quarta-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2008

Admiral Gorshkov : Arguments for completing modernization

Admiral Gorshkov : Arguments for completing modernization

16:32 27/ 02/ 2008

MOSCOW. (Military commentator Nikita Petrov for RIA Novosti) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in India Tuesday amid rumors that he is to offer the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk as a sweetener if New Delhi buys 65 Boeing Super Hornet fighters.

The fighters are Boeing's offering in a fierce competition with European and Russian rivals for a multi-billion deal to supply the Indian Air Force. Other bidders include the Russian MiG-35 Fulcrum F, the French Rafale, the European Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon, and the Swedish Grippen.

According to a report from the Texas-based private intelligence group Stratfor, the "gift" would be designed to ensure victory at the tender, because an aircraft carrier without deck aircraft is a harmless floating airfield. It could also woo India away from Russia, which is currently refitting the air-capable cruiser Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy at the Sevmash shipyard in northern Russia. ( SEE BELOW the Stratfor article reproduced)

The U.S. probably needn't go to such lengths. New Delhi has its own reasons for terminating the contract with Sevmash, which is lagging behind the agreed schedule and has set back the completion date from 2008 to 2012. The deadline may well be postponed again, because the shipyard has spent the $750 million India had provided for the carrier's modernization and has no money for completing the job.

The problems did not appear yesterday. The deadlines and the allocations stipulated in the original 2004 contract were unrealistic from the beginning, and even prompted the resignation of David Pashayev, the shipyard's director.

Pashayev sharply criticized the Russian officials for what he saw as an inability and unwillingness to drive a harder bargain over price, and for putting unbearable responsibility on the shipyard, which had not received regular budgetary allocations for the projects it was already doing for the government (at the time it was working on a new nuclear submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky.)

Not unlike the rumored gift of the Kitty Hawk, the sale of the Admiral Gorshkov was above all a political decision, designed to tie New Delhi to the Russian defense sector. But it was also the only way of getting funds for its normal maintenance.

By 2004 the Admiral Gorshkov had been standing in Sevmash docks for nearly seven years, and nobody knew what to do with it. Built in the early 1980s, the Kiev class carrier no longer fitted the requirements of the Russian Navy.

Designed to host custom built but never mass produced, Yak-38 fighters, the Admiral Gorshkov's flight deck was too short for the Russian Navy's standard MiG-29K Fulcrum and the Su-33 Flanker, both designed to use a ski-jump for carrier takeoff. Russia lacked $2.5-$3 billion to add the modifications these aircraft needed for carrier takeoff.

When India showed an interest in the carrier, Russia was only too glad to be rid of it. The contract for modernization and the supply of MiG-29K fighters (India will pay for their ski-jump) and other equipment promised major profits and long-term cooperation with India.

The total contract was estimated at $1.5 billion, about half of which was to be spent on developing modernized MiG-29K deck fighters capable of day/night, all-weather, year-round operation in any climate, including tropics with ambient temperatures up to +35° C. The ship itself was sold to India at the price of scrap metal, $150-$200 per metric ton.

Just as David Pashayev had warned, however, the contract hugely underestimated the true costs of modernization. The plunge of the dollar and the subsequent surge in prices of equipment and skilled labor, as well as high requirements set by the Indian Navy, made the project unrealizable.

The Admiral Gorshkov will have French, Israeli and Indian equipment, which will have to be adjusted to the Russian-made systems. This entails a series of R&D projects and trials. More funds are to be spent on the improvement of the MiG-29K, which can engage not only air, but also surface and submarine, targets.

Indian pilots saw the MiG-29K at the Zhukovsky airfield near Moscow two years ago, and were impressed. Additional funds are needed for its mass production, however, and New Delhi has refused to pay a rupee more. Moreover, it has threatened to fine Russia for failure to deliver on time.

As usual, Russian officials found a scapegoat and fired Sevmash director Vladimir Pastukhov, but this has neither improved the situation nor added money for completing the ship's modernization. In an apparent effort to encourage the Indians to pay more, the Russian press cited an anonymous source from the Russian General Staff, who said that if India terminated the contract the carrier would be turned over to the Russian Navy.

However, nobody has calculated how much this would cost Russia - in fines for breach of contract, adjusting the carrier to Russian requirements, and damage to Russia's prestige.

Sadly, the debacle of the Admiral Gorshkov is not an isolated incident. Several years ago, the St Petersburg-based Baltic Shipyard and its subcontractors postponed the delivery of three multi-role frigates to the Indian Navy for more than a year because of failure to adjust a new air defense system to the ships' fire control systems. On that occasion the Indians demanded about $40 million in damages, and it took Russian officials much time and effort to convince them to withdraw their claims.

Later Russia had problems with a diesel submarine modernized for India because of a malfunctioning missile system.

Next India refused to take delivery of a modernized version of the Il-38, a naval patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, because its technical and tactical characteristics did not fit Indian requirements.

Even if America did offer the Kitty Hawk, New Delhi might well refuse the gift. It was built in 1961 and has been declared too old for the U.S. Navy. The Admiral Gorshkov is not only younger (she was laid down in 1978 and launched in 1982), but fully equipped. The U.S. carrier will need to be supplied with new power plants and support, navigation and other systems. Nobody can say now how much this would cost.

In other words, by rejecting the Admiral Gorshkov, India could fall into a new trap with the USS Kitty Hawk. But that would not be Russia's problem.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novost

VENEZUELA An Empty Revolution

An Empty Revolution

The Unfulfilled Promises of Hugo Chávez

Francisco Rodríguez

From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2008

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Summary: Even critics of Hugo Chávez tend to concede that he has made helping the poor his top priority. But in fact, Chávez's government has not done any more to fight poverty than past Venezuelan governments, and his much-heralded social programs have had little effect. A close look at the evidence reveals just how much Chávez's "revolution" has hurt Venezuela's economy -- and that the poor are hurting most of all.

FRANCISCO RODRÍGUEZ, Assistant Professor of Economics and Latin American Studies at Wesleyan University, was Chief Economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly from 2000 to 2004.

On December 2, when Venezuelans delivered President Hugo Chávez his first electoral defeat in nine years, most analysts were taken by surprise. According to official results, 50.7 percent of voters rejected Chávez's proposed constitutional reform, which would have expanded executive power, gotten rid of presidential term limits, and paved the way for the construction of a "socialist" economy. It was a major reversal for a president who just a year earlier had won a second six-year term with 62.8 percent of the vote, and commentators scrambled to piece together an explanation. They pointed to idiosyncratic factors, such as the birth of a new student movement and the defection of powerful groups from Chávez's coalition. But few went so far as to challenge the conventional wisdom about how Chávez has managed to stay in power for so long.

Although opinions differ on whether Chávez's rule should be characterized as authoritarian or democratic, just about everyone appears to agree that, in contrast to his predecessors, Chávez has made the welfare of the Venezuelan poor his top priority. His government, the thinking goes, has provided subsidized food to low-income families, redistributed land and wealth, and poured money from Venezuela's booming oil industry into health and education programs. It should not be surprising, then, that in a country where politics was long dominated by rich elites, he has earned the lasting support of the Venezuelan poor.

