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Russia to offer fifth-generation prototype fighter to Brazil?

January 28, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from RIA Novosti.

Russia to offer fifth-generation prototype fighter to Brazil?
©  RIA Novosti
By Ilya Kramnik
January 28, 2011

The global arms trade runs to billions of dollars, but few such deals attract as much media attention as Brazil’s recent tender, for the purchase of 36 combat aircraft which includes an agreement on production of another 84 planes under license.

Media interest in the tender grew after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was inaugurated on January 1, 2011, annulled the results of the previous tender.

A modest beginning

The core of the Brazilian Air Force consists of obsolete U.S. F-5 fighters made in the 1960s and 1970s (50 to 60 aircraft) and 12 French Mirage-2000 planes made in the 1980s. It also has in excess of 50 Brazilian-Italian AMX assault aircraft and approximately 100 Super Tucano light attack, counter insurgency and pilot training planes all designed and manufactured in Brazil.

Brazil’s 12 to 15 Mirage III fighters are rarely used because they are both worn out and obsolete.

The Brazilian Air Force has a combat capacity way below the country’s economic potential, especially considering how hard it is working to enhance its global political role.

The first tender, known as the F-X, was announced in 1999, when Brazil planned to replace its obsolete Mirage III fighters with one or two squadrons of modern aircraft. It was ready and willing to spend up to $700 million to purchase between 12 and 24 fighter planes.

Almost all the world’s main aircraft producers took part in the tender, offering modified versions of their most popular multirole fighter aircraft: Lockheed Martin’s F-16, the Mirage-200BR made expressly with Brazil in mind, Sweden’s latest fighter plane the JAS-39 Gripen, and Russia’s MiG-29SMT Fulcrum.

Russia’s other largest combat aircraft producer, Sukhoi, has also taken an interest in the Brazilian market and planned to offer it a Su-35 fighter, an early model of the Su-27 Flanker-E/F.

However, French producers were expected to win that tender.

A growing appetite

But due to economic problems the tender never materialized. Brazil made an interim decision to buy 12 used older-model Mirage-2000 fighters, allowing it to put off the whole issue of replacement until 2007.

By that time, Brazil’s appetite had grown. It no longer only wanted to replace the obsolete Mirage III, but also the F-5 and AMX planes, and it had also increased its acquisition target from between 12 and 24 to 120 aircraft. Of that number, 36 were to be purchased outright and the rest manufactured under license in Brazil.

Since the contract price increased to $6-$10 billion, all the various bidders hurried to offer Brazil newer planes. The United States, ready to supply F-16s, also offered the latest model of its main combat aircraft, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. France, which no longer produces the Mirage-2000, rolled out Rafale. A consortium of three European companies put their Eurofighter Typhoon on the table, while Sweden’s SAAB once again offered its JAS-39.

Russia, meanwhile, unveiled its latest design, the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E (formerly the Su-27M).

The tender was expected to be won by whichever participant was willing to offer Brazil technology, that is, the option of producing more planes, itself, under license, with a view to upgrading its aircraft-building industry.

European producers led the race, while the U.S. bid was hamstrung by their insufficient willingness to share their expertise and technical know-how.

The reason Russia dropped out of the race was more complicated: Brazil was expecting it to supply Su-35BM fighters in exchange for the licensed production of Embraer civilian aircraft in Russia. However, this would have had a negative impact on Sukhoi’s own plane project, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, and was therefore blocked.

Fifth-generation prototype

The second tender collapsed due to the European fighters’ exorbitant prices. As a result, Brazil’s new government made two decisions: first, it would hold yet another tender and second, among other options, its Air Force should consider buying Russia’s Su-35BM fighter.

Analysts say that the possibility of Brazil buying a Sukhoi plane could push the European companies to be more flexible over their prices and even prompt the Americans to consider a technology transfer. However, the Su-35BM may yet win the tender, especially because, since 2007, its prestige has been boosted by its successful performance in trials and mass production for the Russian Air Force.

On top of that, Sukhoi’s reputation across Latin America grew on the back of Venezuela’s Su-30MK2 purchase.

The final argument in Russia’s favor is the T-50, otherwise known as the PAK FA, a fifth-generation fighter-jet Sukhoi is currently developing.

Rumors that Russia and Brazil might join forces on a fifth-generation fighter plane first appeared last spring, and have not been refuted. Since Russia and India are allegedly ready to create a joint venture to manufacture the T-50 planes, Russian-Brazilian cooperation in this field is now a very real possibility, especially considering the two countries’ friendly relations.

The supply of the Su-35BM planes, including fifth-generation equipment and materials, could be the first step toward delivering the T-50. If Russia makes this offer, it is almost guaranteed to win the tender.

The T-50’s main rival, the U.S. F-22, is not currently being exported and there are no other similar planes on the market, with the exception of China’s J-20, and experts remain divided over its advantages.

[End.]
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Ilya Kramnik is RIA Novosti’s military commentator. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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Categories: BRAZIL, RUS, USA

Critical Minerals: Growing Demands, Rising Tensions

January 3, 2011 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from International Relations & Security Network (ISN), Center for Security Studies, Zurich.

