Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bush heading to Texas in leu of Gustav.

President Bush warned residents of the Gulf Coast on Sunday that a "serious" storm was headed their way, echoing the sentiments of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who reiterated his demands that city residents evacuate.

Bush said he planned to head to Texas to meet with emergency workers and evacuees.

"This storm is dangerous," he warned, urging residents to heed calls to evacuate.

After a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters, Bush said he would forgo an appearance at the GOP National Convention on Monday and will be in Texas instead.

He said he would not go to Louisiana because he did not want to impede the work of emergency officials.

Nagin said Sunday that New Orleans will impose a "dusk-to-dawn" curfew and will cease efforts to help people leave the city Sunday afternoon.

The city-wide curfew will continue until the threat of the storm passes, Nagin said, warning that looters would be dealt with harshly.

"Anybody who's caught looting in the city of New Orleans will go directly to Angola [Louisiana State Penitentiary]. You will not have a temporary stay in the city. You go directly to the big house, in general population," he said.

He said that between 14,000 and 15,000 people had left New Orleans on buses and trains the city had provided -- much lower than the initial estimate of 30,000.

"We're just not seeing those kind of numbers in terms of people needing city-assisted services," Nagin said. "The 30,000 number may have been high."

The last of the buses carrying people out of New Orleans would leave around 2 or 3 p.m., he said.

In addition to forcing many Hurricane Katrina survivors to again flee their homes, Hurricane Gustav also dashed plans of Republicans working to organize the GOP Convention in Minnesota.

As of 11 a.m. ET, the eye of the Category 3 storm was about 325 miles (520 kilometers) southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The storm was moving at 17 mph (27 kph) across the central Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, and it is expected to reach the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday, forecasters said.

Read the full story at

Friday, August 29, 2008

CNN: Iran Confirms Nuclear Enrichment

(CNN) -- Iran's deputy foreign minister said Friday that almost 4,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges are now operating at the country's Natanz enrichment facility, the national IRNA news agency reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defended Iran's right to develop nuclear technology.

Spinning centrifuges are used to separate uranium atoms to produce uranium concentrated enough for a nuclear weapon's fission chain reaction.

Ali-Reza Sheikh Attar told Iranian TV that another 3,000 centrifuges are being installed, IRNA said.

Iran announced nearly a year ago, in September 2007, that it had more than 3,000 active centrifuges. In April, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to install 6,000 more over the coming year.

The United States and other Western nations believe Iran's nuclear program is intended to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran insists it is only for peaceful purposes.

The United Nations already has three sanctions resolutions against Iran for failing to suspend the program. Attar said Thursday the sanctions are "futile and ineffective," IRNA reported.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany -- a group called P5+1 -- offered a package of economic and other incentives to Iran in July if it suspended its nuclear enrichment program.

Iran failed to meet the group's deadline to accept the offer, leading the P5+1 to discuss further sanctions against Iran, a State Department spokesman said this month

Network of Amateur Aero Sleuths not surprised by McCain's VEEP pick.

by Steve Douglass

Updated: 8:13 PM

Savy aeronautical enthusiasts and bloggers were not surprised (as was the mainstream media) by presidential candidate's John McCain's VP pick (Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin) because they were tracking VIP flights into Dayton ( and surrounding airports) via various flight-tracker websites.

Spotters at Dayton area airports jotted down executive jet tail numbers and then ran them on the Internet (on to see where they originated from.

One executive jet in particular ( landing at Middletown) caught the attention of spotters. It was sporting the tail number: N222GY and was identified as a Gulfstream Aerospace Gulfstream IV (twin-jet) which had originated from Hook Field, municipal airport in Washington State.

The aircraft is registered to an entity called Gypsy Two LLC. It shares an address with a tax exempt organization called the Dean Weidner foundation. Dean Weidner is a Republican donor.. and a man named William Weidner, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands corp, a major McCain supporter.

Flight plans filed by the pilot also showed that the aircraft had flown in the previous day from Anchorage, Alaska.

The history of the aircraft also shows it was in Flagstaff, AZ recently and McCain's advance man Arthur Culvahouse was spotted in Juneau, Alaska on various occasions over the last six weeks.

Put two and two together ( an aircraft originating in Alaska and flying cross country to near Dayton) and a spotter's report of a woman in her 40s disembarking (and being met by Secret Service) and it adds up to Gov. Palin.

When a worker at the Flight Service Station was shown a photograph of Gov. Palin by a member of the news media (who was reading the reports on various political blogs) he confirmed the woman in the photo was Palin.

Reports now indicate two aircraft landed at Middletown, one with the Gov. on board (flying from Arizona) and another aircraft (N222GY)-from Anchorage) transporting the Palin family who appeared ather side during McCain's announcement.

Why land at Middletown and not Dayton ? Apparently McCain's people read the many blog posts about aircraft tail number N222GY (and knowing it would quickly be spotted landing at Dayton where the media was watching) decided it was best to land somewhere off the press's radar.

However, through real time tracking available on, bloggers and spotters easily tracked the aircraft to Middletown.

- Steve Douglass

Exclusive: Alaska Gov. Palin to be McCain's Veep

Aircraft enthusiasts tracked Alaska Gov. Palin as she was winging her way to Dayton.

More about how you can track the candidates in a follow-up post.

About Sarah Palin:

Source Wikipedia

Sarah Louise Heath Palin (born February 11, 1964) is the current Governor of Alaska and the presumptive 2008 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.

She will be the first female Vice Presidential candidate representing the Republican Party and the second female Vice Presidential candidate representing a major political party.

Palin was born in Idaho and raised in Alaska. In 1984, she was the runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant, receiving a scholarship that allowed her to attend the University of Idaho, where she received a degree in journalism. After working as a sports reporter at an Anchorage television station, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council from 1992 to 1996, was elected mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470 in 2000) in 1996, and ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2002.

Palin was elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 on the theme of governmental reform, defeating incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary and former Democratic Alaskan governor Tony Knowles in the general election. She gained attention for publicizing ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders

New Milky Way map reveals a complicated outer galaxy

CHICAGO -- The halo of stars that envelops the Milky Way galaxy is like a river delta criss-crossed by stellar streams large and small, according to new data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II). While the largest rivers of this delta have been mapped out over the last decade, analysis of the new SDSS-II map shows that smaller streams can be found throughout the stellar halo, said Kevin Schlaufman, a graduate student at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

A theoretical model of a galaxy like the Milky Way, showing trails of stars torn from disrupted satellite galaxies that have merged with the central galaxy. The structures seen in the SDSS-II star maps support this prediction of a complicated outer Galaxy. The region shown is about one million light years on a side; the sun is just 25,000 light years from the center of the Galaxy and would appear close to the center of this picture. Credit: K. Johnston, J. Bullock

Schlaufman reported his results at an international symposium in Chicago, titled "The Sloan Digital Sky Survey: Asteroids to Cosmology." Over the last three years, Schlaufmann explained, the SEGUE survey of SDSS-II has measured the motions of nearly a quarter million stars in selected areas of the sky. A careful search for groups of stars at the same velocity turned up 14 distinct structures, 11 of them previously unknown.

Read the full story at:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

National Guard, NorthCom Prepare for Gustav Response

By Donna Miles and Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2008 – Thousands of National Guard troops are mobilizing as Tropical Storm Gustav moves toward the Gulf Coast, where it is expected to make landfall within days as a Category 3 hurricane.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (end of table) meets with Army Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock, the Alabama National Guard’s adjutant general (center, left) and other state agency leaders Aug. 27, 2008, to discuss preparations for Tropical Storm Gustav, which is expected to be a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall. Thousands of National Guard members from states along the Gulf Coast have been mobilized or put on alert as the tropical storm gains strength and heads toward the United States. State of Alabama photo

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted today that Gustav likely will become a “powerful hurricane” and move into the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 31. It is expected to become a Category 2 hurricane as it passes between Jamaica and Cuba, then to build to the Category 3 level as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast.

A Category 3 hurricane packs sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph.

Depending on Gustav’s path, forecasters said, it could make landfall anywhere between south Texas and the Florida panhandle.

