Electric Boat wins $25 million Navy contracts

From The Seattle Times:

HARTFORD, Conn. —

Submarine manufacturer Electric Boat in Connecticut has won U.S. Navy contracts worth $25 million for maintenance on the USS Annapolis in Groton and to support repairs on nuclear submarines and carriers at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state.

Connecticut Sens. Joe Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Joe Courtney said Tuesday the Annapolis maintenance and upgrade project will be conducted this fall at the Groton site of Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics Corp. It’s expected to employ up to 225 workers.

The Puget Sound contract will require about 60 workers.

US Navy Unveils New Recruitment Center For Robots

From WebProNews:

The United States Navy has really picked up research on robotics in the last few years. Recently the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research(LASR) unveiled a 50,000-square-foot complex on the campus of the Naval Research Laboratory. The lab is going to do research and testing on how robots interact with people and how people interact with robots. The facility has sand pits, pools, even a jungle that has the capability to pour 6 inches of rain per hour down into it.

The facility has a 15 foot wall with a 3 foot sand pit beneath it. There is also a fan that can create a sandstorm, because the military needs these robots to go to the harshest places imaginable. Not only to keep people out of danger, but robots can be more thorough in whatever their specified job is. From football sized fish-bots designed to root out mines, to mechanical bats that use sonar to guide themselves, the future looks bright for this facility and military robotics in general.

The pride and joy of the facility are 2 fire fighting robots named Octavia and Lucas. These 2 roots can actually understand human speech and comprehend 2 different instructions to put together where a fire might be.

Singapore, Indian navies conduct bilateral maritime exercises

From AsiaOne:

Singapore and India have just conducted the annual Singapore-Indian Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX).

Hosted this year by India, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indian Navy (IN) took part in this year’s exercise, held from March 21 to April 1, in the series of bilateral exercises held since 1994. The sea phase of this year’s SIMBEX is held at the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.

This year, it involved naval and air assets with the RSN deploying a frigate and a missile corvette, and the IN participating with a destroyer, a corvette, a replenishment tanker, two fast attack crafts, a frigate and a submarine. As for air assets, both the RSN and IN deployed maritime patrol aircraft and naval helicopters.

Over the years, the SIMBEX has grown in scale and complexity. It has evolved from training-oriented anti-submarine warfare exercises to advanced naval warfare exercises involving air, surface and sub-surface dimensions.

Royal Navy must consider nuclear disarmament if UK splits

From STv:

The UK must consider nuclear disarmament if Scotland becomes independent and removes Royal Navy submarines from the Clyde, according to a leading international think-tank.

The Washington DC-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is holding a seminar on Tuesday entitled The Scottish Question and the Future of UK Nuclear Forces.

It stated: “A referendum on Scottish independence scheduled for autumn 2014 could have profound ramifications for the UK’s nuclear deterrent and for US-UK relations.

"The UK’s entire nuclear force, made up of Trident missiles on Vanguard-class submarines, is operated out of two bases in Scotland.

"In the absence of a suitable option for re-basing the submarines in England or Wales, the UK’s Royal Navy must consider a range of alternatives — including disarmament."

A veteran US Congressional defence analyst recently suggested that an “aggressively neutral” independent Scotland “might not be too good” for American defence.

Robert L Goldich, who served for over 33 years as a defence analyst for the Congressional Research Service at the US Library of Congress, queried whether “a disintegrating United Kingdom” would continue to be a reliable defence partner for the US.

According to the Scottish Government’s Your Scotland, Your Voice consultation paper, an independent Scotland “would become a non-nuclear weapons state”.

It says: “The UK’s nuclear deterrent would not continue to be based in an independent Scotland and a Scottish Government would need to work in partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom to ensure an appropriate transition and relocation.”

The SNP’s anti-nuclear stance is also behind its long-standing aim to withdraw from Nato, although this goal was cast into doubt last month when defence spokesman Angus Robertson said the party was “looking at the policy options” regarding Nato.

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman David McLetchie recently accused the SNP of having “a white flag, surrender-monkey attitude to the defence of this country”.

The Carnegie Endowment, the oldest international affairs think-tank in the United States, was founded by Dunfermline-born Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1910 to “hasten the abolition of war”.