That story line may be compelling to many who are rightly outraged by Latin America's deep social and economic inequalities. Unfortunately, it is wrong. Neither official statistics nor independent estimates show any evidence that Chávez has reoriented state priorities to benefit the poor. Most health and human development indicators have shown no significant improvement beyond that which is normal in the midst of an oil boom. Indeed, some have deteriorated worryingly, and official estimates indicate that income inequality has increased. The "Chávez is good for the poor" hypothesis is inconsistent with the facts.

My skepticism of this notion began during my tenure as chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly. In September 2000, I left American academia to take over a research team with functions broadly similar to those of the U.S. Congressional Budget Office. I had high expectations for Chávez's government and was excited at the possibility of working in an administration that promised to focus on fighting poverty and inequality. But I quickly discovered how large the gap was between the government's rhetoric and the reality of its political priorities.

Soon after joining the National Assembly, I clashed with the administration over underfunding of the Consolidated Social Fund (known by its Spanish acronym FUS), which had been created by Chávez to coordinate the distribution of resources to antipoverty programs. The law establishing the fund included a special provision to ensure that it would benefit from rising oil revenues. But when oil revenues started to go up, the Finance Ministry ignored the provision, allocating to the fund in the 2001 budget only $295 million -- 15 percent less than the previous year and less than a third of the legally mandated $1.1 billion. When my office pointed out this inconsistency, the Finance Ministry came up with the creative accounting gimmick of rearranging the law so that programs not coordinated by the FUS would nevertheless appear to be receiving resources from it. The effect was to direct resources away from the poor even as oil profits were surging. (Hard-liners in the government, incensed by my office's criticisms, immediately called for my ouster. When the last moderates, who understood the need for an independent research team to evaluate policies, left the Chávez camp in 2004, the government finally disbanded our office.)

Chávez's political success does not stem from the achievements of his social programs or from his effectiveness at redistributing wealth. Rather, through a combination of luck and manipulation of the political system, Chávez has faced elections at times of strong economic growth, currently driven by an oil boom bigger than any since the 1970s. Like voters everywhere, Venezuelans tend to vote their pocketbooks, and until recently, this has meant voting for Chávez. But now, his mismanagement of the economy and failure to live up to his pro-poor rhetoric have finally started to catch up with him. With inflation accelerating, basic foodstuffs increasingly scarce, and pervasive chronic failures in the provision of basic public services, Venezuelans are starting to glimpse the consequences of Chávez's economic policies -- and they do not like what they see.


From the moment he reached office in 1999, Chávez presented his economic and social policies as a left-wing alternative to the so-called Washington consensus and a major departure from the free-market reforms of previous administrations. Although the differences were in fact fairly moderate at first, the pace of change accelerated significantly after the political and economic crisis of 2002-3, which saw a failed coup attempt and a two-month-long national strike. Since then, the Venezuelan economy has undergone a transformation.

The change can be broadly characterized as having four basic dimensions. First, the size of the state has increased dramatically. Government expenditures, which represented only 18.8 percent of GDP in 1999, now account for 29.4 percent of GDP, and the government has nationalized key sectors, such as electricity and telecommunications. Second, the setting of prices and wages has become highly regulated through a web of restrictions in place since 2002 ranging from rigid price and exchange controls to a ban on laying off workers. Third, there has been a significant deterioration in the security of property rights, as the government has moved to expropriate landholdings and private firms on an ad hoc basis, appealing to both political and economic motives. Fourth, the government has carried out a complete overhaul of social policy, replacing existing programs with a set of high-profile initiatives -- known as the misiones, or missions -- aimed at specific problems, such as illiteracy or poor health provision, in poor neighborhoods.

Views differ on how desirable the consequences of many of these reforms are, but a broad consensus appears to have emerged around the idea that they have at least brought about a significant redistribution of the country's wealth to its poor majority. The claim that Chávez has brought tangible benefits to the Venezuelan poor has indeed by now become commonplace, even among his critics. In a letter addressed to President George W. Bush on the eve of the 2006 Venezuelan presidential elections, Jesse Jackson, Cornel West, Dolores Huerta, and Tom Hayden wrote, "Since 1999, the citizens of Venezuela have repeatedly voted for a government that -- unlike others in the past -- would share their country's oil wealth with millions of poor Venezuelans." The Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted, "Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez seems to have succeeded in bringing education and health services to the barrios of Caracas, which previously had seen little of the benefits of that country's rich endowment of oil." Even The Economist has written that "Chávez's brand of revolution has delivered some social gains."

One would expect such a consensus to be backed up by an impressive array of evidence. But in fact, there is remarkably little data supporting the claim that the Chávez administration has acted any differently from previous Venezuelan governments -- or, for that matter, from those of other developing and Latin American nations -- in redistributing the gains from economic growth to the poor. One oft-cited statistic is the decline in poverty from a peak of 54 percent at the height of the national strike in 2003 to 27.5 percent in the first half of 2007. Although this decline may appear impressive, it is also known that poverty reduction is strongly associated with economic growth and that Venezuela's per capita GDP grew by nearly 50 percent during the same time period -- thanks in great part to a tripling of oil prices. The real question is thus not whether poverty has fallen but whether the Chávez government has been particularly effective at converting this period of economic growth into poverty reduction. One way to evaluate this is by calculating the reduction in poverty for every percentage point increase in per capita income -- in economists' lingo, the income elasticity of poverty reduction. This calculation shows an average reduction of one percentage point in poverty for every percentage point in per capita GDP growth during this recovery, a ratio that compares unfavorably with those of many other developing countries, for which studies tend to put the figure at around two percentage points. Similarly, one would expect pro-poor growth to be accompanied by a marked decrease in income inequality. But according to the Venezuelan Central Bank, inequality has actually increased during the Chávez administration, with the Gini coefficient (a measure of economic inequality, with zero indicating perfect equality and one indicating perfect inequality) increasing from 0.44 to 0.48 between 2000 and 2005.

Poverty and inequality statistics, of course, tell only part of the story. There are many aspects of the well-being of the poor not captured by measures of money income, and this is where Chávez's supporters claim that the government has made the most progress -- through its misiones, which have concentrated on the direct provision of health, education, and other basic public services to poor communities. But again, official statistics show no signs of a substantial improvement in the well-being of ordinary Venezuelans, and in many cases there have been worrying deteriorations. The percentage of underweight babies, for example, increased from 8.4 percent to 9.1 percent between 1999 and 2006. During the same period, the percentage of households without access to running water rose from 7.2 percent to 9.4 percent, and the percentage of families living in dwellings with earthen ?oors multiplied almost threefold, from 2.5 percent to 6.8 percent. In Venezuela, one can see the misiones everywhere: in government posters lining the streets of Caracas, in the ubiquitous red shirts issued to program participants and worn by government supporters at Chávez rallies, in the bloated government budget allocations. The only place where one will be hard-pressed to find them is in the human development statistics.