Critical Minerals:  Growing Demands, Rising Tensions
©  Christine Pathemore
Source:  ISN
January 3 2011

Looking back at the major headlines of 2010, one story stands out as truly unexpected: The sudden concern with a little-known class of minerals – rare earth elements – that had previously served a key but quiet role in the global economy. These minerals serve as a foundation for modern technologies – from television screens to missile guidance systems – making this newfound interest warranted.

It seems an historical abberation that concern over mineral supplies critical to weapons systems and energy production did not deeply permeate industrial policies, trade and geopolitical planning in the past two decades.

Throughout history, battles have been fought over control of natural resources. During World War II, the U.S., its European allies, Germany and Japan all relied on imported supplies of many raw materials critical to their war efforts, including steel and petroleum and the minerals used to process those materials. Both sides also developed extensive operations to cut off their opponents’ supply lines.

After World War II and during the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s expanding sphere of influence included many of the world’s most important minerals suppliers. Economists and defense planners in all industrial countries sounded alarms that import dependence on minerals from Southern Africa and Eastern Europe created intolerable strategic vulnerabilities. This concern extended to common imports such as steel and petroleum, but also to lesser-known minerals, such as cobalt and minerals of tailored use in strategic weapons, such as uranium required for stockpiling nuclear weapons. As the Cold War drew to a close, however, worries about minerals supplies waned.

The modern challenges of minerals

Today, the resurgence in concern over minerals is no longer characterized by great power competition, but by globalized markets and booming economic growth in the world’s most populous developing countries. Demand for many minerals is growing at a scale that few would have predicted a decade ago.

Though India, Brazil and other countries are rapidly becoming modern industrial powers and driving a surge in demand for minerals, China is at the heart of these concerns. China has a distinct strategy for its economic development that makes certain minerals central to its growth, including rare earth elements such as neodymium and europium. In addition to its ongoing space exploration and extensive military expansion, economic growth plans include “advanced manufacturing, new energy, new material and new-energy automobiles” – all areas of technological development that depend heavily on rare earth elements. Moreover, China’s economic, diplomatic, and military tactics to create a robust international supply system that meets its rapidly growing mineral demands is seen as a potential strategic concern by many analysts.

The renewed wave of interest in minerals has been several years in the making. An early incident, a disruption in supplies of rhenium, a mineral used to produce specialty alloys for the aerospace industry, caused prices to spike from $1,000 to $6,000 per kilogram. In 2007, China threatened to withhold exports of certain rare earth minerals used as catalysts in petroleum refining for long enough that American refiners warned of gasoline shortages; the U.S. State Department had to step in to help settle the tensions.

Most recently, rare earths have grabbed headlines and the U.S. Congress and Obama administration’s attention, in large part due to China’s regularly-changing export quotas for these minerals and its recent cessation of exports to Japan. Following a scuffle in the East China Sea in September, Chinese exporters halted shipments of rare earths to Japan for weeks, eventually resuming in late November. Although China’s leaders denied that they had imposed an official, government-sanctioned embargo, the move made clear China’s ability to leverage its current corner on the rare earths export market.

While this does not appear to have directly affected American companies, it served as a warning about the possible effects of over-reliance on China by the U.S. and other developed countries. For the U.S., more than 90 percent of its rare earth minerals imports could be at risk of supply disruptions of this kind. Beyond the direct economic costs of China changing rare earths export policies, its control of the vast majority of current world supplies allows it significant political power in relation to countries that have important military and civilian needs for these minerals.

What to do?

The U.S. must overcome several key challenges in order to better manage these minerals issues – which may in the future extend beyond rare earths, given the country’s complete reliance on imports for at least 19 different minerals.

First, the government and private sector should increase information sharing regarding mineral supply chains. The Japanese government, for example, has more open information sharing between the government and private sector, helping to mitigate potential problems. Second, governments of all industrialized countries should work to catalogue their dependencies on the most contentious minerals, such as rare earth elements and indium, for defense equipment needs and clean energy manufacturing goals. The U.S. government is in the early stages of taking on this task, but unfortunately it will take years to get even a general sense of the country’s true vulnerabilities. Finally, the government must improve its understanding of the kinds of economic and geopolitical risks that mineral import dependence could create when things go wrong. This will entail educating high-level policymakers and especially diplomats of the connections between the global minerals trade, defense industrial needs and international relations.

In the long term, experts project that supplies of rare earths (and most minerals on which the global economy relies today) will be sufficient to meet demand for decades – centuries in some cases. Unfortunately, this does not preclude the negative effects of short-term supply shortages, market share consolidation by only a few suppliers, and exporting countries flexing their geopolitical muscles by leveraging their control of important minerals. The growing recognition that assured access to minerals and raw materials is important for ensuring a reliable defense industrial base, developing a clean energy economy and managing geopolitical tensions is therefore a positive development.

Understanding these issues and mitigating potential problems will become vitally important in the future, as demand grows and tensions surrounding supply chains rise. The stakes are high. In the past three years, these issues have led to trade disputes, detracted attention from important diplomatic gains in the Asia-Pacific and renewed clashes over territory from the Arctic to the South China Sea. We should expect to see minerals make even more headlines in 2011 and beyond.

