Indonesia orders NASAMS air defense system

Oct. 31 (UPI) — Indonesia has ordered an air defense system from Kongsberg of Norway, the company announced on Tuesday.

The system is to be delivered under a $ 77 million contract between Kongsberg and the Indonesian Ministry of Defense includes command posts, radars, launchers and radios.

NASAMS, or the Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System, is a medium- to long-range air-defense system developed in partnership with Raytheon. The system is used by Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, the United States, Spain and Oman.

System integration, training and logistics support is also part of the contract. AMRAAM missiles for the system will be obtained by Indonesia through a separate government-to-government agreement with the United States, Kongsberg said.

“We are very pleased that Indonesia, as the first nation in its region, chooses NASAMS for its homeland defense,” Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace President Eirik Lie said in a press release. “The continuous technical evolution and addition of users confirms that NASAMS is the most modern and advanced air defense system in the world.”

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First order for Elta ELK-1882T SATCOM network system

Oct. 31 (UPI) — Israel Aerospace Industries and its Elta subsidiary have received their first order for their satellite communication terminal with conformal electronic-steered antenna for fighter jets.

The Elta ELK-1882T SATCOM network system will be delivered to the unidentified country beginning in 2021.

“This is a strategic and important cooperation for ELTA’s SATCOM products line with a leading aircraft manufacturer and prestigious customer,” Nissim Hadas, IAI executive vice president and ELTA president, said in a press release. “We are proud to have been selected and look forward to deliver our advanced SATCOM solutions. We are sure that this significant achievement is only the first milestone in positioning ELTA as a leader in electronic steering technology for aircraft communication solutions.”

The ELK-1882T Ku-band phased array SATCOM network is billed as easy to install and integrate, with minimal impact on aircraft performance due to the conformal installation. Conformal flush installation generates negligible drag.

The new system has no moving parts and uses phased antenna installed on the jet’s fuselage, comprising the transceiver, modem and High Power Amplifier with an IP LAN connection to the aircraft avionics.

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Locals may have helped Islamic State ambush Green Berets in Niger

Oct. 20 (UPI) — The 12-man team of Green Berets ambushed in Niger were delayed as they left a meeting with local leaders — which may have been part of the plan to attack them, Army officials told UPI.

Officials suspect that some people in the Oct. 4 Tongo Tongo meeting may have been working with the Islamic State. Some people from the town have been arrested.

The attack, in which four U.S. soldiers were killed — including one who was not found until nearly 48 hours later, was a surprise. Intelligence had indicated the likelihood of an attack was low.

Five soldiers from Niger were also killed.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday he had little information to share about the ambush.

“We at the Department of Defense like to know what we’re talking about before we talk,” Mattis told reporters. “And so we don’t have all the accurate information yet. We will release it as rapidly as we get it.”

A team of investigators led by a one-star general has been sent to West Africa on a fact-finding mission, the Pentagon said.

The military and intelligence community are working to piece together a detailed sequence of the day’s events.

It is known that four U.S. Army soldiers were killed and two were wounded in what is the deadliest combat mission since President Donald Trump took office in January.

The team was on its way back from a “key leader engagement” with residents in Tongo Tongo, in the southwestern region of Niger near the Mali border when they were attacked by as many as 50 militant fighters thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

Staff Sgts. Dustin M. Wright and Bryan C. Black were killed in the ambush along with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson. Sgt. La David Johnson‘s body was recovered 48 hours later by Nigerien forces in a remote, northwestern region of Niger.

The team came under a complex ambush, consisting of small arms fire, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, members of the Green Berets familiar with the mission told UPI.

The firefight lasted more than 30 minutes, with French jets flying overhead in a “show of force” in an attempt to drive out the militants.

It is unclear when Johnson was separated from the other members of his unit, but a massive search was mounted for him.

“[The] U.S. military does not leave troops behind, and I would just ask you to not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” Mattis told reporters.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters Thursday that a joint effort made up of U.S., French and Nigerien forces were involved in what’s called a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or TRAP, mission. McKenzie said the joint task force did not leave the area until Johnson was located.

The four U.S. soldiers were part of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group and had deployed to the region in July.

Historically, advise, train and assist missions are the bread and butter of what U.S. Army Green Berets do. They are specifically trained in force multiplication, which means Green Berets work with foreign militaries to build security in allied countries in the name of U.S. national security interests.

After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began to wind down, a 2015 U.S. Special Operations Command directive reassigned 3rd Special Forces Group, out of Fort Bragg, N.C., to their African mission.

The unit is nicknamed the “Bush Hogs” for their legacy in the region under the command authority of U.S. Africa Command. Before 3rd Group, the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, out of Fort Carson, Colo., was assigned to Africa.

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Lockheed Martin to develop missile defense tools with Defense Department deal

Oct. 20 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin will develop lower-tier air and missile defense sensor prototypes under a Department of Defense contract.

