghan government, and support of the American people. Rich did not talk about support of the Afghan people because it has never been there, notwithstanding US claims about bringing democracy or liberating Afghan women. The Kar-zai regime that was installed amid much fanfare when the Taliban were driven from power at the end of 2001 now stands condemned even by Am-erica as illegitimate. Obama’s surge, therefore, has little chance of success.

It is also unrealistic to expect that the Taliban would be shaking with fright in their caves at hearing that Obama was sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. When he spoke at West Point, Obama put on a very serious face and occasionally looked straight into the camera. Unfortunately, the Taliban do not watch TV; they would love to but there is no electricity there and CNN does not have a cable feed to pipe news into their caves. The Taliban must surely miss Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room reports and Fareed Zakaria’s GPS!

Obama outlined three objectives for his surge: disrupt, dismantle and defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. If this has not been achieved with 68,000 US troops and another 45,000 from NATO allies, it is unrealistic to hope that 30,000 additional troops would make such a big difference especially when much of the country is in the grip of insurgency. There are also 100,000 mercenaries hired by the US to carry out targeted assassinations and other war crimes. These in-clude mercenaries from the US Black-water, white South Africans who had honed their murderous skills during apartheid both inside as well as in the surrounding countries, such as Zim-babwe and Angola, and helicopter pilots from Russia who had served during the Soviet invasion and are familiar with the Afghan terrain. From down under, as if not to be outdone by its larger neighbor, Australia, New Zealand also dispatched commandos from its Special Air Services (SAS) to Afghanistan.

Obama’s generals, however, are a little more circumspect about what can be achieved. At Congressional hearings on December 8, when General Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s wonder kid in Afghanistan, freshly minted from his death squad duties in Iraq was asked point blank by Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, “We do intend to defeat the Taliban?” his reply was revealing. McChrystal said, “Sir, the military term, in fact, without parsing that too tightly, we — we intend to prevent them from doing what they want to do.” For him “defeating” the Taliban meant merely to blunt the momentum that he said they had gained while the American effort had lagged in recent years, and to buy time to train Afghan soldiers and police officers to take over security duties.

This is a tall order. At present, the Afghan National Army (ANA) comprises 65,000 personnel of whom only 33,000 are combat ready. Despite massive poverty and lack of employment opportunities, recruitment has lagged behind and is very slow. Further, it is not uncommon for recruits to disappear with their weapons. While Obama wants to start withdrawal in 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said at a joint press conference with visiting US Defense Secretary Bill Gates in Kabul on December 8 that the Afghan government would not be able to finance its army and police until 2024. This is a clever move by Karzai. He will be well past 65 and living in retirement either in Europe or more likely, the US where his brother runs a number of restaurants near Washington DC. He can always give a helping hand flipping naans. Until then, he wants to ensure a steady supply of US dollars.

Despite Obama’s claim, the US is not going to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and indeed from Iraq, by any set deadline. Only the ill-informed would fall for such pronouncements. At a Rand-sponsored discussion on Afghanistan on October 29, 2009, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the guru of US foreign policy and Obama’s behind-the-scenes advisor, had spelled out bluntly that “withdrawal” was not in the range of options (For details, see Crescent International December 2009, pp.13-14). One may ask: why is it not an option? Brzezinski was candid: because the US needed to build oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan. It is the “great game” played out on another chessboard all over again. The primary reason for the US attack on Afghanistan was the Taliban’s refusal to allow American corporations to build the pipeline. This threat was delivered as early as July 2001 at a conference in Berlin and Taliban spokesmen in the Pakistani city of Peshawar had told Crescent Inter-national at that time that America planned to attack Afghanistan by Octo-ber. This was two months prior to the attacks of 9/11 that became a convenient pretext, and not the principal reason for US aggression against Afghanistan.

In his West Point speech, Obama also indicated that the troop surge was merely one step in plans for even broader wars. “The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly,” he said, “and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He mentioned Somalia and Yemen as potential targets, adding, “Our effort will involve disorderly regions and diffuse enemies.” Obama, the president for change, is no different than the George Bush-Dick Cheney duo of perpetual wars infamy.

Obama borrowed his argument from Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Last November, commenting on Obama’s review of various options, Cordesman wrote, “The President must be frank about the fact that any form of victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be part of a much wider and longer struggle. He must make it clear that the ideological, demographic, governance, economic, and other pressures that divide the Islamic world mean the world will face threats in many other nations that will endure indefinitely into the future. He should mention the risks in Yemen and Somalia, make it clear that the Iraq war is not over, and warn that we will still face both a domestic threat and a combination of insurgency and terrorism that will continue to extend from Morocco to the Philippines, and from Central Asia deep into Africa, regardless of how well we do in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He was also candid about increased US as well as Afghan and Pakistani casualties.