Remarkably, given Chávez's rhetoric and reputation, official figures show no significant change in the priority given to social spending during his administration. The average share of the budget devoted to health, education, and housing under Chávez in his first eight years in office was 25.12 percent, essentially identical to the average share (25.08 percent) in the previous eight years. And it is lower today than it was in 1992, the last year in office of the "neoliberal" administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez -- the leader whom Chávez, then a lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan army, tried to overthrow in a coup, purportedly on behalf of Venezuela's neglected poor majority.

In a number of recent studies, I have worked with colleagues to look more systematically at the results of Chávez's health and education misiones. Our findings confirm that Chávez has in fact done little for the poor. For example, his government often claims that the influx of Cuban doctors under the Barrio Adentro health program is responsible for a decline in infant mortality in Venezuela. In fact, a careful analysis of trends in infant and neonatal mortality shows that the rate of decline is not significantly different from that of the pre-Chávez period, nor from the rate of decline in other Latin American countries. Since 1999, the infant mortality rate in Venezuela has declined at an annual rate of 3.4 percent, essentially identical to the 3.3 percent rate at which it had declined during the previous nine-year period and lower than the rates of decline for the same period in Argentina (5.5 percent), Chile (5.3 percent), and Mexico (5.2 percent).

Even more disappointing are the results of the government's Robinson literacy program. On October 28, 2005, Chávez declared Venezuela "illiteracy-free territory." His national literacy campaign, he announced, had taught 1.5 million people how to read and write, and the education minister stated that residual illiteracy stood at less than 0.1 percent of the population. The achievement received considerable international recognition and was taken at face value by many specialists as well as by casual observers. A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, for example, reported that "illiteracy, formerly at 10 percent of the population, has been completely eliminated." Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and UNESCO's general director, Koïchiro Matsuura, sent the Venezuelan government public letters of congratulation for the achievement. (After Matsuura's statement, the Chávez's administration claimed that its eradication of illiteracy had been "UNESCO-verified.")

But along with Daniel Ortega of Venezuela's IESA business school, I looked at trends in illiteracy rates based on responses to the Venezuelan National Institute of Statistics' household surveys. (A full presentation of our study will appear in the October 2008 issue of the journal Economic Development and Cultural Change.) In contrast to the government's claim, we found that there were more than one million illiterate Venezuelans by the end of 2005, barely down from the 1.1 million illiterate persons recorded in the first half of 2003, before the start of the Robinson program. Even this small reduction, moreover, is accounted for by demographic trends rather than the program itself. In a battery of statistical tests, we found little evidence that the program had had any statistically distinguishable effect on Venezuelan illiteracy. We also found numerous inconsistencies in the government's story. For example, it claims to have employed 210,410 trainers in the anti-illiteracy effort (approximately two percent of the Venezuelan labor force), but there is no evidence in the public employment data that these people were ever hired or evidence in the government budget statistics that they were ever paid.


In fact, even as the conventional wisdom has taken hold outside of Venezuela, most Venezuelans, according to opinion surveys, have long been aware that Chávez's social policies are inadequate and ineffective. To be sure, Venezuelans would like the government's programs -- particularly the sale of subsidized food -- to remain in place, but that is a far cry from believing that they have reasonably addressed the nation's poverty problem. A survey taken by the Venezuelan polling firm Alfredo Keller y Asociados in September 2007 showed that only 22 percent of Venezuelans think poverty has improved under Chávez, while 50 percent think it has worsened and 27 percent think it has stayed the same.

At the same time, however, Venezuelan voters have given Chávez credit for the nation's strong economic growth. In polls, an overwhelming majority have expressed support for Chávez's stewardship of the economy and reported that their personal situation was improving. This is, of course, not surprising: with its economy buoyed by surging oil profits, Venezuela had enjoyed three consecutive years of double-digit growth by 2006.

But by late 2007, Chávez's economic model had begun to unravel. For the first time since early 2004, a majority of voters claimed that both their personal situation and the country's situation had worsened during the preceding year. Scarcities in basic foodstuffs, such as milk, black beans, and sardines, were chronic, and the difference between the official and the black-market exchange rate reached 215 percent. When the Central Bank board received its November price report indicating that monthly inflation had risen to 4.4 percent (equivalent to an annual rate of 67.7 percent), it decided to delay publication of the report until after the vote on the constitutional reform was held.

This growing economic crisis is the predictable result of the gross mismanagement of the economy by Chávez's economic team. During the past five years, the Venezuelan government has pursued strongly expansionary fiscal and economic policies, increasing real spending by 137 percent and real liquidity by 218 percent. This splurge has outstripped even the expansion in oil revenues: the Chávez administration has managed the admirable feat of running a budget deficit in the midst of an oil boom.

Such expansionary policies were appropriate during the deep recession that Venezuela faced in the aftermath of the political and economic crisis of 2002-3. But by continuing the expansion after the recession ended, the government generated an inflationary crisis. The problem has been compounded by efforts to address the resulting imbalances with an increasingly complex web of price and exchange controls coupled with routine threats of expropriation directed at producers and shopkeepers as a warning not to raise prices. Not surprisingly, the response has been a steep drop in food production and widening food scarcity.

A sensible solution to Venezuela's overexpansion would require reining in spending and the growth of the money supply. But such a solution is anathema to Chávez, who has repeatedly equated any call for spending reductions with neoliberal dogma. Instead, the government has tried to deal with inflation by expanding the supply of foreign currency to domestic firms and consumers and increasing government subsidies. The result is a highly distorted economy in which the government effectively subsidizes two-thirds of the cost of imports and foreign travel for the wealthy while the poor cannot find basic food items on store shelves. The astounding growth of imports, which have nearly tripled since 2002 (imports of such luxury items as Hummers and 15-year-old Scotch have grown even more dramatically), is now threatening to erase the nation's current account surplus.

What is most distressing is how predictable all of this was. Indeed, Cháveznomics is far from unprecedented: the gross contours of this story follow the disastrous experiences of many Latin American countries during the 1970s and 1980s. The economists Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards have characterized such policies as "the macroeconomics of populism." Drawing on the economic experiences of administrations as politically diverse as Juan Perón's in Argentina, Salvador Allende's in Chile, and Alan García's in Peru, they found stark similarities in economic policies and in the resulting economic evolution. Populist macroeconomics is invariably characterized by the use of expansionary fiscal and economic policies and an overvalued currency with the intention of accelerating growth and redistribution. These policies are commonly implemented in the context of a disregard for fiscal and foreign exchange constraints and are accompanied by attempts to control inflationary pressures through price and exchange controls. The result is by now well known to Latin American economists: the emergence of production bottlenecks, the accumulation of severe fiscal and balance-of-payments problems, galloping inflation, and plummeting real wages.

