Eye on China, Navy boosts Eastern Command

Times Of India

NEW DELHI: With an eye on China as well as in keeping with India’s “Look East” policy, the Navy is slowly but surely bolstering force levels on the eastern coast with new warships, aircraft and spy drones as well as forward-operating bases (FOBs).

So much so that the Navy has now upgraded the post of the chief of staff (CoS) at the Eastern Naval Command (ENC), which is next only to the flag officer commanding-in-chief, to a three-star general rank. Vice-Admiral S Lanba will take over as the new CoS at ENC on May 1, 2011. The other full-fledged naval operational command, the Western Naval Command (WNC) based at Mumbai, has had a vice-admiral as the CoS for quite some time now.

Additions to the ENC, which has around 50 warships at present, include the new indigenously-manufactured stealth frigate INS Shivalik, which is packed with weapons and sensors, and the 16,900-tonne INS Jalashwa, the huge strategic sea-lift amphibious warship second only to aircraft carrier INS Viraat in size.

“The next two indigenous stealth frigates being built at Mazagon Docks, INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, which should be commissioned by 2012, will also be based in ENC. Tuticorin and Paradeep are being developed as FOB and OTR (operational turn-around) bases,” said a source.

Then, the new fleet tanker, INS Shakti, which should come to India from Italy by September, and the P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft will also be based in ENC. India is acquiring 12 P-8I aircraft, the first of which is slated for induction by early-2013, from the US for over $3 billion to plug the existing gaps in its surveillance of the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

While these aircraft will be based in Rajali, Navy is also going to deploy spy drones or UAVs at the Parundu air station in Tamil Nadu. At present, Navy has two UAV squadrons based at Kochi and Porbandar, with Parundu and Port Blair next on the agenda. As part of Navy’s three-tier aerial surveillance grid for IOR, the drones are already being used for the innermost layer reconnaissance up to 200 nautical miles.

U.S. Provides Support for NATO’s Libya Operations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2011 – The United States continues to support NATO efforts in Libya, as Moammar Gadhafi’s forces continue attacks on Misrata and Ajdabiya.

Gadhafi has said he will accept a cease fire, but “the latest reports are that Gadhafi is continuing to carry out attacks,” said Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan.

“Talk of a cease fire is just that: Talk,” Lapan added.

The African Union has proposed a ceasefire. “Since the start of the crisis, NATO has been in constant touch with the African Union as well as other regional and international organizations,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today in Brussels. “I want to be clear: There can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya. NATO welcomes all contributions to the broad international effort to stop the violence against the civilian population. Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable.”

NATO aircraft are striking with care and precision while minimizing the danger to civilians, Rasmussen said.

“This is in stark contrast to the pro-Gadhafi forces,” he said, “who are besieging their own cities and shelling city centers.”

Since April 9, NATO aircraft have flown almost 300 sorties, the secretary general said, destroying 49 tanks, nine armored personnel carriers, three anti-aircraft guns and four large ammo bunkers.

Meanwhile, Gadhafi’s forces continue offensive operations against rebels in eastern Libya. The no-fly zone has blunted the effects of the regime force’s attacks, but has not ended them.

“We’ve talked all along about the nature of a no-fly zone and how that restricts the regime’s forces, but that doesn’t stop them,” Lapan said.

NATO officials said the Libyans are using schools and mosques as shields for their armored forces. The proximity to civilians means these targets are off-limits for NATO.

The DOD comptroller estimates the cost of U.S. operations in Libya to be $40 million per month. Total U.S. cost from the beginning of operations in mid-March through April 4 was $608 million, Lapan said.

American forces are not conducting strike missions in Libya. U.S. forces are supporting NATO with air-to-air refueling, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities and unmanned aerial vehicle support. U.S. ships are also participating in the arms blockade off Libya in the Mediterranean.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said before Congress on March 31 that he did not expect the department would need a supplemental request to fund the operation. The department is working on a funding strategy.

B-1B Lancer upgrade will triple payload

Air Force – By Airman Charles Rivezzo, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/11/2011 – DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Airmen from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron began their first phase of demonstrations of a multiple ejector rack on a B-1B Lancer here March 22.

If fielded, 16-carry modified rotary launchers will increase the number of 500-pound joint direct attack munitions and laser-guided JDAMs carried by the B-1B from 15 to 48, a 320 percent increase in capability.