The US has not grown out of its addiction for endless wars despite the beating its forces have taken in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cordesman also forgot to mention that there was just as much threat from aliens on Mars attacking the US. Perhaps, some troops should be dispatched there as well. The US-NATO wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed nearly 1.5 million but such statistics are of little interest to policy-makers in the West. They care only for US and Western casualties but only as far as numbers are concerned. In Afghanistan, there have been a total of 1539 American and allied deaths. This figure does not take into account the casualties suffered by Pakistani troops and civilians as a direct result of the US war, that runs into thousands.

The US surge has little to do with defeating al-Qaeda either. It does not need a territorial base to function. Besides, American officials have admitted that there are fewer than 100 al-Qaeda operatives. Are hundreds of thousands of troops needed to deal with a mere 100 people? And how would the insurgencies in Somalia and Yemen be weakened with the defeat of al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan?

Obama’s surge has another dimension as well: it is aimed at Pakistan hence the demand that it must deal with the Taliban as well as al-Qaeda “sheltering” in Pakistan. This is merely a pretext; America’s real aim is the dismantling of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. This explains the constant harping on the issue. The specter of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists is constantly invoked. The US would like to take them out because these weapons are viewed as a potential threat to the Zionist entity.

There is widespread concern in Pakistan, backed by ample proof that US Blackwater mercenaries are behind the terrorist campaign. The aim is to destabilize Pakistan to such a degree that a case can be made at some international forum, such as the UN, that these weapons must be removed before they fall into the hands of the terrorists. It is interesting to note what Gates said recently: the US is prepared to work more closely with Pakistan as soon as the government there expresses a willingness to do so. “The more they get attacked internally... the more open they may be to additional help from us. But we are prepared to expand that relationship at any pace they are prepared to accept,” he said (Jerusalem Post, December 8, 2009). Was it a Freudian slip when Gates said, “The more they get attacked internally... the more open they may be to additional help from us?” US mercenaries are busy attacking cities and towns to pave the way for the “greater cooperation” the Americans are seeking.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military has made clear that it has no plans to start a war with the Afghan Taliban. Indian influence has already increased alarmingly in Afghanistan, thanks to US and Northern Alliance links, at the ex-pense of Islam-abad. Pakistan is being boxed in from the east and west and if its leverage, even with the Afghan Taliban is lost, it would become extremely vulnerable.

What the Am-ericans are offering to Pakistan in return for a few dollars is to accept India’s hegemony in the region. The US is grooming India to take on China, the emerging economic, political and military power. Pakistani commentators have expressed concern that the US surge will only increase pressure on Pakistan. This will come from several directions; first, increased US military activity will force Afghans, civilians as well as militants, to cross over into Pakistan further destabilizing the country. Second, US pressure on Islamabad will intensify, as has already been witnessed, that it must attack the Afghan Taliban. With bombs and suicide attacks occurring in major cities on a daily basis and America breathing down its neck, Pakistan is being destabilized further and is in danger of falling apart.

American friendship is a curse and Obama’s surge has become Pakistan’s scourge. Unless Pakistani rulers distance themselves from Uncle Sam and his evil plans, they may be facilitating the country’s disintegration.

Indian Army Chief's Remark 'Highly Distorted'
Shirish B. Pradhan/Kathmandu | Jan 04, 2010
A reported remark of the Indian Army Chief opposing the en masse integration of the former Maoists guerrillas into the Nepal Army was "highly distorted" and do not reflect New Delhi's position on the issue, the Indian Embassy here said today.

The clarification comes amid stepped up rhetoric by the former rebels, with former Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda criticising the alleged remarks linked to the integration of the PLA combatants.

The remarks, which appeared in the media, on the issue of PLA integration in Nepal Army was highly distorted and do not reflect the Government of India's position on the issue, the embassy said in a statement.

It is therefore regrettable that certain political parties are deliberately exploiting these distortions to generate a controversy involving India, it underlined.

In keeping with our friendly bilateral relations, India and Nepal share close military and defence ties with long standing institutional linkages between the armies of the two countries, the embassy said.

General Deepak Kapoor will be decorated with the honorary title of General of the Nepal Army by President Ram Baran Yadav this month.

The top Indian commander will arrive in Nepal on January 19 on his first official tour at the invitation of his Nepalese counterpart General Chhtra Man Singh Gurung. Kapoor's visit, which was earlier scheduled to begin on January 31, was preponed.

The decoration for General Kapoor comes after the General Gurung was conferred with the Honorary title of General of the Indian Army by President Pratibha Patel in New Delhi on December 14, upholding a six-decade old tradition.

Indian General N C Vij had also received the top honour in 2003 from the then King Gyanendra, who was deposed by the 601-member Constituent Assembly in 2008.

Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna is also expected to visit Nepal in mid-January amid deepening political crisis in the country.

The political parties are deadlocked over the Maoists' demand to rectify the decision of President Yadav, who reinstated General Rukmangad Katawal, the then Army Chief dismissed by Maoists Prime Minister Prachanda last May.

Political tensions have been high in Nepal since the Prachanda-led government resigned last year amid a dispute with the president over the army chief's refusal to incorporate former Maoist rebel fighters into the military.

