Friday, February 27, 2009

Canadian jets confronted Russian bombers

OTTAWA - Moscow and Ottawa are engaged in a war of words after Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced Friday that Canadian and U.S. fighter jets intercepted a Russian bomber and signalled it to "turn tail" over the high Arctic on the eve of American President Barack Obama's visit.

MacKay suggested the timing of the incident was suspect, but the Russians called the flight routine and indicated they were baffled by the fuss.

The announcement Friday morning of the Feb. 18 encounter raised questions about why MacKay chose to highlight it. Norad said there have been about 20 such aerial contacts between Russian and American or Canadian planes since 2007.

The Russian Defence Ministry was categoric.

Russian planes have not approached Canada's borders and Canadian authorities were informed about the flight, it said. A spokesman called MacKay's statements "nothing but farce."

No Russian aircraft actually entered Canadian airspace, but MacKay suggested the timing of the incident was worthy of note.

"Within 24 hours of the president's visit to Canada last week we did scramble two F-18 fighter planes," MacKay told a news conference.

The Canadian pilots sighted the Russian and directed it to reverse course. It did.

"They met a Russian aircraft that was approaching Canadian airspace and, as they have done on previous occasions, (the Canadians) sent very clear signals that were understood: that aircraft was to turn tail and head back to its own airspace. Which it did."

MacKay said the Russians give no warning prior to the flights, despite repeated requests to Moscow for prior notice.

"They simply show up on a radar screen," the minister said. "This is not a game at all.

"These aircraft approaching Canadian airspace are viewed very seriously."

Russian air force spokesman, Lt.-Col. Vladimir Drik said the flight had been planned in advance and was part of routine patrols. His statement carried by the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency said the crew acted according to international agreements and did not violate Canadian air space.

The Russian Defence Ministry also issued a statement in response to MacKay's claims.

"During the flight, Russian bombers strictly followed international flight regulations and excluded the very possibility of violating Canadian air space," Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said. "Border countries have been notified about the flights."

He said the only recent flight carried out by a Tu-160 bomber took place last Wednesday.

"The statements by Canada's defence minister about flights of our aircraft are absolutely incomprehensible," Drobyshevsky said. "They are nothing but farce."

The Russian Embassy in Ottawa was closed on Friday, taking a long weekend to mark Protector of Motherland Day.

Speaking in Saskatoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the incident "a real concern to us."

"I've expressed at various times the deep concern our government has with increasingly aggressive Russian actions around the globe and Russian intrusions into our airspace," Harper said.

"This government has responded every time the Russians have done that. We will continue to respond; we will defend our airspace."

The CF-18s took off from Cold Lake, Alta., after Norad detected what a Defence official confirmed was a Cold War-era, long-range Tupolev Tu-95 bomber - known as a Bear - headed for Canadian airspace

MacKay suggested the Russians may have been testing Norad's response while national security was focused on Ottawa in advance of Obama's first foreign trip since his inauguration.

"I'm not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of deliberately doing this during the presidential visit," he said. "But it was a strong coincidence, which we met with the presence, as we always do, of F-18 fighter planes and world-class pilots that know their business."

New Democrat MP Paul Dewar suggested the minister's decision to underline one incident among many is suspicious.

"The question is why is Mr. MacKay stating these things now?" Dewar said. "And where is the co-operation here that we need to see between polar countries?

"I think what Peter might be doing here is trying to go back to the '50s and play a little Cold War. Well, I'm sorry, but you know what? If he wants to play a game of Risk in his basement, that's up to him, but it has no place in terms of diplomacy."

Russian aircraft regularly encroached on North American airspace during the Cold War and Canadian and American fighters routinely tracked the snoopers and escorted them back into international airspace.

Such flights were suspended for years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but resumed in August 2007 as Russia pushed its claim on the Arctic and oil wealth allowed the country to spend more on its military.

Pilots tend to consider the intercepts a symbol of status rather than of hostile action, often exchanging smiles while taking photographs and video at 30,000 feet or so.

"Russian long-range activity is part of their training exercises and so we do see this," said Canadian navy Lt. Desmond James, a spokesman at Norad headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. "We don't treat it as a hostile intent as much as a training exercise.