Its present board of trustees includes former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Tuesday’s seminar, being held in Washington, will feature St Andrews University professor of international relations William Walker, who has co-written a book on “nuclear weapons and the Scottish question”, discussing the independence referendum’s implications for the UK nuclear deterrent.

It will be moderated by James Acton, senior associate at Carnegie Endowment’s Nuclear Policy Programme and a specialist in nuclear deterrence, disarmament and non-proliferation.

Details emerge about OBL’s other residences

From Navy Times:

HARIPUR, Pakistan — It’s an ornate but not lavish two-story house tucked away at the end of a mud clogged street. This is where Pakistan’s intelligence agency believes Osama bin Laden lived for nearly a year until he moved into the villa in which he was eventually killed.

The residence in the frontier town of Haripur was one of five safe houses used by the slain al-Qaida leader while on the run in Pakistan according to information revealed by his youngest wife, who has been detained.

Retired Pakistani Brig. Shaukat Qadir, who has spent the last eight months tracking bin Laden’s movements, told The Associated Press that he was taken to the Haripur house last November by intelligence agents who located it from a description they got from Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada.

Al-Sada, a 30-year-old Yemeni, has been in Pakistani custody since May 2 when U.S. Navy SEALs overran the Abbottabad compound, killing bin Laden and four other people inside. Since then, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, known as the ISI, has been trying to uncover the trail that brought him to Abbottabad villa in the summer of 2005.

The best information appears to have come from al-Sada, who was believed to be his favorite and who traveled with bin Laden since his escape from Afghanistan’s eastern Tora Bora mountain range in 2001.

Qadir, a 35-year army veteran who is now a security consultant, was given rare access to transcripts of Pakistani intelligence’s interrogation of al-Sada and access to other documents on bin-Laden’s movements. He provided the AP with details in a recent interview.

The details of bin Laden’s life as a fugitive — which were first published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn — raise fresh questions over how bin Laden was able to remain undetected for so long in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, despite being the subject of a massive international manhunt.

Yet a senior U.S. official, who is familiar with the contents recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad house, said there was no evidence that Pakistani officials were aware of bin Laden’s presence. “There was no smoking gun. We didn’t find anything,” he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the contents of the Abbottabad house

According to the interrogation report, bin Laden lived in five safe houses and fathered four children — the two youngest born in a public hospital in Abbotabad. But investigators have only located the houses in Abbottabad and Haripur.

Al-Sada’s descriptions of the homes have been vague and the Haripur house was found only after a series of hits and misses.

She knew only that it was located on the edge of Haripur, it was two stories and it had a basement. It apparently was used by bin Laden while he waited for construction crews to finish his new home Abbottabad, a garrison town just 30 kilometers (20 miles) away.

Investigators scoured the area looking for properties until they found the Haripur house in Naseem Town, a chaotic suburb where relatively affluent houses bump up against sun-baked mud huts that belong to nomadic Afghans.

Like the CIA, the Pakistani agency also tracked the movements of bin Laden’s Pakistani courier who used the pseudonym Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti and his brother. The two were ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province on the border with Afghanistan. They were bin Laden’s front men.

The ISI discovered that the Haripur house, like the land on which bin Laden’s Abbottabad villa was built, was rented by two Pashtun brothers claiming to be from Charsadda, a Pashtun dominated town about 110 kilometers (80 miles) away.

The AP located the Haripur house that Qadir said ISI agents had taken him to last November and found the real estate broker, Pir Mohammed, who rented the four-bedroom house to the two brothers, Salim and Javed Khan from Charsadda, for $150 a month.

At the time Pir Mohammed ran a small real estate firm called Mashallah. He said his meeting with the brothers was random.

“They must have seen my sign and come in,” Mohammed said, adding that he had met the brothers only three times — when they signed the contract, when they moved into the house and when they moved out 11 months later.

Two months ago several ISI agents took all the records of the house and its tenants since its construction in 2000, said Qasi Anis Rahman, the brother of the widow who owns the house.

“All they said was that it was for ‘security purposes,’“ said Rahman.

Al-Sada is currently in Pakistani custody, along with bin Laden’s two other wives and several children. They were arrested after the raid. The U.S. Navy SEALs shot al-Sada in the leg during the operation.