“Currently a B-1 can deliver twice the payload of a B-52 (Stratofortress), meaning, theoretically, with the MER upgrade, one B-1 will be able to deliver the same amount of payload as four B-52s,” said Col. Gerald Goodfellow, the 7th Operations Group commander.

Also, the MER has a mixed-load capability, meaning each bomb bay can hold an assortment of joint air-to-surface stand-off missiles, and both 2,000-pound and 500-pound JDAMs, giving the aircrew much greater flexibility during combat missions.

“The war we are in requires target specific weaponry that is capable of destroying a single room of a building,” said Tech Sgt. David Koscienski, the 337th TES weapons suitability NCO in charge. “With the addition of the MER, B-1 operators have the ability to conduct numerous individual attacks and massive air-strikes as needed, without needing to stop to reload.”

Aircrews from the 337th TES and 419th Flight Test Squadron from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., flew a Dyess AFB B-1B equipped with a MER and successfully released two inert 500-pound JDAMs over China Lake Missile Range, Calif, March 22. An additional mission was also successfully flown March 24 to test drop the weapons again.

“The B-1 is absolutely a choice war-fighting platform considering it can carry multiple weapons, each with specific capabilities, and deploy those weapons at a moment’s notice,” Sergeant Koscienski said. “The adaptation of the MER, along with the sniper pod and laser-guided JDAMS, will only increase that same lethal capability to an even greater level.”

The purpose of the 16-carry demonstration program is to validate the release and safe separation of 500-pound class weapons from a modified B-1B rotary launcher.

“This upgrade will not only save the Air Force money, but will also put less of our Airmen at risk; and that is our main priority,” Colonel Goodfellow said.

General Petraeus Honors Six Fallen During Tough Fight in Afghanistan


…The 101st Airborne Division is one of the most decorated divisions of the U.S. Army. Today, a stack of stars and hearts – medals in silver, bronze, and purple – were pinned on the chests of 20 soldiers by their commander, Gen. David Petraeus. Rarely, if ever, have so many medals been given to a single unit for a single battle in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The U.S. troops from the 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) came to a Taliban hideout in Kunar province — a hornets’ nest along the treacherous Afghanistan-Pakistan border — to take the battle to them.

So often in this region, the enemy remains far from sight. But not this time — not in this battle.

They were patrolling close to the border on March 29 when they were fired upon from three sides by Taliban fighters.

The firefight lasted hours, with the U.S. soldiers and Afghan forces digging into a muddy hillside.

Capt. Ed Bankston organized his troops by radio one moment. And fired at Taliban the next. Today, for his valor, Bankston was awarded the Silver Star – the nation’s third-highest decoration – pinned to his uniform by Gen. Petraeus, himself a former commander of the 101st.

Sgt. Matthew Mendez took a bullet to the chest in the battle and kept fighting. Saved only by his body armor, today Mendez was awarded the bronze star for his bravery.

Sgt. Jeremy Sizemore was shot too – while leading his platoon into the thick of the battle. Amazingly, the bullet – he told us – deflected off a plastic Tang bottle in his pocket. Today, Sizemore received the Bronze Star as well. His commanding general understood what moved these men to heroics. “It just kicks in and it’s their fierce determination not to let down their buddies,” Petraeus said.

With bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” in the background, Petraeus honored six of their buddies who didn’t make it, and another six who were wounded, at a solemn memorial.

Afghanistan: 20 Medals for a Combat Team

Sgt. 1st Class Ofren Arrechaga, 28, of Hialeah, Fla; Staff Sgt. Frank E. Adamski III, 26, of Moosup, Conn.; Spc. Jameson L. Lindskog, 23, of Pleasanton, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Bryan A. Burgess, 29, Cleburne, Texas; Spc. Dustin J. Feldhaus, 20, Glendale, Ariz.; and Pvt. Jeremy P. Faulkner, 23, Griffin, Ga. all lost their lives that day.

For Pfc. Brian Smith, the youngest in this close-knit squad, the loss ran deep as he knelt – and wept – to remember the sergeant he looked up to.

Yet he, as every soldier from this mighty crew honored today, would gladly trade every medal in the world for the lives of their fallen comrades.

Taliban occupy abandoned US outpost in Kunar

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