"On our part, we go up to make sure they know that while they are doing their training, we do know that they're there and we are watching, prepared to respond should they decide that they're going to alter their course in a threatening manner.

"We have to let the Russians - any aircraft - know that we are in a position to respond."

U.S. air force Gen. Gene Renuart, head of the North American Aerospace Defence Command, said Friday pilots use internationally recognized signals to head off such incursions, including rocking wings, turning in front of the bombers and issuing radio warnings.

"While we do not speak the common language, they are trained in those common signals just as we are," said Renuart. "To date, those have been effective in deviating or deterring those aircraft from entering into either Canadian or American airspace."

The Russian pilots have been "professional" in their conduct, he added, but it's important for Canada and the United States to maintain "that solid, integrated air defence posture that we have."

A Russian lieutenant-general said when the flights resumed that the West would have to come to terms with Russia asserting its geopolitical reach around the globe. "But I don't see anything unusual; this is business as usual," he said.

Former Russian President Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, said at the time the patrols would be conducted in areas of Russian economic interest and active shipping, rather than in regions required for "deterrence of a missile-nuclear attack on Russia."

There have been "easily more than 20" such encounters since mid-2007, James said. Similar flights have occurred elsewhere.

"It's not an isolated thing," James said. "It's become more common and more prevalent throughout the world."

The Bear, which is easily recognized by its sharply swept wings and the double, counter-rotating propellers on its four engines, first flew in 1951 but experts consider it a more formidable nuclear delivery device than ever, despite its advanced age.

The Tu-95's turboprop engines give it a much lower fuel consumption than comparable long-range, jet bombers such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. It can stay aloft for extended periods and can carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

The commander of Russian long-range aviation, Maj.-Gen. Pavel Androsov, has said the heavy bombers do not carry weapons during such "patrols," only unarmed training missiles with the same weight and dimensions as the real ones.

VIDEO: UK's High-Tech Defence Vision

VIDEO: UK's High-Tech Defence Vision: "

As a follow-on to Douglas Barrie's post of the UK's new Defence Technology Plan, I just have to provide a link to this video, with the Ministry of Defence has just posted on youtube.

Video: UK MoD

It shows a concept for the Future Protected Vehicle, which is intended to have the effectiveness and survivability of a main battle tank but supposed to be much lighter. The vehicle carries its own ducted-fan UAV. But I particularly like the illustration below from the MoD's news story on the launch of the DTP. After all, why carry a gun when you can have a little wheely thing do it for you?
blog post photo
Concept: UK MoD


(Via Ares.)

Obama: Combat mission in Iraq ends by 2010

Obama: Combat mission in Iraq ends by 2010: "President Obama will say in his Friday speech at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end next year, two senior administration officials said.


(Via - U.S..)

Obama Will Stick with Bush Moon Plan

Obama Will Stick with Bush Moon Plan: "Fiscal 2010 NASA budget outline also seeks increase in Earth Science funding related to global warming action"

(Via Space Channel.)

RAAF Goes for Growlers

RAAF Goes for Growlers: "

The Royal Australian Air Force'could be the first non-U.S. military service to operate'EA-18 Growler electronic attack aircraft under a deal announced in Australia today.

The deal is also noteworthy for the fact that it indicates the U.S. is willing to share some of its'most advanced technology with close allies -- neither the EA-6B nor EF-111 jammers were exported. The EA-18G deal comes not long after the Pentagon agreed to let the U.K. buy RC-135 Rivet Joints, the highly sensitive signals intelligence system.

Australia is not buying'new Growlers; instead it'would modify 12'of the F/A-18E/Fs the country previously committed to buying under'a'A$6.6 billion program.'

‘Wiring twelve of the Super Hornets as Growlers will give us the opportunity to provide taxpayers with better value for money,’ defense minister Joel Fitzgibbon says. A final decision on buying Growlers, including the jamming kit,'is expected around 2012.

The electronic attack'modification'‘will also provide the Super Hornets with counter-terrorism capability through the ability to shut down the ground-based communications and bomb triggering devices of terrorists,’ Fitzgibbon notes.

At this point, the government is making''a A$35 million' downpayment so half of the 24 F/A-18E/Fs on order could be turned into Growlers. Making the wiring and other internal modifications now, while the fighters are in build,'is cheaper than a retrofit program, the Australian government says.'A'further A$300 million would be needed to complete the Growler effort.