U.S. Northern Command the conduit for requests for military assistance, is “anticipating and leaning forward” in preparation, command spokesman Mike Kucharek said.

Defense coordinating officers assigned in Federal Emergency Management Agency offices in Atlanta and in Denton, Texas, are serving as liaisons with state, local and other federal responders to ensure a quick response, Kucharek said.

All have “pre-scripted mission assignments” they are ready to carry out to ensure the response is well-coordinated and doesn’t leave any gaps, he said. In addition, food, water, generators and other supplies and equipment are pre-positioned at military installations in the region, ready to be moved where needed.

Meanwhile, governors along the Gulf Coast who remember the devastation when Hurricane Katrina hit the region on Aug. 29, 2005, are mobilizing their National Guard troops in preparation.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called about 3,000 Louisiana Army and Air National Guard members to active duty to support search-and-rescue operations, transport food, water and other logistic and provide security, said Maj. Michael Kazmierzak, state National Guard spokesman. Another 2,000 Guardsmen are on alert to support future mission requirements, if needed.

Guard security forces are preparing to deploy to New Orleans, where they would support the city’s evacuation plan, or elsewhere as needed, Kazmierzak reported. In addition, search-and-rescue assets are preparing to deploy to potential impact areas.

Other Guard troops are preparing to support shelter security missions across the state and to support highway lane-reversal missions in coordination with the Louisiana State Police, Kazmierzak said. Guard liaisons, engineer assessment teams and satellite communications teams are preparing to report to coastal parish emergency operations centers.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana Guard is working closely with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to track the storm, Kazmierzak said. It also is coordinating with Emergency Management Assistance Compact states to confirm that their assets are available to support relief efforts, if needed.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has authorized state active-duty orders for up to 5,000 Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen in support of the effort, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, Texas Military Forces’ public affairs deputy, reported. So far, 600 Guardsman have been activated.

Perry also requested 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and four OH-58 Kiowa helicopters for search-and-rescue missions and four C-130 Hercules aircraft for air evacuation.

Texas Task Force 1, a state search-and-rescue team, and Texas Guard members are reviewing swift-water rescue training procedures at Lake Decker in Austin, Texas, Moncada said. Meanwhile, the State Emergency Operations Center in Austin and Joint Emergency Operations Center at Camp Mabry are conducting twice-daily teleconferences with weather updates during each conference.

In Mississippi, composite teams of engineers and military police have been notified that they will be deployed to coastal areas as the storm approaches, said Tim Powell, Mississippi Guard public affairs officer. The teams will perform evacuations, search-and-rescue missions and support to civil authorities.

A search-and-rescue mission, if requested, will be a first for the Mississippi Guard since receiving its new UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters, National Guard officials noted.

Another 500 soldiers will be stationed nearby as a rapid-response force – a strategy implemented after Hurricane Katrina. “Under our lessons learned, we've changed our plans and have now located more soldiers in coastal areas so they are already in place should they be needed," Powell said.

If needed, the soldiers will be ready to perform security patrols, clear roads and debris and operate distribution centers of water, ice and personal hygiene products. “We're planning and supporting for the worst, but hoping for the best,” Powell said.

In Florida, 9,000 National Guard members are available for hurricane response, but none have yet been called to active duty, reported Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Thomas from the state’s National Guard public affairs office.

Five hundred Florida Guardsmen were activated for Tropical Storm Fay, with the last being released from active duty earlier this week, Thomas said.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley met yesterday with Army Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock, adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, and other state agency leaders to discuss preparations.

About 3,000 Alabama Guardsmen have been put on alert of a possible mobilization, said Army Staff Sgt. Katrina Timmons from the state National Guard public affairs office. “We are ready, in the event we are needed,” said Timmons. “We hope that’s not necessary, but we are preparing, just in case.”

(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

Minot Nuke Handlers Given Article 15s

Posted : Thursday Aug 28, 2008 13:25:11 EDT

The three missile officers at the 91st Missile Wing who fell asleep on July 12 while still in possession of classified components received non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on Aug. 28, officials said.

The two first lieutenants and one captain also lost their certification in the Personnel Reliability Program making them ineligible to work with nuclear weapons. And they were fined an unspecified amount from each of the next two months pay.

Two squadron commanders and several other officers at the wing received administrative actions for their roles in the incident involving classified components containing superceded missile launch codes for Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, 20th Air Force commander, issued the Article 15s to the three officers who had just completed a 24-hour shift and were waiting in the rest area of the launch control center’s support building while awaiting permission to leave the secure zone.

Air Force regulations mandate at least two of the officers must remain awake while in control of these items.

“We hold everyone involved in this mission to the highest standards of performance and accountability every day, and we will not tolerate substandard performance,” Burg said.

Read the rest of he story at

CNN: Not so secret -U.S./Pakistan secret meeting.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior U.S. and Pakistani military commanders held a secret meeting this week to discuss the growing Taliban and al Qaeda threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with the Pakistani Army chief of staff.

Word of the secret talks came as the Pakistani military said Thursday it had killed 23 militants in two attacks on Taliban fighters in the Swat valley of northwestern Pakistan.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said one of the attacks involved an airstrike and artillery while the second involved ground troops. He provided no additional details.

This week's secret meeting "focused on ways to better work together to defeat extremists on the border and to help Pakistan deal with its own internal threats from extremism," the official said.

Those participating in the meeting included the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and Pakistani Army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The meeting, which took place Tuesday aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean, was confirmed to CNN by the senior U.S. military official after details were first reported in the New York Times.

The talks also come amid a growing acknowledgment by U.S. officials that the Taliban has shifted tactics and is now conducting military-style attacks against U.S. troops.

The U.S. military, led by Mullen, has been pressing Kayani for months to crack down on militants in the border region in part because of the growing number crossing into Afghanistan to attack American troops. So far, there has been no reportable lessening of the flow of militants, according to several U.S. commanders.

"There is no diminishing of their ability to operate" in the border region, the official said.

And in recent weeks, the Taliban tactics have shifted.

For months, U.S. commanders had been saying the insurgents in Afghanistan were reduced to using terrorist hit-and-run and suicide-style tactics because they had no other capabilities. But now, the official said, that is changing.

Read the full story at

CNN Report: Putin Blames U.S. For Georgian War.

Russia (CNN) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential election candidates.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Matthew Chance in the Black Sea city of Sochi Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin told CNN his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate -- Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush -- although he presented no evidence to back it up.

"U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict," Putin said. "They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino blasted Putin's statements, saying they were "patently false."

"To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational," she said.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood concurred, and labeled Putin's statements as "ludicrous."

"Russia is responsible for the crisis," Wood said in an off-camera meeting with reporters in Washington on Thursday. "For the Russians to say they are not responsible for what happened in Georgia is ludicrous. ... Russia is to blame for this crisis and the world is responding to what Russia has done."

When told that many diplomats in the United States and Europe blame Russia for provoking the conflict and for invading Georgia, Putin said Russia had no choice but to invade Georgia after dozens of its peacekeepers in South Ossetia were killed. He told Chance it was to avert a human calamity. First-person accounts from the center of the conflict

The former Russian president, still considered the most powerful man in the country, said he was disappointed the U.S. had not done more to stop Georgia's attack.

Putin recalled he was watching the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia unfold when he was at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games on August 8.

He said he spoke to U.S. President George W. Bush, also attending, who told the Russian prime minister he didn't want war -- but Putin spoke to CNN of his disappointment that the U.S. administration didn't do more to stop Georgia early in the conflict.

Read the full story at

Amarillo Built NEW UH-1Y Helicopter Okayed To Take To Skies

Marines will soon fly in the first newly engineered Huey helicopter the Corps has introduced in more than 35 years.

Known as the UH-1Y, the helicopter can fly faster, farther and ferry more troops and gear than older models, offering commanders more options when planning operations, according to program manager Col. Keith Burkholz. It will enhance the Corps’ ability to perform reconnaissance, provide secure escorts, scramble quick-reaction teams and place troops in hostile territory.

