Iran mass-produces indigenous Shahed 129 UAV

Image Credit: FARS News

Image Credit: FARS News

The Islamic Republic of Iran has launched the mass-production of the indigenously developed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Shahed 129, which was unveiled last year.

The technology to design and develop these types of drones had been in US control, but Iran managed to break the monopoly and develop the know-how to build such aircraft, announced the Public Relations Office of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

The Shahed (Witness) 129 drone is a combat UAV capable of carrying eight bombs or domestically-manufactured Sadid missiles at the same time, and is designed to hit stationary and mobile targets alike.

It has an effective operational radius of 1,700 km in terms of precision targeting, flight endurance of 24 hours on a single fuel run and a flight ceiling of 24,000 feet. It has a monitoring capability of 200 km radius.

Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Division, said Friday that the drone can help ensure sustainable security for the country.

“Shahed 129 can easily track and identify bandits, terrorists and drug smugglers as well as anyone targeting the Islamic Republic of Iran’s sustainable security and can fire missiles at them upon orders from commanders,” he said.

Mass-produced, the Shahed 129 can now safeguard the country’s frontiers, said the commander.

Iran’s IRGC unveiled the Shahed drone in September 2012.

Iranian military officials have said that the drone can increase Iran’s surveillance capabilities in border areas, the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and has attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.

Tehran has repeatedly assured other nations that its military might poses no threat to other countries since the Islamic Republic’s defense doctrine is based entirely on deterrence.

Reference: Press TV, FARS News

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Malakand general Maj Gen Sanaullah, six others killed

Just a day after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government announced a phased withdrawal of troops from Malakand division, a Taliban bomb killed two senior military officers and a solider in Upper Dir on Sunday.

Four other security personnel were killed and 10 injured in bomb and rocket attacks in North Waziristan and Frontier Region Bannu.

According to a statement released by the Pakistan ISPR, Maj Gen Sanaullah, General Officer Commanding for Malakand division, and Lt Col Tauseef Ahmed were returning with a convoy from Shahi Kot in Upper Dir district, near the Afghan border. When they reached Gat area an improvised explosive device planted on a road went off, destroying their vehicle.

“Maj Gen Sanaullah, Lt Col Tauseef Ahmed and soldier Irfanullah embraced martyrdom while two solders suffered injuries,” it said.

The injured were taken to a hospital in Dir.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack. Its spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told the Dawn correspondent in Ladha on phone from an unspecified place that military officers had been killed by the Swat chapter of TTP. Officials here said they feared the attacks might derail planned peace talks between the government and the Taliban.

When asked about the fate of the decision to withdraw troops from Malakand division, after the killing of the senior army officers by militants, a senior military official told Dawn on condition of anonymity that it was up to the government to decide. The military officers had gone to inspect a security post in Shahi Kot, about 50km west of Dir, the headquarters of Upper Dir district.

Security personnel cordoned off the area after the attack. The district administration imposed a curfew and launched a search for assailants. According to sources, three suspects were arrested and taken to an unspecified place for interrogation. The bodies of Maj Gen Sanaullah and Lt Col Tauseef were airlifted to Islamabad. Both the officers belonged to Baloch Regiment and hailed from Mianwali in Punjab.

Gen Sanaullah had on Sept 6 inaugurated the Jashn-i-Kumrat sports festival in Upper Dir and said that peace had been restored and the government’s writ established in the volatile region.

The festival was called off a day before its conclusion to mourn the death of the officers and expressed solidarity with the army.

The border region in Upper Dir has seen a number of deadly cross-border attacks in which dozens of soldiers have lost their lives, but it was the first time that a high-ranking military officer has been killed.

Reference: Dawn News

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Lithuania to extradite Russian to US in arms case

A Lithuanian court on Wednesday ruled to extradite a Russian man to the United States on charges of arms smuggling, drawing protest from Moscow.

The Baltic state’s court of appeals ordered that Dmitry Ustinov, 47, be extradited because of the agreement in place between Vilnius and Washington.

“The decision was taken to reject an appeal,” judge Linas Zukauskas told AFP.

Lithuania, which currently holds the rotating half-year EU presidency, detained Ustinov in April on a request from the US justice department, according to the prosecutor’s office in Vilnius.