Or check out the Aviation Week video here.


(Via Ares.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

NORAD training flights planned near D.C.

NORAD training flights planned near D.C.: "WASHINGTON — A training exercise with flights is planned for Thursday and Friday in the Washington area for the North American Aerospace Defense Command."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Special Envoy Headed to N.Korea in Lieu Of Possible Missile Test.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is sending her new envoy for North Korea policy to Asia early next week to work on reviving stalled international nuclear talks with an increasingly hostile Pyongyang.

The trip comes as North Korea threatens to punish anyone trying to disrupt a plan to conduct what the United States and South Korea believe may be a long-range missile test.

Clinton told reporters Thursday that Stephen Bosworth will travel to the capitals of four countries that have been working with Washington to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program — Japan, China, Russia and South Korea.

Bosworth said the United States plans to directly engage North Korea, but it is still unclear whether any meetings will happen on this trip.

Christopher Hill, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, later told reporters that Asian and U.S. officials are looking at the best way "to deter this launch." He dismissed North Korea's claims that it was preparing to conduct a satellite launch.

"It looks an awful lot like a missile launch, and the reason it looks a lot like a missile launch is because it essentially is a missile launch, whatever the payload," Hill said. Considering the North's "opaqueness," coupled with its claims that it has weaponized plutonium, he said, "you can see why we have some very deep concerns about the missile launch."

The North's potential test is seen as a bid for President Barack Obama's attention as six-nation nuclear disarmament talks remain stalled and tension with South Korea soars.

Any missile test would trigger international sanctions.

Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, traveled earlier this month to Pyongyang on a private trip. North Korea, he said, seems to want to continue talks with the United States. "They see the benefits to them of engagement with the outside world and are prepared to move ahead," he said.

Bosworth was named last week as the Obama administration's special representative for North Korea. He will be responsible for coordinating the overall U.S. policy for North Korea and will keep his position as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The State Department says another special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, w

Texas Seems To be The Target Of Falling Space Junk!

A Dallas homeowner has a bizarre story to tell the insurance company.

A large piece of metal apparently fell from the sky and crashed into the home on Buford Drive in southeast Dallas.

Investigators said the six pound chunk of metal slammed into the home with enough force to put a hole in the roof and second floor of the home.

The metal had burn marks with two drill holes.

No one was home when it hit, so there were no injuries.

Several local and state agencies were notified of the incident, but so far it's not clear where the where the debris came from.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another North Korea Alert Drill for GMD?

Another North Korea Alert Drill for GMD?: "

There doesn't seem to be any official word from U.S. defense officials online yet, but'if North Korea is preparing for another missile launch, then the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System of ballistic interceptors based in Alaska and California'probably is on alert.


The New York Times is reporting that North Korea said today it was preparing to send a satellite into orbit in what U.S. and South Korean officials believe will be a provocative test of a long-range missile capable of reaching parts of North America. CNN is reporting it too.

A statement from Pyongyang, via the official Korea Central News Agency online, also said today that 'preparations for launching experimental communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 by means of delivery rocket Unha-2 are now making brisk headway at Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground in Hwadae County, North Hamgyong Province.'

The statement said North Korea 'envisages launching practical satellites for communications, prospecting of natural resources and weather forecast, etc. essential for the economic development of the country in a few years to come and putting their operation on a normal footing at the first phase of the state long-term plan for space development.'

The move comes as U.S. and South Korean officials warned the enigmatic North in recent days not to do so. 'We have made it clear that we consider it both provocative and unhelpful,' Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.''And we will continue to seek ways to discourage them from launching a missile for any purpose.'

U.S. officials declared themselves pleasantly surprised with GMD when they placed it on an extended, 40-day alert in mid-2006 ahead of North Korea's infamous July 4 ballistic missile tests. The alert provided an effective shakedown of the system and allowed the team to work out bugs that could not have been discovered any other way, GMD prime Boeing and Missile Defense Agency officials said through 2007.

North Korea test launched a number of missiles that day'including a long-range Taepodong-2 that might have been capable of reaching some non-continental U.S. states and territories. All splashed down harmlessly in the Sea of Japan, and in fact may have fizzled quickly.