“You can carry eight combat troops with 250 pounds of gear each plus a crew of four, a full load of gas and suppressive weapons,” Burkholz said. “If you loaded that configuration into a Huey today, it would not physically be able to take off.”

The $20 million UH-1Y gained initial operating capability Aug. 8 after more than a year of testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The helicopter is built by Amarillo Texas-based Bell Helicopter-Textron, which also manufactures the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey.

The new Huey was designed alongside a new Marine attack helicopter: the AH-1Z, also known as the Super Cobra.

They were designed with roughly 84 percent interoperability, meaning many of the primary parts and components can be swapped between the two aircraft. That will yield savings in maintenance and logistics.

Both new aircraft boast modern avionics systems, but the Huey has better range and lift capability.

“The Yankee [Huey] can take twice the payload, twice the range, and the Zulu [Cobra] can either travel twice the range with the same payload or carry twice the payload with the same range,” compared with current models, Burkholz said.

Across the fleet, there are 12 new Hueys being tested, trained on or preparing for deployment. A contingent is in Southern California preparing for a January deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Boxer.

Burkholz could not specify where the MEU would deploy. But “we routinely have MEUs supporting operations in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said.

While the Osprey is expected to remain the Corps’ workhorse for the next 30 years, the Huey will serve as a utility helicopter designed to maneuver around tighter spaces and land on smaller ships at sea, Burkholz said.

And though it’s not designed for special operations, it will be rated for those missions, he said.

The Corps is expected to acquire 123 Huey helicopters over the next eight years.

Tinker AFB AWACS Gets New Commander.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tinker Air Force Base’s 552nd Air Control Wing has a new commander.

Col. Patricia D. Hoffman assumed command of the wing that flies the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System planes during a ceremony Wednesday on the base near Oklahoma City.

Hoffman replaces Brig. Gen. Lori Robinson, who is leaving Tinker to assume a new position at the Pentagon. Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, the commander of the 8th Air Force, presided over the change-of-command ceremony.

Earlier in her career, Hoffman served as an air battle manager aboard an AWACS jet.

Russia: Aid to Georgia Is Viewed as "Declaration Of War."

Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.

The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.
And Moscow also emphasised it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - the 'real architect' of the Georgia conflict - and the Security Council (unseen) in Sochi yesterday
The incendiary warning on Western military involvement in Georgia - where NATO nations have long played a role in training and equipping the small state - came in an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, a former nationalist politician who is now ambassador to the North Atlantic Alliance.
If NATO suddenly takes military actions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, acting solely in support of Tbilisi, this will mean a declaration of war on Russia," he stated.

Yesterday likened the current world crisis to the fevered atmosphere before the start of the First World War.
Rogozin said he did not believe the crisis would descend to war between the West and Russia.

Read the full story by clicking on the link under Topical Links

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Flashback: Honda's 1988 Stealth Bomber Commercial

Trophy: Shields Up Scotty!

C4ISR: Unearthing Secrets

How the U.S. digs up intelligence on underground sites
By Jeffrey T. Richelson
August 01, 2008

In late May 1991, a few months after Iraq’s loss in the Persian Gulf War, four Iraqis drove up to a U.S. Marine checkpoint in the Kurdish north of Iraq, near the town of Dohuk. One occupant claimed to be Saddam Hussein’s top nuclear scientist. The U.S. whisked him away to Turkey and then Munich for debriefing, during which he claimed that the coalition bombing campaign had missed a number of key facilities, including a large underground uranium enrichment facility inside a mountain north of Mosul.

Like many defectors, he was not exactly telling the truth. He was not Saddam’s chief nuclear scientist, but a physicist who had worked at the Ash Sharqat facility, home to a calutron, a World War II-era device for enriching uranium. There was no sophisticated, secret underground uranium enrichment facility.

Not all reports of underground facilities are the figment of someone’s imagination, which is why in 1997, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet ordered the Defense Intelligence Agency to establish the Underground Facilities Analysis Center (UFAC). There, the motto is “unearthing the truth in defense of our nation.” Its logo shows a sword crossed with a pick laid on top of an image of the Earth. To give the analysts at UFAC more to go on, the U.S. is working on technologies to study underground facilities in greater detail from the air and space and with seismic sensors.

A May 2000 Air War College paper raised the possibility of equipping a UAV with a gradiometer, a GPS receiver and a means of transmitting the gradiometer data to an airborne or space platform. Gradiometers measure the slight changes in the Earth’s gravitational tug when dirt, rock, ice or water are moved around. The gravity maps, or gradients, they produce have been employed by the U.S. Navy’s submarine force to stealthily detect underwater obstacles.

If a country were to dig tunnels through a mountain the gravity gradient would reveal the presence of cavities. The paper noted that the “ability to program a UAV to autonomously accomplish such a mission, from take off to landing, is feasible and in fact serves as the fundamental concept for the Air Forces’ Global Hawk UAV.”

Read the full story at: or click on the link under Topical Links

Military Tech: Drones, Robots and Airborne Lasers.

U-2ube: Tribute to the U-2 Dragonlady.

AVWK: USAF not ready to retire U-2s.

AVIATION WEEK: USAF not ready to retire U-2s.

Amy Butler and David A. Fulghum

The U.S. Air Force is considering – once again – delaying the retirement date for its workhorse intelligence collector, the U-2 Dragon Lady, as developers work out issues with integrating a signals intelligence payload onto the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), according to service officials.

The current plan calls for the completion of U-2 retirement in the third quarter of fiscal 2012. But the Pentagon is considering delaying the retirement to fiscal 2014 or possibly later, depending on the maturity of the Global Hawk. And retiring a mainstay intelligence collector like the U-2 during wars that require massive amounts of sensor data is also unlikely, according to one USAF official.

The USAF has wrangled for years with various dates for U-2 retirement. Earlier plans called for the retirement to start as soon as FY ’07. But the date has continually slipped. Regional commanders such as in the Pacific realm rely heavily on the U-2. Key advantages of the aircraft over the Global Hawk include higher altitude (above 70,000 feet) and more available onboard power to run a larger selection of intelligence-gathering sensors.

The U-2 can collect data from all seven of its available bands (versus the Global Hawk’s five) simultaneously. They include green, red, near infrared (visible), two shortwave infrared bands and a midwave infrared (which can be tuned to day or night collection). The seventh band is a redundant, midwave thermal infrared channel. The shortwave bands collect images in the invisible reflected solar wavelengths and are most useful in detecting objects in adverse conditions such as haze, fog or smoke.

The latest variants of the decade-old U-2S (part of the U.S. fleet of 33 remaining Dragon Ladies) also carry the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARS) 2A designed by Raytheon (originally for mapping) that’s so sensitive it can detect disturbed earth in areas where explosive devices and mines have been planted.

Read the rest of the story at

Anatomy of A Mid-Air Collision

Pilot errors led to the Feb. 20 mid-air collision of two F-15C Eagles over the Gulf of Mexico and the death of one of the pilots, an Air Force accident investigation board concluded in a report issued Monday.

To view computer simulations of the mid-air collision refer to the 2 links under Topical Links.

Lost in the accident was 1st Lt. Ali Jivanjee, 26, of the 58th Fighter Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The other pilot, Capt. Tucker Hamilton of the 58th, safely ejected and was rescued from the gulf. He returned to flying within weeks of the accident. Today he is assigned as an air liaison officer working with the Army.

The two pilots were involved in a mock dog fight about 50 miles off Florida’s northwest coast when they collided, said investigation board president Brig. Gen. Joseph Reynes, an F-16 pilot currently assigned as Air Combat Command’s inspector general.

Rules for the engagement required the pilots to stay at least 1,000 feet from each other, Reynes said. But as they maneuvered for the best position, Hamilton failed to recognize that Jivanjee was on a collision course with his jet. Jivanjee lost sight of Hamilton’s jet for two seconds when his view of jet was blocked by a metal canopy support. When Jivanjee likely spotted Hamilton again, the jets were just two seconds from flying into each other at an altitude of 14,000 feet. The impact killed the lieutenant instantly.

