Friday, October 31, 2008

Fire in missile room not found for 5 days

Fire in missile room not found for 5 days: "A fire broke out inside the equipment room of a launch facility that houses a nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., on May 23."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

USAF Developing Radar “Gun” that Fires Cyber Bullets

USAF Developing Radar “Gun” that Fires Cyber Bullets: "

A new radar is being designed that could give the U.S. Air Force’s F-15Es a variety of electronic and cyber attack munitions.


blog post photo


The Air Force awarded a contract to Boeing and Raytheon to develop and flight test an advanced radar to modernize its Strike Eagle fleet of 224 aircraft. It will be test flown by 2011 and could produce an operational squadron by 2014.

The $238 million development and demonstration contract will feed the Radar Modernization Program and, possibly, an electronic upgrade package that both companies are intentionally vague about.

Roughly, the new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar - a combination of the APG-79 AESA array married to the latest computer, processing and software packages - will be the sensor and weapon. New software-driven electronic warfare (EW) packages (like BAE Systems new ‘Barracuda/Boldstroke/Xtreme EW’ family of electronic and cyber attack systems) could be integrated to the radar to produce the non-kinetic bullets.

While kinetic weapons, like air-to-air missiles, have ranges out to about 100 mi., special electronic techniques routed through the powerful AESA radar could produce weapons effects and jamming of enemy radars and missiles at ranges up to 200 mi.

Moreover, on an F-15E, the powerful radar can be used to pick out helicopters, UAVs and even humans walking. With networked data about emissions in the area, the F-15E crew could also associate people and vehicles with their communications allowing the weapons systems operator to precisely target key personnel and vehicles across a large battlefield.

The mean time between failures for the electronically scanned radar for RMP are predicted at 10 times that of mechanically scanned radars, according to a senior Raytheon official. In associate programs, the Air National Guard is upgrading 48 F-15Cs with AESA radars for such missions as stealthy cruise missile defense. The active duty U.S. Air Force is planning to modify 177 C-models that they intend to keep operational until 2025.

Both the new radar and EW systems are being designed so they can meet a wide variety of missions, price and exportability requirements for foreign customers as well.


(Via Ares.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hubble Re-Opens An Eye

Hubble Re-Opens An Eye: "The telescope's main camera is back on after being dormant for a month – two other cameras may soon restart their observations."

(Via Stories / Popular.)

May missile facility fire caused $1M in damage

May missile facility fire caused $1M in damage: "A fire broke out inside the equipment room of a launch facility that houses a nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missile at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., on May 23."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Space to Nuclear transition could take years

Space to Nuclear transition could take years: "The massive reorganization underway in the Air Force that will create a new Global Strike Command and reshape Air Force Space Command and Air Combat Command will take several years to complete and may not lead to a clean break between the commands, the service’s top space officer said Monday."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Suspected U.S. missiles killed 20 people

By Ishtiaq Mahsud - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Oct 27, 2008 21:01:44 EDT
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Suspected U.S. missiles killed 20 people at the house of a Taliban commander near the Afghan border on Monday, the latest volley in a two-month onslaught on militant bases inside Pakistan, officials said.

Missile attacks have killed at least two senior al-Qaida commanders in Pakistan’s wild border zone this year, putting some pressure on extremist groups accused of planning attacks in Afghanistan — and perhaps terror strikes in the West.

However, a marked uptick in their frequency has badly strained America’s seven-year alliance with Pakistan, where rising violence is exacerbating economic problems gnawing at the nuclear-armed Islamic republic’s stability.

The reported missile strike occurred in South Waziristan, part of a belt of tribally governed territory considered a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.

Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media on the record, said the targeted house in Mandata Raghzai village belonged to a lieutenant of local Taliban chief Maulvi Nazir.

The officials cited reports from agents and informers in the area. They said the identity of as many as 20 bodies pulled from the rubble was not immediately clear.

Mohammad Noor Wazir a resident of a nearby village, said he watched from a distance as militants surrounded the scene and loaded at least 15 corpses into vehicles that drove away.

Three other victims were buried in the village cemetery, including a brother of the owner of the destroyed house, Wazir told The Associated Press by telephone.

American commanders complain that Pakistani forces have not put enough pressure on militant strongholds on their territory.

In a reflection of that frustration, U.S. military and CIA drones that patrol the frontier region are believed to have carried out at least 15 strikes since mid-August. The United States rarely confirms or denies involvement.

Pakistan’s new leaders have protested the missile strikes — as well as a highly unusual raid by helicopter-borne commandos in September — as unacceptable violations of their sovereignty.

In a resolution adopted Monday, Pakistani senators condemned the U.S. drone attacks, saying they caused “immense” loss of life and were undermining Pakistan’s efforts to defuse militancy through dialogue.

The government should take “more effective measures” to stop such attacks, it said, without recommending any specific action beyond official protests to Washington and NATO.

In other violence on Monday, a car bomb exploded in a parking lot in the frontier city of Quetta, killing a rickshaw driver and another unidentified person and injuring 10 others, while the army said it killed 10 militants in the troubled Swat valley.

Pakistan’s military is involved in heavy fighting with militants in the Bajur region as well as in Swat. It claims to have killed 1,500 insurgents in a two-month offensive in Bajur that has drawn U.S. praise.

Yet many Pakistani are weary of a war they believe is being fought at America’s behest and the government has offered to negotiate with any militant group willing to renounced violence.

“There is an increasing realization that the use of force alone cannot yield the desired results,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a gathering of Pakistani and Afghan tribal elders.

The meeting in Islamabad was part of a dialogue process begun last year in hopes that it could ease often strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly accused Pakistan, which backed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America, of secretly continuing to aid the militants as a way to exert influence over its poorer neighbor.

Pakistan denies the charge. However, it has also seized on recent indications that Afghanistan’s government is also seeking talks with the Taliban to press for compromise.


Associated Press writers Abdul Sattar in Quetta and Stephen Graham in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Official: Syria raid killed leader of cell

Official: Syria raid killed leader of cell: "SUKKARIYEH, Syria — A cross-border raid by U.S. special forces killed the al-Qaida-linked head of a Syrian network that smuggled fighters, weapons and cash into Iraq, an American counterterrorism official said Monday."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Captain Nemo, Your Ride Is Here

Captain Nemo, Your Ride Is Here: "

Stealth aircraft have been compared to submarines, and there are similarities between the two. Both depend on a smooth outside mould line for survival and carry their weapons internally, restricted by the ability to cut holes in the skin.

But then DCNS unveiled its SMX-24 concept for an advanced'submarine at the Euronaval show in Paris, and turned those presuppositions on their head.

blog post photo

SMX-24 is a concept for a submarine that would be in service about 2020. Its size and capability fall between today's biggest diesel-electric boats and the smallest nukes:' the 3450-ton boat would have'an all fuel-cell propulsion system, would be capable of 20 kt submerged and could stay underwater for 30 days. The core vessel would have'interchangeable modules for'weapons or special forces equipment. The stub wings'carry tip-mounted propulsors for high speeds - allowing the central pumpjet to be sized for cruise - and fighter-like pylons for fuel tanks - above the wings on the model'-'and weapons. '

SMX-24 is a concept at the moment - but for how long, in the fast-changing submarine world?' Last year at Euronaval, DCNS showed its SMX-23 concept for a small littoral submarine; it's here this year as a more detailed design named Andrasta, with'six heavy weapons outside the pressure hull, and no on-board reloads.

blog post photo

pics:' Bill Sweetman for DTI


(Via Ares.)

U.S. helicopter downed In Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A U.S. helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan on Monday, but none of the 10 soldiers on board were killed, according to a U.S. military spokesman.

A U.S. Chinook helicopter, like the one pictured, has been shot down in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed that its fighters used a rocket-propelled grenade launcher to shoot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter in the Wardak province, about 30 miles (50km) west of Kabul.

Maj. John Redfield, a U.S. military spokesman, told CNN a coalition helicopter went down in the Wardak province after an exchange of fire with enemy on the ground.