As Aviation Week reported in mid-2007, those launches, as well as ballistic missile demonstrations by Iran, have driven U.S. officials to make plans for simultaneously operating and testing their defenses, which include radars in the U.S., Europe and Pacific region, space-based detectors and interceptors at Ft. Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

BBC has an excellent wrap-up of North Korea missile mania too.



(Via Ares.)

How About a Nice Game of Chess?

How About a Nice Game of Chess?: "

The U.S. Navy is starting the process to find a '21st-century successor' to the Trident strategic missile submarine, defense officials have announced. The thing is - and here's where it could get really interesting - the United States could very well be completely redefining what its strategic deterrence needs are starting this year.

blog post photo

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the Navy’s inventory. The first, the USS Ohio, was commissioned in 1981. The USS Wyoming finished its 38th patrol Feb. 11, marking the 1000th completed patrol of a Trident since the Ohio embarked on its initial patrol in October 1982. The Wyoming was commissioned in July 1996 and began its first patrol in August 1997. Clearly the older versions are getting up there in years.

The 14 nuclear-missile carrying Trident submarines provide more than half of America’s strategic deterrent capability, according to DOD. In 2006, the USS Ohio was converted into a guided-missile submarine, as were three others from the class to provide covert, special forces-friendly platforms.

Still, the Pentagon is about to start its Quadrennial Defense Review, as well as a Nuclear Posture Review. Besides giving President Barack Obama and his new administration the chance to genuinely recraft the U.S. military to their own vision, the reviews come as debate has increased in Washington over the nature of nuclear deterrence in the era of global antiterrorism and counterinsurgency conflicts, irregular warfare like cyber and post-Cold War assumptions (e.g., Russia and China aren't as much enemies as the USSR). Indeed, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted last week that today's threats are much more diverse and involve ‘a much broader spectrum of conflict against a much broader number of enemies, to include those that are not nation-states.'

Not surprisngly, those outside the Pentagon are not content to just sit back and await the new findings, which won't come until much later this year, at least. Meantime, electrons everywhere are falling victim to tomes of outside evaluations, including:

Evaluating conventional prompt global strike

U.S. and Soviet/Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1959-2008

Future of the Nuclear Security Environment in 2015: Proceedings

Nuclear Heuristics: Selected Writings of Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter

What deterrence means in the age of suicide bombers, religious movements, non-kinetic acts of hostility and existing nuclear weapons, and how nuclear weapons falls into them, seems far from being figured out -'and we're at least eight years into it. I think we're in for a heckuva debate, and one that could go down in the annals of great military history and political science.

(Photo: USN)


(Via Ares.)

No Flight Date

No Flight Date: "NASA managers want more time to evaluate the danger from a tiny space shuttle engine valve that failed during the most recent flight, and won't set a launch date for the upcoming flight of the shuttle Discovery until next week.

After a 13-hour flight readiness review at Kennedy Space Center, associate administrator William Gerstenmaier gave the shuttle program until next Wednesday to lay out a plan for finishing the testing and analysis necessary to clear the flight. At issue is whether another valve failure would sent a tiny part hurtling into the plumbing that keeps the shuttle's main hydrogen tank pressurized with enough force to cause a potentially dangerous leak.

Although that possibility apparently has existed since the first shuttle flight, new inspection and analysis tools indicate that the valve should be redesigned for safety. The upcoming work will determine if it is safe to keep flying with the existing design with inspection using the new tools.

The launch of the STS-119 mission with the fourth and final U.S.-built solar array wing for the International Space Station had most recently been scheduled Feb. 27, but that date will slip. The shuttle program needs to get the mission underway before about March 13 to avoid a conflict with an upcoming Russian Soyuz mission to the ISS. After that date, the next time the shuttle could launch without a Soyuz conflict would be about April 7, Gerstenmaier said at a Kennedy Space Center press conference tonight.

John Shannon, the shuttle program manager, said most engineers participating in the flight readiness review believed it would be safe to fly on Feb. 27. But enough questions remained about the results of tests simulating the effects of a loose piece of the suspect valve in the orbiter end of the plumbing to warrant more work.

'I believe we'll be able to put a plan together and make sure we answer those questions before the new launch date,' Shannon said. 'We were not that far away.'


(Via On Space.)