The F-15C fleet was grounded from Nov. 2, 2007 to Jan. 10, 2008, following an Air National Guard mishap over Missouri.

The board ruled that the grounding — and the loss of flying time for Hamilton and Jivanjee that it caused — did not officially contribute to the accident.

But the report acknowledged they might have lost proficiency due to the grounding. “While the [pilots] had regained their currency and qualifications,” the report said, “it is questionable whether they had regained the proficiency held before the stand down of all F-15Cs.”

At the time of the crash, Hamilton was not certified as an instructor pilot, but he was qualified to lead the mission, Reynes said. Hamilton had logged 484 hours in F-15s and was approved as a four-ship flight lead. In 2007, he was the 58th’s company grade officer of the year.

Jivanjee was a new F-15 pilot with just 119 hours in Eagle cockpits but considered an “above average” pilot for an aviator with less than one year of operational flying.

Both pilots had spent most of November and December on the ground as they waited for Air Force leaders to decide if Eagles were safe to fly after a cracked fuselage beam led to the mid-air breakup of an F-15C on Nov. 2.

After the jets were cleared to fly starting Jan. 10, the pilots resumed flight training. In the 30 days prior to the accident, the officers flew more sorties than required by the Air Force’s “ready aircrew program,” the report said.

But the board acknowledged the pilots had not reached the skill level they had prior to the grounding. Their squadron commander, Lt. Col. Todd Jaax, told investigators that the unit’s pilots had lost proficiency and were more apt to make mistakes.

Jivanjee made such a mistake the day before the fatal mission while practicing fighter maneuvers. He flew his F-15C within 300 feet of another Eagle, a violation of training rules, the report said. While the first lieutenant discussed the lapse with his instructor for that mission, the violation was not serious enough to be briefed to Hamilton or the squadron’s leadership.

Reynes said Jivanjee’s mistake was the first serious error noted by the lieutenant’s commanders since he arrived at the 58th. “It was the only time we could find in his training that he had a close pass,” Reynes said.

As part of its investigation, the Air Force created computer animations showing what each pilot may have seen in the 50 seconds leading up to the accident, based on information from the jets’ flight data recorders. The videos also show each jet’s altitude, speed, angle of attack and G-force on the plane. The information for Hamilton’s plane is displayed as AXLE-41, his flight call sign. Jivanjee’s data is shown as AXLE-42.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Top USAF brass to meet, decide on major issues

Air Force Times:
By Erik Holmes - Staff writer

The Air Force’s senior leaders will convene Wednesday to discuss and make decisions about urgent Air Force issues that will shape the future of the service.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and acting Secretary Michael Donley are holding the meeting at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., an Air Force official said.

In attendance will be the Air Force’s four-star generals, commanders of the major commands and the heads of the Air Staff directorates, the official said.

The issues to be discussed include:

* End strength. With the drawdown ended, how can the service achieve the right mix of personnel for a force of 330,000?

* Uniforms. Will Schwartz push for a lighter ABU? Will he ditch the new service dress or the green suede boots?

* Maintenance reorganization. Should maintainers be in flying units or maintenance units?

* Battlefield training. How can the Air Force best train airmen going outside the wire in war zones?

* Cyber Command. The much-touted command has been put on hold while the new leaders figure out the best way to move forward.

* War-zone intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The Air Force needs to get more ISR assets into the war zone, and fast.

Decisions on some of these issues could be made immediately, the official said, but most will be announced in the coming months.

“Our intention is to announce any decisions as soon as possible after the [meeting],” the official said. “There are some topics on the agenda which should result in final decisions. But in most cases, issues will be discussed and the way ahead planned so that at a future date, such as the upcoming Corona [leadership summit], decisions can be made.”

The meeting comes after the Air Staff has spent the past few weeks working on “taskers” Schwartz and Donley assigned to inform their decisions on these and other issues.

Most major decisions have been put on hold since Donley and Schwartz took over in late June and early August, respectively.

Sudanese Plane Hijacked.

CNN) -- A Sudanese plane that was hijacked shortly after taking off from Nyala in the country's Darfur region, presumably by rebels, has landed in Kufra, Libya, Sudan's ambassador to the United States said.

"I believe since it started in the sovereign state of Darfur ... it is more likely something to do with the rebels in that area," John Ukec said.

The hijacker or hijackers at first wanted to land the plane in Egypt, but the Egyptian government refused them permission, Ukec said.

About 87 passengers and 10 crew members are thought to be on board, Ukec said. It was unclear how many hijackers were on board.

A reporter from Al-Shuruq, a Dubai-based Sudanese network funded by Sudan's government, said passengers on the plane include some officials from the interim government of Darfur, Sudan's war-torn region.

Libya's state-run Jamahirya television, citing civil aviation sources, reported the hijacked plane landed in Kufra, in eastern Libya.

"We are in contact with Libyan officials because of this dangerous event," Murtada Hassam Jumaa, an official with Sun Air airlines, told Al-Shuruq. "We want to resolve this situation as soon as we can in a way where we can guarantee the safety of all our passengers."

Asked whether the airline received any threat before the flight took off, he said, "There were no signs of any terrorist or criminal activity on the plane. We checked the plane like we do with all other planes. We followed the regular security checkup. We still don't have any information on what type of weapons were used."

Jumaa also said 87 passengers were on board the plane.

Brits Spy Drone Sets Endurance Record

DailyTech reports that defense firm QinetQ has set the unofficial world record for the longest continuous unmanned flight with the Zephyr, a British-built spy plane.

The Zephyr stayed in the air for 82 hours and 37 minutes, besting the previous record of 30 hours and 24 minutes held by Northrup Grumman’s Global Hawk.

The plane, which can be launched by hand, has a carbon fiber skeleton that weighs under 70 lbs and an 18m wingspan covered with silicon solar cells. It is powered by a lithium sulfur rechargeable battery that is twice as efficient as any other battery in the world.

Despite the Zephyr’s record-smashing speed, it will not set any official world records. According to the World Air Sports Federation, the plane’s flight did not fulfill the requirements of a world record attempt since it was performed to test the Zephyr’s ability to relay ground radio messages.

But that doesn’t mean the test flight was for naught. The Zephyr’s designers believe that the plane could potentially fly continuously for weeks or months, and the technology has countless military uses. Even more exciting, the Zephyr’s exhibition of solar energy used in flight opens up the possibility of manned solar-powered planes—a development that would revolutionize the aircraft industry.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Air Force back to using HUMINT unit.

Air Force Times: Staff Report

Posted : Monday Aug 25, 2008 17:45:06 EDT
The Air Force is back in the business of using people to gather intelligence, standing up a detachment dedicated to HUMINT Aug. 14.

The unit — called Detachment 6 — falls under the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is part of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency.

It is supposed to focus on developing information on foreign aircraft and other aerospace capabilities.

A cadre of HUMINT personnel has been in place since November. The new detachment will eventually transition to squadron-level over the next few years. Maj. Gar J. Lightner assumed command of Detachment 6 from Maj. Dianne Hickey.

In past interviews, officials have said the unit looks to draw experienced airmen from a wide range of specialties, not just intelligence analysts.

Aerospace engineers are needed to talk with aircraft designers. Pilots would speak with aviators. Computer engineers w

Woo Hoo! U.S. Forces Capture Top al Qaeda leaders.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces said on Sunday they had caught two prominent al Qaeda leaders, including one they blamed for the kidnapping of an American journalist.

High ranking sources said they had captured Ali Rash Nasir Jiyad al-Shammari, known as Abu Tiba, on August 17 and Salim Abdallah Ashur al-Shujayri, known as Abu Uthman, on August 11.

Abu Tiba was the Sunni militant group's senior advisor in the Iraqi capital, while Abu Uthman was its "emir," or leader, for the capital's eastern Rusafa district.

Abu Tiba was in charge of al Qaeda during its most active period in early 2007, they said in a statement.

Abu Uthman was believed to be the planner directly behind the kidnapping of U.S. journalist Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor who was held for nearly three months after being abducted in 2006.