The Maoists, who have around 40 percent of the seats in parliament, argue that the president's move was "unconstitutional" and has compromised "civilian supremacy" over the military.

Prachanda had blamed Gen Katawal for trying to resist the integration of former rebels into the military as stipulated under the 2006 peace agreement, which brought the Maoists into mainstream politics.

The stand-off has put new stresses on Nepal's reconciliation efforts amid fears that a planned indefinite strike by the Maoists from January 24 may derail the peace process itself

Forecasts 2010: Defence - selection headaches
By Craig Hoyle

Controversy will remain the buzzword in the defence sector during 2010, with long-running processes to select a new tanker for the US Air Force and a new-generation fighter for Brazil likely to grab early headlines.

Now entering its 10th year and third attempt, the USAF's process to acquire a replacement for its oldest Boeing KC-135R tankers should reach a new apex of intensity over the coming months.

Having won the previous KC-X battle through a flawed selection subsequently overturned by the US General Accountability Office, the Northrop Grumman/EADS North America team has threatened to withdraw from the new competition, as the air force is refusing to change the rules for evaluating its bid against Boeing. If either side is to soften its position it will have to move quickly, as a final version of the KC-X request for proposals is scheduled for release in mid-January.

Only once the final document has been released will the field for the requirement be confirmed, with any Northrop/EADS proposal of an Airbus A330-based design to face solutions based on either the Boeing 767 or 777. Separately, Airbus Military will during 2010 hand over its first KC-30 tanker/transport to launch customer the Royal Australian Air Force.

The three-way battle to win Brazil's FX-2 contest for the first 36 of a possible fleet of 130 new fighters could also be the subject of outcry early this year.

A choice between the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen NG had been expected in late 2009, with the French aircraft having been widely expected to win. But with presidents Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva and Nicolas Sarkozy having surprised Dassault's rivals by announcing the Rafale's selection last September - before the air force had even delivered the results from its evaluation of the bidders - a victory for Paris appears guaranteed to prompt an appeal into the factors behind the selection process.


Elsewhere in the fighter arena, Lockheed Martin must this year deliver answers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme. Following a glitch-prone 2009, the company will have to accelerate its flight-test activities by historic levels to get the schedule back on track.

Meanwhile, Lockheed will seek to expand its international presence by signing its first major export orders for the JSF, with Israel the leading candidate for an expected 25 aircraft. Partner nation Australia should also advance its planned first order for 14 of the type, having approved the purchase plan in December.

Any new major slip for the F-35 could have implications for Boeing's F/A-18E/F, which stands to benefit directly from delays to the US Navy's F-35C carrier variant. The manufacturer must find a new customer for the Super Hornet this year to keep the multirole fighter in production beyond 2011.

Europe's prospects in securing future export sales of the Eurofighter Typhoon should also become clearer over the next few months, after partner nations Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK have reached a decision on whether to equip the type with new technologies.

Potentially, the biggest decision facing their Tranche 3A configuration choice hinges on whether to introduce an active electronically scanned array radar. The new class of sensor could be an important element of future bids to sell the Typhoon to nations that are hungry for the transfer of cutting-edge technology.

Lockheed Martin
 © Lockheed Martin

One such nation is India, which is continuing its process to evaluate six fighter designs: the Gripen NG, Rafale, Super Hornet, Typhoon, Lockheed F-16 and Russia's RSK MiG-35.

New Delhi's requirement for 126 new medium multirole combat aircraft could deliver a product-saving opportunity for several of the bidders, but the pace of its selection process is likely to be a source of frustration. For example, it is unclear whether India will narrow the competitive field for MMRCA once the current evaluation process has been completed.

India will also have an eye on the promised first flight of Russia's Sukhoi-led PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter this year, with the type's debut having slipped from late 2009. Once revealed, the aircraft could take on the sales baton from types such as the MiG-29 and Su-27/30, or seal the continued contraction of the former-Soviet fighter industry.

Washington, meanwhile, will be watching events that could lay the ground work for technologies that may become mature by the end of the next decade. First flight events for the Northrop X-47B and Boeing X-51A Wave­Rider will demonstrate carrier-based unmanned strike aircraft and a hypersonic cruise missile, respectively, while a slightly delayed intercept test for the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser could prove to be a watershed event for the directed energy community.

But for the US Army aviation community, continued belt-tightening seems inevitable. Pressure is likely to grow on the budget for development programmes such as the Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III. New programmes, such as a replacement for its armed scout helicopters, will be difficult to support.

In the airlift sector, new opportunities are likely to emerge, with major products on both sides of the Atlantic boosted recently. Boeing's C-17 strategic transport has been handed a further stay of execution, with 10 more examples to roll off the Long Beach line in California by mid-2012, thanks to the latest Congressional action to save the programme.

In Europe, the recent first flight of the troubled Airbus A400M could be a pointer to a good year for the turboprop-powered design; so long as the company can agree new contractual terms with its seven launch customers.

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