The award is from the Department’s Ordnance Technology Consortium, an initiative to facilitate collaboration between the government, industry and academia for technology development. Lockheed Martin did not disclose the contract’s value in a release Thursday.

“Lockheed Martin is ready to leverage our significant experience, Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology and sensor capabilities in the [lower-tier air and missile defense sensor] concept definition phase to accelerate much needed enhanced capability to the warfighter,” Mark Mekker, director of next generation radar systems at Lockheed Martin, said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin said it is using a prototype investment program to develop needed specifications for the lower-tier air and missile defense sensor mission. Defense Department funding will help to that end.

The prototype will feature Gallium Nitride transmitter technology and use signal processing techniques that will include 360-degree rotational capability, the Maryland-based company said.

“Technology is maturing at such a pace that continuing to incrementally upgrade the heritage Patriot MPQ-65 radar system is no longer the most efficient and cost-effective option,” Mekker said. “A next generation [lower-tier air and missile defense sensor] radar will leverage recent advances in radar technology to provide a cost-effective, scalable, long-term solution that can address current threats and adapt to emerging and future threats.”

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Wheatstone LNG a drag on Woodside Petroleum

Oct. 19 (UPI) — General gains in liquefied natural gas production from Australia’s Woodside Petroleum weren’t enough to lift expectations for total output, it said Thursday.

The company said in a third quarter statement that its production guidance for the year was narrowed because of a delay in the start of the first liquefaction facility, or train, at its Wheatstone project in the state of Western Australia.

The consortium behind Wheatstone had expected a startup by midyear 2017, but announced only in October that operations were up and running.

At its peak, the facility will supply nearly 9 million tons of super-cooled gas every year to the emerging and energy-hungry economies of Asia. The facility is located about 7 miles away from the Wheatstone and Iago natural gas fields.

The Wheatstone consortium includes the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co., Australian energy company Woodside Petroleum. Drawing on a global portfolio, Woodside said it executed sales and purchase agreements for more than a dozen cargoes of LNG for delivery between 2017 and 2019.

Woodside said Thursday that total operating revenue to Sept. 30 was $ 2.8 billion, down 4 percent from the same period last year. Wheatstone has yet to account for any of the sale revenue reported by the company.

The figures came even as Woodside boasted of record-setting production from its Pluto LNG facility in Australia, which delivered its 350th cargo during the reported period. Monthly production was 3 percent higher in July, compared with the previous record set in the same month last year.

For the third quarter alone, sales revenue for Wheatstone was 5 percent higher than the second quarter and CEO Peter Coleman put the focus on success at Pluto.

“The period marked further strong operational performance from Pluto LNG,” he said. “For the second quarter in succession, Pluto achieved a number of production records.”

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Oil prices retreat on Russian concerns about balance

Oct. 19 (UPI) — A downbeat sentiment from a Russian oil boss on the trajectory for crude oil prices sent key benchmarks diving into negative territory early Thursday.

Outside of the first week in October, crude oil prices have been holding steady in bullish territory for the better part of the third quarter. The rally is due in part to the effort by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to balance the market through coordinated production cuts, an effort that includes a handful of non-member producers like Russia.

The International Energy Agency said in its monthly market report for October that, for 2018, three out of the four quarters will show a market more or less in balance, assuming OPEC output stays the same and there are no major unforeseen disruptions.

Igor Sechin, the head of Russian oil company Rosneft, said U.S. shale oil production was out of OPEC’s control and could threaten the drain on the surplus in the five-year average for global crude oil inventories.

“The balance is fragile and unstable so far,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Tass. “I think therefore that we should not expect a surge in oil prices in near future.”

The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark for the price of oil, was down 1.4 percent at 9:20 a.m. EDT to $ 57.31 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was down 1.5 percent to $ 51.24 per barrel.

The difference, or spread, between Brent and WTI is making U.S. crude oil competitive on the open market. U.S exports are near record territory, though U.S. oil has only been moving freely since 2015, when former President Barack Obama lifted a 40-year-old ban on exports.

A report emailed from RBC Capital on Thursday said more U.S. oil exports could be supportive of crude oil prices.

“We have long expected the WTI discount to Brent to remain wide until the market arrives at the juncture where inventories outside the United States normalize and the call on U.S. crude exports increases to plug global supply gaps,” the report read. “This is an incrementally bullish signal worth watching.”

The price for Brent crude oil has made a few runs on $ 60 per barrel this year, but has so far failed to break through the ceiling. Ole Hanson, the head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, told UPI a U.S. report on domestic oil storage drains and gasoline inventory builds helped take the steam out of the recent rally.

“The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s report yesterday was mildly bearish, while the supply disruptions from northern Iraq seems to have been quantified and Iraq expect production from Kirkuk to resume over the weekend,” he said.

Iraqi forces seized control over the oil fields in Kirkuk this week amid skirmishes with forces loyal to the Kurdistan Regional Government. So far, there are few indications that any disruptions to oil will be long term.

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