Iran Downs U.S. Drone

Iran's military said it shot down a U.S. Army drone inside its territory near the Afghan and Pakistani borders on Dec. 4, and threatened to retaliate for the violation, Iranian media reported.
The NATO-led military force in Afghanistan said the drone reportedly shot down by Iran "may" belong to the United States.
"The UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) to which the Iranians are referring may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week," the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. "The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status," the statement said without elaborating on the type of drone.
Iran's Al-Alam Arabic language satellite channel, quoting a military source in Iran's joint chiefs of staff, said late Dec. 4 that a RQ-170 unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down "a few hours ago."
The Fars news agency, which has close ties to the Revolutionary Guards responsible for Iran's air defense and ballistic missile systems, said the drone had made an incursion into Iran's eastern airspace.
"Our air defense and electronic warfare units managed to identify and shoot down an advanced unmanned spy aircraft - an RQ-170 - after it briefly violated the eastern border territory," Fars said.
Quoting an unnamed military source, Fars said the drone "was downed with slight damage."
"It is now under the control of our forces."
The source warned that Iran's armed response would "not be limited to our country's borders" for the "blatant territorial violation."
No images of the drone said to have been shot down were immediately published by any of the media carrying the reports.
The RQ-170 Sentinel is a high-altitude reconnaissance drone whose existence was revealed in 2009 by specialized reviews and later confirmed by the U.S. Air Force in 2010.
In January, Iran announced that its forces had downed two U.S. drones after they violated Iranian-controlled airspace. It said it would put the aircraft on display to the public, but there has been no indication it ever did so.
In June, Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the Guards' aerospace unit, said Iran had shown Russian experts the U.S. drones in its possession.
"Russian experts requested to see these drones and they looked at both the downed drones and the models made by the Guards through reverse engineering," he said.
Hajizadeh did not specify how many U.S. drones were shown nor give any details of the copies Iran was said to have made of the aircraft.
The U.S. military and the CIA routinely use drones to monitor military activity in the region. They have also reportedly used them to launch missile strikes in Yemen as well as in Afghanistan and in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt.
The latest report comes as relations between Pakistan and the U.S. have hit anew low after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an air strike near the Afghan-Pakistani border last month, prompting Pakistan to boycott Monday's Bonn conference on Afghanistan's future.
It also comes at a time of heightened political tension over Iran's nuclear program, with speculation rife that Israel is mulling air strikes against Iranian atomic facilities, with or without U.S. backing. Iranian officials and Guards commanders, who regularly boast about Tehran's military capabilities, have warned against any such military action targeting the Islamic republic.

Pakistan nukes not safe: Qureshi

Pakistan's former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has alleged that the country's nuclear weapons are not safe under the present PPP dispensation. Mr Qureshi's comments evoked an angry response from the government, which rejected his contention as "baseless".

Mr Qureshi, who is President Asif Ali Zardari's former ally, made these remarks at a public rally at Ghotki in Sindh where he announced joining hands with cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party. He is the highest ranking Pakistani politician to comment that the country's nuclear weapons were not safe.

His remarks come on the heels of warnings by Western experts that Islamabad's nukes could fall into the hands of Taliban terrorists.

Though Mr Qureshi did not give details of how Pakistan's nukes were in danger, he promised to talk about this in detail at the next public gathering in Karachi. He said, he had been foreign minister and thus understood the issue well and knew the pressures and stresses Pakistan was facing over its nuclear programme. He also came down hard on the government's alliance with the US as well as US policies towards Pakistan.

Reacting angrily to Mr Qureshi's remarks, the Pakistan government rejected his contentions as it declared there would be no compromise on a programme which is integral to the country's defence.