All 10 soldiers on board were picked up and taken to safety, he said. He could not say if any were injured.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber on Monday killed two soldiers and wounded three others in northern Afghanistan, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan said.

The spokesman provided no further details. An Afghan official said the incident took place as U.S. officials gathered to meet with the police chief in Pul-e-Khumri in Baghlan province. One American soldier and an Afghan child were killed in the attack, Afghan officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Global Strike Command

Global Strike Command coming by Sept. 2009
By Michael Hoffman

It’s official. The long-awaited Global Strike Command charged with taking over the Air Force’s nuclear mission has been unveiled.

Air Force leaders have completed the Nuclear Roadmap, which includes the standup of Global Strike Command and the ensuing organizational shake-up, the largest since Strategic Air Command disbanded in the early 1990s.

Eighth Air Force and 20th Air Force will fall under Global Strike Command, bringing the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable bombers — the B-52s and B-2s — under one command for the first time since SAC.

The 8th Air Force will be stripped of all responsibilities except its bombers before the switch. The cyber mission will fall to the 24th Air Force the service will stand up in place of the previous plans to create a Cyber Command.

Officials hope to stand up the new command by September 2009, said Maj. Gen. C. Donald Alston, director of the Air Force’s Nuclear Task Force.

“We are going to begin the deliberate planning process to see if we can achieve that timeline. That’s very aggressive. This is the nuclear business, so it’s going to take as long as it needs to take,” he said.

The Nuclear Roadmap was released 13 months after the first of two nuclear incidents embarrassed the Air Force and eventually cost former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne their jobs.

Alston and his task force have been working on the road map since the winter to lay out the Air Force’s way ahead to re-establish its credibility handling the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

“Over this past year, our pride’s been hurt by what we have exposed as a bona fide weakness in our nuclear enterprise. It hurt our pride because we are so committed, and we have pride in what we do,” Alston said.

Airmen at three ICBM wings — 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; and 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. — and three bomber wings — 5th Bomb Wing at Minot; 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; and 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. — will wear the Global Strike Command patch next year.

However, airmen assigned to those wings will not notice much change, as the forces will remain at their bases and operations will continue as planned, Alston said.

“But, what [airmen] get out of this is leadership at all levels within that command that are focused on the nuclear mission in a way that has proven to be a challenge for our Air Force,” he said. “The priorities will be the nuclear mission.”

Similar to an initiative Air Combat Command started, Global Strike Command will set aside a squadron of B-52s focused solely on the nuclear mission, with the others filling conventional bombing tasks.

“Have that kind of intensity and that kind of focus for a defined period of time, [and] we see a great benefit,” Alston said.

Alston said the Air Force considered transferring the B-1 Lancers to the new command, as the Task Force for Nuclear Weapons Management suggested, but ultimately chose to keep them in the 12th Air Force because the aircraft no longer is slotted to carry nuclear weapons.

The command will be led by a three-star general who will oversee the selection process of the headquarters location.

Three Louisiana congressmen have lobbied for Global Strike Command to come to Barksdale after Air Force leaders balked on plans to stand up a separate Cyber Command that Louisiana politicians hoped would be established there.

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said he expects the headquarters to be stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., alongside U.S. Strategic Command.

Right now, the Air Force has a shortage of nuclear airmen “with the right skills in the right jobs,” Alston said.

To fix that, the Air Force will have to enhance its training, education and force development within nuclear career specialties.

“We will rebuild our expertise through Air Force-wide training, education and career force development initiatives designed to ensure that we create a basic atmosphere of understanding for our nuclear stewardship responsibilities,” according to the road map’s Executive Summary.

To begin, a Nuclear Enterprise Advisory Panel will be created and tasked to ensure nuclear airmen get the right training and nuclear units are staffed correctly, Alston said.

The panel will be part of the Force Development Management Council chaired by the Air Force vice chief of staff that oversees manning decisions.

“This will give us a cross-cutting view of our enlisted, civilian and officer force for nuclear issues to make sure we are having the right training, right education and right assignment at the right time,” Alston said.

Internal and external reports faulted the Air Force’s nuclear inspection process to allow its nuclear problems to go unchecked, including the Defense Department task force led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger.

“Deficiencies in inspection processes also contributed to the erosion of the culture of accountability and rigorous self-assessment associated with high standards of excellence,” according to the road map’s Executive Summary.

The Nuclear Roadmap outlines sweeping changes for this inspection process, tasking the Air Force Inspector General to play a larger role, as opposed to major command’s IG units.

The Air Force IG will build a training program that inspectors will have to pass before they handle nuclear inspections, Alston said.

A core team will be put together within the Air Force Inspection Agency bolstered by airmen with extensive nuclear expertise that will deploy to nuclear units for nuclear surety inspections.

“In order to fortify the proficiency of [major command IG teams], this core team of inspectors will deploy to support that IG team and be enhanced by a team that goes on all NSIs,” Alston said.

The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center under Air Force Material Command will oversee the sustainment of the service’s portion of the nuclear stockpile, according to the Nuclear Roadmap.

“The Air Force must invest in the nuclear deterrence mission and have a clear, long-term commitment to sustain, modernize and recapitalize its nuclear capability,” read the road map’s Executive Summary.

Smile - It's Friday!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Russia Secretly Ships Uranium

JUBLJANA, Slovenia (AFP)--Slovenia said Thursday that a large load of processed uranium from Hungary had arrived without incident in Russia after passing safely through Slovenian territory.

"The shipment safely arrived on Oct. 22 to its destination: the nuclear facility of Mayak, in Russia," the environment ministry said in a statement published on its Web site.

Transportation of the waste - which could be used to produce nuclear weapons and passed through Slovenia on a specially guarded train - was financed by the U.S. as part of its efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism, the statement said.

The shipment, which, as is the norm, was carried out under strict secrecy until its safe arrival, contained eight containers of used nuclear fuel from a research reactor in the Hungarian capital Budapest, the ministry said.

9 dead in suspected U.S. missile strike

By Munir Ahmad - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Oct 23, 2008 7:46:13 EDT
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Suspected U.S. missiles struck a Taliban-linked school in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing nine people in an apparent sign of Washington’s frustration with the country’s anti-terror efforts, intelligence officials said.

The strike came hours after Parliament warned against any incursions on Pakistani soil in a resolution that also condemned the wave of terrorism tearing at the country, while stressing the need for dialogue.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is also in the midst of an economic crisis brought on by high fuel prices, dwindling foreign investment, soaring inflation and militant violence.

The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that Pakistan had requested its help to avoid a possible loan default, a decision that could cost the administration political support at home.

Shaukat Tareen, the Pakistani official leading the fundraising effort, said Thursday the country urgently needed up to $5 billion. He said the government still hoped to get it from donors such as the World Bank and avoid the need to tap the IMF.

The suspected U.S. missiles hit the religious school on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the main town in the militant-infested North Waziristan region, four intelligence officials said. The school was not believed to have any students in it at the time of the attack.

Relying on informants and agents in the area, two officials said nine people were killed, including four pulled lifeless from the rubble hours after the strike, and two others were wounded.

The religious school belonged to a local pro-Taliban cleric, the intelligence officials said. The cleric has been linked to veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, considered a top foe of the U.S., they said.

The intelligence officials gave the information on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Militants in the northwest are blamed for rising attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as surging suicide attacks within Pakistan.

The cross-border missile attacks have angered many Pakistani lawmakers and the pro-U.S. government has protested them as violations of the country’s sovereignty

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India launches first unmanned moon mission

NEW DELHI (AP) — India launched its first mission to the moon Wednesday, rocketing a satellite up into the pale dawn sky in a two-year mission to redraw maps of the lunar surface.
Clapping and cheering scientists tracked the ascent on computer screens after they lost sight of Chandrayaan-1 from the Sriharikota space center in southern India. Chandrayaan means "Moon Craft" in ancient Sanskrit.
Indian Space Research Organization chairman G. Madhavan Nair said the mission is to "unravel the mystery of the moon."