Chávez's behavior is typical of such populist economic experiments. The initial successes tend to embolden policymakers, who increasingly believe that they were right in dismissing the recommendations of most economists. Rational policy formulation becomes increasingly difficult, as leaders become convinced that conventional economic constraints do not apply to them. Corrective measures only start to be taken when the economy has veered out of control. But by then it is far too late.

My experience dealing with the Chávez government confirmed this pattern. In February 2002, for example, I had the opportunity of speaking with Chávez at length about the state of the Venezuelan economy. At that point, the economy had entered into a recession as a result of an unsustainable fiscal expansion carried out during Chávez's first three years in office. Moderates within the government had arranged the meeting with the hope that it would spur changes in the management of the public finances. As a colleague and I explained to Chávez, there was no way to avoid a deepening of the country's macroeconomic crisis without a credible effort to raise revenue and rationalize expenditures. The president listened with interest, taking notes and asking questions over three hours of conversation, and ended our meeting with a request that we speak with his cabinet ministers and schedule future meetings. But as we proceeded to meet with officials, the economic crisis was spilling over into the political arena, with the opposition calling for street demonstrations in response to Chávez's declining poll numbers. Soon, workers at the state oil company, PDVSA, joined the protests.

In the ensuing debate within the government over how to handle the political crisis, the old-guard leftists persuaded Chávez to take a hard line. He dismissed 17,000 workers at PDVSA and sidelined moderates within his government. When I received a call informing me that our future meetings with Chávez had been canceled, I knew that the hard-liners had gained the upper hand. Chávez's handling of the economy and the political crisis had significant costs. Chávez deftly used the mistakes of the opposition (calling for a national strike and attempting a coup) to deflect blame for the recession. But in fact, real GDP contracted by 4.4 percent and the currency had lost more than 40 percent of its value in the first quarter of 2002, before the start of the first PDVSA strike on April 9. As early as January of that year, the Central Bank had already lost more than $7 billion in a futile attempt to defend the currency. In other words, the economic crisis had started well before the political crisis -- a fact that would be forgotten in the aftermath of the political tumult that followed.

The government's response to the crisis has had further consequences for the Venezuelan economy. The takeover of PDVSA by Chávez loyalists and the subordination of the firm's decisions to the government's political imperatives have resulted in a dramatic decline in Venezuela's oil-production capacity. Production has been steadily declining since the government consolidated its control of the industry in late 2004. According to OPEC statistics, Venezuela currently produces only three-quarters of its quota of 3.3 million barrels a day. Chávez's government has thus not only squandered Venezuela's largest oil boom since the 1970s; it has also killed the goose that lays the golden egg. Despite rising oil prices, PDVSA is increasingly strained by the combination of rising production costs, caused by the loss of technical capacity and the demands of a growing web of political patronage, and the need to finance numerous projects for the rest of the region, ranging from the rebuilding of Cuban refineries to the provision of cheap fuel to Sandinista-controlled mayoralties in Nicaragua. As a result, the capacity of oil revenues to ease the government's fiscal constraints is becoming more and more limited.


Simón Bolívar, Venezuela's independence leader and Chávez's hero, once said that in order to evaluate revolutions and revolutionaries, one needs to observe them close up but judge them at a distance. Having had the opportunity to do both with Chávez, I have seen to what extent he has failed to live up to his own promises and Venezuelans' expectations. Now, voters are making the same realization -- a realization that will ultimately lead to Chávez's demise. The problems of ensuring a peaceful political transition will be compounded by the fact that over the past nine years Venezuela has become an increasingly violent society. This violence is not only reflected in skyrocketing crime rates; it also affects the way Venezuelans resolve their political conflicts. Whether Chávez is responsible for this or not is beside the point. What is vital is for Venezuelans to find a way to prevent the coming economic crisis from igniting violent political conflict. As Chávez's popularity begins to wane, the opposition will feel increasingly emboldened to take up initiatives to weaken Chávez's movement. The government may become increasingly authoritarian as it starts to understand the very high costs it will pay if it loses power. Unless a framework is forged through which the government and the opposition can reach a settlement, there is a significant risk that one or both sides will resort to force.

Looking back, one persistent question (in itself worthy of a potentially fascinating study in international political economy) will be how the Venezuelan government has been able to convince so many people of the success of its antipoverty efforts despite the complete absence of real evidence of their effectiveness. When such a study is written, it is likely that the Chávez administration's strategy of actively lobbying foreign governments and launching a high-profile public relations campaign -- spearheaded by the Washington-based Venezuela Information Office -- will be found to have played a vital role. The generous disbursement of loans to cash-strapped Latin American and Caribbean nations, the sale of cheap oil and heating gas to support political allies in the developed and developing worlds, and the covert use of political contributions to buy the loyalty of politicians in neighboring countries must surely form part of the explanation as well.

But perhaps an even more important reason for this success is the willingness of intellectuals and politicians in developed countries to buy into a story according to which the dilemmas of Latin American development are explained by the exploitation of the poor masses by wealthy privileged elites. The story of Chávez as a social revolutionary finally redressing the injustices created by centuries of oppression fits nicely into traditional stereotypes of the region, reinforcing the view that Latin American underdevelopment is due to the vices of its predatory governing classes. Once one adopts this view, it is easy to forget about fashioning policy initiatives that could actually help Latin America grow, such as ending the agricultural subsidies that depress the prices of the region's exports or significantly increasing the economic aid given to countries undertaking serious efforts to combat poverty.

The American journalist Sydney Harris once wrote that "we believe what we want to believe, what we like to believe, what suits our prejudices and fuels our passions." The idea that Latin American governments are controlled by economic elites may have been true in the nineteenth century, but is wildly at odds with reality in a world in which every Latin American country except Cuba has regular elections with large levels of popular participation. Much like governments everywhere, Latin American governments try to balance the desire for wealth redistribution with the need to generate incentives for economic growth, the realities of limited effective state power, and the uncertainties regarding the effectiveness of specific policy initiatives. Ignoring these truths is not only anachronistic and misguided; it also thwarts the design of sensible foreign policies aimed at helping the region's leaders formulate and implement strategies for achieving sustainable and equitable development.

It would be foolhardy to claim that what Latin America must do to lift its population out of poverty is obvious. If there is a lesson to be learned from other countries' experiences, it is that successful development strategies are diverse and that what works in one place may not work elsewhere. Nonetheless, recent experiences in countries such as Brazil and Mexico, where programs skillfully designed to target the weakest groups in society have had a significant effect on their well-being, show that effective solutions are within the reach of pragmatic policymakers willing to implement them. It is the tenacity of these realists -- rather than the audacity of the idealists -- that holds the greatest promise for alleviating the plight of Latin America's poor.


Gates Looks to Strengthen Ties with India

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Feb. 26, 2008)

NEW DELHI --- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates landed here today looking to expand on what one official said already is one of the best military-to-military relationships the United States has with any country in the world.