India Navy Wants 24 P-8Is

The Indian Navy now wants to double their order for American P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft to 24. Earlier this year, the navy was allowed to buy another four P-8Is, largely in response to growing Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean. Three years ago, India ordered its initial eight U.S. P-8s, for about $220 million each. The growing expense of maintaining their Russian Tu-142M reconnaissance aircraft, and the need for a more capable recon aircraft led to that initial order. The first P-8I will arrive in 2014. What has made the Indian admirals so enthusiastic about an aircraft that first flew two years ago and is still undergoing testing is its ancestry. The equipment and techniques come from the half century old P-3. Arguably the most successful maritime patrol aircraft ever, the P-3 equipment and experience are being merged with the equally admired Boeing 737 air transport to create the P-8.
The Indian decision to switch to U.S. maritime recon aircraft is rather recent. Four years ago India received another Russian built Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Beginning in 1988, when it received three of these aircraft, India has bought more and now has a fleet of eight in service. The Tu-142, which was introduced in the 1970s, is the maritime patrol version of the Tu-95 heavy bomber. The Tu-95 aircraft entered service over half a century ago, and is expected to remain in service, along with the Tu-142 variant, for another three decades. Over 500 Tu-95s were built, and it is the largest and fastest turboprop aircraft in service. Russia still maintains a force of 60 Tu-95s, but has dozens in storage, which can be restored to service as either a bomber or a Tu-142.
India requires aircraft like these for patrolling the vast India ocean waters that surround the subcontinent. India wanted to upgrade the electronics on its Tu-142s, but has been put off by the high price, and low performance, of what the Russians offered. There was also some question of whether the Russians could meet their schedule and cost assurances.
The Americans have a much better reputation in these areas. Moreover, India will get a version (P-8I) customized for their needs. Although the Boeing 737 based P-8 is a two engine jet, compared to the four engine turboprop P-3, it is a more capable plane. Cruise speed for the 737 is 910 kilometers an hour. This makes it possible for the P-8 to get to a patrol area faster, which is a major advantage when chasing down subs first spotted by sonar arrays or satellites. The P-8 has a crew of 10-11 pilots and equipment operators, who operate the search radar and various other sensors. The 737 has hard points on the wings for torpedoes or missiles.
The B-737 is a more modern design than the Tu-142, and has been used successfully since the 1960s by commercial aviation. The Boeing 737 first flew in 1965, and over 5,000 have been built. The P-8A will be the first 737 designed with a bomb bay and four wing racks for weapons. The U.S. P-8 costs more, about $275 million each, because of different equipment carried.