"We have started our journey to the moon and the first leg has gone perfectly well," he said.
Chief among the mission's goals is mapping not only the surface of the moon, but what lies beneath. If successful, India will join what's shaping up as a 21st century space race with Chinese and Japanese crafts already in orbit around the moon.
To date only the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China have sent missions to the moon.

As India's economy has boomed in recent years, it has sought to convert its newfound wealth — built on the nation's high-tech sector — into political and military clout. It is hoping that the moon mission — coming just months after finalizing a deal with the United States that recognizes India as a nuclear power — will further enhance its status.

Until now, India's space launches have mainly carried weather warning satellites and communication systems, said former NASA associate administrator Scott Pace, director of space policy at the George Washington University.
"You're seeing India lifting its sights," Pace said.

While much of the technology involved in reaching the moon has not changed since the Soviet Union and the U.S. did it more than four decades ago, analysts say new mapping equipment allows the exploration of new areas, including below the surface.
India plans to use the 3,080-pound lunar probe to create a high-resolution map of the lunar surface and the minerals below. Two of the mapping instruments are a joint project with NASA.
In the last year, Asian nations have taken the lead in moon exploration. In October 2007, Japan sent up the Kaguya spacecraft.

A month later, China's Chang'e-1 entered lunar orbit.
Those missions took high-resolution pictures of the moon, but are not as comprehensive as Chandrayaan-1 will be or NASA's half-a-billion-dollar Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter scheduled to be launched next year, Pace said. The most comprehensive maps of the moon were made about 40 years ago during the Apollo era, he said.

"We don't really have really good modern maps of the moon with modern instrument," Pace said. "The quality of the Martian maps, I would make a general argument, is superior to what we have of the moon."

NASA has put probes on Mars' frigid polar region, but not on the rugged poles of the moon. Yet the moon's south pole is where NASA is considering setting up an eventual human-staffed lunar outpost, Pace said.

The moon's south pole is "certainly more rugged than where Neil Armstrong landed. It's more interesting. It's more dangerous," Pace said. "We need better maps."

Beijing in 2003 became the first Asian country to put its own astronauts into space. It followed that last month with its first spacewalk.

More ominously, last year China also blasted an old satellite into oblivion with a land-based anti-satellite missile, the first such test ever conducted by any nation, including the United States and Russia.

The Indian mission is not all about rivalry and prestige. Analysts say India stands to reap valuable rewards from the technology it develops and, according to Pace, it already shows increased confidence in difficult engineering and quality control.

The $80 million mission will test systems for a future moon landing, with plans to land a rover on the moon in 2011 and eventually a manned space program, though this has not been authorized yet.

And the Indian space agency was already dreaming of more.
"Space is the frontier for mankind in the future. If we want to go beyond the moon, we have to go there first," said Indian space agency spokesman S. Satish.

Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein reported from Washington.

9 Afghan soldiers killed in U.S. airstrike

By Amir Shah - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Oct 22, 2008 7:35:28 EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan — A U.S.-led coalition airstrike mistakenly hit an Afghan army checkpoint Wednesday, killing nine soldiers and wounding three, Afghan officials said.

The strike hit a checkpoint in the Sayed Kheil area of Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, said Arsallah Jamal, the province’s governor.

The U.S. said its forces “may have mistakenly killed and injured” Afghan soldiers in what may have been a case of mistaken identity “on both sides.”

“As a Coalition forces convoy was returning from a previous operation, they were involved in multiple engagements,” a U.S. military statement said. “As a result of the engagements, [Afghan National Army] soldiers were killed and injured.”

Col. Greg Julian, the chief spokesman for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said American officials would meet with Afghan defense officials to “sort out the details.”

Jamal said U.S. and Afghan troops have been conducting operations in the region for over a week, and the army checkpoint was in a fixed location. The incident killed nine soldiers and wounded three, said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Defense Ministry spokesman.

Apparent friendly fire incidents have happened before. In June 2007, Afghan police mistook U.S. troops on a nighttime mission for Taliban fighters and opened fire on them, prompting U.S. forces to return fire and call in attack aircraft. Seven Afghan police were killed.

In the last month, uniformed Afghan police officers have twice opened fire on U.S. troops, killing two soldiers. The police officers were killed by U.S. soldiers returning fire, but the incidents raised fears that insurgents have infiltrated Afghanistan’s security forces as a cover to launch attacks.

In other violence, U.S. troops killed seven militants and detained seven others in a series of operations throughout Afghanistan, the military said in a statement. Among the dead was a Taliban leader in Helmand province responsible for attacks on coalition forces and Afghan security checkpoints, the U.S. said.

In the country’s southern Uruzgan province, a two-day battle that ended early Wednesday killed 35 Taliban fighters and three Afghan police, said Juma Gul Himat, Uruzgan’s provincial police chief.

Himat said the battle was led by Afghan forces but also involved helicopter gunships. Afghan forces recovered 35 bodies from the battlefield, he said. Some 100 Taliban fighters were involved in the battle

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

P-3 overshoots Bagram runway, 1 injured

The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Oct 21, 2008 12:53:07 EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan — A Navy P-3 Orion patrol plane sustained “serious structural and fire damage” when it overshot the runway at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

A crew member broke an ankle, but the rest of the crew survived the Tuesday crash. The military’s statement does not give further details on who was onboard the aircraft.

The plane was destroyed.

The military says it is investigating the accident.

Retired F-86 pilot recalls attempt to shoot UFO

By Michael Hoffman - Air Force Times Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Oct 21, 2008 6:18:02 EDT

Retired Air Force pilot Milton Torres said he flew his F-86D Sabre fighter jet with orders to shoot down a UFO in 1957 hovering over the British countryside that he said looked like an “aircraft carrier” on his radar screen.

Torres — who retired as a major — said the aircraft raced away from his position at ten times the speed of sound before his jet armed with 24 missiles could reach it and he could catch a glimpse of it.

He’s speaking publicly about his encounter for the first time after the British government recently declassified dozens of UFO military reports.

Torres kept silent about it for more than 50 years after a man he’d never seen before threatened to revoke his flying privileges and end his Air Force career if he talked about the mission to shoot down the UFO.

“The man that visited me told me in no uncertain terms to keep quiet. He told me I would lose my pilot’s license and it would be the end of my flying days, so for 30 years I’ve said nothing,” said Torres, who assumed the man was from the U.S. National Security Agency.

Torres was assigned to the 406th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Royal Air Force Base at Manston in the United Kingdom. His unit stood alert prepared to fly missions against an attack from the Soviet Union.

The British Ministry of Defense did an investigation into the event in 1988 claiming the “bogus” radar blip was due to “adverse weather conditions” or “an experiment in electronic warfare,” according to a recently declassified report.

The British investigative agent wrote that Torres could have been used as a “guinea pig” to see if a manufactured radar blip as part of electronic warfare experiment appeared realistic to the American pilot.

However, the agent questions in his report why the government can not confirm that it was not a UFO even if the test remains highly classified.

“If the event was part of what was then part of a Top Secret military exercise and is still Top Secret perhaps you would simply say so and confirm that whatever was involved it was not an unidentified flying object,” the report read.

After he retired from the Air Force in 1971, Torres taught engineering classes at Florida International University and now lives in Miami. Torres, 77, said he is still waiting on an official explanation, but is convinced the aircraft he saw on his radar screen was not of this world.

“This thing had to be going double-digit mach making turns that I didn’t think were possible, breaking all the rules of physics,” he said.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Creepy Big Dog Recon Robot

USAF Laying Out 4-Decade UAV Plan

Published: 17 Oct 16:09 EDT (20:09 GMT)

The U.S. Air Force's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force is set to brief the new service chief and Defense Secretary Robert Gates Dec. 15 on the long-term future of UAVs.

The task force is laying out a road map for UAVs all the way to 2047, the Air Force's centennial, said Col. Eric Mathewson, director of the Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force at the C4ISR Integration conference in Arlington, Va., Oct. 17.