This is Gates’ first visit here and one in which he hopes to strengthen the bilateral defense and security relationships that have increased to historic proportions in recent years between the world’s two largest democracies.

“We already have a very ambitious schedule of exchanges and exercises that is growing in size and sophistication. Clearly the defense trade relationship is growing. So I think that there are a numbers of areas where there is potential for cooperation,” the secretary said at a brief news conference before his day of meetings began.

Over the course of the day, Gates is meeting with the country’s ministers of defense and external affairs, its prime minister and members of its parliament.

With India’s full military modernization program under way and billions of dollars at stake, defense trade is key among the secretary’s talking points in his meetings here, a senior DoD official told reporters on background. India last year issued a request for proposals from potential manufacturers for 126 multi-role combat aircraft for its air force. The deal, estimated at about $10 billion, would be the world’s largest single external defense procurement in history, DoD officials believe. Last month, India sent out another request for proposals for 312 helicopters for its air force and army. That deal is expected to be worth about $1 billion.

Also in January, India closed a $1 billion deal with Lockheed Martin for six C-130J Hercules aircraft for its special forces. This deal was a first for the United States and India. Since 1999, India's military purchases reportedly have been worth $25 billion, and the country is likely to spend another $30 billion by 2012.

“We have tried for some years now to get a seat at the table, and we’re finally there,” the Defense Department official said, adding that Gates will tell officials here that U.S. defense trade offers the “full package.”

“When you go into joint production (and) cooperative development (with the United States), you’re getting not only the best product in the world, but you have the best support system, the best maintenance package over the life of the product,” the official said. “You also have companies that operate with integrity, which is different than what India has seen with other partners in the world. We’re very transparent.”

Some of the details to be talked through are the two countries’ bureaucratic buying and selling processes, the official said.

Another senior official was quick to point out that the meetings are not all about defense procurement.

“We’re just getting into the defense trade business, (but) we have more well-rounded defense relationships with India than any other country,” the official said.

Gates will discuss the future of military-to-military relationships between the United States and India. The two countries already participate annually in one of the world’s largest naval exercises, which involves the navies of five countries and 30 vessels. India had two aircraft carriers in the exercise, and the U.S. Navy had one. Singapore, Australia and Japan also participated.

India’s navy is by far the most capable navy in the region. The country relies on the sea for 90 percent of its oil and natural gas and more than 90 percent of its foreign trade. It has one aircraft carrier, two others on order, 14 submarines and 15 major surface combatants, according to U.S. State Department records. It is capable of projecting power within the Indian Ocean basin and occasionally operates in the South China Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

The Indian army numbers more than 1.1 million, according to U.S. State Department records. The Army has been heavily committed in the recent past to counterterrorism operations as well as providing aid to civil authorities and assisting in relief operations. Its current modernization program focuses on equipment for combating terror.

The country’s air force also is modernizing its force with new tactics and the acquisition of modern aircraft.

The United States is India's largest trading partner. Bilateral trade in 2006 was $32 billion, according to the U.S. State Department. (ends)


INS Vikramaditya Hits Delay, Cost Increases - and a Switch?

Related Stories: Alliances, Americas - USA, Asia - India, Boeing, Contracts - Awards, Contracts - Intent, Events, Fighters & Attack, Force Structure, Helicopters & Rotary, Issues - International, Issues - Political, Northrop-Grumman, Other Corporation, Rumours, Russia, Spotlight articles, Support Functions - Other, Surface Ships - Combat

Adm. Gorshkov: Before.
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On January 20, 2004 India and Russia signed a deal to refurbish and convert the 40,000t Soviet/Russian Admiral Gorshkov into a full carrier by removing the guns, anti-shipping and anti-air missile launchers on the front deck, replacing them with a full runway and ski jump, changing the boilers to diesel fuel, enlarging and strengthening the rear aircraft elevator, and many other modifications. The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was August 2008 – an ambitious schedule, but one that would allow the carrier to enter service in 2009, around the time as their light carrier/LHA INS Viraat (formerly HMS Hermes, last of the Centaur class) was scheduled to retire. The new ship will berth at the new Indian Navy facility in Karwar, on India’s west coast.

Initial reports of delays sparked controversy in India, but even the Ministry has now admitted their truth. The INS Viraat’s retirement is now set for 2010-2012 – but even that may not be late enough, as slow negotiations and steadily-lengthening delivery times will push delivery of the Gorshkov back to 2010 at the earliest. Reports of delivery in 2012 or later are beginning to surface, even as the delivery date for India’s 37,500 ton indigenous carrier appears to be slipping back well beyond 2013.

Right now, there are 2 major concerns in India. One is that slipping timelines could easily leave India without a serviceable aircraft carrier. The other is the extent of the cost increases, especially if more increases are added once India has paid for most of the budgeted work and is deep into the commitment trap. The carrier purchase has now become the subject of high level diplomacy, and an amusing recent rationale from the Russians. If some of the rumors being floated are true, the sale may be doomed by unresolvable negotiating positions, by a shipyard that can’t even execute on commercial contracts – and by a rumored offer from Crazy Uncle Sam’s Carrier Clearance Blowout (“prices so low, they’re crazy!”) that would have far-reaching ripple effects…

Waiting for Gorshkov…

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According to the 2004 press release, INS Vikramaditya was supposed to enter the Indian Navy in August 2008. That looks almost certain to fail, but India’s Ministry of Defence initially denied reports of delays. Then, in May 2007, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta said the ships will be delivered:

” late 2008 or early 2009…. Our officials, who are stationed at the spot, have said that the work is going on as per schedule and we can have a month long delay once the work is completed as that part of Russia is frozen for a long time.”

Later comments on this issue included this May 1, 2007 quote:

“The work is only three to four months behind schedule and we can expect the aircraft carrier to be delivered by late 2008 or early 2009”

Subsequent updates, however, have proven the critics correct, with even the Ministry admitting as much. Cost estimates and reports concerning the Gorshkov’s final total vary from $700-$1.4 billion, of which $400-500 million has reportedly already been paid. DID’s experience with Indian defense procurement issues is that these figures mean little, beyond defining broad orders of magnitude. Transparency will eventually come, but deals with Russia mean that it will come only from pressure within India, and then only after all other alternatives have been exhausted. Reports until then are really a set of varyingly educated guesses.

That there is a real issue of both time and cost, however, can no longer be denied. February 2008 news reports are giving figures of up to 3-4 years before refurbishment and testing are complete, and the refurbished ship can join the fleet. This would place its in-service data at 2011-2012, which risks a gap with no serving carriers in the fleet if further delays occur or the INS Viraat retires slightly early.

Meanwhile, China is working hard to refurbish the 58,000t ex-Russian carrier Varyag, and some analysts believe the ship could be operational in a testing capacity by 2010.

Those sunk construction costs, Russian possession of the Gorshkov, the difficulty in finding a substitute carrier to replace the Gorshkov sooner than 2013, and the Chinese push with the Varyag, have all combined to give the Russians substantial leverage in their negotiations.