Secret war against Iran

The recent attack on the British embassy was apparently carried out by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The U.S., and most Western nations, considers this outfit to be a terrorist organization. The IRGC is more than just the "royal guard" of the Iranian dictatorship. Originally founded to do the clerics' dirty work, and keep an eye on the Iranian armed forces, and population in general, the IRGC has grown to become a state-within-a-state. The IRGC not only has 150,000 armed members, but also controls billions of dollars-worth of businesses inside Iran, and runs numerous terrorist operations outside the country. The IRGC has not been shy about its foreign activities, and boasts of its efforts to destroy Israel and the United States. The IRGC scoffed at the American countermeasures, but the sanctions have real bite. The U.S. has enormous control over the international banking system, and has developed ways to use this power. Once the United States tells the world's banks that they will be cut off from access to the U.S. banking system if they do business with the IRGC, the Iranians suddenly find that many of their criminal activities are much more difficult, if not impossible, to carry out. IRGC bank accounts are frozen, and some assets are seized. The American sanctions would be accompanied by U.S. government officials detailing IRGC crimes, and abuse of the international banking system. This tends to convince many, if not most, major international banks that it was not worth the trouble, and risk, to do business with the IRGC. This makes it more expensive for the IRGC to operate. It's also very embarrassing, if only because sanctions also identify IRGC leaders that are to be denied the right of travel to many parts of the world. The listing, and the sanctions, would also interfere with Iran's nuclear weapons program, which is largely controlled by the IRGC. In response to all this external pressure, the IRGC has sought to increase its power within Iran. The attack on the British embassy, which was criticized by some of the senior clerics (who hold veto power over most government decisions), demonstrated how the IRGC can, increasingly, do whatever it wants. This is what bothers many outside Iran, because if Iran gets nukes, the IRGC will control them.
Despite IRGC willingness to help out, the Iranian government has decided to pull back on support for the pro-Iran government in Syria. Months of demonstrations, which continue despite the use of troops and deadly force, have weakened the Syrian government. Apparently Iran is trying to limit its losses here, as it would still like to have an arrangement with a new Syrian government to supply pro-Iran Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon. That's a long shot, but is a possibility.
The government claims that its anti-drug efforts have led to more than twice as many drug gangs being taken down this year than last. At the same time, the government admits that, in addition to the growing supplies of opium, heroin and hashish from Afghanistan, more LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine and new synthetic drugs are coming in from the West, or being manufactured in Iran. In addition to several million addicts in Iran, more and more Iranians are being caught outside Iran, working to export drugs from Iran. There has always been a lot of smuggling in and out of Iran, and now a major item being moved is drugs. On the Afghan border, the traffic goes both ways, with drugs coming into Iran and weapons and other contraband going to Afghanistan. The Afghan border has been a war zone for over three decades, as the government fights the smugglers. There are currently over a thousand casualties a year in the Afghan border, because the Afghan smugglers are armed and willing to fight past the border guards to deliver their valuable cargoes.
Satellite photos of the November 12 explosion at a military base outside the capital show much more damage than previously thought. Iran continues to describe the explosion as an accident; it is also part of a growing number of similar incidents. These include the untimely deaths of key personnel in the weapons development organizations. There appears to be an organized effort to disrupt Iranian weapons development, especially their ballistic missile and nuclear bomb programs. Iran officially denies that this is the case.
December 8, 2011: The government displayed what appeared to be an American RQ-170 jet powered UAV, which landed intact in Iran two weeks earlier. This UAV showed up in Afghanistan and South Korea two years ago. The U.S. Air Force then admitted that this was the RQ-170, a high altitude reconnaissance UAV developed in secret by Lockheed-Martin during the previous decade. It has a 26 meter (80 foot) wingspan. The RQ-170 is believed to be a replacement for the U-2 and a supplemental aircraft for the larger Global Hawk (which has a 42 meter wingspan.) RQ-170s have been operating over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran for at least a year. Exactly why this UAV came down, and how damaging the loss of aircraft and sensor technology is, won't be known for years. Losses like this have occurred for decades, and do have an impact. For example, U.S. cruise missiles that crashed in Pakistan (on their way to Afghanistan) in the 1990s clearly influenced the design of a Pakistani cruise missile. American warplanes that crashed in North Vietnam during the 1960s provided some tech for China and Russia, but nothing decisive.
December 4, 2011:  The government claimed that it had intercepted the radio control of an American UAV and forced it to land in Iran. The U.S. later admitted they had lost contact with one of their UAVs in Afghanistan, something that usually happens because of equipment failures. Iran has been known to interfere with satellite signals (mainly to keep material from those with illegal satellite video receivers). Hacking an encrypted satellite signal to a UAV is quite another matter. Possible, but rarely done or even openly talked about.
December 3, 2011:  France has decided to temporarily reduce the size of its embassy staff in Iran (which numbers about two dozen people.) This is in response to the recent attack on the British embassy.  The British pulled all their diplomatic personnel out of Iran and ordered Iran to do the same with its diplomats in Britain.
December 1, 2011: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has ordered 600 American bunker buster smart bombs. The UAE already has an advanced model of the F-16 to deliver such a bomb, and the only likely target is Iran.
November 30, 2011: Norway closed its embassy in Iran, but has not evacuated its diplomats yet.
November 29, 2011:  In the capital, a mob of nearly a thousand young men invade the British embassy compound, causing extensive damage. The police simply stood by. Britain has been portrayed as an enemy of Iran for the last few centuries because the British have done to Iran what Iran has done to its neighbors for thousands of years (bully them and interfere with internal affairs). The Iranians do not like having the tables turned this way. Although Turkey, Russia and the United States have also done this sort of thing, the British have done it the most, and that makes the attack on the British embassy popular with many Iranians. Unfortunately for Iran, the rest of the world considers the attack on an embassy a major breach in international etiquette. This sort of thing (a government sanctioned attack on an embassy) rarely happens and it is universally condemned.
November 28, 2011: There was a large explosion in the west Iranian city of Isfahan. The explosion was near a nuclear facility and military base. Iran played down the explosion in the media.
November 27, 2011:  Angry at British support for increased sanctions against Iran (because of the Iranian nuclear weapons program), the Iranian parliament passed a law ordering Britain to reduce the size of its embassy in Iran. Anti-British propaganda has been increasing in Iran over the last few months. 