"I wish I could say more about it now," Mathewson said, but did disclose that it will outline technological decisions, procurement, personnel needs and capabilities for the future.

That future will include something of a change in mind-set for Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), said Col. (select) Scott Murray, the Air Force headquarters special assistant for ISR transformation.

"ISR and intelligence missions are no longer support operations, they are the operations," Murray said. The service is still getting its collective brain around the domain-neutral demands of persistent global ISR, he said, but transformation and moves towards more joint ways of doing things are slowly but surely coming.

"Trust is what it really comes down to," Murray said: trust that the ISR assets any war fighter needs will be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.

Super-duper camera spy-scope.

Carl Zeiss combines spotting scope, digital camera with the PhotoScope 85 T* FL

Esteemed lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss is breaking new ground by releasing the PhotoScope 85 T* FL, a spotting scope that also serves as a seven megapixel digital camera -- just in case "super-zoom" wasn't enough for you. With 15 - 45x magnification, a focal length of 600 - 1800 mm, a flip-out OLED display, and an IR remote for vibration-free release.

it's great gift for black bird watchers!

I want one!

-Steve Douglass

Trust No One: Part 1 (your keyboard may be compromised)

Compromising Electromagnetic Emanations of Keyboards Experiment 1/2 from Martin Vuagnoux on Vimeo.

Trust No One: Part 2 (your keyboard may be compromized)

Compromising Electromagnetic Emanations of Keyboards Experiment 2/2 from Martin Vuagnoux on Vimeo.

Hubble Fix Gltched.

By Frank Morring, Jr./Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
Hubble Space Telescope Controllers hope to be able to restart science observations on the orbiting observatory by about Oct. 24, after a pair of last-minute anomalies forced them to suspend recovery from an earlier onboard failure that has kept the telescope out of commission since Sept. 27.

Low output from a power source on the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the afternoon of Oct. 16 forced suspension of restart activities with that instrument, and a subsequent stay-alive sequence failure between the telescope's main and science-instrument computers sent the science computer and the instrument suite into safe mode later that evening, according to Art Whipple, head of the Hubble Systems Management Office at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Controllers were in the final steps of switching to the backup "B" side of the orbiting telescope's complex data-handling system when the new anomalies occurred (Aerospace DAILY, Oct. 17). They were able to download telemetry data from the observatory after the anomalies, and were poring over the data in search of the causes of the two problems.

Whipple said Oct. 17 the anomalies had been identified earlier as potential setbacks to the reactivation process, and probably would not require more ground testing before new commands could be sent to correct the problems. Additional testing in Goddard's Vehicle Electrical System Test facility would delay flight certification of a replacement for the data-handling system that caused the original failure on the telescope, and make a tight schedule even tighter.

The Sept. 27 failure forced the postponement from Oct. 16 of the STS-125 shuttle mission to service the telescope one last time. The next available launch date for the final servicing mission falls in February 2009, but the replacement hardware must be certified before that mission can launch to restore full redundancy to the telescope (Aerospace DAILY, Oct. 1).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Scientist develops program to understand alien languages

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent/Daily Mail
Last Updated: 6:01pm BST 15/10/2008

A computer programme which could help identify and even translate messages from aliens in outer space has been developed by a British scientist.

The new programme would compare alien language sounds with those of 60 human languages
But John Elliott of Leeds Metropolitan University believes he has come up with software which at least will decipher the structure of their language - and be the first step in understanding what they are saying.

Dr Elliott's programme would compare an alien language to a database of 60 different languages in the world to search see if it has a similar structure.

He believes that even an alien language far removed from any on Earth is likely to have recognisable patterns that could help reveal how intelligent the life forms are.

"Language has to be structured in a certain way otherwise it will be inefficient and unwieldy," he told New Scientist magazine.

Previous research had shown that it is possible to determine whether a signal carries a language rather than an image or music.

Dr Elliott, from Leeds Metropolitan University, has gone a step further by devising a way to pick out what might be words and sentences.

All human languages have "functional terms" that bracket phrases - words like "if" and "but" in English.

According to Dr Elliott, such terms in any language, are separated by up to nine words or characters.

This limit on phrase length seems to correspond to the level of human cognition - how much information we are able to process at once.

In an alien language, analysing these phrases might make it possible to gauge how clever the authors of the message are.

If they are much smarter than us, there would a lot of words packed into the phrases.

The programme should also be able to break a language up into crucial words such as nouns and verbs, even though their meaning is unknown.

It can, for instance, locate adjectives from the fact that they are almost always next to nouns.

Because languages have different word orders, Dr Elliott is amassing a library of the syntaxes of 60 human tongues.

If a message is received from outer space, it could be compared against this database. Scientists would then be able to see if it resembled anything human, or a mix of Earthly languages.

Dr Elliott admits that in order to translate what the aliens are actually saying it may still be necessary to have a "code book" of some sort.

But US linguist Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen, from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, points out that "you have to start somewhere".

She added: "My money is on being able to understand aliens."

Editor's note: The success of this program is rather limited by the assumption that an intelligent extraterrestrial species would communicate something remotely similar to human speech sounds. Even on our own planet, many species communicate beyond the range of human vocalizations such as whales or bats. Other, like ants communicate through chemical secretions. Designing a program to take in the infinite variables in ways intelligent creatures might communicate seems like an impossible if not daunting task. My bet is on a common language based on mathematics.

- Steve Douglass

Al-Qaida web sites down

By Paul Schemm - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Oct 19, 2008 10:43:32 EDT
CAIRO, Egypt — The main Web sites that normally carry messages from the al-Qaida terror group remain inoperable more than a month after they went down just ahead of the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Associated Press first reported in September that the Web forums that typically carry messages and videos from Al-Qaida and its allied groupings had ceased functioning around Sept. 10, just as the group said it was set to release a new video message.

Only a site called Hesbah and a new one named Faloja function fitfully at this point, more than a month later, and carry messages from Al-Qaida and its allies in Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories about recent operations.

Al-Fajr Media Center, the extremist group’s communications wing, issued a terse statement on Sept. 29 blaming the problems on “technical reasons” but denying that the sites had come under some kind of cyber-attack, as has been widely speculated in the media.

“We deny reports published by the media of the tyrants regarding the fall of some of the headquarters of these networks into the hands of the enemy,” the statement said, according to the U.S-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist sites.

Contributors to the forums also have worried publicly that some kind of Western cyber-attack targeted the sites.

One prominent jihadi poster, quoted by SITE, suggested that extremists should strike back by infiltrating other, more-moderate Islamic discussion forums and flooding them with extremists rhetoric to turn them into al-Qaida discussion groups.

In the past week, a new Web site called “the Electronic jihad” also has resurfaced to counter renewed attacks on Islam online, according to its founders.

It is not clear, however, if the site has any connection with Al-Qaida.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, al-Qaida has run sites on the Web that it has used to disseminate its messages. Many have been shut down over the years as new ones emerge.

The group over the years also has appeared to increasingly turn toward online forums, apparently so that it no longer had to rely on news stations to air video and audio messages.

Terror analysts have long seen al-Qaida’s media arm as a powerful tool for rallying the network’s followers and sympathizers, churning out videos and audiotapes even though the top leadership is mostly out of touch, hiding in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The videos have grown in technical sophistication, featuring computer animations and clips from international television media.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has issued three audiotapes himself this year, the most recent in May.

The Arabic-language sites also have an extensive online following of would-be jihadis who discuss various topics, including the best ways to carry out attacks and which techniques are religiously permissible.

In its press release explaining the outage, Al-Fajr, the group’s communications wing promised to return online soon.

Editors note: A denial of service attack on al Queda websites by the U.S. government would effectively quiet a good source of intelligence information. Therefore, I think one can rule out U.S. involvement.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Red Flag takes off today

Posted : Saturday Oct 18, 2008 8:26:53 EDT
The latest edition of Red Flag, the Air Force’s primary air combat exercise, took off today at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The flying continues through Nov. 1 with about 80 aircraft participating.