Gorshkov-Vikramaditya: Aerial Complement

MiG-29K 3-view
(click to view larger)

Note that these timelines and cost figures for delivery of the ship do not include aircraft, which are contracted separately. The original carrier’s complement was 12 Yak-38 Forger V/STOL fighters, 12 Ka-28 helicopters, and 2 Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopters. The removal of the Gorshkov’s forward missiles, ski ramp, and other modifications will improve the ship’s air complement somewhat. The nature of its original design, however, means that INS Vikramaditya will still fall short of comparably-sized western counterparts like the 43,000t FNS Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, with its 40-plane complement that leans heavily to fighter jets.

Ranges given for the refitted Vikramaditya seem to average 12-16 fighters and 4-16 of the compact Ka-28/31 helicopters; diagrams seem to suggest total stowage space for a “footprint” of no more than 15-16 MiG-29Ks, with each Kamov helicopter sporting a comparative footprint of about 0.4, and about 5-6 open footprint spots on deck.

A related $740 million contract for 16 MiG-29K aircraft plus training and maintenance was confirmed on December 22, 2004, with an option for another 30 MiG-29Ks by 2015. They would be operated in STOBAR (Short Take-Off via the ski ramp, But Assisted Recovery via arresting wires) mode, and the MiG-29K was reportedly selected over the larger and more-capable navalized SU-33 because India hopes to operate them from an indigenous smaller carrier as well.

The Gorshkov-Vikramaditya’s complement will also include Kamov Ka-31 AEW and/or Ka-28 multi-role helicopters, along with a complement of torpedo tubes, air defense missile systems, et. al. If India does indeed buy E-2C+/E-2D Hawkeye naval AWACS aircraft, as is currently rumored, they would be added to this mix and take up footprint slots of their own.

Updates & Contracts:

USS Vikramaditya?
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Feb 19-23/08: Crazy Sam’s Carrier Clearance? As reports begin to suggest that Russia and India are too far apart to agree on the Gorshkov refit, speculation grows that the USA intends to solve India’s problem with a stunning offer during Defense Secretary Gates’ imminent visit to india. instead of retiring and decommissioning its last conventionally-powered carrier, the 81,800 ton/ 74,200t USS Kitty Hawk [CV-63, commissioned 1961], would be handed over to India when its current tour in Japan ends in 2008. The procedure would resemble the January 2007 “hot transfer” of the amphibious landing ship USS Trenton [LPD-14], which become INS Jalashva. The cost? This time, it would be free. As in, $0.

Naturally, there is a quid pro quo that accompanies these rumors. In return for an aircraft carrier that would be larger than its counterparts in every navy other than the US Navy, India would select at least 60 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets in its MMRCA fighter competition, to serve as the carrier’s air wing. Unlike the Gorshkov, the Kitty Hawk is a purpose-built carrier whose full air complement is a whopping “75+” aircraft and helicopters. India has also expressed interest in the USA’s E-2 Hawkeye carrier AWACS aircraft, which would be a natural fit for its new ship.

AIR F-18F Over CV-63 USS Kitty Hawk
F/A-18F over CV-63
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As a number of sources point out, this is a multi-pronged move that would achieve a number of objectives all at once. First, the offer removes all Russian negotiating leverage over India by removing the issues of sunk costs, foreign possession of the Vikramaditya, and any danger of being left without a carrier. The Indian Navy would be greatly strengthened, and its ability to police the Indian Ocean from the Straits of Malacca to South Africa would take a huge leap forward. Any additional work to upgrade or refurbish the carrier could be undertaken in India, providing jobs and expertise while maintaining full national control over the refit. The USA gains financial benefits of its own, as the Navy avoids the expensive task of steaming the Kitty Hawk home and decommissioning it. Americans would almost certainly receive maintenance contracts for the steam catapults, and possibly for some new electronics, but those economic benefits pale in comparison to the multi-billion dollar follow-on wins for Boeing (Super Hornet), Northrop Grumman (E-2 Hawkeye), and possibly even Lockheed Martin (F-16 E/F, F-35B). All of which works to cement a growing strategic alliance between the two countries, and creates deep defense industrial ties as well.

Then there’s the effect on Russia, whose relations with the USA currently border on outright hostility. With the MiG-29Ks no longer necessary for India, that contract would almost certainly be canceled. At which point, the commonality value of choosing the MiG-35 as a lower-cost secondary MMRCA buy drops sharply, opening the door for other MMRCA split-buy options that could include the Saab/BAE JAS-39 Gripen, or a complementary American offer of F-16E/Fs and/or F-35Bs. The combined effect of these blows would be a severe setback for Russia’s arms industry, though rising oil & gas revenues in Russia and other export opportunities may lead to less shrinkage and civilian re-purposing than publications like the Weekly Standard believe. Barents Observer |
Weekly Standard | Information Dissemination: Feb 20th/ 23rd.

Feb 21/08: “Galrahn” of the respected blog Information Dissemination passes a key tip along to DID. First, recall that the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, Archangel Oblast is responsible for the Gorshkov refit. Until recently, they also had a $544 million contract to build up to 12 tankers for the Norwegian shipping form Odfjell. When it was signed in 2004, it was promoted as “a historic deal in Norwegian-Russian industrial relations.” Now it has been canceled, and Odfjell CEO Terje Storeng has used terms like “no will to try to understand that this is a commercial project,” “deliberately sabotaged and delayed the project” et. al. to Dagens Næringsliv. No longer:

“Following serious delays in the construction process, combined with demands for further price increases from the Yard, continuous cooperation problems as well as protracted negotiations, Odfjell decided today to serve formal notice of cancellation to Sevmash. The instalments already paid are covered by standard refund guarantees from international banks. Odfjell will further claim full compensation for its costs and losses caused, on account of wilful misconduct and massive contract breaches by the Yard. Unless the matter is solved amicably between the parties, the issue will be solved by arbitration in Sweden, as provided for in the contract.”

Note the Russian official’s comments in the Feb 7/08 entry. Closure may once again become a very real possibility for Sevmash. Worse, Odfjell’s experience has to give India serious pause re: the reliability of Russia’s new refit cost estimates, and the likelihood of further extortion to ‘adjust’ the deal down the road. Barents Observer | Dagens Naeringsliv report [Norwegian] | Odjfell.NO release

Feb 7/08: Zeenews quotes an unnamed “Russian official” with interesting and somewhat unsettling arguments, in advance of a high-level delegation’s arrival led by Indian Defence Secretary Vijay Singh:

“Moscow feels that the agreement for supply of the 45,000 tonne warship was signed at a time when the Russian ship-building company was in bad shape and India “used” the situation to sign the contract at lower price. The ship-building company was facing closure and was ready to sign any kind of contract when the contract was signed.”

