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by Gail Helmer

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Tuesday February 05, 2002

PC News
Ghost Recon: Desert Siege Unveiled
Ubi Soft has announced that the official title for the new mission pack will be Ghost Recon: Desert Siege. The storyline of the expansion, which is set in Northern Africa in the midst of a conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. When the Ethiopian military captures the Eritrean coastline, shipping is disrupted in the Red Sea and relief efforts are halted in the region. Players must lead their team of elite soldiers on a mission to push the invading army back to its own border. Gamespot has posted exclusive screenshots.

Edge of Chaos Multimod Mod
The Independence War Website has the release of an all-new Multimod modification for Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos, which allows the simultaneous use of multiple compatible mods in Particle Systems' space combat game. In addition they have posted updated versions of their Location Finder and Manual Countermeasures mods that will work with the Multimod dealie. Click here

Black Knight Mission Editor
The MechWarrior 4 Black Knight Downloads page now offers the mission editor for MechWarrior 4: Black Knight, "a powerful editing tool that allows you to create your own single and multiplayer MechWarrior 4 missions." Downloads

New Screens: Team Factor
Czech game developer 7FX has released new screens from their upcoming title "Team Factor". The game will feature three different teams: red, which represents the Russian Spetznaz; blue, a combination of US Army Rangers and German Fallschirmjaegers; and black, which represents the rest of the world. Each team has four basic character types with unique abilities. The game will include more than 40 types of realistic weapons, including pistols, rifles, shotguns, grenades, and machine guns. Release Date: Not Available.

Space Empires: IV Gold Goes Gold
Shrapnel Games has announced that the latest game from Malfador Machinations, Space Empires: IV Gold, has gone Gold. The game is projected to begin shipping the week of March 4th, delaying the original ship day by 2 weeks. The delay is primarily due to "late issues with the manual".

Military News
Budget Request Funds War on Terror, Military Transformation
President Bush is asking for a fiscal 2003 defense budget of $379.4 billion, an increase of $48 billion over the fiscal 2002 budget.

The request funds the war on terrorism, increases DoD funds spent on homeland security and begins financing transformation for the U.S. military to face the challenges of the 21st century. The DoD budget is 16.9 percent of the total federal budget request.

Operations and maintenance funds -- key indicators of readiness -- also rise. Money for flying hours, Army operations tempo, ship steaming days, depot maintenance and training are all up. Total O&M spending is set at $150.4 billion.

Active duty end strength is set at 1,389,700 service members. Reserve component end strength is set at 864,600.

Military personnel would receive a 4.1 percent pay raise if Congress approves the request. Civilian workers are slated for a 2.6 percent raise.

Under the proposal, the Army would receive $90.9 billion; the Navy and Marine Corps, $108.3 billion; and the Air Force, $107 billion. The request pegs defensewide spending at $52.9 billion. The Defense Emergency Response Fund is set at $20.1 billion.

A senior defense official said the budget would allow the U.S. military to continue the war on terrorism. All told, money for the war is set at $27.2 billion in fiscal 2003. A total of $10 billion is allocated to help DoD plan for whatever phase of the war on terrorism comes next. "We don't know what we will be doing in a year, but we know we will be involved in the war," the official said.

DoD estimates the current cost of the war in Afghanistan at around $8 billion.

The money also goes to increasing protection of the United States. More than $1.2 billion is set for continued combat air patrols over the United States and $3 billion is earmarked for counterterrorism, force protection and other homeland security needs.

Quality of life accounts for military personnel have been beefed up. Besides the pay raise, the Bush administration also seeks another targeted pay raise for mid-career officer and enlisted force that would increase pay for some ranks by another 2 percent.

The Basic Allowance for Housing program would continue to cut military members' out-of-pocket housing expenses -- from 11.3 percent now down to 7.5 percent in fiscal 2003.

The request would fully fund military healthcare including the TRICARE for Life program for military retirees over age 65. The budget anticipates pharmacy costs growing by 15 percent, managed care support contracts by 12 percent and military treatment facilities, 6.2 percent. All told, healthcare costs are pegged at $22.1 billion in fiscal 2003.

Defense planners also asked for $4.2 billion to improve military housing, including money to expand the military housing privatization fund. This would put the department on track to eliminate most inadequate housing by fiscal 2007 instead of fiscal 2010.

While family housing funds have gone up, military construction monies have dropped from $6.5 billion in fiscal 2002 to $4.8 billion in 2003. While some quality of life construction will continue -- most notably 46 new barracks, childcare centers and physical fitness facilities -- most of the money will go to sustain existing facilities.

The reason for the construction cut is the next round of base closures is set for fiscal 2005. In the meantime, DoD must maintain its bases and cannot "pre-select" the ones it thinks are likely to be closed. Rather than risk building new facilities on basess that may be closed, DoD officials chose to delay as many projects as possible until after the closure decisions in 2005.

In announcing the fiscal 2002 budget last year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the 2003 budget would introduce major transformation trends. He said in a Jan. 31 speech to National Defense University students that the United States cannot afford to fight the war on terrorism and ignore the force of the future.

