Tuesday, June 05, 2012

U.S., India Maintain Good Military-to-Military Relations

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DELHI, India, June 5, 2012 – Military-to-military relations between the United States and India have gotten so good there is literally nothing leaders cannot talk about, including an increased Indian role in Afghanistan, U.S. defense officials said here today.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s national security advisor, today, and Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony tomorrow. Panetta will also deliver a speech at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis today.

Officials speaking on background said Panetta would emphasize three themes during his visit. The first -- rebalancing U.S. military power to the Asia-Pacific -- continues a message his trip to Singapore, Vietnam and now India is designed to highlight.

India was the only country mentioned by name in the new strategic guidance first promulgated in January. Panetta’s meetings with Indian leaders and his speech are designed to provide options and encourage discussion, a senior defense official said. The speech specifically will point to how critical India is to promoting peace and stability in the region.

The United States and India share many of the same values and those values are represented by key principles, officials said. These principles are the rule of law, adherence to international norms and standards, freedom of navigation, the right for countries to pursue their economic interests unfettered and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

“It’s only natural as India plays a more active role in the broader Asia-Pacific region, that we would partner with India,” the senior defense official said.

The second theme of the engagement lies in India’s critical location as the crossroads between East and West Asia. “Not only do we value India’s partnership in promoting stability and prosperity in East Asia, but also the peace and stability in Afghanistan and South Asia more generally,” the official said.

In the past decade, India has not played a large role in Afghanistan, but it has steadily increased economic investments in the country. The official said the United States welcomes India playing a more active political and economic role in Afghanistan. “We welcome India’s contributions to training the Afghan national army and Afghan national police,” he said.

The official said there is always the chance that the historic distrust between India and Pakistan could spill over if India helps Afghan national security forces, but “this is not predestined, this does not have to be the case,” he said. “India and Pakistan share an interest -- the same interest we have -- of peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

All nations of the region and international allies of Afghanistan need to work together to “harmonize” approaches to Afghanistan, the senior defense official said.

The third theme Panetta will stress is the bilateral defense relationship between India and the United States. Over the past 10 years the defense relationship between India and the United States has steadily improved. U.S. and Indian service members now regularly exercise together and there is a robust exchange program between the two militaries. And U.S.-India military exercises have increased in scope and complexity over the years.

In 2011, the U.S. military conducted more than 50 significant military activities with India, and Panetta would like to see these exercises become larger and more challenging to both militaries.

India is a valued customer as well. In the past 11 years, India has bought around $8.5 billion worth of defense equipment from the United States. “India has a large military and each of its services is modernizing,” the official said.

The bottom line of Panetta’s visit to India is that it allows him to consult with Indian officials on a full-range of subjects. “There is nothing that we can’t discuss with India,” the official said. “We look forward to harmonizing our approaches with India and other countries in the region.”

Statement on Remains Recovery Activities in India

The Department of Defense announces that the United States and India have agreed to resume remains recovery activities in parts of Northeastern India.

The Department assesses that there are approximately 400 unaccounted-for service members from some 90 aircraft crashes in the area during World War II.

Secretary Panetta said, “This is a critical step toward bringing home our service members lost during World War II.  The United States and India, working together, can help provide comfort to the families of Americans who were lost during the war.”

The Department deeply appreciates the close cooperation of the Government of India in helping our teams resume their critical work.  Returning our fallen heroes is a top priority of the Department of Defense.


--There are about 400 unaccounted-for servicemen in India as a result of approximately 90 aircraft crashes.  Virtually all of those sites are located in Northeast India.
--The United States possesses information on sixteen known crash sites and continues to develop information on others.
--Some of the information was reported to the Department of Defense by private parties or through Indian press.
--In April 2012, Department of Defense representatives participated in State Department-led bilateral discussions with the Government of India where restarting remains recovery operations was addressed.

Vietnam Opens Sites to Joint POW/MIA Investigators

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HANOI, Vietnam  – The Vietnamese government will open three areas to help resolve the fate of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War, DOD officials said here today.

Following a meeting at the Defense Ministry, Vietnamese Defense Minister Phoung Quang Thanh announced his government would allow American personnel to examine three areas once off limits.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta thanked the Vietnamese leader for all the support Vietnam has provided over the years. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s Detachment 2 based in Hanoi has conducted 107 field searches for Americans missing in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has fully supported these efforts with personnel and information, said Ron Ward, a casualty resolution specialist with the detachment.

The three sites Vietnam opened to exploration are in the central part of the country. The first site is in Quang Binh province and involves the crash of an Air Force F-4C Phantom II jet in 1967 with two personnel aboard. Detachment specialists located the site in 2008, but now they will be allowed to examine it, Ward said.

