Afghanistan: three Americans and one Italian killed in separate attacks

US soldiers in Afghanistan

Three Nato soldiers and a civilian have been killed in two separate attacks in Afghanistan.

Two US soldiers and an American civilian were killed in Paktika when a man in an Afghan army uniform turned his weapon on them, according to a spokeswoman for Afghanistan’s Nato-led force. The attacker was killed in a shootout which also injured two US soldiers.

In western Afghanistan, an attacker threw explosives into an armoured vehicle, killing an Italian soldier and wounding three others.

The Italian defence ministry said the attack in Farah province came as the soldiers were returning to their base from training Afghan security forces.

The convoy of three armoured vehicles slowed down near a junction and an attacker ran up and threw an explosive device into the lead vehicle. The three wounded soldiers’ injuries were not life-threatening, the ministry said.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, with a spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, claiming that the attacker was an 11-year-old boy.

The deaths on Saturday brought to 16 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month. On Thursday, seven Georgian soldiers died in a lorry bombing at their base in the south.

Taliban insurgents have launched intense attacks across the country as Afghan forces take over most security responsibility before the majority of foreign troops withdraw next year.

Afghanistan: 6 georgian soldiers killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan

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The Georgian military says six of its soldiers have been killed in a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan.

General Irakli Dzneladze, chief of the Georgian Army Joint Staff, said during a news conference in Tbilisi that the troops were killed when militants blew up a truck packed with explosives outside their base in restive Helmand Province.

Dzneladze said several soldiers were also injured.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The incident comes after three Georgian soldiers were killed in a similar attack in Helmand on May 13.

United Kingdom to Buy Hellfire Missiles

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The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress April 16 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the United Kingdom for 500 AGM-114-N4/P4 HELLFIRE missiles. The estimated cost is $95 million.

This program will directly contribute to the U.S. foreign and national security policies by enhancing the close air support capability of the United Kingdom in support of NATO, ISAF, and other coalition operations. Common close air support capabilities greatly increases interoperability between our two countries’ military and peacekeeping forces and allow for greater burden sharing.

The proposed sale will support the UK’s ability to meet current and future threats by providing close air support to counter enemy attacks on coalition ground forces in Afghanistan. The UK, which already has HELLFIRE missiles in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing these additional missiles.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The prime contractor will be Lockheed Martin Corporation of Orlando, Florida. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the United Kingdom.

There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.

This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

Prince Harry to race to South Pole

Prince Harry announced Friday he will join a team of wounded British servicemen and women in a race to the South Pole.

Also competing in the 208-mile (335km) Walking With The Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge in November and December are teams from Australia, America and Canada, AP reported.

The 28-year-old army captain told a press conference in London the event would raise money for retraining wounded soldiers.

He said it also aimed to demonstrate how to “meet a challenge head-on and overcome it and inspire others to do the same.”

Among the participants in the British team are Sgt Duncan Slater, 34, from Scotland, who lost both his legs in a blast in Afghanistan in 2009 and Major Kate Philp, 34, who lost her left leg in 2008, the BBC reported. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, these men and women have given their all in the cause of freedom, in our cause,” he told the media in London, Sky News reported.

“That they should once again step into the breach – this time facing down the extreme physical and mental challenges of trekking to the South Pole – just underlines their remarkable qualities.”

Prince Harry joked that his team would be first to reach the South Pole and would have a cup of tea brewing for the other three teams.

Germany looking to buy weaponised drones from Israel

By on Monday, April 15th, 2013

Germany is in talks with Israel to buy weaponized drones for its military that are seen as more technologically advanced than US ones, the weekly Der Spiegel reported.

The news magazine’s Monday edition said the German defence ministry had already held two meetings with Israeli military officials, in November 2012 and February 2013, on the proposed purchase.

The chief of Germany’s air force, Lieutenant General Karl Muellner, was said to have recently gone to Israel to attend a presentation of Israel’s Heron TP drone, Der Spiegel said.

Berlin was believed to favour the Heron over the US-made Predator drones because it was seen as more cutting-edge, the magazine said.

Germany’s defence minister, Thomas de Maiziere, in February called for combat drones to be incorporated into the air force, saying their lack created a disadvantage.

At the time, he made no mention about which drones Germany would be interested in.

But Germany had expressed an interest in jointly developing drone technology with France, to avoid becoming dependent on US or Israeli drones.

The issue of drones has generated an ethical debate in Germany, which does not use unmanned aircraft to fight battles but only for surveillance and reconnaissance missions in places such as Afghanistan.