His associates were also involved in the kidnappings of British/Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan, who was slain by her captors in 2004, and of a group of Christian peace activists, the statement said.

"The capture of Abu Tiba and Abu Uthman eliminates two of the few remaining experienced leaders in the AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) network," U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll said.

U.S. forces say al Qaeda militants have been driven out of many areas over the past year-and-a-half since many Sunni Arab tribes turned against them, but the militants still retain the capability to stage suicide bombings and other big attacks.

Holloman to be 2nd home for UAV training

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer Air Foce times
Posted : Monday Aug 25, 2008 8:31:32 EDT

Air Combat Command officials announced Aug. 18 that Holloman was chosen over Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to house the second Unmanned Aircraft System Formal Training Unit, which is expected to stand up in 2009.

The decision won’t become final until after an environmental impact study, but that’s seen now as a formality.

Pilots and sensor operators previously completed their MQ-1 and MQ-9 Initial Qualification Course at Creech, but the continued demand for more round-the-clock orbits of Predators and Reapers in the war zones means ACC needs more training slots to provide enough airmen to fly them.

Over the past year, the Air Force has more than doubled the number of unmanned aerial vehicle orbits over Iraq and Afghanistan — from 12 to 27 — and has had to rapidly train pilots to keep up with the pace. Air Force officials say they want to increase that total to 50 orbits by 2011.

To match that growth, service officials have said they aim to more than double the number of pilots for the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk, from 350 to 800, by 2013.

“As we ramp up this critical capability, we also need to increase our production of UAS operators,” said Col. Michael Kennedy, ACC deputy director for plans and programs.

Officials chose Holloman because of its “existing mission facilities, cost compatibility with current ongoing missions, amount of restricted air space” and the number of clear days to fly, said Maj. Kristi Beckman, an ACC spokeswoman.

The new unit will be able to train an average of 120 crews, which include a pilot and a sensor operator, each year, Beckman said.

About 38 Predators and Reapers will be sent to Holloman once the training unit stands up, along with a mix of about 100 airmen and contractors to serve as trainers and support staff.

The decision to stand up another training unit, rather than expand the one at Creech, was made because of “base support limitations at Creech,” Beckman said.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

ABC NEWS: Is Boris Bad Enough? Russia's military power.

Experts Are Divided, but U.S. Intelligence Believes Russia's Military May Be World's Second Strongest

The Russian bear is roaring angrily as its former Soviet satellites forge closer ties with the West. But as Russia makes threats and takes steps to curb perceived Western encroachment on its border, just how much of a threat is it?

Experts say Russia's options are limited, but warn it should not be ignored.

Independent experts are divided on the extent of Russia's strength. However, American intelligence believes Russia's military may have rebounded to become the second most powerful in the world, behind only the United States, after suffering from mismanagement and insufficient resources after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Military spending increased several-fold under former President Vladimir Putin, buoyed by booming oil and gas revenues.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice voiced her concern about Russia's military might in an interview with ABC News during a trip to Moscow last year.

"I think the rapid growth in Russian military spending definitely bears watching," she told ABC's Jonathan Karl.

s week Russia threatened Poland, its former Soviet satellite, after Warsaw inked a deal allowing the United States to place 10 interceptor missiles on Polish territory.

"Russia, in this case, will have to react and not only through diplomatic protests," Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, this just days after a top Russian general warned Warsaw it could face a nuclear attack if it went ahead with the deal.

The United States insists the missiles are meant to defend against attacks from rogue countries like Iran, but Russia feels threatened by a U.S. missile system so close to its border.

Rice downplayed Russia's threat and reminded Moscow that Poland's membership in NATO means the United States is obligated to defend it against attack.

"An attack upon one is an attack upon all, and that's the strongest possible guarantee you can have," Rice told reporters.

So, how credible is Russia's threat against Poland?

"The Russians aren't about to launch some military action to the Poles, but they might take some specific measures to counter it, like moving short-range missiles closer to the border," said Stephen Flanagan, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies.

Read the rest of the story at : or click on the link under Topical Links

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jet man ready for cross-Channel attempt

Jet man ready for cross-Channel attempt after 'awesome' test flight
Pilot Yves Rossy landed safely yesterday after reaching speeds of 180mph strapped to a jet-powered wing.

James Randerson, science correspondent, Thursday August 21 2008 17:58 BST
Article history

Yves Rossy soars over Switzerland yesterday strapped to a jet-powered wing. The flight was a test run for a cross-Channel attempt next month

A Swiss daredevil's bid to cross the English Channel propelled by a jet-powered wing strapped to his back moved a step closer yesterday with a successful 36km test flight over Switzerland.

The flight proves that his jet-powered wing can take him far enough to make it across the channel from Calais to Dover. He hopes to make the crossing on 24 September if the weather is suitable.

Yves Rossy – who calls himself FusionMan – jumped from a plane above the Swiss town of Bex and reached speeds of up to 180mph during his 12 minutes of jet-powered flight before landing at an airfield in Villeneuve. Rossy first unveiled his jet-powered wing in May with an 8-minute aerobatic display over the Alps.

"Everything went well, it was awesome," said Rossy after the flight. "It's my longest flight with this wing. If there are no technical problems, it's OK for the English Channel. I can't wait for this next challenge!"

His attempt had originally been thwarted by a collection of technical failures, including a leaking gas tank and two aborted flights during which the engines stopped within seconds of jumping from his support plane. He blamed these failures – which forced him to deploy his parachutes early – on "electronic interference problems".

The successful flight involved him jumping out of the aircraft at 2,300m, flying horizontally under jet power from a height of 1,700m and then switching off the jet engines before deploying two parachutes at 1500m and 1200m.

The wing does not include moving parts such as flaps to control direction, but Rossy is able to steer by shifting his weight and moving his head.

When he reached the ground he still had 2 litres of fuel left in his wing, suggesting that he would have some margin for error during the cross-channel flight.

Rossy is a former military pilot. His channel flight will be streamed live on the National Geographic Channel.

New Cold War/ Tit for Tat: Russia and Syria Missile Shield.

Syria says it’s ready to put a Russian missile system on its soil as a counterweight to U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The offer was made during a meeting between Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad and President Dmitry Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Meanwhile, Moscow is considering a request from Syria for more Russian-made weapons.

It was the first meeting between the two leaders, and President Al-Assad was keen to show Syria’s support for Russia.

"We understand what is behind Russia's position ... We believe this is a response to Georgian provocation. We support Moscow in this and are against any attempts to blacken Russia," Al-Assad said.

Many expected a tit-for-tat response after the U.S. sealed a deal to deploy interceptors in Poland as a part of their missile defence system.

Ahead of the visit, there were reports that Russia might deploy a missile system in Syria, in particular, the Iskander system. It’s something Syria has been requesting for a long time. After Friday’s meeting, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is ready “to consider the offers of the Syrian government in connection to the delivery of new weapons, only for defence purposes”.

Moscow has temporarily suspended cooperation with NATO. It follows NATO’s criticism of Russia’s actions in South Ossetia and threats to shut down the NATO-Russia Council. Lavrov was clear on Russia’s course: “We are not going to slam the door on NATO. NATO could slam this door, though. Everything depends on NATO's priorities: if the priorities are absolutely supportive of Saakashvili's bankrupt regime to the detriment of partnership with Russia, then it is not our fault,” he said.

Meanwhile, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict zone is well under way. There will be at least 500 peacekeepers deployed in the so-called security zone near the border. The rest of the peacekeepers will remain within the de facto borders of South Ossetia. The rest of the troops in the area will return to Russia.

Russia says it’s fully committed to the six principles of the cease-fire, but, according to Lavrov, some countries are resorting to diplomatic tricks.

Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia’s two separatist regions, have again asked Moscow to recognise their independence.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Spying from I.S.S.

Russia has claimed humanitarian motives in its use of the International Space Station (ISS) to collect overhead imagery of South Ossetia shortly after it invaded the breakaway Georgian province.

On Aug. 9 Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko used a digital camera equipped with an 800mm telephoto lens and a video camera to photograph "after-effects of border conflict operations in the Caucasus," according to the ISS status report for that day published by NASA on its website.

