Thursday, February 4, 2010

Google, NSA may team up to probe cyberattacks-Post

Defense News ~ WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Internet search firm Google is finalizing a deal that would let the U.S. National Security Agency help it investigate a corporate espionage attack that may have originated in China, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The aim of the investigation is to better defend Google (GOOG.O), the world's largest Internet search company, and its users from future attacks, the Post said, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the arrangement.
The sources said Google's alliance with the NSA, the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization, would be aimed at letting the two sides share critical information without violating Google's policies or laws that protect the privacy of online communications.
Under the arrangement, the NSA would not be viewing user searches or e-mail accounts, the sources said. Google also would not be sharing proprietary data with the NSA, they said.
Google took the unusual step Jan. 12 of announcing that it had been hit by sophisticated cyberattacks in mid-December and that it was reviewing its business operations in China.
The Silicon Valley-based firm said the cyberattacks targeted Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and an investigation found at least 20 other large companies had been targeted by cyberattacks.
China responded several days later with a defense of state control of the Internet. A top official said online pornography, fraud and rumors were a menace and that Internet media must help "guide public opinion" in China.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said on Tuesday the cyberattacks against Google were a wake-up call.
A partnership between the Internet search giant and the NSA touches on the sensitive issue of how to balance individual privacy and national security online.
Google approached the NSA in the aftermath of the attacks but reaching an agreement has taken weeks because of the sensitive nature of information-sharing between the two sides.
The focus of the cooperative venture would not be to determine who was behind the attacks, the Post quoted its sources as saying. That would be nearly impossible.
Instead the aim is to build a better defense of Google's networks, or what technicians call "information assurances," the Post quoted sources as saying.
(Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Bill Trott)

Indonesia is potential market for A400M - EADS

Defense News ~ SINGAPORE, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia could be a market for the troubled Airbus military transport plane, the A400M, a senior company executive said on Thursday.
"Yes, Indonesia could be a potential market for the A400M," Christian Duhain told reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow.
Southeast Asia's largest economy is looking to renew its C-130 fleet of military transporters, which could be an opportunity for the European defense and aerospace firm to secure more deals for them in the region.
Malaysia has four A400M planes on order.
Talks between Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA) and main buyers of the A400M -- Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Turkey -- broke off last week over a 2.4 billion euro ($3.4 billion) gap in the amount of money each side is prepared to invest in completing development of the plane.
Negotiations will resume in Berlin on Thursday.
(Reporting by Harry Suhartono, editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Gates defends F-35, rejects increase in F/A-18s

* Gates sees smaller Navy fighter shortfall
* Says multiyear contract savings fall short

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
Defense News ~ WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Top Pentagon leaders on Wednesday underscored their commitment to the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter program and challenged some of the arguments Boeing Co (BA.N) is hoping could help it sell more of its F/A-18 fighters before production of the F-35 gets into full swing.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recent data showed that a multiyear contract for new Boeing F/A-18 fighters would save only 6.5 percent in procurement costs, far short of a 10 percent threshold for signing such long-term agreements.
Gates also said the Navy faced a shortfall of about only some 100 carrier-based aircraft in 2018 before the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 reached maximum production levels, far less than a shortfall of 243 planes often cited by Boeing backers.
Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee repeatedly questioned Gates and the military's top uniformed officer about the so-called strike fighter shortfall, arguing that the Pentagon should buy more of the older-model Boeing jets.
Boeing has lauded the performance of its F/A-18 fighters, arguing they could be a cheaper alternative to some of the F-35s the military plans to buy in coming years -- at less risk since the plane has been in production for some time.
Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers the F/A-18 was "a great airplane," but said the F-35 -- at $300 billion the Pentagon's largest weapons program ever -- was "the right answer for the future."
Gates and Mullen acknowledged that the F-35 program had run into some problems, but said a restructuring effort led by Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter would improve oversight and allow more time for testing before production of the new radar-evading fighters ramped up to higher levels.
Gates said the F-35 program office had been too optimistic in its estimates, but the fighter's problems were not unlike those seen on other developmental aircraft.
"The reality is it's a good airplane. It's meeting the performance parameters," he said.
Mullen said the Pentagon was still due to get its first training squadron of F-35s in 2011, with the Marine Corps slated to start using their first squadron in 2012, the Air Force in 2013 and the Navy in 2014.
Gates said the Navy was also developing strategies for dealing with its projected shortfall, including better aligning air wing readiness with carrier readiness and reducing the size of the Marine Corp's F/A-18 squadrons.
Mullen told lawmakers that the Navy was also sharply increasing its purchases of an electronic attack version of the F/A-18, the EA-18G, calling that a "very positive step."
He acknowledged Boeing's concern about the end of the F/A-18 production line but said several foreign countries were actively considering the plane in their fighter competitions.
The increased capabilities of the new fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 also meant the Pentagon would not need to replace legacy aircraft on a one-to-one basis, Gates said.
In addition, new unmanned planes were accomplishing many missions previously handled by manned aircraft, Gates said, noting that eight unmanned Reapers could do the work of 36 F-16 fighters, and they were armed with the same weapons.
He said the U.S. military currently had about 2,245 combat aircraft, a number projected to drop to 1,864 by 2020. But that would be offset by planned increases in unmanned aircraft over the same period, leaving a gap of only some 40 planes.
He said it was also important for Congress to allow the U.S. Air Force to retire some of its oldest planes so it could find the money to buy new ones.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Pentagon OKs plans to buy more armored vehicles

