Earlier in October, Putin stated strongly that Russia would never “surrender” its Arctic area. Indeed, Temp airfield located on Kotelny Island, the largest of Russian islands in Novosiberian region, is being reactivated.
The airfield has been operational beginning in 1949 then, 20 years ago, its activity was suspended, and the infrastructures preserved for future use. Since then, Russian policy towards Arctic has become more aggressive and one of the elements of that policy is to reinstate the aforementioned airfield for Russian Air Force planes.
In 2012, a helicopter crash occured during a Russian specialists’ visit to the island. Nobody died, but the mishap halted the reactivation activities. This year people and equipment were delivered by sea. Back in September an expedition included 150 people, 40 machines and vehicles.
The process of reactivation of the base went fast and, at the end of October, the first An-72 transport landed there. Currently, an air traffic control service is present, along with accomodation, own water supply, a power station and heating. The airfield is not to be a minor one, since it will be able to accomodate landings of planes as large as Il-76 cargos.
Air traffic on Temp is expected to be a regular, year-round and in all weathers.
There are plans to continue the expansion with another airfield, Tiksi, in Yakutsia. It is said that the role of the Arctic bases is to safeguard and serve the Northern Sea Route shipping lane and adjacent Arctic zone.
Last week, the Swedish Government has decided to commit a squadron of Gripens fighter jets as well as a mine-sweeping warship to the NATO Response Force (NRF) by 2014, with eight more fighter jets joining the allied force by 2015.
NRF is a multinational force made up of 25,000 troops that can be quickly deployed and act as a stand-alone force in case of need.
What is more, along with Norwegian and Finnish fighter jets, Swedish aircraft will take part in the Iceland Fighter Meet 2014 (IFM14), that is scheduled from Feb. 3 to Feb. 21, 2014 and is part of the concurrent Iceland Air Policing mission (ISLAPS).
The increasing cooperation between Sweden and NATO is somehow tied to the aggressive posture of the Russians in the Baltic Sea area: even if close encounters have always occurred they have become a bit more frequent during the last year, with simulated attacks in March,April, June, and October, that have sparked some concern.
The Gripens in the NATO QRF will act towards greater degree of interoperationability of Swedish forces with NATO. JAS-39s have already taken part in the 2011 Libya Air War.
However, despite the always shrinking defense budget and fewer active units Sweden is not to enter the North Atlantic alliance in the foreseeable future: only 32% of Swedes are for NATO membership, while 40% are against, according to a poll from May 2013.
Northrop Grumman was recently awarded with two contracts from USAF.
The issue which is regulated by these contracts is a logistic support for A-10 Warthogs, and the sum of money allocated to the aforementioned agreement is $24 million.
The contract is called the A-10 Thunderbolt Life Cycle Program Support (TLPS), and includes indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract vehicle.
What is more, the contract includes ASIP (aircraft structural integrity program) Modernization V. Its assumption is to keep the A-10 flying through 2028 and beyond that date and it is possible that the aircraft will receive updated systems.
In other words, this means that the A-10 will remain in the active service in large numbers even though after the sequester this was not so certain.
U.S. Air Force operates 346 A-10s, half of those used by Air National Guard. The Congress protested against getting rid of 5 squadrons of A-10s last year, and it has already said that the protest is to be continued in 2014.
According to the recently published RFI (Request for Information), the ARFL (Air Force Research Laboratory) is looking forward to development of the laser weapons for next generation fighter jets.
Even if this is an Air Force initiative, it is possible that the Navy and US Army will run similar independent research programs.
The U.S. Air Force plans to employ laser based weapons by 2030.
Based on requirements weapon elements will have to be ready for laboratory test by October 2014, while they must reach readiness for test on a plane and in simulated operational environment by 2022.
Three new laser devices are to be created: small power marking laser, that would act as a marker and as a blinding weapon against the optical sensors of the enemy planes; medium power laser that is to be used against air-2-air missiles; and a high power device to act as an offensive weapon.
The weapon is to be operable up to 65,000 feet of altitude and within a speed envelope of Mach 0.6 – 2.5.
Northrop Grumman is developing a solid state laser for the U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin is on a 30-month contract to develop a prototype turret in an aircraft for the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) system, while Boeing works on ground forces solutions, including HEL MD cannon that is to be vehicle mounted. Some solutions have been tested already, e.g. USS Ponce self-defense system against small vessels.
It must be remembered though, that the laser program is not going to be the first USAF experience with this kind of weapon, since the U.S. Air Force already used ABL on a 747.
ABL used a laser range finder, tracking laser (TILL – Track Illuminator Laser) and finally BILL (Bacon Illuminator Laser) and it was after that when the target was finally destroyed by the main weapon.
USAF tested a chemical-laser weapon using Lockheed C-130H back in 2009.
The laser weapon that is to be developed will probably be employed firstly on the F/A-XX aircraft, that is to constitute a replacement for the Super Hornet.
Even if UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are often referred to as U.S. “killing machines”, the effect of a drone attack is almost forgettable if compared to the devastating and widespread effect of nuclear bombs, that remain America’s main means of deterrence.
According to the International Defence Review magazine the gravitational free falling B61 nuclear bombs are to get a precision guidance system that would allow for a greater accuracy and for a modest stand-off capability.
Earlier, the only way to compensate the lack of precision was an adjustment of the warhead power.
The B61 is the basic nuke in the USAF arsenal and the only US nuclear bomb present in the arms storages in Europe. Interestingly, the bomb (in the -12 variant) can be carried by all current and future American platforms including the LRS-B, and the Tornado.
It is an old bomb, since its beginnings date back to 1965 and the Los Alamos lab, and the production lasted for almost 35 years.
The bomb had 9 variants, some of which, such as B61-3 and B61-4 were designed to be used by tactical aviation, while B61-7 and B61-11 were prepared to be used from high altitudes by B-2 and B-52 bombers. 3,155 bombs were made, with a 1,000 having operational readiness status.
The modernization is a part of LEP (Life Extension Program) and is a priority, since B61 comes from the 1960s. B61-12 variant (400-500 examples) is to replace all earlier variants of B61, as well as the B83 bombs. In CONUS and Europe.