Use of the space station for military purposes would violate the Jan. 29, 1998, ISS cooperation agreement between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, which makes repeated references to the civil nature of the orbiting facility.

"The Space Station together with its additions of evolutionary capability will remain a civil station, and its operation and utilization will be for peaceful purposes, in accordance with international law," reads Article 14 of the agreement.

Apparently with that language in mind, Russia's space agency Roscosmos informed the U.S. space agency that Kononenko's actions two days after Russian forces moved into South Ossetia were not military in nature.

Read the entire story at

The Deal: U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have reached agreement on a proposal calling for a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq by 2012, the head Iraqi negotiator said Friday.

A U.S. soldier patrols a street this week on the outskirts of Baquba, Iraq.

The deal still must be approved by both sides, said Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, deputy foreign minister and head of the Iraqi negotiating team.

Hamoud said Thursday's meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was helpful in reaching the tentative agreement.

Hamoud said the proposal also says the last date for the presence of U.S. troops in cities and towns will be June 30, 2009.

There are clear caveats, however.

If the Iraqi government sees the necessity of keeping the American forces in cities and towns or in Iraq past December 31, 2011, it would ask that the Americans stay. A joint Iraqi-U.S. committee would help define the duration and number of forces that would be needed and regularly assess the security situation on the ground.

Read the full story at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

LA TIMES: The Black Mailbox

TIKABOO VALLEY, NEV. -- The only landmark for about 40 miles on a barren stretch of highway is a mailbox battered by time and desert gusts. It's known as the Black Mailbox, though it's actually a faded white.

Over the years, hundreds of people have converged here in south-central Nevada to photograph the box -- the size of a small television, held up by a chipped metal pole. They camp next to it. They try to break into it. They debate its significance, or simply huddle by it for hours, staring into the night.

Read the entire story at:,0,573879.story or by clicking on the link under "TOPICAL LINKS"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

AF, Navy locate B-52 wreckage near Guam

Air Force Times Staff report
Posted : Wednesday Aug 20, 2008 16:21:21 EDT

Air Force investigators think they know where to find the wreckage of the B-52H Stratofortress that crashed July 21 about 30 miles off the western coast of Guam. All six crew members perished.

A spokesman for Air Combat Command, which is overseeing two crash investigations, said the Air Force is working with the Navy to bring the plane’s wreckage back to the surface. The first step will be to map out the debris field. Then officials will decide which parts can be brought back to the surface.

Even after crashes, large aircraft parts can reveal information about a plane’s flight, such as how well the engines were working and the positions of wing flaps.

The wreckage will not include a flight date recorder. The bomber, like other B-52Hs, was not equipped with a black box to record details of the flight.

The jet, deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., went down while on a training mission that was to have included a flyover of a Liberation Day celebration on Guam.

Rescuers say 145 killed in Madrid plane crash

By Europe correspondent Rafael Epstein and wires

Emergency services say only 28 people survived after a plane crashed and burst into flames at Madrid airport. (Reuters: Juan Medina)

The Spanish Government says 145 people have died after a Spanish tourist jet carrying 173 people crashed on takeoff and burst into flames at Madrid airport.

The Spanair jet was lifting off to take 166 passengers and nine crew to the Canary Islands, but it barely made it off the ground before witnesses say an engine caught fire and the plane crashed in a field at the edge of the airport.

Dozens of ambulances and fire engines drove to the burning wreckage, which sparked a large grassfire that took more than an hour put out.

Plumes of smoke could be seen many kilometres away.

Around 25 passengers were treated for injuries, but it seems most of the passengers and crew were killed.

As large clouds of smoke billowed into the sky near the terminal at Madrid airport, there were reports that ambulance officers were pulling out burnt corpses and that the plane was completely destroyed.

Spanish newspapers say the plane, Spanair's Flight JK5022, an MD-82 jet, reported an engineering fault but was eventually allowed to take off.

The 15-year-old plane, carrying 166 passengers and nine crew, shot off the runway at 2:45 pm (local time), according to Spanair and witnesses described a huge explosion.

"Only the tail was recognisable, there was wreckage scattered all over the place and dead bodies across a wide area. A lot of them were children," Herbigio Corral, who headed the rescue effort, told reporters.

As well as helicopters dumping water on the fire, around 50 ambulances and more than 10 fire engines are reported to have arrived at the burning wreckage.

Less than a third of the passengers were treated at the crash site, while some were taken to the city's six hospitals.

Of the survivors, eight are in critical condition, an emergency services spokesman told national radio.

Spain's Prime Minister and Madrid's mayor went to the scene to talk to the families of those who had died.

Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez said the cause of the accident seemed to be "an error in takeoff".

But Spanish media quoted sources as saying the plane's left engine, made by Pratt & Whitney, had caught fire.

The flight was a code-sharing operation with Lufthansa serving the Canary Islands, a popular holiday destination for tourists from throughout Europe.

Lufthansa says seven passengers with Lufthansa tickets, four of them from Germany, had checked in for the flight, and a Canary Islands official says passengers included Swedes and Dutch.

'Huge explosion'

Thick columns of smoke rose into the air and police blocked off both ends of the Terminal Four runway, where more than 20 ambulances and many fire engines were stationed.

"I saw how the plane broke in two and a huge explosion," Manuel Muela said , who was driving past the airport when the crash occurred, according to newspaper El Mundo.

Police escorted tearful relatives of passengers past reporters and dozens of workers identified as psychologists and social workers arrived at the terminal.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero interrupted his holidays and the Spanish Olympic Committee says the Spanish flag will fly at half mast in the Olympic village in Beijing.

Spain's national soccer team has worn black armbands at a friendly match with Denmark.

The MD-82 is a medium-range single-aisle plane, popular with regional airlines. It is a member of the MD-80 family of planes made by United States manufacturer Boeing Co.

- ABC/Reuters

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Just for the wow!

.. and yes .. I know it is an animation.


Taliban Bombers Fail

Bombers try to storm U.S. base in Afghanistan

By Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Aug 19, 2008 8:25:46 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — A team of suicide bombers tried unsuccessfully to storm a U.S. military base near Afghanistan-Pakistan border in a daring attack on a major American installation, officials said Tuesday.

Militants failed to gain entry to Camp Salerno in Khost city after launching waves of attacks just before midnight on Monday, said Arsallah Jamal, the governor of Khost.

The attacks came a day after a suicide bomb outside the same base killed 10 civilians and wounded 13 others.

Soldiers on the ground, fighter aircraft and helicopters chased the retreating militants. NATO said its forces identified the attackers about 1,000 yards outside of the base perimeter and launched helicopter gunships.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, said Afghan soldiers, aided by U.S. troops, chased and surrounded a group of insurgents, and that six militants blew themselves up when cornered. Seven other militants died in those explosions and a rolling gun battle, he said.

“[The Afghan National Army] is saying that anytime we get close to them, they detonate themselves,” Jamal said.

NATO offered a slightly different account, saying three suicide bombers detonated their vests and three more were shot dead. NATO said seven attackers in total were killed.

At least 13 insurgents and two Afghan civilians died in the attack, officials said. Five Afghan soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Azimi said.

The Taliban appeared to confirm the account. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said 15 militants had been dispatched for the attack on Salerno. Seven blew themselves up and eight returned to a Taliban safehouse, he said.

Jamal said the bodies of at least two dead militants were outside the checkpoint leading to the base’s airport. Both had on vests packed with explosives, Jamal said. It wasn’t clear if those militants were among the dead in Azimi’s count.

Militants have long targeted U.S. bases with suicide bombers, but coordinated attacks on such a major base are rare.

The attack comes a day after the top U.S. general in the region, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser, issued a rare public warning that militants planned to attack civilian, military and government targets during the celebration of Independence Day on Monday.

Meanwhile, 10 French soldiers were killed in fierce fighting about 30 miles east of Kabul on Tuesday. Qazi Suliman, the district chief in Surobi, said a French patrol came under Taliban attack on Monday, sparking a three-hour gun battle.

Any landing you can walk away from ...