The second site is in Kontum province and involves the loss of an Army private first class in January 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

The third site is in Quang Tri province and involves the loss of a Marine F-4J Wild Weasel aircraft. One of the crew of two punched out of the aircraft and was rescued.

Panetta said these efforts are important to troops serving today, because they know the military means that it will leave no man behind.

To date, the command has repatriated and identified 687 remains in Vietnam. A total of 1,284 Americans remain missing. Of these, 586 cases are in the category of “no further pursuit” -- meaning there is conclusive evidence the individual perished but it is not possible to recover remains.

Past, Present, Future Come Together in Hanoi Meeting

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HANOI, Vietnam – The past, present and future came together here today during a meeting between Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phuong Quang Thanh.

The two men used the shared history of the United States and Vietnam to assess the status of military-to-military relations between the nations and chart the future of the partnership.

The past was represented by the two men exchanging artifacts of the Vietnam War -- the diary of a Vietnamese soldier and letters written by American service members.

The present was represented by Panetta’s historic visit yesterday to an American ship being repaired by Vietnamese workers in Cam Ranh Bay.

The future was represented by plans the men made to broaden and deepen defense cooperation between the two nations.

The meeting, held at the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, was a chance for both sides to assess the progress made in the 17 years since the United States and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations. Panetta said the relationship between the two nations is based on mutual trust and understanding.

The two men discussed the memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation signed last year. The memo looks at areas where the two countries can work together, and has been successful over the past year, the Vietnamese defense minister said.

The two men agreed to expand cooperation in five key areas. These are high-level dialogues between the two countries, maritime security, search and rescue operations, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

“I also noted in our discussion the importance of our establishing an Office of Defense Cooperation to enhance our cooperation in these areas and as a signal of the United States’ enduring commitment to this important defense relationship of the future,” Panetta said.

The men shared views on how the United States could work with the defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to try to improve the maritime rights of all nations, the defense secretary said. “We also discussed our shared commitment to a peaceful and prosperous and secure Asia-Pacific region,” Panetta said.

The secretary expressed his deep thanks for Vietnam’s long-standing efforts to help the United States resolve the fate of those missing in action from the Vietnam War. “In particular I want to thank him for his offer to open up three new areas for remains recovery,” he said.

“Our continued progress in this area -- as well as other legacies of war -- reflects … the growing maturity of the relationship between the United States and Vietnam,” Panetta said. “I want the general to know and the people of Vietnam to know that we will … do everything possible to continue to work together to achieve our shared objectives and our common goals. I believe that the United States and Vietnam can build a better future not only for our people, but for the entire Asia-Pacific region.”

New York Air National Guard Wing trains MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators for entire Air Force

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The MQ-9 Reaper flight training school at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base has graduated its first series of active duty Air Force MQ-9 operators since the program was established in November 2011.

Ten active duty Air Force pilots and ten sensor operators completed the program at the MQ-9 Formal Training Unit - run by the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing from February through May 2012.

The 174th FW is responsible for training all MQ-9 pilot/sensor operator teams in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, and allied air forces.

“We are proud of training the next generation of MQ-9 aircrew from across the Air Force right here at Hancock Field,” said Air Force Col. Greg Semmel, commander of the 174th FW and Hancock Field installation commander. “This mission is particularly important due to the ongoing impact that the MQ-9 has had on protecting the lives of American troops on the battlefield.”

Airmen with the174th FW have also been training all MQ-9 maintenance technicians for the active Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and allied nations since 2009.

About 80 airmen are trained by the unit each year to employ the MQ-9 and graduation from the course awards the aircrew with an initial qualification on the weapon system.

The initial qualification training lasts about three and a half months, and consists of about 100 hours of classroom academics, 40 hours of simulator instruction, and 30 hours of flight training. Upon completion of the FTU, the pilots and sensor operators return to their home-station for mission specific training to become combat ready aircrew.

The 174th FW maintains a launch and recovery facility at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, New York, from which MQ-9 students fly training missions. During take-off the aircraft is under the control of experienced aircrew members. Once it reaches operating altitude a student pilot manning a ground based cockpit at Hancock Field takes command via satellite downlink control system.

While the student pilots are learning to fly the aircraft using different training scenarios the enlisted sensor operators are learning how to operate the sophisticated sensor equipment on the MQ-9 which allows both aircrew members to assist troops on the ground with information and precision weapons strikes.

Along with providing MQ-9 training for the Air Force, the 174th FW conducts MQ-9 operations over Afghanistan on a daily basis from a command facility at the base. Airmen assigned to the base also provide support for other Air Force and Air National Guard missions around the world and here at home.