[End.]
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Christine Pathemore is a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a non-profit, bipartisan national security think tank in Washington, D.C. She directs CNAS’s program that analyzes national security challenges related to natural resources.

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Categories: BRAZIL, CHN, IND, JAP, RUS, USA, WORLD

Argentina and Brazil stand up against USA and Israel

December 8, 2010 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Pravda, Moscow.

Argentina and Brazil stand up against USA and Israel
©  Pravda.ru
By Sergei Balmasov
December 8, 2010

Following Brazil, Argentina has recognized the “free and independent” Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Argentinians were not stopped by the harsh criticism from the U.S. and Israel that Brazilians were subject to earlier.

The U.S. Congress called the decision a fundamental mistake, while Israel has expressed “sadness and disappointment” because such provisions are inconsistent with the 1995 Agreement, which states that the Palestinian state can be created exclusively through bilateral negotiations.

As we know, much of the territory claimed by Palestinians was captured by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. The question arises: how realistic is the creation of the Palestinian state within the borders of 1967 and what caused Argentina and Brazil to take this position? Experts Boris Martynov, Sergey Demidenko and Avigdor Eskin shared their thoughts with Pravda.ru.

“There is no point in speaking about who is right and who is to blame in the dispute over Palestinian land, it is useless,” said the expert of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis Sergey Demidenko. “From a legal standpoint, according to numerous international documents, including the U.N. Security Council resolutions, Israel is the aggressor. Incidentally, in early 1990s it assumed the obligation to transfer the seized lands to Palestine. Another thing is that now it is not feasible. First, Abbas is in fact an illegal governor who was elected by the PLO Executive Committee and not by the people.

“Secondly, there is too much accumulated hatred between Arabs and Jews, and too many principally unsolvable issues, including the issue of the settlements and the status of Jerusalem. A great deal of time must pass to ensure that such intransigence is over.”

“Argentina and Brazil are under pressure from numerous influential Arab communities who reside in these countries,” an Israeli politician Avigdor Eskin is convinced. “Yet, we should not expect that Israel will take into account such opinions. It will act completely opposite to the observed pressure, as in previous years. We are not afraid of pressure. For example, in the past years, all three countries maintained their relations with Israel, but we have survived under a siege. And I do not rule out that we will have to face a similar situation again.

“Why are we so determined? Imagine that someone would claim that Russia has obtained Kaliningrad and Kuriles illegally, through military actions, and that they should be returned to Germany and Japan. In our case the situation is similar.

“After all, what is at stake? We have been controlling Judea and Samaria for 43 years. For many people who are far from the problems of the Middle East these names do not mean anything. But for those who open the Bible, no matter from the right or left side, they mean a lot. This is where the civilization has originated from.

“After all, how did these areas get into our hands? In 1947, the U.N. decided to divide them between the Arab and Israeli states. However, in 1948 the Arabs attacked Israel, and Jordan, taking advantage of the convenient situation, seized this ‘no man’s land’.

“20 years later, the Egyptian leader Nasser decided to throw Israel into the sea. But in the course of a preventive Six-Day War our adversaries, including Jordan, have been defeated, and Judea and Samaria remained in our hands.

“As far as Argentina and Brazil, they act very recklessly. Of course, they can ignore the importance of the global economy of the Jewish capital, but they cannot be so sure about their own safety. Both countries have a lot of national issues. For example, under a certain scenario, Brazil may very well break up into seven or eight pieces. Firstly, the Indians issue in these countries is very acute. Secondly, they should not forget that in the second half of the 19th century, they forcibly took away half of the Paraguayan territory. And sooner or later, this problem may re-emerge”.

“The decision of Argentina and Brazil is a normal reaction to the leadership of these countries to the actions of the U.S ,” thinks the deputy director of the Institute of Latin American countries Boris Martynov. “I would not exaggerate the role of the ‘Arab factor.’ If there is a really large community of Arabs counting two million people in Brazil, the Jews in Argentina are clearly dominant.

“The main thing here is another factor – these actions are directed primarily against America. Argentina is no longer an American satellite, as it was in 1990. However, in the first place we should pay attention to the reaction of the Brazilians, as the Argentinians play a secondary role and, in some respects, Kirchner follows Lula.

“Anti-American and anti-Israeli policy in Brazil has been obvious for a long time, even during the military regime. Look at the events of 1975, when Brazilians voted in the U.N. General Assembly to condemn Zionism as a form of racism.

“Yet in recent years, with the strengthening of the Brazilian economy, Lula took increasingly more steps in spite of the U.S. All this is enhanced by a recent proposal made along with Turkey in regard to Iran’s uranium enrichment. In essence, Brazil expressed unequivocal support for Iran.

“Finally, the leaders of many Latin American countries were frustrated by the publications on WikiLeaks, which showed the American diplomacy in the most unfavorable light once again.”

[End.]

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Categories: ARG, BRAZIL, ISR, PAL, USA