.. is a good one?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Iran test-fires rocket

(CNN) — Iran test-fired a rocket that it plans to launch later to carry a research satellite into space, state-run media reported Sunday.

The launch of Iran’s two-stage rocket, called Safir or “messenger,” was successful on Saturday and “paved the way for placing the first Iranian satellite in orbit,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The test launch comes amid back and forth between Iran and Western powers on the country’s controversial nuclear program, and concerned senior U.S. officials, who said Iran could use the rocket to deliver warheads.

“The Iranian development and testing of rockets is troubling and raises further questions about their intentions,” said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Travis Air Force Base Fire

NYT: Space Probe Pinpoints Origin of Vapor Jets on Saturn Moon

Space Probe Pinpoints Origin of Vapor Jets on Saturn Moon

Published: August 15, 2008

Exquisite close-ups of fissures on a tiny ice-ball moon of Saturn will provide the latest clues in solving how a 310-mile-wide ice ball could possibly be shooting geysers of vapor and icy particles.

Since the discovery of the jets in 2006, the moon, Enceladus, has jumped near the top of the list of potential places for life in the solar system. A warm spot near Enceladus’ south pole powers the jets and may also melt below-surface ice into liquid water, a necessity for living organisms.

On Monday, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its latest flyby of Enceladus (pronounced en-SELL-ah-dus), passing 30 miles above the surface at a speed of 64,000 miles per hour.

The new images, at seven meters per pixel, offer a resolution 10 times as great as earlier views. Scientists can now see the V-shaped walls of the fractures that are nearly 1,000 feet deep.

“This is the mother lode for us,” Carolyn Porco, leader of Cassini’s imaging team, said in a news release. “A place that may ultimately reveal just exactly what kind of environment — habitable or not — we have within this tortured little moon.”

The observations should help scientists understand how geological processes can persist on such a small body, which is being heated by tidal distortions induced by Saturn.

A series of long “tiger stripes” scar Enceladus’ solar polar region, and earlier observations had allowed the Cassini scientists to triangulate the origin of the jets within the tiger stripes and show that the warm spots also coincide with the tiger stripes. In its last flyby in March, Cassini flew through the plume and detected organic molecules, the carbon-based molecules that could provide the building blocks for life. Cassini also detected water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The composition was surprisingly similar to that of a comet, scientists said.

In the fall, Cassini is to make an even closer near-miss of Enceladus, passing through the geyser within 15 miles of the moon’s surface.

Why You Shouldn't Trust UFO Videos ...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

AVWK:Georgian Military Folds Under Russian Attack

Aug 15, 2008

By David A. Fulghum, Douglas Barrie, Robert Wall and Andy Nativi

Miscalculations have defined the Georgian-Russian conflict. Georgia thought it could get away with occupying South Ossetia; Russia anticipated a militarily and politically painless counter-attack.

All of these missteps are now connected to the huge, international concern about oil and the prizes it brings with it.

Early reports indicate that pipelines running through Tbilisi from the Caspian Sea oil fields were targeted unsuccessfully by the Russian air force, which employed front-line Tu-22M3 bombers in the conflict. The stout Georgian air defenses, one of the few effective elements of the country's military, have shot down some Russian Su-25s with shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), say European-based U.S. officials. The heavier SA-11 Buk-1M also appears to have contributed to the Frogfoot strike-fighter losses and was certainly the cause of the Backfire bomber's loss, say U.S.-based analysts.

In recent years, Russia has used the cutoff of oil exports to punish Latvia and Estonia. Intercepting or damaging the Georgian pipelines would be a heavy blow. But simply the insecurity to oil supplies that fighting in the region has triggered could do even greater harm, both to Georgia and the West, if investors chose to buy oil through more secure venues. Russia also fired at least 15 SS-21 Tochka/Scarab short-range ballistic missiles at Georgian military targets during Aug. 8-11, according to Washington-based U.S. officials. They have a range of 70-120 km. (43-75 mi.), enough to threaten the Black Sea oil terminal at Supsa, Georgia.

At least one of the pipelines was also near the line of farthest advance by the Russian army between Gori and Tbilisi. Georgian officials thought the three major pipelines that go through Georgia would buy them political and economic stability and the support of the West, whose economies are being battered by high oil prices. However, these pipelines offer direct economic competition to Russian ones, so this could be a factor in Russia's overwhelming military foray.

Russia relied on long-range tube and rocket artillery to reach targets well inside Georgia without having to commit large numbers of troops outside of South Ossetia. It also deployed the equivalent of a motor rifle division, says Felix K. Chang, a former Defense Dept. intelligence officer who is now a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The force included units from the 58th Army, based nearby. These were reinforced by elements of the 76th Air Assault Div. from the Leningrad Military District and the 96th Airborne Div. and 45th Intelligence Regiment based in Moscow, says Chang. They are elite formations from Russia's strategic reserve that were in more than 100 airlift sorties.

Read the full story at

Everything Cold Is New Again: Russia Amps Up Rhetoric Over Polish Defense Shield.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A top Russian general on Friday said Poland's deal with the United States to set up parts of a missile defence shield on Polish territory lays it open to a possible military strike, a Russian news agency reported.

Col-General Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the general staff, told Interfax that Russian military doctrine would allow for a possible nuclear strike.

Poland agreed on Thursday to host elements of a U.S. global anti-missile system after Washington agreed to boost Poland's own military air defences.

"The USA is engaged in an anti-missile defence for its own government, and not for Poland. And Poland, in deploying (elements of the system) opens itself to a military strike. That is 100 percent," Interfax quoted Nogovitsyn as saying.

Nogovitsyn said Russia allows nuclear weapons to be used in circumstances defined by its current security doctrine.

The Russian government revamped its national security doctrine in 2000, broadening the range of conflicts in which nuclear weapons could be used.

"It is written clearly: We will use it in instances against governments that have nuclear weapons; against allies of countries with nuclear weapons, if they somehow enable them," he said.

Washington says the missile system is aimed at protecting the United States and its allies from long-range missiles that could in the future be fired by Iran or groups such as al Qaeda.

The Kremlin has long said that was untrue, and has opposed the shield as a threat to Russia. The 10 interceptor missiles to be based at a site in northern Poland compare with Russia's own nuclear arsenal of more than 5,000 ballistic warheads.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Minot Nuke Handlers Pass Re-inspection

By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer: Air Force Times
Posted : Friday Aug 15, 2008 15:38:43 EDT
The 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., passed its defense nuclear surety re-inspection Aug. 15, Air Combat Command officials said.

“Minot went through a very tough re-inspection over the past few days,” ACC Inspector General Brig. Gen. Joseph Reynes said. “I can tell you the 5th Bomb Wing performed in an exceptional manner during this re-inspection. Every airman met the demanding standards required by our Air Force and Air Combat Command.”

Inspectors failed the wing in May after multiple nuclear security and logistics movement errors. The May inspection was the first since last August, when airmen mistakenly loaded six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a B-52 that flew to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., where the plane sat on the flight line unattended for hours.

Defense Threat Reduction Agency inspectors gave the wing an “unsatisfactory” after the weeklong inspection concluded May 25. According to their report, inspectors found one security forces airman playing video games on his cell phone while standing guard at a “restricted area perimeter” and another airman who was unaware of her “duties and responsibilities,” among many other errors.

Read the full story at:

Poland and U.S. sign missile shield deal despite Russian objections.

CNN) -- Poland and the United States have signed a preliminary deal to place part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense system in Poland, a plan that has drawn sharp objections from Russia.

"We believe that missile defense is a substantial contribution to NATO's collective security," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "So we are pleased with the development."

The Bush administration has long wanted to put missile interceptors in Poland. The interceptor rockets would be linked to an air-defense radar system in the Czech Republic; officials there agreed in April to take part in the system.

In Moscow, a top defense official in Moscow took a dim view of the development.

Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, called it "a very serious question."

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pentagon Unveils "Spokesdrone"

So this is what they are doing at Area 51.

Pentagon's Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

Uh - its a joke folks. Lighten up!


MIg 29 Shoots Down Georgian UAV

Georgian Journalist Shot By Sniper.

