Defence / Global
Beijing and Delhi announce their defence budgets almost simultaneously, Egypt vies to build its own fighter aircraft and Israel unveils its text message air-raid warning system.
Their 2010 budgets may be very different in size but Asian superpowers – and prickly neighbours – India and China have both unveiled ambitious wish lists.
2010 budget: $77.8bn (€57bn). China is thought to spend far more than it admits.
Immediate objectives: The People’s Liberation Army is trimming its 2.1 million headcount but personnel remains a vast expense as more is done to improve soldiers’ pay and conditions. Meanwhile, China is busy bringing a new generation of nuclear submarines into service, while perfecting an anti-ship missile designed to keep American vessels at bay.
Long-term requirements: The Air Force plans to have a new stealth fighter capable of matching the US’s F-22 within the decade. China’s first aircraft carrier, currently in development, will also be launched within the next few years. Investment in advanced technologies, such as cyber and electronic warfare, is set to increase too.
2010 budget: $32.2bn (€23bn). India struggles to spend its budget because of bureaucracy.
Immediate objectives: The Army can’t recruit enough people. It is investing in thousands of new personnel as well as better patrol craft and surveillance systems for them. In March, India announced plans to buy 10 US C-17 Globemaster transport planes for $1.7bn. It also paid Russia $4bn for a refurbished aircraft carrier complete with MiG-29 fighters.
Long-term requirements: With one eye on China, the Indian Air Force has earmarked $9bn for an advanced fighter aircraft. With its other eye on Pakistan, India is aiming to overhaul its artillery units and tank battalions.
Egypt — FIGHTER JETS
Egypt is planning to become the first African country in recent times to build its own fighter aircraft. Cairo hopes to build 48 JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft (above) using technology developed by Pakistan and China.
If Egypt secures a deal to buy the licence to build the Thunder, it will mark a new chapter for Africa’s aerospace industry. The only other fighter jets recently produced in Africa were not built from scratch. During the 1980s, apartheid sanctions forced South Africa to upgrade and rebuild its Mirage III fighters, which it renamed Cheetahs. Egypt is aiming to build up its domestic defence industry and is already the only country outside the US that builds M1 Abrams main battle tanks.
Green at sea
USA — ENVIRONMENT
The US Navy says that by 2012, it aims to demonstrate a “green” naval strike group, to deploy by 2016. It aims to reduce fossil-fuel usage of its non-combatant vehicles by half by 2015. By 2020, its entire base footprint should have net zero fossil-fuel consumption (pictured is an F/A-18 aircraft engine being tested to run on biofuel).
Dial M for missile
Israel — TECHNOLOGY
Israel is enhancing its air-raid warnings with a new system called MobileAlert that will send text messages to people in the danger zone.
Developed by eVigilo, MobileAlert will plug into the existing Red Colour network of warning radars that scan the airspace over Israel’s borders looking for rocket launches. Those radars are used to track incoming rockets’ flightpaths and estimate their impact point, in turn cuing a series of sirens that wail over a wide area. The MobileAlert is more accurate, sending specific warning messages to all mobile phones near to the predicted impact point, warning the receiver to take immediate cover.
The amount of warning will depend on where the threats are launched from: with rockets from the Gaza Strip it would be seconds; if a missile was ever fired from Iran it would be several minutes. Even seconds are vital, giving time to dive into a shelter or just hug the ground, taking cover from flying fragments and blast.
Until now, Israelis have relied on air-raid sirens or loud-speaker announcements to alert them when their area is under attack. Now that most Israelis have a mobile phone it makes sense to use that medium as well.
MobileAlert is being funded by the Israeli Defence Force to the tune of nearly $50m (€36.8m) and should be switched on in the first quarter of 2011.
Heron takes flight
The German air force has sent its first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Afghanistan to operate alongside six Luftwaffe Tornados. Like the Tornados, the new Israeli-built Heron UAV will fly unarmed and will be restricted to reconnaissance missions.