Joining the Air Force planes and helicopters in the air will be F-16s from Greece and Singapore, EF-18s from Spain and U.S. Navy EA-6Bs.

The aircraft should fly two sessions each day — a late afternoon mission starting around 3 p.m. and an evening session taking off around 9:30 p.m.

Red Flag is staged several times each year at Nellis, and is aimed at giving new pilots the experience of flying in large groups of aircraft while dealing with enemy fighters and anti-aircraft sites.

Friday, October 17, 2008

North Korea Blinks/ World Steps Back from Nuclear Abyss

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea has stepped up disablement of its nuclear reactor and allowed surveillance at its nuclear facility to resume, the U.S. State Department said Friday.

North Koreans have allowed the resumption of surveillance of its nuclear sites.

Pyongyang has put back all seals on equipment at the facility and reinstalled surveillance equipment, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

He added that U.S. monitors at the site reported North Korea also removed 60 percent of the spent fuel rods at the reactor.

"On the reactor, they have actually gone beyond where they were prior to their reversing the disablement steps," McCormack said.

He noted that North Korea has made some progress in other related areas but still has not reversed all of the gains it made in recent weeks.

Earlier this week North Korea resumed the process of dismantling its nuclear reactor, once again granting the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, access to its nuclear facility at Yongbyon.

The moved came only days after the United States removed North Korea from its list of states that sponsor terrorism.

North Korea halted the disabling of the plutonium-producing plants in August after a stalemate over verification measures. Washington had said it would not take North Korea off the state terrorism list until Pyongyang agreed to set up an internationally recognizable mechanism to verify it was revealing all its nuclear secrets.

North Korea rejected that provision and, on October 9, said nuclear inspectors were no longer welcome at its facilities.

On Saturday, the United States removed North Korea from the list of terrorism sponsors after it said the two countries reached agreement on a number of verification measures.

These include having participation by all members of the six-party talks, settling on the role of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, providing access to all of North Korea's nuclear facilities and deciding what procedures would be used in the verification process.

McCormack said envoys from the participants in the six-party talks -- the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia -- will meet shortly to sign the verification agreement reached between North Korea and the United States.

Kim Sook -- South Korea's chief envoy to the international disarmament talks with North Korea -- said the move by the United States "completely reverses" the communist nation's decision to halt its disabling process.

North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program on a promise that it would receive energy aid equivalent to a million tons of heavy fuel oil from the nations involved in the disarmament talks.

In June, North Korean officials turned over to China a 60-page declaration, written in English, that details several rounds of plutonium production at the Yongbyon plant dating back to 1986.

In it, North Korea acknowledged producing roughly 40 kilograms of enriched plutonium -- enough for about seven nuclear bombs, according to the U.S. State Department.

Soon after, North Korea publicly destroyed a water cooling tower at the Yongbyon facility. At the time, the country said it would completely dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear complex by October.

Hubble fixed.


The revival of the Hubble Space Telescope is going "exactly as we hoped," a NASA spokesman said today, and the world's best-known orbiting observatory is expected to be back in business on Friday.

Hubble's science operations went on the blink last month when the main system for handling commands and data going back and forth between the telescope's instruments and the ground failed. Controllers could still send commands up to Hubble and receive diagnostic readings, but the flow of imagery that made the telescope famous was cut off.

The sudden, unexpected snag forced the postponement of the space shuttle Atlantis' final service call, which was due for launch this week.

To revive Hubble, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center devised a plan to switch the flow of data from the main system that the 18-year-old telescope had always used, known as Side A, to a never-before-used backup system known as Side B. The space agency's top management gave the go-ahead for the remote-controlled switchover on Tuesday, and engineers went to work on Wednesday.

Engineers checked out Side B for the first time on Wednesday night, NASA spokesman Ed Campion told me today. "All that went exactly as we hoped, so after that, the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 were retrieved out of safe mode to establish that each of them has a good working interface to Side B," he said.

Hubble's reconfigured electronics passed that test as well. "Everything worked the way we hoped it would," Campion said. "Now we're going to send commands to begin internal exposures and calibrations of the science instruments."

The test pictures won't be scientifically significant. They'll merely show things like the illuminated insides of the telescope itself. But they will give scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore some Side B data to compare with Side A data captured before the glitch.

The Side B data should be available for review by midnight ET tonight, and the before-vs.-after review should be completed sometime Friday morning.

"If all this goes as planned, we pretty much expect that science collection will resume sometime on Friday," Campion said.

Susan Hendrix, a NASA spokeswoman who specializes in following Hubble operations, said the telescope team hasn't yet decided what the first post-switchover scientific target would be. She also declined to speculate on when the first science images would be released. "I don't want to jinx it," she said. "It should be sooner than later."

Like many at NASA, Hendrix said she felt a personal stake in the telescope's ups and downs. "Hubble's been very near and dear to me," she told me. "It's kind of like an adopted child."

Even if Hubble resumes science operations, the child will still have to undergo some follow-up surgery: A spare unit is currently being tested at Goddard, and if that checks out, it will likely be brought up on Atlantis for installation (along with lots of other Hubble goodies) next year. Even when the new unit is in place, Hubble data will continue to flow through the Side B electronics, and Side A would become the backup. That's in line with a common-sense rule for engineers: "If it's no longer broke, don't try fixing it again."

Guam building booms to support new aircraft

By Erik Holmes - Staff report
Posted : Friday Oct 17, 2008 6:12:01 EDT
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, is in the early stages of an eight-year, $1.8 billion buildup that will bring a permanent presence of unmanned aerial vehicles, bombers, fighters and tankers to the Pacific island.

Andersen has hosted a continuous bomber presence since 2004, with bombers rotating through from various stateside units, but the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Strike — or ISR/Strike — concept seeks to augment that with a broader range of air assets.

By the time the concept is fully implemented early in the next decade, Andersen will host four permanently based Global Hawk drones, as well as 12 tankers, 48 fighters and six bombers on a rotational basis.

Most of the $1.8 billion in projects to support ISR/Strike are scheduled to be built between 2010 and 2014. The first, a $53 million Global Hawk hangar, began construction during summer 2007 and will be completed in May 2009, with the aircraft arriving later in 2009. Projects to be completed between 2010 and 2014 include maintenance facilities, composite repair ships, covered facilities for aircraft ground equipment, infrastructure such as roads and utilities, a fire station and dormitories for personnel rotating through the island with the aircraft.

Andersen was once an Air Force backwater, but Col. John Cawthorne, Pacific Air Forces’ deputy director of installations and mission support, said “the way the world has developed” — presumably meaning friction between the U.S. and Pacific nations such as North Korea, Russia and China — has led the Air Force to place greater importance on Guam.

“One of the things that we’re seeing at Guam is it’s a boom town now,” Cawthorne said.

Andersen is one point in the Air Force’s strategic triangle in the Pacific, he said; the other two are Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Guam’s primary draw is its location, about 2,500 miles from Beijing and 2,100 miles from Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Hawaii is more than 5,000 miles from Beijing and 4,500 miles from Pyongyang.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bomb fragment strikes truck outside Nellis

By Bruce Rolfsen - Staff writer Air Force Times
Posted : Thursday Oct 16, 2008 14:05:21 EDT

Yes, an Air Force bomb struck a truck Wednesday in Las Vegas.

An Air Force fighter, for reasons under investigation, released a 25-pound BDU-33 training bomb that hit the ground just inside the boundary of Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The nonexplosive bomb broke apart and a “piece” of the bomb bounced into a truck traveling on Las Vegas Boulevard near the intersection of Beasley Boulevard, near the north side of the base.

No one was injured. There was no word from Nellis or police officials about damage to the truck.

It is not uncommon for practice bombs to fall off Air Force jets. In March, a BDU-33 fell from an F-16 over Tulsa, Okla., striking an apartment building. In January 2007, a training bomb flying on an A-10 fell into a South Korean factory. And in January 2004, a BDU-33 fell from an F-15E and into an English industrial area. No one was injured in the accidents.

