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China’s military spending exceeded $145 billion last year as it advanced a program modernizing an arsenal of drones, warships, jets, missiles and cyber weapons, the Pentagon said on Thursday, offering a far higher figure than Beijing’s official tally.

The Pentagon’s estimate, using 2013 prices and exchange rates, was 21 percent above the $119.5 billion figure announced by China. It was detailed in an annual report to Congress that cited steady progress in Chinese defense capabilities.

It acknowledged that estimating Chinese spending can be difficult, in part because of “poor accounting transparency and incomplete transition from a command economy.”

China’s Defense Ministry, in a statement on its website, said it was “resolutely opposed” to the Pentagon report.

“Year after year the United States issues this so-called report on ‘Military and Security Developments in China,’ making preposterous criticisms of China’s normal defense and military building, exaggerating the ‘China military threat’, which is totally wrong,” it said.

“As for the detailed contents of this year’s U.S. report, we are currently assessing it, and will react further, depending on the situation.”

The report came just days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, using unusually strong language, accused Beijing of destabilizing the region in pursuit of territorial claims.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea and dismisses competing claims from Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Japan also has a territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea.

The 96-page report said China was placing emphasis on preparing for potential contingencies in the South and East China Seas, noting an October drill named Maneuver 5 in the Philippine Sea.

The drill, the Pentagon said, was the largest Chinese Navy open-ocean exercise seen to date.

“China’s military investments provide it with a growing ability to project power at increasingly longer ranges,” the report said.

The United States last month charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets, ratcheting up tensions between the two world powers over cyber espionage.

The Pentagon report renewed warnings over cyber intrusions.

“China is using its … capability to support intelligence collection against the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support U.S. national defense program,” it said.

The Pentagon also cited advances in Chinese drone technology. It pointed to a Defense Science Board report cautioning Beijing’s push “combines unlimited resources with technological awareness that might allow China to match or even outpace U.S. spending on unmanned systems in the future.”

It noted that in September 2013, a “probable” Chinese drone was noted for the first time conducting reconnaissance over the East China Sea. China also unveiled details of four drones under development in 2013, including the Lijian, China’s first stealth drone, it said.

Originally posted on Reuters. The article mostly takes a US point of view but its still interesting.

Note: Lawmakers seem to be criticizing it for being NOT perfect enough & precise enough. Still, its an interesting art even.though it doesn’t really question the growing amount of drones (which it calls the “robotic revolution”).

A U.S. Navy plan for aircraft carrier-based drones has launched a dogfight in Washington over the role of the robotic planes in combat.

The Navy has asked contractors for reconnaissance drones — essentially spy planes, with only limited ability to carry out bombing missions behind enemy lines.

But key congressional leaders want cutting-edge warplanes, stealthy drones that can attack key targets in contested areas with little more than a mouse click. If they get their way, the program, which would produce the military’s first carrier-based drones, could end aviation as the Navy has known it, observers say.

“It could usher in a new era in which major strike missions are turned over to a machine. That will be difficult for many carrier aviators to swallow,” said Samuel D. Brannen, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Pentagon strategist.

The Navy’s plans to deploy the drones within the next decade came to an abrupt halt this month when key members of Congress said the program is shortsighted. Lawmakers halted all funding until the secretary of Defense can complete a top-to-bottom review.

Four of the nation’s largest military weapons makers are waiting to see how the skirmish plays out: Northrop Grumman Corp., Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. Much of these companies’ drone operations are based in Southern California, and they would welcome the work at a time when defense spending on weapons is expected to shrink.

The controversy heated up when the Navy first sent classified proposals for the drone program to four contractors. The industry was expecting a bold plan to build radar-evading aircraft capable of challenging bombing missions. But it was apparently not what they received.

Upon seeing the Navy’s conservative request for spy planes, leaders on the House Armed Services Committee questioned whether the Navy is being too restrictive.

“I feel very strongly that we can’t make a mistake on this program,” said Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of a subcommittee that oversees Navy programs. “It’s going to be critical for decades to come.”

He believes Navy brass is hesitant to turn over strategic bombing missions in contested areas of the world — now carried out by seasoned fighter pilots — to drones.

Forbes said the Navy needs a next-generation drone that will overwhelm potential adversaries — such as China, South Korea and Russia — that have made multibillion-dollar investments in advanced missiles and radar detection.

Now, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel must assess the requirements before funding of the drone program resumes. Under a provision tucked into the annual defense policy bill, Hagel will either sign off on the current plans or force the Navy to move closer to the stealthy, long-range strike drone that many in Congress desire. It’s a debate that has raged in Washington since the advent of drone technology: How much responsibility will be taken from pilots and given to machines?

“There’s a cultural issue there,” Forbes said. “We’ve had to have these arguments with the Pentagon before.”

He recalled having to push the Air Force to buy remotely piloted Predator drones in the 1990s. The Air Force was at first reluctant, but the program was fueled by pressure from local lawmakers, such as Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) and now retired Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands).

The technology is now a centerpiece in the Obama administration’s national security strategy.

Although drones have been a major part of Air Force operations for more than a decade, the Navy has yet to experience such a robotic revolution.

Navy spokesman Joe Gradisher said drone aircraft, which probably would be controlled remotely from the carriers, would eventually perform many missions currently performed by manned aircraft, including bombing missions. But drones will have a secondary role.