A Delaware court issued an arrest warrant on May 10 against Ustinov on charges of laundering money and smuggling night-vision devices, according to the ruling on the Lithuanian court’s website.

The ruling added that both Lithuania and the US list the devices as weapons.

His Lithuanian lawyer argued Wednesday that the US had not provided enough evidence in support of his extradition, adding that his client claims innocence.

“The US is saying it was military equipment. But the data provided by them is not sufficient to rule if it was military or civilian,” Drasutis Zagreckas, the lawyer, told AFP.

The Russian embassy in Vilnius denounced the court’s decision as “rash”, saying it pointed to bias against Russia.

“The actions by American and Lithuanian law enforcement do not help to improve the atmosphere in Russian-American and Russian-Lithuanian relations,” the embassy said in a statement.

Lithuania broke free from the Soviet Union in 1990 and joined both NATO and the European Union in 2004.

The small nation of three million people is one of the staunchest allies of the United States in Europe.

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USAF Space Command discontinues space surveillance system

Due to resource constraints caused by sequestration, Air Force Space Command has directed the 21st Space Wing to prepare to discontinue operations at the Air Force Space Surveillance System by Oct. 1. Final decisions on all Fiscal Year 2014 budget issues will be made over the next few weeks.

By discontinuing operations, the AFSSS would not be maintained in operational status; however, equipment will not be removed until a final disposition determination is made.

The AFSSS sites are operated under contract and the 21st SW has notified the vendor, Five Rivers Services in Colorado Springs, Colo., that it most likely will not exercise the next contract option beginning Oct. 1. By de-activating the AFSSS by Oct. 1, AFSPC would see a cost savings of approximately $14 million per year, beginning in Fiscal Year 2014.

AFSPC has devised modified operating modes for the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier AFS, N.D., and for the space surveillance Radar at Eglin AFB, Fla., which allows the discontinuation of AFSSS operations while still maintaining solid space situational awareness.

The AFSSS is a series of three transmitters and six receivers along the 33rd parallel stretching across the southern United States. The three transmitter sites are located at Jordan Lake, Ala.; Lake Kickapoo, Texas; and Gila River, Ariz. The six receivers are located at Tattnall, Ga.; Hawkinsville, Ga.; Silver Lake, Miss.; Red River, Ark.; Elephant Butte, N.M.; and San Diego, Calif. The two receiver sites at Tattnall and Silver Lake were deactivated in April of this year.

The AFSSS, which has been operational since 1961, is just one part of AFSPC’s global Space Surveillance Network. The system is designed to transmit a “fence” of radar energy vertically into space to detect all objects intersecting that fence.

The operational advantage of the AFSSS is its ability to detect objects in an un-cued fashion, rather than tracking objects based on previous information. The disadvantage is the inherent inaccuracy of the data, based on its dated design. The new operating modes at Cavalier and Eglin will provide more accuracy than the AFSSS and still collect un-cued observations.

The AFSSS is typically referred to as the “Space Fence,” which has caused confusion with the new Space Fence being developed for the future.

The AFSSS is much less capable than the Space Fence radar planned for Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” said General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command. “In fact, it’s apples and oranges in trying to compare the two systems.”

Unlike the AFSSS, the new Space Fence will provide very precise positional data on orbiting objects and will be the most accurate radar in the Space Surveillance Network.

It will provide enhanced space surveillance capabilities to detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted space boosters and space debris.

The new Space Fence will have much greater sensitivity, allowing it to detect, track and measure an object the size of a softball orbiting more than 1,200 miles in space. Because it is also an un-cued tracking system, it will provide evidence of satellite break-ups, collisions, or unexpected maneuvers of satellites.

When combined with the new Joint Space Operations Center’s high performance computing environment, the new Fence will truly represent a quantum leap forward in space situational awareness for the Nation,” General Shelton said.

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India: JPP demands ‘Greater Jharkhand’

Two days after the decision to form new Indian state of Telangana, Jharkhand People’s Party (JPP) on Thursday renewed its demand for ‘Greater Jharkhand’ merging parts of West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh with the existing state.

‘Greater Jharkhand’ consists of Purulia, Bankura and Midnapore districts of West Bengal, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh and Sambalpur districts of Odisha and Sarguja and Raigarh districts of Chattisgarh along with present Jharkhand, JPP President Surya Singh Besra told reporters here.