Mistaken bomb drops typically are caused by malfunctioning bomb racks or incorrect installation of the bombs.

Suspected U.S. missile kills 1 in Pakistan

By Ishtiaq Mahsud - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Oct 16, 2008 7:20:01 EDT
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — A suspected U.S. missile strike hit a house in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing one purported foreign militant and injuring another, officials said.

The strike took place in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan’s wild border belt, considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said reports from informants and field agents suggested that one suspected foreign militant died in the attack and that another foreigner was injured.

Asked if any al-Qaida leaders had been hit, the officials said that while Arabs had been living in the house, the identities of the victims were not yet clear.

They said foreign and Pakistani militants had frequented the house in a remote, forested area since its owner fled the tribal region last year.

A local resident, Javed Mehsud, said he saw a number of unmanned planes in the sky before and after three explosions destroyed the house in the village of Tapargai.

U.S. military and CIA drones that patrol the frontier region are believed to have carried out at least a dozen missile strikes against suspected militant targets since August. The U.S. rarely confirms or denies involvement in the attacks.

All of those strikes, as well as a highly unusual raid by helicopter-borne commandos, have been in the regions of North and South Waziristan, key strongholds for Islamic militants fighting on both sides of the border.

Thursday’s strike was the first in over a year in the territory of Baitullah Mehsud, Pakistan’s most prominent Taliban leader and the chief suspect in last year’s assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NASA approves Hubble revival plan


NASA approves Hubble revival plan.

Circuit switchover could get data flowing again by Friday, managers say.

NASA is going ahead with a plan to restart the flow of science data from the Hubble Space Telescope by routing around circuitry that failed a little more than two weeks ago, officials said Tuesday.

The unprecedented switchover is due to begin early Wednesday, and if all goes well, the telescope should be beaming imagery back down to Earth by Friday, said Art Whipple, manager of the Hubble Space Telescope Systems Management Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Last month's glitch forced the postponement of the shuttle Atlantis' servicing mission to the world's best-known space observatory. That mission had been due for launch on Tuesday, but it's now been put off until next February at the earliest. Whipple said the plan for that orbital service call was "still being hashed out

Washington Post: WH authorized water-boarding.

CIA Tactics Endorsed In Secret Memos
Waterboarding Got White House Nod

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008; Page A01

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

The classified memos, which have not been previously disclosed, were requested by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet more than a year after the start of the secret interrogations, according to four administration and intelligence officials familiar with the documents. Although Justice Department lawyers, beginning in 2002, had signed off on the agency's interrogation methods, senior CIA officials were troubled that White House policymakers had never endorsed the program in writing.

The memos were the first -- and, for years, the only -- tangible expressions of the administration's consent for the CIA's use of harsh measures to extract information from captured al-Qaeda leaders, the sources said. As early as the spring of 2002, several White House officials, including then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney, were given individual briefings by Tenet and his deputies, the officials said. Rice, in a statement to congressional investigators last month, confirmed the briefings and acknowledged that the CIA director had pressed the White House for "policy approval."

The repeated requests for a paper trail reflected growing worries within the CIA that the administration might later distance itself from key decisions about the handling of captured al-Qaeda leaders, former intelligence officials said. The concerns grew more pronounced after the revelations of mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and further still as tensions grew between the administration and its intelligence advisers over the conduct of the Iraq war.

Read the entire story at:

No 2 Al Qaida In Iraq killed.

U.S.: No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq killed
The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Oct 15, 2008 8:20:11 EDT
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military says the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq has been killed during an operation in the northern city of Mosul.

The military has identified the insurgent leader as a Moroccan known as Abu Qaswarah or Abu Sara.

Wednesday’s statement says he became the senior al-Qaida in Iraq emir of northern Iraq in June 2007 and had ties to senior al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It also says “he was al-Qaida in Iraq’s second-in-command” behind Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rapid Reaction Rocket Force!

Reaction force that rockets into space examined
By Tom Vanden Brook - USA TODAY
Posted : Tuesday Oct 14, 2008 18:53:54 EDT
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon wants to rocket troops through space to hot spots anywhere on the globe within two hours, and planners spent two days last month discussing how to do it, military documents show.

Civilian and military officials held a two-day conference at the National Security Space Office to plan development of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) program. The invitation to the conference called the notion of space troopers a “potential revolutionary step in getting combat power to any point in the world in a timeframe unachievable today.” Attendees included senior Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force officers.

The next steps toward getting troops in space: addressing the technological challenges and seeking input from the military, said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Brown, a space office spokesman. No further meetings have been scheduled.

Marines launched the concept after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. They needed the “capability to transport small, mission-tailored units through space from any point on the globe to a contingency at any other point on the globe” within minutes of an order, according to a Marine document.

Some critics are skeptical. The concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish in enemy territory, said John Pike, a military analyst who runs

“This isn’t even science fiction,” Pike said. “It’s fantasy.”

Private rocket pioneer Burt Rutan says the plan is technologically possible. Rutan’s SpaceShipOne was the first privately financed vehicle to carry people into space. It won the $10 million “X Prize” in 2004 for flying into space twice in five days.

“This has never been done,” Rutan said in an e-mail. “However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done.”

Terrorist threats to the United States, according to a statement of need from the Marines in July 2002, can emerge quickly anywhere in the world. A nearly instantaneous response from a small contingent of troops could snuff them out. Rocketship forces could also rescue troops trapped behind enemy lines.

“In the end, events around the globe can unfold much more rapidly and in many circumstances call for the earliest intervention if larger conflicts or other negative international implications are to be averted,” the statement says. “Space transport and insertion is the only means of attaining the needed speed of response.”

The need to develop technology to get SUSTAIN off the ground was restated in 2005 in a Marine document called the Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare Capability List. The list, signed by Gen. James Mattis, presented the space program as a goal to be realized as early as 2019. Mattis, who took over the Joint Forces Command last year, declined to comment.

Flying troops through space to distant crises is an idea that’s been discussed since the early 1960s. In a speech in 1963, Marine Gen. Wallace Greene said such flight could have a “staggering” impact on projecting U.S. power. Greene, later the Marine Corps commandant, hoped to have Marines in space by 1968.

Emerging technology makes SUSTAIN a possibility, perhaps by 2030, said Baker Spring, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Just as important, he said, is determining what troops could do if they managed to rocket into a crisis.

Another issue: vehicles must be relatively light to reach space. “It would be wildly vulnerable,” said Ivan Oelrich, a security analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. “You can’t armor a rocket ship.”

Pike said an enormous amount of fuel would be needed to return from such missions. He questioned what 13 troops could accomplish in a hostile environment without getting killed or captured.

Over-thinking Glenn Campbell's Area 51 photograph - real - hoax - a rock?

Researcher/activist Glenn Campbell recently caused a ruckus by posting what he claimed were photos of some type of flying object taken on a recent hike up Tikaboo Peak that overlooks the worst kept secret- secret base in the world, the Groom Lake Test Flight Center also known as Area 51.

You can view the photo by visiting his website (see the link at the top right under "Cool New Links".

Also make sure you also visit the discussion forum at and see the feeding feeding frenzy it sparked.

Opinions on what the photo showed varied from it being a UAV to a rock thrown up by one of the witnesses.

Some of the posters voiced envy, healthy skepticism and downright righteous-anger for and against Glenn Campbell - with some wanting to know what he was trying to pull - with others going to his defense - saying the forum was being unfair to him.

But it was interesting for me to note that no one did a logical and methodical analysis of the photo - so - not wanting to be left out of the fray - I have decided to step up.

Because the photo of the image belongs to Glenn, I will not post it here.

I'll preface my photo-forensics foray by stating over the last decade or so I have been training myself and experimenting in image analysis techniques which I have been called to use on many occasions (by various publications) to debunk UFO photographs, 9-11 (images) conspiracy theories and the like.