Iran's Big Little Fleet

Iran announced that they have put another three of their Ghadir class submarines into service. This is another example of Iranian resourcefulness in the face of embargoes. Since 1996, when Russia agreed to stop selling them submarines, Iran has been working on their own designs. After ten years of trial and error they produced the 115 ton Ghadir (Qadir) class vessels in 2005. Iran claims to have a fleet of 17 of these small diesel electric subs in their arsenal and no less than four have been shown together and photographed. The Iranians are not releasing specification sheets to anyone but Ghadirs look very similar to the Italian made Cosmos SX-506B, submarines that Columbia has operated since the 1980s. The 100-ton SX-506Bs are only large enough to carry commandos and mines. However released news footage shows what looks like to be two torpedo tubes on the Iranian Ghadirs. The Iranians claim that the Ghadirs carry torpedoes.
It should be remembered that Cosmos exported a number of larger vessels to Pakistan in the 1990s. Dubbed the SX-756 they may have been the design basis for the Ghadir. It should also be acknowledged that the North Korean Sang-O class submarine closely approximates the Ghadir type. In 2007 North Korea gave Iran, outright, four of its Yugo-type midget submarines. These Yugos were well worn 90-ton 21 meter (65 foot) craft but Iran accepted them all the same.
A one-off design, dubbed the Nahang, was produced in 2006. At about 500-tons it is the same size as and closely resembled the old German Type-206 class. The Type 206s were produced in the 1960s for operations in the confined shallows of the Baltic. Denmark, Norway, Germany, and now Indonesia used variants for forty years. The Type 206’s size enabled it to carry eight torpedo tubes with no reloads. The Iranian version does not seem to be a success and little has been seen of this craft.
Under construction is what will be the third indigenous Iranian design. Laid down in 2008, the Qaaem will be a 1,000 ton craft and historically should be large enough to handle a full set of torpedo tubes along with a reload. They could be the possible replacement for Iran’s Kilos. The Kilo platform has a lifespan of 30-years and they are more than halfway there. But Iran has a mixed record when it comes to warship construction and the Ghadir boats are reported to be troublesome to use and not safe. The Iranians are enthusiastic about having more subs, but developing that capability is very expensive and time consuming.
Iran took the big leap in the early 1990s when they acquired three Kilo 877/636 type diesel electric submarines from Russia. The 2300 ton Kilos are long range subs capable of operating throughout the Indian Ocean (from South Africa to Australia). The Kilos have six 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and 18 torpedoes (including one or more Shkval rocket torpedo) or 24 mines. Very similar to the world-standard diesel submarine, the 1800-ton German Type 209, the Kilo is a formidable foe and can stay at sea for up to 45 days, which makes it capable of long range patrols, like a recent one in the Red Sea. That, in fact, was the farthest any of the Iranian Kilos have ever travelled from home. The Ghadirs are strictly for coastal work or missions out into the Persian Gulf.