Journalist shot by sniper during live program in Georgia

[ 14 Aug 2008 19:32 ]

Tbilisi – APA. Journalist of Georgian Public Television Tamar Urushadze was shot by sniper during a live program. APA reports quoting Gruziya-online website that the journalist was shot by a sniper while reviewing the latest developments in the country. The bullet lodged in the journalist’s hand. Live broadcast were suspended immediately, but the cameras recorded the happenings.

UPDATE: Conflicting reports say the sniper was possibly Georgian and not Russian. Other journalists in the same area claim they were fired on by angry Georgians.

AIR FORCE TIMES: Leaders lay out top priorities.

New Air Force leaders lay out top priorities
By Erik Holmes - Staff Writer
Posted : Thursday Aug 14, 2008 7:10:54 EDT
In their first briefing with reporters as the Air Force’s new leadership team on Tuesday, acting Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz preached accountability and attention to detail, and pledged to get the Air Force back on track.

“My pledge to all today is that the Air Force will keep the promise to our teammates and to our families and to all our partners that rely on us every day,” said Schwartz, who took over as chief Tuesday morning. “Precision and reliability is our standard regardless of job or specialty, and we will return the vigor and the rigor to all the processes and missions for which we have been entrusted.”

Donley said he and Schwartz’s top priorities in the months ahead will be supporting the war on terror; fixing the nuclear enterprise; placing a greater focus on getting more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the war zone; fixing the Air Force acquisition system; and modernizing and recapitalizing the aging fleet.

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Daily Tech: On Invisibility

New invisibility cloak works toward fulfilling long-time dreams of military, ninjas, fantasy fans alike

DailyTech has written several updates on "cloaking" technology of different kinds. The first reports involved a Russian professor who devised a new method of invisibility by redirecting light around objects. Later, U.S. and British researchers were able to use similar techniques to cloak a metal cylinder from microwaves. Next, University of Maryland reported successfully cloaking small 2D objects from all light waves. A recent overview on the topic of cloaking provided more insight.

Now a new breakthrough in the art of illusion has been achieved. Researchers at the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at the University of California, Berkeley have for the first time found a way to cloak 3D materials. They did this with not only one, but with two different materials.

One approach uses a nano-fishnet of metal layers. The other uses nanoscale silver wires. Both approaches make what is known as "metamaterials" -- special manmade materials with properties not seen in nature. These materials have a negative refraction index, meaning they can bend light around them.

The materials were developed by two separate teams, both under the leadership of Xiang Zhang. One team will be reporting its findings in the prestigious Nature journal, while the other will report in the journal Science.

Both materials currently can only work with limited portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Researcher Jason Valentine who helped with the projects states, "We are not actually cloaking anything. I don't think we have to worry about invisible people walking around any time soon. To be honest, we are just at the beginning of doing anything like that."

He explains the typical positive index of refraction saying, "In naturally occurring material, the index of refraction, a measure of how light bends in a medium, is positive. When you see a fish in the water, the fish will appear to be in front of the position it really is. Or if you put a stick in the water, the stick seems to bend away from you."

What would a negative index of refraction look like? Mr. Valentine explains, "Instead of the fish appearing to be slightly ahead of where it is in the water, it would actually appear to be above the water's surface. It's kind of weird."

The key to achieving such strange mechanics is to develop structures smaller than the targeted wavelength of light. Mr. Valentine's team targeted the near the visible spectrum, in a region used in fiber optics. Past methods have focused on using single-atom layers, but these have proven too hard to work with. The new method from Mr. Valentine's team has taken those designs and thickened them, by using multiple layers with nanoholes punched in them.

He explains, "What we have done is taken that material and made it much thicker. We call it a fishnet."

The other team used an oxide template to grow silver nanowires inside porous aluminum oxide. The spacing between the wires was smaller than the wavelength of visible light. This device works in the visible spectrum, refracting light.

Despite his belief that cloaking is "not quite there", Mr. Valentine says both technologies could soon allow for a cloak of invisibility. He explains, "However, cloaking may be something that this material could be used for in the future. You'd have to wrap whatever you wanted to cloak in the material. It would just send light around. By sending light around the object that is to be cloaked, you don't see it."

Professor Zhang is similarly enthusiastic, stating, "What makes both these materials stand out is that they are able to function in a broad spectrum of optical wavelengths with lower energy loss. We've also opened up a new approach to developing metamaterials by moving away from previous designs that were based upon the physics of resonance. Previous metamaterials in the optical range would need to vibrate at certain frequencies to achieve negative refraction, leading to strong energy absorption. Resonance is not a factor in both the nanowire and fishnet metamaterials."

The research was government funded as the Defense Department has great interest in developing invisibility cloaks for its fighters, soldiers, and warships.

Full Battle Rattle

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First Strike?: Russia Unleashed Cyber Attack On Georgia.

Editor's note: Here's an interesting article about a cyber-attack launched on select Georgian (government) websites, possibly the first indicator that Russia was going to go to war against Georgia. In future conflicts the precursor to armed conflict will not be a bomb being dropped on a city, or tanks massing at the border, but will be instead most likely be an attack by government/military sponsored hackers.

Georgia President’s web site under DDoS attack from Russian hackers
Originally posted on July 22nd by Dancho Danchev on :

From Russia with (political) love? It appears so according to a deeper analysis of the command and control servers used by the attackers. During the weekend, Georgia President’s web site was under a distributed denial of service attack which managed to take it offline for a couple of hours. The event took place in a moment of real life tensions between Russia and Georgia, with Russia clearly demonstrating its position against Georgia’s pro-Western government. Shadowserver’s comments, which originally picked up the attack first :

“For over 24 hours the website of President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia ( has been rendered unavailable due to a multi-pronged distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. The site began coming under attack very early Saturday morning (Georgian time). Shadowserver has observed at least one web-based command and control (C&C) server taking aim at the website hitting it with a variety of simultaneous attacks. The C&C server has instructed its bots to attack the website with TCP, ICMP, and HTTP floods. Commands seen so far are:

flood http
flood tcp
flood icmp

The server [] which houses the website has been largely offline since the attack started. Passive DNS records show the system houses several other websites which are mostly unrelated to the Georgian government. However, the server does also host the Social Assistance and Employment State Agency website ( This website along with the others on the host have been rendered inaccessible.

We do not have any solid proof that the people behind this C&C server are Russian. However, the HTTP-based botnet C&C server is a MachBot controller, which is a tool that is frequently used by Russian bot herders. On top of that the domain involved with this C&C server has seemingly bogus registration information but does tie back to Russia. “

Russia’s most recent cyber attacks successfully attacking Estonia, Lithuania and now Georgia, all share a common motivation despite that these attacks are executed from different parties, with Estonia still remaining the only coordinated attempt to attack a country’s Internet infrastructure next to Lithuania and Georgia’s lone gunman attacks.

The DDoS against Georgia President’s web site appears to be using a well known Russian malware variant from the Pinch family — whose authors got arrested after operating for several years online in 2007 — next to a command and control bot ( MachBot controller) primarily known to be popular in Eastern Europe, and including messages in the flood packets like “win+love+in+Rusia”, speak for itself. It’s also interesting that despite that they’ve dedicated a new command and control server to be used specifically for this DDoS attack, one that haven’t been seen in any third-party attacks, they made a small mistake further confirming the attacks has been launched by well known Russian botnet masters. Their mistake? Having the malware phone back to a well-known command and control seen in a great number of previous attacks, sharing DNS servers with a provider of DDoS attacks on demand, which despite announcing on its site that is no longer in business, continues offering botnets for rent services.

Russia’s politically motivated, or perhaps politically tolerated attacks, are all the result of Russia’s IT underground self-mobilization, feeling obliged to sent out a signal that they’re in fact actively participating in the political life and monitoring everything. Moreover, nationalistic articles in Russian newspapers often further fuel the tensions and literally seek involvement from Russian hackers, so even when they speculate about non-existent hacker discussions on coordinated attacks against a particular country, such discussions actually start taking place and the result has been pretty evident ever since.


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