Defense Industry Daily needs to look up the exact definitions to be certain, but we believe this process is known as “shrewd negotiation,” followed by “a deal.” Indian Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta appears to be using the same lexicon, and has publicly said that there should be no revision to the Goshkov contract. Still, India cannot receive the carrier she wants if the shipyard goes bankrupt, and Russia is holding the carrier. This gives the Russians considerable leverage in negotiations, unless India can find an alternate provider. There may be a way out, however:

“But Russia is willing to “compensate” for the cost of Gorshkov if it gets more military orders, which Moscow insists is not linked to 126 fighter planes that India is planning to buy but other defence purchases.”

AIR Ka-28 Indian Navy lg
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Nov 19/07: India’s MoD confirms delays in the Gorshkov’s delivery and slow progress, without really answering any questions. It acknowledges that the Russian side has submitted a revised Master Schedule, attributing the delays to “Growth of Work.” In response, an apex level Indian committee under the Defence Secretary, and a Steering Committee under a Vice Admiral, have been set up. A team has also been stationed at the shipyard.

No word on the timelines or costs suggested; indeed, these are likely to remain under negotiation. Indian MoD release.

Nov 6/07: A top-level Indian Navy delegation is heading for Moscow to discuss the delay and price escalation in the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier deal. A detailed financial and technical plan outlining the specific justifications and amounts will be presented to the Indian side, who is there to listen rather than to negotiate.

The report pegs the original price quoted for refurbishing the carrier was just under $980 million, adding that the Russians are insisting on cost increases of at least $350 million. Indian officials reportedly fear that the final escalation may end up being much more once they are deep enough into the commitment trap of having paid for work. The report also adds that the Navy “had reconciled itself to the fact that the delivery of the ship would be delayed from the original deadline of August 2008 by a few years,” a surprising development given the limited service life of India’s remaining carrier. If the government is indeed prioritizing cost containment over delivery dates, reconciliation of the INS Viraat’s service life with Gorshkov’s entry may prove difficult. IDRW.

Oct 18/07: India’s MoD finally admits the obvious, as part of an announcement concerning an Indo-Russia fighter development deal. India MoD release:

“The Defence Minister described the Agreement on FGFA as a ‘major landmark’ and said that the Indo-Russian relationship is on a trajectory to reach new heights…. Mr. Antony expressed satisfaction at the outcome of discussions on other important projects e.g., supply and licensed production of T-90 tanks, SU-30 MKI aircraft and other strategic issues. He admitted that there has been a delay in the delivery of the repaired and refurbished aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov along with supply of deck-based fighter aircraft MiG-29-K and said it was decided that some more studies by technical groups would be done to go through the details. He appreciated the efforts made by the Russian side to resolve issues relating to life cycle support of equipment of Russian origin.”

June 16/07: India Defence: High Level Indian Delegation In Russia To Re-Negotiate Defense Deals Pricing:

“With differences over prices delaying the delivery of upgraded Sukhoi multi-role fighters and Gorshkov aircraft carrier, India today rushed a high-level defence team to Russia with fresh proposals to break the logjam…. The visit of the team assumes significance with Defence Minister AK Antony admitting that New Delhi was facing “problems” in acquisition of the carrier Gorshkov as well as in negotiating a new deal to buy 40 more upgraded Sukhoi-30 fighters for the Indian Air Force.”

May 17/07: India Defence: No Delays in INS Vikramaditya Acquisition from Russia: Defence Minister. “However, sources from the Indian Navy had earlier confirmed reports being circulated in the Indian and Russian media regarding a possible two year delay in the acquisition of the Aircraft Carrier.”

Additional Readings

  • Bharat Rakshak – INS Viraat (formerly HMS Hermes, last of the British Centaur Class).
  • Asia Times (Aug 21/07) – India’s blue water dreams may have to wait. The Gorshkov isn’t the only carrier project in trouble. This article mentions the Gorshkov’s difficulties, and also details both the current state of the INS Viraat and difficulties with India’s smaller 37,500t indigenous carrier, which is reportedly slipping its schedule badly and will only be ready by 2015 at the earliest, instead of 2012.

terça-feira, 26 de fevereiro de 2008

A princípio, [os submarinos produzidos pelo grupo alemão] não interessam", disse Jobim.

25/02/2008 - 21h50

Jobim diz que governo não vai cumprir parte em acordo com grupo alemão

da Agência Folha, em São José dos Campos

O ministro Nelson Jobim (Defesa) disse hoje que o governo brasileiro não vai cumprir a sua parte no acordo com o grupo alemão ThyssenKrupp, que está construindo uma siderúrgica no país e espera, como contrapartida, um acordo de cerca de 1 bilhão de euros (US$ 1,5 bi) que inclui a reforma dos cinco submarinos operados hoje pela Marinha brasileira, além da venda de dois novos.

Na semana passada, o grupo alemão enviou uma carta ao presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reclamando do governo brasileiro o cumprimento de sua parte no acordo. Em fase final de construção, a siderúrgica fica em Sepetiba (RJ) e exigiu do ThyssenKrupp um investimento de cerca de 3,5 bilhões de euros (US$ 5,2 bi).

A cobrança alemã veio com o início, neste mês, das negociações entre Brasil e França que deverão levar a uma parceria entre os dois países para a construção, no Brasil, de submarinos nucleares franceses.

Jobim alegou que a opção do Brasil é por submarinos movidos a energia nuclear, tipo de equipamento que o ThyssenKrupp não oferece (o grupo, segundo ele, fabrica apenas aparelhos convencionais, diesel-elétricos). O ministro chamou de tentativa de "barganha econômica" a iniciativa do grupo de enviar carta ao presidente.

"O problema básico dos alemães é que eles não produzem submarinos nucleares. O nosso problema é termos tecnologia para a produção dos submarinos nucleares. Não vamos discutir o assunto [a contrapartida do Brasil à construção da siderúrgica pelo ThyssenKrupp].

A princípio, [os submarinos produzidos pelo grupo alemão] não interessam", disse Jobim.

O ministro deu as declarações em São José dos Campos (91 km de São Paulo), onde esteve hoje para ministrar aula inaugural do ITA (Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica).

segunda-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2008

Brazil denies it plans to build nuclear submarine with Argentina

Brazil denies it plans to build nuclear submarine with Argentina

© AP
2008-02-25 20:57:46 -

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - Brazil is working with Argentina to develop compact nuclear reactors to generate power _ not to build a nuclear submarine _ the Defense Ministry said Monday in denying a newspaper report.
Argentina's Clarin reported Sunday that the neighboring countries would form a binational company to build a submarine using Argentine

experience in making the kind of compact reactor that could power the vessel. Brazil, it added, would provide nuclear fuel and «the non-nuclear parts of the submarine,» like the hull.
Clarin attributed its information to Brazilian Defense Minister, Nelson Jobim.
«A joint Brazil-Argentina project for the building of a nuclear submarine is something that is not being discussed,» said Defense Ministry spokesman Jose Ramos. «The reporter apparently misunderstood the minister.
«There are plans to create a binational company to produce compact reactors to generate energy,» he added.
In Argentina, a Defense Ministry spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said Monday the countries had agreed to coordinate efforts to produce compact nuclear reactors but had not reached agreement on building a nuclear submarine.
Brazil began a project to build a nuclear submarine in 1979 and is still working on developing the reactor to power it.
Last July, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced US$540 million (¤364 million) in new funding for the program and for existing uranium enrichment efforts.
Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France was willing to give Brazil the technology needed to build the Scorpene conventional attack submarine

Brazil says it will use the Scorpene as a model for the development of its nuclear submarine that would be the first in Latin America.
Associated Press Writer Bill Cormier contributed to this story from Buenos Aires.

domingo, 24 de fevereiro de 2008

La historia secreta del frustrado submarino a propulsión nuclear


La historia secreta del frustrado submarino a propulsión nuclear

Daniel Santoro.

