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by Gail Helmer

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Tuesday April 23, 2002

PC News
New Screens: LOMAC
Here are four new screenshots from Lock On: Modern Air Combat. Included; New F-15C cockpit development screen shots. These show the new F-15C cockpit that is under construction but note that the water and ground terrain are from a much older build—they are NOT representative of Lock On. German MiG-29 over water and a Tu-22M3 just after takeoff.

New Screens: Team Factor
Czech game developer 7FX has released 17 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: May 2002.

Online Gaming Habits - Gamers Are Getting Restless
GAME RESEARCH has published a new report on online gaming habits covering US, Canada, UK, and the Nordic Countries. The picture emerging is not pretty. According to the report, the gamers are highly troubled by cheating and lag no matter what they play. Furthermore, they are becoming more inclined to act on these problems by leaving the online game they play.

The growth on online gaming has not lead to fewer problems for the gamer and the report highlights why there is still much agony on message boards about online games. The gamers are getting restless and less loyal to the games they play. The increasingly competitive market requires even more focus on new strategies for creating loyal users. The gaming industry should look to other entertainment areas like sports and gambling for inspiration. The challenge is to make gamers more loyal by expanding the social aspects of playing in and around the game by using unorthodox methods like spectators, CRM, betting, and media convergence.

The hardcore online gamer is attracted by the entirely different universe offered by online gaming and the opportunity for meeting friends. Furthermore, the report points to the fact that the game universe is expanding and becoming a part of the gamers’ real life. Almost 50% of the gamers in our survey state that they had made friends online whom they meet in real life.

Steel Beasts Gold Edition Missing Map Patch
eSim Games has released a tiny patch for the Gold Edition of Steel Beasts, their tank simulation game. This patch adds a mission terrain map that provoked an error message upon starting the mission editor. Details -- Download

Team Factor Internet Beta Demo V1.3
Following on the earlier LAN demo, there is now a new demo for Team Factor, the team-based multiplayer shooter that is nearing completion at 7FX. This demo offers a new level, Internet support, improved animations, physics and weapons, an enhanced user interface, new weapon sounds, Direct3D support, and more. Details -- Download

Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies Patch V1.2
Matrix Games has announced their release of a patch for version 1.2 of the space strategy game Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies. Download

Changes from Version 1.1:

  • Improved game speed and performance for slower machines
  • Automatic Update feature added to game
  • Fixed some sound-related problems
  • Fixed random crash to desktop
  • Improved AI aggressiveness in higher levels
  • Fixed some poor AI decisions
  • Fixed a relics-related bug
  • Default to software music playback instead of hardware
  • Corrected problem with raiding systems with outposts
  • Replaced 10x speed cheat code with 10x button
  • Added a 150 star galaxy option
  • Added the ability to modify the game font, race faces and starships.
Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies V1.2 Demo
Matrix Games has released a demo version of Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies. Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies combines the flow of real-time strategy games with the detailed control of turn-based games. You play a leader of one of a variety of spacefaring races during the struggle for dominance in the universe, using diplomacy, technology, intelligence, trade and a detailed and intuitive actical combat system to turn the tide of battle. Download

Military News
Northrop Grumman's Build Of LHD 8 Is Funded
The US Navy has awarded a $1.37 billion construction contract to Northrop Grumman to construct the eighth ship of the USS Wasp (LHD 1) class of multipurpose amphibious assault ships. Construction of LHD 8 is expected to begin in May 2003 at Ingalls Operations, which is part of Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems sector.

This contract includes $360 million previously awarded for advance work on the ship, including design, equipment procurement and fabricating selected ship assemblies. Ingalls has delivered seven LHDs into the fleet, the most recent being USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), which was commissioned in June 2001.

"This new ship will be the most advanced LHD in the fleet, with major enhancements that will provide an improved platform to support the Navy-Marine Corps team.'' said Dr. Philip A. Dur, president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.

The most significant enhancement for LHD 8 will be the introduction of gas turbine propulsion, replacing classical steam propulsion in previous ships of the class. The challenge for the propulsion system design team has been the upgrading of specifications to include two 35,000 horsepower turbines, which will be the largest ever in US military marine applications.

Other major enhancements include a controllable pitch propeller, allowing the ship to change speeds through the adjustment of propeller blade pitch. Also, a reverse osmosis system will be installed for the ship's water supply. The ship will have six diesel-electric generators and will use a new zonal system to distribute electrical power.

As the 'big-deck' centrepiece of a Navy/Marine Corps Amphibious Ready Group, LHDs embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support a marine expeditionary unit, and will carry some 2,000 Marines to world trouble spots. The ships are capable of amphibious assault, advance force and special purpose operations, as well as noncombatant evacuation and other humanitarian missions.

Since 1975, the company has delivered five LHA ships (LHA 1 through LHA 5) and seven LHD ships (LHD 1 through LHD 7).

India Signs Agreement To Buy Firefinder Weapon Locating Radar
India has signed an agreement with the US government to buy eight Thales Raytheon Systems' AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder counter-battery artillery radars with related support. This includes generators, trailers, communications equipment, training, logistics services, Quality Assurance Team (QAT), spare and repair parts, publications and other related elements of programme support. The current estimated value of this Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procurement is approximately $140 million with final price negotiations to be completed shortly.