“Unmanned enhances manned strike aircraft,” he said, “but doesn’t replace them as the primary strike force as part of the carrier air wing.”

The dispute over carrier drones can be traced to an industry demonstration last year of a drone performing crucial maneuvers with pilot-like precision.

The X-47B, a stealthy bat-winged drone built by Northrop Grumman, was catapulted off an aircraft carrier’s flight deck and soared above the Atlantic before returning for a landing. The historic feat was compared to the Navy’s first catapult of a manned aircraft, which occurred in 1915.

“It isn’t very often you get a glimpse of the future,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at the time. “The operational unmanned aircraft soon to be developed have the opportunity to radically change the way presence and combat power are delivered from our aircraft carriers.”

Now, there are questions about whether the Navy is going to deliver on that promise.

The cost of the program, known as Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, is estimated at as much as $5.9 billion through 2020, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Plans for the Navy’s drone program come as Congress and the Pentagon are coping with budget uncertainty and expensive weapons systems already in the works.

The Navy has spent more than a decade preparing for its latest generation of manned warplane: the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The radar-evading jet, built by Lockheed, is scheduled to be a fixture on carrier decks when it becomes operational in 2019.

It’s only about halfway through its development plan and plagued by billions of dollars in cost overruns. There has also been a string of technical problems, including a redesign of its arresting hook, which is essential to landing on a carrier deck.

A deep-penetrating stealthy drone that could fly farther and longer could be seen as a potential challenger to the nearly $400-billion F-35 program. And the program has sweeping congressional support because it provides 127,000 direct and indirect jobs in 47 states and Puerto Rico.

“This could turn into a political food fight,” said Robert C. Martinage, formerly acting undersecretary of the Navy and now at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “Drones have disrupted the military’s usual way of doing things. And there’s a lot of pressure to get this program right.”

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FOR THE RECORD:
This article lists South Korea as a potential adversary of the United States. It should have said North Korea.
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Originally posted by the LA Times

Jon Boone | The Guardian

Anti-drone protest in Pakistan

The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA‘s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.

John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.

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New Jersey Herald

FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) – A military drone has crashed into Lake Ontario during a New York Air National Guard training mission.

State military officials say the MQ-9 Reaper had taken off from Wheeler Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum and was operating in approved airspace over the eastern side of the lake when it was lost around 1 p.m. Tuesday. They say the aircraft was not armed and there were no injuries.

The drone is used by the Guard’s Syracuse-based 174th Attack Wing to train Air Force pilots who use it on surveillance and attack missions globally.

The U.S. Coast Guard helped Fort Drum crews search for the Reaper until wintry weather forced them to quit for the night.

The cause of the crash will be investigated.

Technical and pilot errors were blamed for a Reaper crash in Nevada last year.

Matt Bewig | AllGov

Weapons maker Northrop Grumman (2012 revenues: $25.218 billion) made it rain on Congress to the tune of $31 million in lobbying spending since the beginning of 2012, and in return Congress has passed legislation ordering the Air Force to purchase the arms maker’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude surveillance drone the military canceled nearly two years ago.

Originally pitched as a $35 million money-saver during the parsimonious Clinton years, Global Hawk costs rose over time by 284%, according to the Congressional Research Service, mostly because of the Air Force’s changing requirements, and each drone is now estimated to cost about $220 million.

Although serious doubts had arisen by early 2011, when the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation said that Global Hawk “was not operationally effective for conducting near-continuous, persistent ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] operations,” in June 2011 Air Force officials certified the project as “essential to national security” in order to ensure continued Congressional funding.

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Mosharraf Zaidi | The News

If the starting point for analysis in the post Hakeemullah Mehsud world is that he was assassinated by the US with malign intent, (and clearly there is plenty of political capital located within that umbrella) then the conversation to be had is about how to find a way to end the constant abuse of Pakistan by big, bad Uncle Sam.

It is hardly controversial for us to accept and embrace the fact that we cannot keep complaining about the alleged abuse we endure at the hands of America on the one hand, and constantly seek direct and indirect American fiscal generosity on the other. The fiscal contradiction, between the money we want to run Pakistan, and the money we have to ask others to provide to us to do so, is at the heart of the Pakistani republic’s deep and abiding dysfunction.

Let us put it a different way. No Pakistani could ever dream of any scenario better than one in which Pakistan enjoys and exercises full and unmitigated sovereignty. This requires crisp and utter clarity about things like drone strikes conducted by another country in Pakistani territory. If they take place without an explicit agreement authorising them, drone strikes are illegal – always have been, always will be.

Gordon Lubold | Foreign Policy

In May, the White House leaked word that it would start shifting drone operations from the shadows of the CIA to the relative sunlight of the Defense Department in an effort to be more transparent about the controversial targeted killing program. But six months later, the so-called migration of those operations has stalled, and it is now unlikely to happen anytime soon, Foreign Policy has learned.

The anonymous series of announcements coincided with remarks President Obama made on counterterrorism policy at National Defense University in which he called for “transparency and debate on this issue.” A classified Presidential Policy Guidance on the matter, issued at the same time, caught some in government by surprise, triggering a scramble at the Pentagon and at CIA to achieve a White House objective. The transfer was never expected to happen overnight. But it is now clear the complexity of the issue, the distinct operational and cultural differences between the Pentagon and CIA and the bureaucratic politics of it all has forced officials on all sides to recognize transferring drone operations from the Agency to the Defense Department represents, for now, an unattainable goal.

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