The request supports converting four Trident submarines to cruise missile carriers. It also seeks to capitalize on U.S. asymmetric advantages in developing new classes of satellites -- including a space-based radar -- and improving existing capabilities and hardening them against attack.

The budget would initiate development of the DD(X) surface warfare ship, a test bed for future Navy systems, a senior defense official said. Plans are to insert and test new stealth and propulsion technologies in the DD(X) and to test new manning programs. The budget request asks for $961 million for this effort.

Unmanned vehicles are also transformational. The department wants to spend $1 billion to go to procurement and research of unmanned aerial vehicles. DoD wants to spend $154.1 million to buy and arm 22 Air Force Predator UAVs in fiscal 2003. The Air Force has also allocated $170.8 million for three Global Hawk UAVs. There is another $100.7 million set aside to buy 12 Army Shadow UAVs.

In addition, DoD would accelerate funding of Global Hawk research and the Navy's Fire Scout UAV. The request also accelerates research in unmanned combat aerial vehicles. "These UCAVs are not just UAVs with weapons added," said the official. "They are combat airplanes built from the ground up, just without pilots." The request also increased funding for unmanned underwater vehicles.

The old strategic nuclear Triad -- land-based ICBMs, manned aircraft, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- would begin transformation with this budget. President Bush has announced plans to reduce offensive nuclear warheads from 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200. The new Triad is the scaled-down nuclear deterrent, a more deadly and responsive conventional deterrent, and missile defense.

Procurement reaches a new high with this budget, in the realm of funding officials believe is needed to transform the force. The overall procurement budget is set at about $72 billion. The Army is set for $13.8 billion, the Navy/Marine Corps for $24.9 billion, the Air Force at $27.3 billion, and $2.8 billion for defensewide buys. There is also $3.2 billion in the Defense Emergency Response Fund.

The budget for research, development, testing and evaluation is set for $53.9 billion in fiscal 2003, up from $48.4 billion this year. This would continue development of the Joint Strike Fighter and accelerate special operations capability. It also funds the restructured V-22 Osprey program.

Science and technology funding rose a billion dollars in this request to $9.9 billion, or 2.7 percent of the DoD budget topline. The money would fund Army research in future combat systems, medical technology and other basic research. Navy funds would go to mine warfare and mine countermeasures, undersea systems and basic research. The Air Force would look at directed energy, aircraft propulsion and uses of space.

The department has canceled a number of programs and shifted almost $10 billion to other projects. DoD ended programs it deemed out of line with transformation strategy. These include the Navy DD-21 destroyer and Theater Area Missile Defense programs, the Air Force Peacekeeper missile program and 18 Army "legacy" programs. The services would retire some older systems faster, such as older F-14 Tomcats, Vietnam-era UH-1 helicopters and the Navy's Spruance destroyer class.

Other highlights of the budget request are:

  • The fiscal 2003 request includes $707 million for the Army's Future Combat System. In addition, the Army would buy 332 interim armored vehicles and 5,631 M-16 rifles. The request budgets $910.2 million for continued development of the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter
  • The Navy shipbuilding request funds two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, a Virginia-class attack submarine, an LPD-17 amphibious transport dock ship and a Lewis and Clark-class auxiliary dry cargo ship. The Navy would also buy 15 MH-60S helicopters, five E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and 44 F/A-18E/F Hornet fighters. The service will also continue with the EA-6B Prowler electronic surveillance and control craft modernization program.
  • The Air Force request funds 12 more C-17 airlifters, one E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft and 23 F-22 Raptor fighters. The budget also funds modernization programs for the B-2 Spirit bomber, the F-16 fighter-bomber and the F-15E multimission fighter.
A400M Staggers On
The A400M saga continues to splutter its way forward. Germany was given a two month reprieve to find the necessary money last week, after Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping conceded that the vote in the Bundestag, to fund the final cost of 33of the 73 aircraft Germany had signed for out of the 2003 budget, was only a decision in principle and not binding on the next parliament.

The Policy Group, representatives of the eight European countries participating in the A400M military transport aircraft, meeting in Paris on 31 January, the date by which Germany was to have committed itself to the full 73 aircraft, decided to extend the deadline for commitment to March 31.

The first instalment of Euro 5.1 billion, from this year's budget, for 40 aircraft, still has to get through the necessary Bundestag procedural hurdles. Opposition parties, mindful of the latest EU censure over Germany's overall budget deficit, which is greater than that allowed for under euro-zone rules are likely to make that a rough passage.

As each delay occurs the enthusiasm of some partners lessens. Italy has already pulled out of the project, and the UK, satisfied with the performance of its leased C-17s, and anxious to replace its ageing fleet of C-130s, could well follow suit, if the delays continue to push the in service date back beyond the 2008 marker.

Germany has said it will buy 73 A400Ms, France 50, Spain 27, Britain 25, Turkey 10, Belgium seven, Portugal three and Luxembourg one. Airbus Military, a subsidiary of Airbus has said it will only build the aircraft if it gets firm orders for the financially viable figure of 180 aircraft, and only if the order follows commercial best practice, with regular stage payments. Germany has already said it would prefer to pay for the aircraft as they are delivered.

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