Tras la Guerra de las Malvinas, el titular de la CNEA, vicealmirante Carlos Castro Madero, en forma reservada puso en marcha la idea de construir un submarino a propulsión nuclear como una forma de cerrar la brecha tecnológica con Gran Bretaña.

Durante la guerra, los submarinos argentinos convencionales que funcionan con un motor diésel necesitaban salir a la superficie cada 12 horas para renovar el oxígeno. En cambio, los submarinos nucleares británicos tenían como único límite para estar sumergidos la paciencia humana. Así fue que hundieron al "Belgrano" y luego obligaron a la flota argentina a refugiarse en los puertos del continente.

El proyecto de Castro Madero fue encargado por la Armada a INVAP, la misma empresa que construye el reactor de investigación nuclear para Australia. El diseño del reactor para el submarino estuvo a cargo del físico Juan José Gil Gerbino. "Trabajamos en el diseño básico para colocar un reactor compacto en un submarino como el San Juan", recordó Gil Gerbino a este diario. "Incluso, llegamos a trabajar en sistema de regeneración de oxígeno" , agregó el especialista en diseño de reactores.

Después del retorno de la democracia, "(Raúl) Alfonsín apoyó el plan del submarino a propulsión nuclear", recordó el ex ministro de Defensa radical Horacio Jaunarena. Este tipo de sumergibles no está prohibido por ningún tratado internacional. Distinto es un submarino con misiles nucleares.

Y el segundo ministro de Defensa de Alfonsín, Roque Carranza, llegó a proponerle a Brasil la construcción conjunta de un submarino nuclear en base a la experiencia de INVAP. No hubo acuerdo y Brasil sigue hoy adelante con el proyecto.

Castro Madero, poco antes de morir, en 1991 en un libro titulado "Argentina y el Submarino de Propulsión Nuclear, Posibilidades y Dificultades" calculó el costo del prototipo en 200 millones de dólares frente a los 120 que costaba un submarino diésel, y sostuvo:

"La idea de especialistas argentinos de incluir en el casco del submarino, que actualmente se construye en la Argentina, una planta nuclear de diseño apropiado es factible".

Se refería al acuerdo con la empresa Tyssen por el cual se construyó el astillero Domecq García, se armaron 2 submarinos convencionales en Alemania y otros 4 se iban a ensamblar en el país.

Pero durante el gobierno del ex presidente Carlos Menem el proyecto se sepultó. Tampoco se construyeron los cuatro submarinos faltantes y se pensó en abrir una subsidiaria de la Feria de Milán en el Domecq García.

Actualmente, la Armada estudia los proyectos alemanes para construir motores a hidrógeno. Fuentes navales explicaron a este diario que un submarino a propulsión nuclear "hoy sería imposible de mantener con el actual presupuesto de la Armada".

Anti-Satellite Shot Described

Anti-Satellite Shot Described

Published: 22 Feb 17:31 EST (12:31 GMT)

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Only a small group of sailors and a small team of government and industry experts knew the nature of the U.S. Navy cruiser Lake Erie's mission when the ship left port in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Feb. 14.

A single modified tactical SM-3 launches from the U.S. Navy AEGIS cruiser Lake Erie. (U.S. Navy)

As the ship began steaming northwest, the news that a Navy ship would attempt to shoot down an errant spy satellite was breaking at the Pentagon. Capt. Randy Hendrickson, the skipper of Lake Erie, told Navy Times via telephone that he waited until the ship was at sea to call an all-hands meeting and inform his crew of 360 sailors what they were about to attempt. Until then, all the crew knew was that it was training for an unspecified mission, the captain said.

The ship spent four days conducting rehearsals, Hendrickson said, prior to steaming to its launch site in the ocean. The ship arrived on station northwest of Hawaii a "few hours prior to launch" Feb. 20, the skipper said.

"[We] were granted weapons release authority, and the crew performed superbly," he said. "They were very calm."

The SM-3 was launched, and there were cheers in the control room as the missile hit "dead center to the basket," Hendrickson said. "We could see the radar as filled with debris."

After the shot, the crew and a team of about 30 government and industry experts began conducting the lethality analysis, Hendrickson said. As the civilian team did the analysis and advised the crew, the sailors manned all the equipment, Hendrickson explained.

"The crew was very astute to what they were doing," he said.

The missile launch was the fifth SM-3 the ship had launched since April 2007. The other four missiles were launched as part of the Missile Defense Agency's sea-based ballistic missile defense tests.

Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Robert Willard called Hendrickson on the radio to congratulate the Lake Erie on what appeared to be a successful shot, the skipper said. Hendrickson also received e-mails from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and Strategic Command chief Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave the final go-ahead for the launch after receiving information from Chilton about eight hours prior to the launch, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice Joint Chiefs chairman, told reporters at the Pentagon the morning after the shot.

The satellite carried hydrazine, a toxic fuel, which Pentagon officials said would make its re-entry dangerous. The satellite, known as USA 193, experienced problems upon launch in 2006 and was roughly the size of school bus.

As the Lake Erie steamed back toward Pearl Harbor, Hendrickson said the crew plans a "little celebration" of the first-of-its-kind shot. The party will be conducted "moderately and modestly," he added.

It took the Navy about six weeks to make the necessary modifications to the missiles and radars to "take it to sea with some degree of confidence," a Navy official said Feb. 19 at a press briefing.

The Navy had no prior capability to shoot down satellites and had previously "not explored that," the source added.

Cartwright called the shot a "one-time thing" the morning after the missile hit. He said he does not anticipate satellite shoots becoming a regular mission for the military. Because of the hazardous nature of the fuel carried aboard USA 193, Cartwright said "it would have been irresponsible" not to reduce some of the risk of harmful materials hitting land.

In response to suggestions that the satellite shot would be a boon to the Pentagon's nascent missile-defense capabilities, Cartwright said the only "elements of missile defense" involved in the shot were in the sensors, instrumentation and software used in the test.

"This was a one-time modification," he said.

Hendrickson said his crew returned from a Pacific deployment last summer and is "well-versed" in many forms of operations. Nonetheless, he admitted the satellite shot "pushed its limits."

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