Navy Wants to Return Well Decks to Amphib Fleets

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After years of believing the Navy would be getting entirely away from ships with well decks — and designing them with that in mind — the Navy anticipates returning them to two of its America-class amphibious warships.

The well decks, used to get Marine gear and equipment from ship to shore as part of any amphibious assault, were for a time seen as unnecessary because of airlift — what was needed ashore would be flown in aboard a CH-53 Sea Stallion or the MV-22 Osprey.

“After Afghanistan and Iraq everything got up-armored, everything got heavier,” Navy Capt. Chris Mercer said on Wednesday during a briefing at the annual Sea-Air-Space Expo at National Harbor, Md.  “So what we can lift with the -53 and -22s is getting less and less.”

With that in mind, the Navy will be returning the well deck to some of the amphibious landing ships it will be procuring in future years. Those currently being built will not have that asset. They are based on the old Tarawa-class amphibious ship, but minus the well deck.

The America, the first ship in the group, was christened late last year but has not yet joined the fleet. The second, to be named the Peleliu, is under construction.

Another three are planned, and at least the last two will reportedly restore the well deck.

Original ship plans also have had to be modified to accommodate the aircraft that will be based on them. The MV-22 and the F-35B — the Marine Corps version of the Joint Strike Fighter — both generate more heat on the decks than other aircraft.

The Navy found that jet blast from an F-35B could harm flight deck personnel up to 75 feet away from the short take-off line. Osprey operations generate head levels that could damage the deck and environmental controls in the spaces immediately below it.

“We are rapidly understanding these [problems] completely now,” Mercer said. He said there are about 14 modifications that need to be made. In some cases it means relocating some deck systems to avoid F-35 and MV-22 approaches.

“As for deck structure … we’ve got some modifications to do that,” he said. These include changing some of the materials used for some of the ships and in other ships adding structure underneath the flight deck at certain spots.

These modifications will also be done to older amphibious landing ships as they go in for maintenance, he said. The later of the new ships will come off the line with the changes already part of their design, he said.

Air Combat Command stands down units due to budget cuts

By on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

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Air Force officials will begin to stand down active-duty combat units starting April 9 to ensure the remaining units supporting worldwide operations can maintain sufficient readiness through the remainder of the fiscal year.

The stand down is the result of cuts to Air Combat Command’s operations and maintenance account, which must be implemented in part by flying approximately 45,000 fewer training hours between now and Oct 1.

As the Air Force’s lead for Combat Air Forces, ACC manages the flying-hour programs for four major commands. This decision to stand down or curtail operations affects about one-third of the active-duty CAF aircraft — including those assigned to fighter, bomber, aggressor and airborne warning and control squadrons — stationed in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific.

“We must implement a tiered readiness concept where only the units preparing to deploy in support of major operations like Afghanistan are fully mission capable,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, the ACC commander. “Units will stand down on a rotating basis so our limited resources can be focused on fulfilling critical missions.”

“Historically, the Air Force has not operated under a tiered readiness construct because of the need to respond to any crisis within a matter of hours or days,” Hostage said. “The current situation means we’re accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur.”

Some units currently deployed — including A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, B-1 Lancers, F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-22 Raptors — will stand down after they return from their deployments. The remaining units will stand down operations on April 9. Active-duty aircrews assigned to Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard A-10 or F-16 squadrons under an arrangement known as “active associations” will also stop flying.

The stand down will remain in effect for the remainder of fiscal 2013 barring any changes to current levels of funding.

“We’re entering uncharted territory in terms of how we’ve had to take this year’s cuts and make adjustments to mitigate the most serious impacts,” Hostage said. “Remaining as mission-ready as possible for combatant commanders is our priority, and we’re prioritizing spending to ensure this imperative is met.”

Units that are stood down will shift their emphasis to ground training. They will use flight simulators to the extent possible within existing contracts, and conduct academic training to maintain basic skills and knowledge of their aircraft. As funding allows, aircrews will also complete formal ground training courses, conduct non-flying exercises and improve local flying-related programs and guidance.

Maintainers will complete upgrade training and clear up backlogs of scheduled inspections and maintenance as possible given budget impacts in other areas, such as stock of spare parts.

Although each weapon system is unique, on average aircrews lose currency to fly combat missions within 90 to 120 days of not flying. It generally takes 60 to 90 days to conduct the training needed to return aircrews to mission-ready status, and the time and cost associated with that retraining increases the longer that crews stay on the ground.

“This will have a significant and multiyear impact on our operational readiness,” Hostage said. “But right now, there is no other acceptable way to implement these cuts.”

(Information courtesy of Air Combat Command Public Affairs)