That said, with the advent of cheap and easy to use digital image editing software, its easier than ever to fake photographs showing anything one wants to show - be it an anonymous man captured standing on the top of the World Trade Center just seconds before a frame-frozen hijacked airliner flies through the building to the amateurish Photoshopping of an extra missile (because one failed to launch) into a photo released by the Iranian government to strike fear into the West and especially Israel. I was amazed when even seasoned photo editors at major newspapers missed that one.

As a result everyone is aware that long gone has been the assumption that photos don't lie - but it is safe to assume that people still do - especially those with a little Photoshop knowledge.

When I learned about the Campbell photo, and read the posts on Dreamland Resort - I decided what was needed was some intelligent analysis.

I downloaded the images off of Glenn's site and went to work. My first clue that the image was probably unaltered was that Glenn had made the raw image available , which includes the EXIF data (something most photo-fakers delete) because it reveals a huge amount of information about the image.

EXIF stands for: Exchangeable Image File Format and is now standard on most pro-sumer and high-end digital cameras.

It suffices to say it is a small data file attached to the image detailing the technical specifics of the image in question, such as camera type, date and time the image was taken, exposure mode, and sometimes (in higher end-GPS linked cameras) even the latitude and longitude where the photo was snapped.

The EXIF data can also reveal if the image was futzed with in Photoshop (or any other image editing program) when it was altered, including any changes in resolution, contrast, file formats etc.

Now you can see why the EXIF data is missing from most faked photographs. Without EXIF data to examine ,I will not sign off as a photo being authentic.

After looking at the EXIF data and the image itself, i posted this on Dreamland Resort:

Here's the EXIF data I pulled from Glenn's photo. it yields some interesting information:

File name: sighting-detail.jpg
File size: 24264 bytes (400x266, 1.8bpp, 13x)
EXIF Summary: 1/500s f/14.0 ISO400 18mm

Camera-Specific Properties:

Equipment Make: Canon
Camera Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Lens Size: 18.00 - 55.00 mm
Firmware Version: Firmware 1.1.1
Owner Name: unknown
Serial Number: 2021132493

Image-Specific Properties:

Image Orientation: Top, Left-Hand
Horizontal Resolution: 72 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 72 dpi
Image Created: 2008:10:13 11:25:02
Exposure Time: 1/500 sec
F-Number: f/14.0
Exposure Program: Normal Program
ISO Speed Rating: 400
Lens Aperture: f/14.0
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Flash: No Flash, Compulsory
Focal Length: 18.00 mm
Color Space Information: sRGB
Image Width: 400
Image Height: 266
Rendering: Normal
Exposure Mode: Auto
Scene Capture Type: Standard
Exposure Mode: Program
Focus Type: Auto
Metering Mode: Evaluative
Sharpness: Unknown
Saturation: Normal
Contrast: Normal
Shooting Mode: Manual
Image Size: Large
Focus Mode: One-Shot
Drive Mode: Continuous
Flash Mode: Off
Compression Setting: Fine
Macro Mode: Normal
Subject Distance: 81.910 m
White Balance: Auto
Exposure Compensation: 3
Sensor ISO Speed: 224
Camera Actuations: -778895360
Color Matrix: 129

Other Properties:

Resolution Unit: i
Chrominance Comp Positioning: Co-Sited
Exif IFD Pointer: 193
Compression Scheme: JPEG Compression (Thumbnail)
Horizontal Resolution: 72 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 72 dpi
Resolution Unit: i
Offset to JPEG SOI: 5776
Bytes of JPEG Data: 1666
Chrominance Comp Positioning: Co-Sited
Exif Version: 2.21
Image Generated: 2008:10:06 11:56:52
Image Digitized: 2008:10:06 11:56:52
Meaning of Each Comp: Unknown
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Metering Mode: Pattern
Focal Plane Horiz Resolution: 4433 dpi
Focal Plane Vert Resolution: 4453 dpi
Focal Plane Res Unit: i
White Balance: Auto
Base Zoom Resolution: 0
Zoomed Resolution: 0
ISO Speed Rating: Unknown
Digital Zoom: None
Self-Timer Length: 0 sec
Canon Tag1 Length: 92
Flash Bias: 0.00 EV
Sequence Number: 0
Canon Tag4 Length: 68
Actuation Counter: 0
Actuation Multiplier: 53651
Canon Tag93 Length: 34
Color Temperature: 5200 K
Canon TagA0 Length: 28

It is interesting to note that Glenn is shooting at a very low DPI (72) which makes this image difficult to enhance or do much forensic evaluation on.

Plus- notice the focus distance to the object is 81 meters (approximately 240 feet) and not infinity - indicating the object is not very large or flying very high. The blurred movement also indicates that the object was either moving very fast or relatively-fast in relation to the camera.

if it is a real craft - and not a hoax- its small - like a mini UAV - maybe used for recon at our favorite non-existent air base.

My guess Glenn is sitting back chuckling to himself about every one's (including my) speculations.

Just not enough data here.

-Steve Douglass


Since then - I have decided to expand on my post after doing a more thorough examination of the photo, applying a few image algorithms (and other important sounding words) I also decided to examine the provenance of the photographer as well.

I love a challenge and chance to hone my skills - even if it was expending a lot of time and energy on something that might turn out to be just a rock - but I wasn't doing anything important tonight anyway.

Although this is a long post - consider this a crash course on spotting photo fakery.

But first a word about EXIF.

Although the EXIF data from the raw image did not indicate it had been manipulated, through my experience in image analysis I have also found it is possible to edit the EXIF data as well, but that too leaves tale-tale signs that can be also be ferreted out.

First thing I did was to re-sample the image at a higher DPI using Genuine Fractals. This makes it easier to examine the pixel structure and look for any thing out of the ordinary.

Enhancing the contrast range between the highlights, mid-tones and shadows did reveal an interesting anomaly, some blurred streaked, pixels emanating from the flying object up toward the top of the frame. if you have Photoshop. play with the contrast controls on a magnified version of the image and you will see what I see.

The streaking indicates to me that the object was most likely falling straight down, much like a rock would when tossed up in the air.

Even though the EXIF data indicated the shutter speed used was 1/500 sec, it was not enough to freeze the relative motion of the object, which by all indications appears to be down.

However, there is another possible explanation for the streak. It could have been caused by heavy pressure by the photographer on the shutter button, causing the camera to move down slightly during the exposure - a natural photographic occurrence - which i have done myself when photographing lightning . sound logical right?

But then i got to thinking - putting myself on that peak and watching the object fly by and thought - if I was taking that photo I would be following the object in the viewfinder and panning with it which would negate the downward pressure from my shutter finger.

I took out my camera and reenacted the scenario (albeit on the balcony of my apartment) and could not recreate the downward streak.

But wait - maybe he had the camera on a tripod - I thought - that would account for the streak right? If the camera was locked down, on a tripod on unstable ground and there was enough pressure from the photographer's finger it might do that right?

But if that was the case, it could mean the image was staged, and Glenn was expecting the object to fly into the frame, or someone threw a rock up into the air and he was standing at the ready to snap it before it hit the ground.

To make a long post even longer ( and at the risk of over-thinking this entire non-story story and possibly doing exactly what Glenn wants us to do - pontificate about a rock ) I couldn't help but ask myself, what is wrong with this picture?

And I'm not referring to the weird shadow or the streak, or the fact the man looks like he just chunked something into the air.

I'm puzzled by Glenn's account of the sighting.

Although Glenn has amended his initial report with more details, some things don't sit right, like the vagueness of his description - as if he's afraid to say what it is. Like he has heavily weighed and qualified his description.

Glenn writes: "I cannot say what the triangular object is, but I guarantee that the photo itself is authentic and unretouched."
You can click on the image above to see it in maximum detail. -snip -

"Other than cropping the above image, I DID NOT ALTER IT IN ANY WAY. The witnesses to the sighting were myself and the two people shown above: a visitor from Utah, Kevin, and his 8-year-old son, John Charles.