Mohammed Amir Khalil, a lawyer for the three widows, said the women would be formally charged for illegally staying in Pakistan on April 2. That charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Secretary of US Navy Reiterates Strong Ties in Visit [to Solomon Islands]

From Solomon Times Online:

Secretary of the US Navy Ray Mabus has reiterated the ongoing ties of friendship that bind the United States of America and Solomon Islands during a meeting with Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Rick Hou last week.

Mabus paid a two-day visit from the 30th to the 31st of March as part of the United States Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the United States Marine landing at Guadalcanal.

Secretary Mabus and United States Ambassador to Solomon Islands Teddy Taylor paid tribute to the United States military personnel who served in the Battle of Guadalcanal and honored those who made the ultimate sacrifice during a wreathe laying ceremony at the American Memorial to the Battle of Guadalcanal.

They also visited Hell’s Point where the United States is working closely with the Solomon Islands Government to clear thousands of pieces of unexploded ordinance that remain from World War two.

Defense secretary to visit Navy ship off CA coast

From The Seattle Times:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to zip over the ocean in a hovercraft before touring a Navy amphibious assault ship off the Southern California coast.

The Defense Department announced Wednesday that Panetta will meet with sailors and Camp Pendleton Marines on Friday aboard the USS Peleliu on Friday.

His visit aims to show the Pentagon’s continued commitment to such ships amid budget cuts and the debate over whether beach invasions have become obsolete in modern warfare.

The Pentagon says big-deck amphibious assault ships are critical because of the flexibility they provide commanders to move Marines and supplies ashore.

Marines have been returning to their amphibious roots as the military shifts its focus toward coastal countries, such as Iran, North Korea and China, after a decade of landlocked wars.

Navy unveils newest maritime patrol aircraft at Jacksonville NAS

From The Florida Times-Union:

Respect for the past, excitement for the future.

That was the theme Wednesday morning as the Navy marked the beginning of a transition from one maritime patrol aircraft to the next with a ceremony at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

The P-8A Poseidon was formally introduced during a roll-out event attended by roughly 1,200 people. The newest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft will eventually replace the aging P-3 Orion.

For the time being, said Rear Adm. Michael Hewitt, the aircraft will fly “side-by-side” performing their duties: engaging in long-range submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence gathering and surveillance.

Toward the end of Wednesday’s ceremony, Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, handed the keys to a P-8A to military representatives.

Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work was the keynote speaker. After leaving the stage, Work spoke about the proud history of the aircraft the P-8A is replacing.

“The P-3 has been serving for 50 years,” he said. “There are only two other airplanes that have flown longer — the U-2 spy plane and the B-52 bomber.”

Those legendary aircraft took off during the 1950s. The P-3 hit the air in 1962. It has four propeller engines and, despite what Work called its “endurance,” cannot refuel in flight.

“It has been around forever,” he said. “It was an icon of the Cold War, but it’s tired.”

He pointed out the benefits the new aircraft offers over the older one. It is a two-engine jet, can refuel in the air and, because it can fly at a higher altitude (about 45,000 feet), can monitor more surface area.

“The transition from the P-3 to the P-8 I like to liken between the old diesel submarines and nuclear submarines,” Work said. “It’s that big of a jump.”

Work also talked about the aircraft’s purpose.

“The maritime patrol and reconnaissance force, I don’t think all American citizens understand,” he said. “They are forward every day, in every field.”

Frigates, he said, were the eyes on seas at one time.

“Maritime patrol aircraft became the eyes of the fleet because they could go farther, cover more distance.

The P-8, I believe, will be the eyes of the nation,” Work said. “They’ll constantly be forward. They’ll be scouring the oceans for any potential threats and they’ll be able to respond very, very quickly.”

Attending the ceremony were members of the first P-3 crew. Across the hangar from where they sat was the first P-8A acceptance crew.

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown also spoke. Afterward he talked about continuing to strengthen the city’s ongoing partnership with the Navy and the new P-8.

“It’s very significant to see the Navy moving into the 21st century … and we’re a part of that,” the mayor said.

Following the ceremony, dignitaries cut a ribbon in front of the P-8A Poseidon Integrated Training Center — a $40 million facility that covers about 14 acres. It is equipped to train nine-man P-8A crews for up to 18 hours a day, five days a week and more. The first crew begins formal training in July.

The Navy plans on having 42 total P-8As at Jacksonville NAS by 2019.