Besra said the ethnic and cultural identity and geo-political situation of these tribal dominated districts of the states were similar and should be merged with Jharkhand, which was accorded a separate statehood following bifurcation of Bihar in 2000.

Stating that the demand for ‘Greater Jharkhand’ was about eight decades old, Besra said the demand for smaller states was growing louder since the Union government had decided to accord statehood to Telangana bifurcating Andhra Pradesh.

Reference: Times of India

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French soldier dies in Mali road accident

A French soldier died and another was injured in a road accident in Mali, where they were both part of a military offensive that chased Islamists out of the north of the country.

Marc Martin-Vallet, 28, was killed on Tuesday when the transport vehicle he was travelling in fell into a ditch, according to the defence ministry.

Martin-Vallet, who had been in the west African country for two months, is the seventh French soldier to die since the beginning of the French-led offensive in Mali on January 11.

His is the first accidental death.

The crisis in Mali began in March last year when a military mutiny toppled democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure.

The ensuing confusion precipitated the fall of northern Mali to Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda, but the military intervention launched by French and African troops chased the rebels from the region’s main cities.

Around 3,200 French soldiers are still in the country, where the first round of a presidential election successfully took place on Sunday.

A UN peacekeeping force was deployed to the country earlier this month. The deployment allows France to start withdrawing most of its troops.

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Telangana: Protests over new state in southern India

Protests are being held in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, a day after the announcement that it will be split to form a new Telangana state.

Anti-Telangana protesters have ransacked the ruling Congress party office in Anantapur district and thrown stones at the police.

In the southern and coastal region of the state, businesses and schools are shut and transport disrupted.

The state has seen protests for and against the proposal in recent years.

With a population of 35 million, Telangana comprises 10 of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts including Hyderabad, India’s sixth biggest city.

Backers of the new state say the area has been neglected by the government.

Opponents of the move are unhappy that Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, will become a shared state capital for 10 years.

Passengers stranded

Wednesday’s protests come a day after India’s ruling Congress-led coalition unanimously agreed to the formation of the new state.

The protests have been called by the United Andhra Joint Action Committee which opposes the division of the state. Some local Congress party members have also opposed the split.

Twenty-three lawmakers, including six from the Congress party, belonging to the state assembly have resigned in protest against the move, our correspondent says.

Businesses, schools and cinemas are closed and public transport has been badly hit, leaving many passengers stranded.

Protesters blocked railway lines in Nellore and roads in other districts, as well as staging demonstrations outside the houses of Congress party ministers and politicians.

Huge demonstrations have been held in Visakhapatanam, Tirupati and Vijayawada.

In the city of Ongole in Prakasham district, protesters also attacked the office of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for supporting the splitting of Andhra Pradesh. Reports say Ongole could end up being the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.

Hundreds of paramilitary troops were deployed after Tuesday’s announcement.

The final decision on a new state lies with the Indian parliament. The state assembly must also pass a resolution approving the creation of what will be India’s 29th state.

Correspondents say the timing of the announcement is linked to general elections due early next year. Recent opinion polls have shown that the Congress party is struggling in the state, which has 42 parliamentary seats.

Deep divisions have emerged over the Telangana issue in the past four years.

In December 2009, India’s Congress party-led government promised that the new state would be formed, but later said more talks were needed.

The Telangana campaign grew in strength that year when veteran politician K Chandrasekhara Rao went on a hunger strike for 11 days in an effort to press the government to agree to its creation.

Demand for Gorkhaland

Meanwhile, the main Gorkha ethnic group in India’s West Bengal state has stepped up its demand for a separate state for Nepali-speaking Gorkhas in the tea-producing Darjeeling hills.

A Gorkha youth set himself on fire to protest against Delhi’s alleged “dual policy” – one of overlooking Gorkha aspirations for a separate state while going ahead with the creation of Telangana.

“His condition is serious,” said Roshan Giri, leader of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), which is leading the movement for the separate state.

Now that Delhi is creating Telangana, it should consider our long-term aspirations for a separate Gorkhaland. Our region is totally different from West Bengal which is a Bengali-dominated state,” he said.

Reference: BBC News

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