* Decision adds 1,460 truck orders for Oshkosh
* Navistar, General Dynamics and BAE also get orders
* Pentagon added up to 4,000 vehicles to requirement

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
Defense News ~ WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's weapons chief has approved plans to buy more than 2,800 additional armored vehicles for use in Afghanistan, including 1,460 all-terrain versions made by Oshkosh Corp (OSK.N).
Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter signed a memorandum on Jan. 29 boosting the total number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to be bought to 25,700, according to a copy of the document obtained by Reuters.
He approved specific orders of 1,460 MRAP-All Terrain Vehicles (M-ATV) made by Oshkosh; 1,050 Dash MRAP versions with independent suspensions built by Navistar International Corp (NAV.N); 250 RG-31A3 versions built by General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) and 58 RG-33 MRAPS made by BAE Systems Plc (BAES.L).
The U.S. Central Comman, which runs the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, requested the additional vehicles, Carter said in the memo. More could be needed later, he said.
"It is not known and will not be known soon, how many vehicles will ultimately be required," Carter said in the memo, which was first reported by trade publication Inside the Army.
"While these assessments are going on, it is important to begin production and initial fielding since otherwise needed vehicles will be unnecessarily delayed," he wrote.
Carter's memo followed a Jan. 4 decision by the Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) to add up to 4,000 more trucks to its MRAP requirement, boosting that number to 26,882 vehicles.
Defense consultant Jim McAleese said the orders should provide a short-term boost for the four companies, but probably represented the tail end of the MRAP orders for Afghanistan.
"These represent the majority of the final orders to support the war in Afghanistan," McAleese said, although he noted Central Command still had the option to ask for about 1,200 more vehicles, if needed, given the JROC decision.
In addition, he said the companies would be vying for work upgrading the vehicles and supporting them in the field.
The U.S. military had a total of 4,170 MRAPs in Afghanistan, including 575 of the Oshkosh all-terrain models, as of Jan. 21, said Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year said U.S. plans to increase troops in Afghanistan would likely require an additional 4,000 to 5,000 all-terrain MRAPS built by Oshkosh.
The U.S. military has spent more than $12.5 billion in recent years to speed the blast-proof MRAP trucks, first to Iraq, and now to Afghanistan.
The vehicles have a v-shaped hull that helps to protect troops against roadside bombs and other threats that have been blamed for killing U.S. troops in less armored Humvees and other land vehicles.
Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Monday the Pentagon's fiscal 2010 supplemental war budget includes more than $1 billion to complete the MRAP program and $3.4 billion in the fiscal 2011 budget to sustain it.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Andre Grenon, Leslie Gevirtz)

Pentagon vows to move forward on tanker

* Pentagon will move forward, even if only one bidder
* Gates underscores need for new tankers

Defense News ~ WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The Pentagon wants Boeing Co (BA.N) and Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) to compete for billions of dollars of orders for a new aerial refueling plane, but will press ahead even if there is only one bidder, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday.
"Obviously, we would like to have a competition for it and we hope that both companies will agree to participate," Gates told the House Armed Services Committee.
"But should that not prove to be the case, we ... have to move forward," Gates said, when pressed on how the Pentagon would respond if one of the companies dropped out. "It's been delayed too long. We need to get this thing started."
Northrop and its European partner, EADS (EAD.PA), have told the Pentagon they will not submit a bid unless the Air Force makes significant changes to its final request for proposals (RFP) for the competition, which is valued at more than $35 billion and could be worth up to $100 billion in the long run.
The Air Force plans to issue final rules for the competition later this month and award a contract this summer.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz last month said the service could change some "financial arrangements" for the competition, but was sticking to its requirements for the planes, which will deliver fuel to fighter jets and other aircraft in mid-air.
Industry executives had expected the terms around Feb. 12, but now say they are more likely to be released the week of Feb. 22, or possibly the following week.
Northrop said it was looking forward to the release of the final terms for the competition and hoped it would be structured in a way that allowed the company to compete.
"Northrop Grumman feels that the current draft RFP, as structured, fails the test of true competition and, without meaningful changes, is not an RFP to which Northrop Grumman can respond," spokesman Randy Belote said.
This is the Air Force's third attempt to replace its aging fleet of KC-135 aircraft, which are 49 years old on average.
Northrop and EADS won a projected $35 billion contract for 179 tanker planes in February 2008, but the Pentagon canceled it after government auditors upheld a protest filed by Boeing.
Congress killed an earlier Air Force plan to buy 100 767-based tankers under a sole-source deal with Boeing, because of a procurement scandal that sent a former top Air Force official and Boeing's former chief financial officer to prison for violating federal conflict of interest rules. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Leslie Gevirtz)