A team of officials from the U. S. Army and Ministry of Defence of India spent several days in Washington this week conducting an intense effort that worked out the details for this first FMS agreement with India in more than a decade. In late February, the Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) and the Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC) sent a team to New Delhi to open government-to-government discussions on this system. The signing is the culmination of these efforts.

The AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder is a long-range weapon-locating radar system that quickly detects and pinpoints the location of adversary long-range weapons. The principal contractor for this equipment will be Thales Raytheon Systems of El Segundo, Calif.

Thales Raytheon Systems is an equally owned Raytheon Company and Thales) transatlantic joint venture encompassing air defense/command and control centres and ground-based air surveillance and weapons locating radars. The enterprise, which began operations in June 2001, has operating subsidiaries in Fullerton, Calif., and in the greater Paris metropolitan area.

USS Cole Rejoins the Fleet
After 14 months of upgrades and repairs, the Navy's "Determined Warrior" -- USS Cole (DDG 67), returned to the fleet and full active duty. Cole, an Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS destroyer, departed Pascagoula, Miss., on April 19 and headed for its homeport in Norfolk, Va. Cole arrived in Pascagoula for repairs on Dec. 13, 2000, following a terrorist attack in Yemen two months prior, which left 17 Sailors dead and 39 wounded.

"Today, we look forward," said Cmdr. Kevin Sweeney, Cole's commanding officer. "We look forward to heading home, returning to the fleet and getting back into the fight." Family members of Cole Sailors joined Northrop Grumman Ship Systems' Ingalls Operations employees to send Cole back to the fleet at a pierside ceremony in Pascagoula.

Workers at Ingalls Operations conducted the repairs, which were overseen by the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair (SUPSHIP) Pascagoula. SUPSHIP Pascagoula is the on-site representative of Naval Sea Systems Command for assigned ship repair contracts awarded to the private sector.

The repair process, which cost about $250 million, included removing and replacing more than 550 tons of steel, replacing two, 27-ton main engines and modules, installing a new stern flap, which will increase the ship's speed and fuel efficiency, replacing three gas turbines generators, and installing new galley equipment.

"This was a challenging repair process, due to the complexity of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and the pace of the repair effort," said Capt. Phil Johnson, SUPSHIP Pascagoula. "The Navy/industry team set new benchmarks with this repair since certain portions of the repair, such as the removal and reinstallation of the starboard propulsion train, were conducted for the first time outside of new construction. The Navy/Northrop Grumman team's intimate knowledge of the Arleigh Burke was instrumental in achieving this success."

Seeing the finished ship brought out a lot of pride and emotion of shipyard workers and Sailors alike. "It was a lot of hard work, but it paid off in the end," said IC3 Jeff Curan of Sewell, N.J., who volunteered for a transfer to Cole from USS Stout (DDG 55). "Getting Cole back to the fleet sends a message that we won't be defeated."

"We got Cole better than it was when it got here," said Ingalls Operations worker Tim Andrews. "There was a sense of urgency to get Cole back to service to show those who [attacked Cole] they couldn't put it down."

The repair effort concluded April 13, following a successful sea trial in the Gulf of Mexico, the ship's first underway period since October 2000. Once Cole returns to Norfolk, the ship will enter a training cycle in preparation for its next deployment.

"New" Bin Laden Tapes Use Old Video
Two videos shown this week on Arab television networks allegedly show Osama bin Laden praising the results of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. But U.S. officials said they believe the shots of bin Laden in the tape weren't taken recently.

"There's nothing in any of the tapes I've seen or heard of that suggests they are current with respect to (bin Laden)," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Pentagon press April 17. He said the shots of bin Laden in both videos appear to have been taken before 2002.

The first tape was broadcast April 15 on the pan-Arab Al Jazeera network, which operates out of Qatar. It allegedly shows a man believed to be one of the Sept. 11 hijackers of Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, reading his will and saying, "It is time to kill the Americans in their own homeland."

It also shows shots of bin Laden while a narrator lauds the Sept. 11 attacks. Earlier this week, Rumsfeld had said the shots of bin Laden from that video appear dated. In an April 15 briefing, he described the tape as "a patchwork of clips from previous periods, along with some … commentary from more recent periods."

The second tape to surface this week was shown April 17 on a Saudi-owned Arab network in the United Arab Emirates. It allegedly shows images of bin Laden aides who were killed by U.S. actions in Afghanistan. In this video, bin Laden is seen applauding the economic burdens the Sept. 11 attacks placed on the United States.

Rumsfeld said he didn't know why the tapes might have been produced and broadcast now, but he offered several possible reasons.

"It may be that some people decided to put out those tapes because they wanted people to think (bin Laden) was alive and he isn't. It may be that they put out the tapes because they wanted people to think that he's alive and he is alive," Rumsfeld said April 17. "It may be that he put out those tapes, as opposed to some (other) people. I just don't know."

Still, Rumsfeld insisted, the tapes did nothing either way to convince him bin Laden is dead or alive.(Source: American Forces Press Service )

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