Turkish Passenger Jet Crashes

(CNN) -- A Turkish passenger jet crashed as it tried to land in Amsterdam Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 50, 25 seriously, Dutch airport authorities have said.

Reports say that some survivors escaped from the plane through cracks in the fuselage.

The Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800, which had 127 passengers and seven crew members, broke into three pieces on impact in a field near Schiphol Airport.

A news photographer at the scene said he saw an unknown number of bodies lying under a white blanket, Maaike Voersma, a journalist with Dutch newspaper De Bers, told CNN.

A passenger on the plane who spoke to Turkish network DHA said he saw injured people trapped and squeezed between the seats when he walked off the plane. iReport: Send your videos, stories

The Boeing 737-800, which originated from Istanbul, Turkey, was trying to land at Schiphol when it went down at about 10:40 a.m. local time, Dutch airport officials said.


PARIS — A Turkish Airlines jet carrying 135 people crashed into a field on its approach to Schiphol Airport outside Amsterdam on Wednesday, killing nine people and injuring 50, airport authorities and Turkish officials said.In Ankara, Suat Hayri Aka, a senior transportation official, told a news conference that 20 of the injured appeared to be in a serious condition. Television pictures showed the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, lying fractured into three parts after it slammed into the grass about 3 miles from the runway. The aircraft did not catch fire.

The plane, Turkish Airlines flight TK1951, left Istanbul at 8:22 a.m. on Wednesday.

The crash took place in calm weather with a light drizzle. Unlike a deadly accident in Madrid last summer when a Spanair flight crashed while taking off, no fire broke out during Wednesday’s crash.

The Turkish aircraft would have been low on fuel as it approached its destination.

As rescue operations got underway at the crash site, 80 passengers were evacuated from the plane, Binali Yildirim, the Turkish transportation minister, said on NTV, a private television station in Turkey.

“The plane has been through all required security controls,” Mr. Yildirim said.

Tuncer Mutlucan, a passenger who survived the crash, told NTV, “It was the back of the plane that hit the ground. We left the plane from the back. My colleague and I saw people stuck in between seats as we were trying to leave and we tried to help them.”

“ It all happened in something like 10 seconds,” Mr. Mutlucan said.

Candan Karlitekin, the chairman of Turkish Airlines, said most of the injured were seated at the back of the plane.

“There was nothing extraordinary about the weather conditions, vision capability was 4,500 meters. Around 500 meters away from the landing strip, the plane landed in a field. The plane was broken into three parts, as you all saw in pictures.”

Mr. Kotil said that the pilot, Hasan Tahsin Ari, was one of the airline’s most experienced pilots. The company was planning a flight from to Amsterdam from Istanbul for relatives of the crash victims.

Caroline Brothers reported from Paris, and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul.

Pictures from the scene showed the plane broken in three pieces. One tear was in front of the wing, splitting the "Turkish" logo in two, and a larger tear was farther back along he fuselage.

Read the full story at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NASA satellite in trouble just after launch

NASA satellite in trouble just after launch: "A NASA satellite launched early Tuesday was having difficulties, NASA reported.


(Via - U.S..)

Pilots report lasers being shined into cockpits

Pilots report lasers being shined into cockpits: "Pilots on 12 jetliners landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday reported that someone was shining a green laser light into their cockpits, bringing renewed attention to a problem that has plagued pilots since the introduction of cheap laser pointers several years ago.


(Via - U.S..)

Monday, February 23, 2009

FBI boss: Mumbai attack raises terror questions

FBI boss: Mumbai attack raises terror questions: "FBI Director Robert Mueller pointed Monday to recent terror attacks in Mumbai, India, and Somalia to highlight the FBI's concern that small groups or individuals could carry out such attacks on U.S. soil.