Alien craft? Advanced military test vehicle? You decide." - as if he is daring the pundits too say what it is and then prove them wrong by revealing its true nature.

He wrote on Dreamland Resort: "The craft was virtually silent: no jet noise, no hum, no sonic boom. It was traveling roughly in a northwest direction (about the same vector at Highway 375 in the Tikaboo Valley). The trajectory was parabolic. The craft appeared to accelerate at approximately 1G during flight, which would have made it nearly weightless. The occupants, if any, would have experienced almost no gravity until the end of the journey, when they would have been crushed by the accumulated inertia (at least according to Earth physics). No human could be piloting that craft and survive. Who then?"

Think about it - what Glenn described above could also pertain to - yes - a rock thrown by someone, silent, parabolic arc that sudden stop at the end of its flight crushing any occupants (insects?) that may be onboard.

In any event and before passing judgement, I'd like to hear from his other witnesses. I'd like to see the shots he took before and after the photo in question. There must be others- everyone poses for a picture on Tikaboo don't they?

In the end - it caused a stir - sent more traffic to his blog - and put Glenn back on the map after a long absence.

I can't help but think of the late great Paul Newman's last line from The Color of Money - "I'm back!"

Way to go Glenn.

When do you jump out and say "I never did say it wasn't a rock."

-Steve Douglass

UPDATE: It IS a rock.

See the link at the top right.

Glenn "Goober" Campbell can now have the great satisfaction of thumbing his nose at all the experts - including me - but he did so at the expense of his credibility.

Just like a little kid who keeps sticking his tongue out at you - don't you just want to pop him?

Can't take the heat? Fight in Afghanistan.

By Amir Shah - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Oct 14, 2008 12:03:14 EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. military successes in Iraq have forced sophisticated and well-trained insurgents to pour into Afghanistan instead, the Afghan defense minister said Tuesday.

Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, said terrorists who would have once fought in Iraq have been “diverted” to Afghanistan.

“The success of coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in some of the neighboring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters,” Wardak told a news conference. “There is no doubt that they are [better] equipped than before. They are well trained, more sophisticated, their coordination is much better.”

The top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, said last month that he is seeing a spike in the number of foreign militants — including Arabs and Chechens — flowing into Afghanistan. He said militant Web sites have been encouraging fighters to go to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.

“I can’t prove they are coming from Iraq to Afghanistan, but I’ve seen it on Web sites that that’s what they’re being told to do,” Schloesser said.

Violence has risen steadily in Afghanistan since late 2005. More than 4,700 people — mostly militants — have been killed in insurgency related-violence this year, according to an Associated Press count of figured provided by Afghan and western officials.

U.S.-led troops killed five insurgents in central Ghazni province Monday during a raid to disrupt a foreign fighter network, the coalition said Tuesday.

The coalition also said one of its service members was killed and several others were wounded in southern Afghanistan on Monday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. No other information, including the service members’ nationalities or precise location of the attack, was released.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blackswift cancelled or turned black?

Editors note: According to an article in Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine, DARPA'S hypersonic aircraft study, Blackswift has been cancelled. My guess it has not been cancelled but has retreated into the black world because the technology behind the aircraft platform is as revolutionary as Low Observable (stealth) technology and thus now labeled as highly-classified. Coming soon to a non-existent test base in Nevada - Blackswift - redux.

AVW article follows: :

BLACKSWIFT canceled by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) after Congress slashed the program’s fiscal 2009 budget to $10 million, from $120 million.

Blackswift was to demonstrate an unmanned hypersonic vehicle able to take off, accelerate to a Mach 6 cruise and return to a runway landing.

“Congress made significant reductions in the amount of funds available to DARPA and the Air Force for the Blackswift testbed,” the agency said in a statement. “Based on this, DARPA determined that it would not be possible to proceed with the solicitation for the effort.”

DARPA had hoped to award a contract for the demonstrator later this year, and was believed to be negotiating with a Lockheed Martin Skunk Works-led team that included Boeing. The Blackswift was expected to fly in 2012. Meanwhile, DARPA says it will continue with the Falcon program to fly unpowered hypersonic test vehicles in 2009.

Congress was skeptical of Blackswift’s technical achievability and operational utility, cutting DARPA FY ‘09 funding from the requested $70 million to $10 million and eliminating the Air Force’s requested $50 million for the joint program.

“Obviously we are disappointed that we will not have the appropriated funds to move forward with the Blackswift flight test,” DARPA program manager Steven Walker said. He said a significant effort had been made to develop the propulsion technology and build a national government and industry team capable of developing and flying a reusable hypersonic testbed.

“The Blackswift testbed would have been able to take off under its own power, cruise at Mach 6, maneuver at hypersonic speeds and land, and then do it again,” Walker said. “Blackswift, or something very much like it, will be a required step prior to the U.S. developing an operational, reusable air-breathing hypersonic airplane.”

Blackswift was to be powered by turbine-based combined-cycle engines using a high-Mach turbojet to take the vehicle from standstill to the speed at which a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet took over and accelerated it to Mach 6. The turbojet and scramjet engines were to share inlets and nozzles.

Under DARPA’s Falcon program, Lockheed Martin is building two unpowered HTV-2 test vehicles, which will be launched by Orbital Sciences Minotaur boosters to demonstrate aerodynamic and structural technology for sustained hypersonic flight.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Brit's Lurker Bomb/Fire Shadow

The lurker bomb can hover for ten hours... and then strike its target in the space of a minute
By PETER ALMOND/London Times

A revolutionary missile that can stalk a target until the perfect moment to strike is being developed by the Ministry of Defence for use against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The so-called lurker bomb will also be able to shadow British troops for up to ten hours or 100 miles, ready to take out enemy targets with surgical precision at a minute’s notice.

The 12ft weapon – officially named Fire Shadow and made in Britain by leading missile manufacturer MBDA – will be operated by the Royal Artillery.

It made its first test flight in Wales earlier this year and is expected to be operational by 2010.

One of the biggest problems facing British troops in Afghanistan is Taliban ambushes. The insurgents often escape before a counter-attack can be launched because they know the Afghan terrain well, it takes time for air support to arrive, and the British are reluctant to use existing powerful missiles for fear of causing collateral damage such as killing civilians or flattening homes.

Fire Shadow’s ability to ‘stooge’ above the troops means it can be guided to a target within seconds. And its deadly precision requires only a small warhead of 50lb, compared with the RAF’s smallest bomb of 500lb.

The Army wants to be able to fire salvos of Fire Shadows, having several in the air at once to hit multiple targets. The missiles, also known as ‘loitering munitions’, are expected to replace some RAF patrols.

Fire Shadow can be guided to its target by troops on the ground with lasers, by operators in aircraft or helicopters, or by the Army’s new Watchkeeper surveillance drone.

Once airborne, however, Fire Shadow is unable to return to base. If it is not used in action, it is brought down in a controlled crash after it runs out of fuel.

Akram Ghulam, head of loitering munitions at MBDA in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, said: ‘I can see these being used where small, surgically precise effects will have greater utility than an artillery shell or a bomb.’

MBDA leads the Fire Shadow development team, which cost the MoD £74million in its first year. It includes British firms Qinetiq, Thales and Roxcel, and several smaller and academic organisations.

The concept of a lurker bomb is the cornerstone of the MoD’s Indirect-Fire Precision Attack project. Fire Shadow is one of six projects that include an artillery shell that can electronically ‘sense’ its target, a new anti-aircraft missile for the Royal Navy, and advanced guidance for the new Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS).

The first GMLRS batteries have already been in action in Afghanistan’s Helmand area where British troops are operating. Nicknamed the 70km sniper – the rocket’s maximum range – about 250 precision-guided rockets have been fired so far this year, according to an MoD spokesman. At £60,000 a rocket that works out at £15million, a cost that the MoD is well aware of as it seeks to develop Fire Shadow.

‘We need to get Fire Shadow’s price to around that, which is a big challenge,’ said an industry source.


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