Predator crashes in Iraq; 2nd this month

Predator crashes in Iraq; 2nd this month: "An unmanned aerial vehicle crashed Sunday in Iraq, according to the Air Force."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Taliban pledges cease-fire in NW Pakistan area

Taliban pledges cease-fire in NW Pakistan area: "KHAR, Pakistan — A Taliban commander announced a unilateral cease-fire Monday in a northwestern Pakistan region where the military says it has killed around 1,500 militants in an ongoing offensive."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

U.S., Iraqis launch anti-al-Qaida offensive

U.S., Iraqis launch anti-al-Qaida offensive: "BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi forces have started a new military offensive in northern Iraq aimed at rooting out al-Qaida and other Sunni insurgents, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

BBC: Iran sought deal over nuclear program

BBC: Iran sought deal over nuclear program: "Iran in 2005 approached the West with an offer: 'We stop killing you in Iraq, stop undermining the political process there, you allow us to carry on with our nuclear program,' British diplomat John Sawers told the BBC in an interview that aired Saturday. Tehran began shopping its offer around Europe after the U.S. accused Iran of aiding the Iraqi insurgency.



Saturday, February 21, 2009

Official: Pentagon reports says Gitmo humane

Official: Pentagon reports says Gitmo humane: "WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says the Guantanamo Bay prison meets the standard for humane treatment laid out in the Geneva Conventions, according to a report for President Barack Obama, who has ordered the terrorist detention center closed within a year."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Iran close to having the bomb

GTON (CNN) -- Iranian scientists have reached "nuclear weapons breakout capability," according to a new report based on findings of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

A building housing the reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the Iranian port town of Bushehr.

The Institute for Science and International Security report concludes Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon but does have enough low-enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon.

The type of uranium the International Atomic Energy Agency report says Iran has would have to be further enriched to make it weapons-grade.

The institute drew its conclusions from an IAEA report dated February 19, 2009. An official in the IAEA confirmed the authenticity of the report for CNN, but didn't want to be named.

The IAEA report is posted on the Web site of ISIS, a Washington-based non-profit and non-partisan institution focused on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

It also finds that while Iran has dramatically increased installation of centrifuges that can be used for enriching uranium -- from 4,000 to 5,400 -- its scientists aren't using the new units yet. They remain in "research and development mode."

Don't Miss
Obama: U.S. looking for dialogue with Iran
In the IAEA report, the agency also says no substantive progress has been made in resolving issues about possible "military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program.

Iran has consistently denied the weapons allegations, calling them "baseless" and "fabricated."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Texas Fireball Found?

UNT astronomers say they found 2 samples of meteor
Associated Press Writer

DALLAS — Two samples of fresh material the "size of large pecans" from a meteor that alarmed numerous residents when it streaked across the Texas sky on Sunday have been found by two University of North Texas astronomers in a pasture east of the small town of West.

"The pieces that we found have beautiful ablation crust. And it's black like charcoal. Underneath this crust the color of the rock is concrete like gray," said Ron DiLulio, director of the planetarium and astronomy lab program at the University of North Texas in Denton.

DiLulio and Preston Starr, UNT's observatory manager, said they found the pieces Wednesday about 5 p.m. after starting their search from Fort Worth at 3 a.m. using calculations from all of the calls they had received.

DiLulio said they had just about given up looking and were driving back when a friend called and asked to meet them at a certain intersection. They said that coincided with conversations they had had earlier that day with citizens at a restaurant.

"We decided rather than try to get permission from landowners, there would be pieces in a line that would spread out a mile across. We decided to just do the county roads and we just started walking down that road and it's fairly easy to see. It jumped out at us within 15 minutes," DiLulio said.

"We came back to where our gut instinct told us," Starr said. He said the McLennan County sheriff and deputies confirmed what citizens had told them.

"The sheriff told his deputy to take us out there," DiLulio said.

The astronomers placed the samples in ZipLoc bags to keep out the air. They plan to transfer the samples to membrane cases and take them to the university for additional study.

People on Sunday reported seeing a fireball streak across the sky and DiLulio said the reason it created such a fireball was because the meteor expanded and broke into pieces.

The pair said they were not alone in the search and ran into others including "a commercial meteorite hunter and we wanted to get there so we could have it first for science," DiLulio said.

Starr said the pair had been gathering information since they initially learned of the meteor's appearance.

"We did a lot of pre-planning. We looked at the angles of what they saw in the sky and we were able to map it all out. We put a plan together and we drove around small country roads. Texas has lots of small farm to market roads," Starr said.

DiLulio said he thinks there are larger pieces still to be found.

"We feel that there are probably several hundred pieces. What happens when these things fall — they may break apart. We want to find these early and study the primitive material before our atmosphere affects them," DiLulio said

He said the pair planned on returning to the areas where they had searched.

"Everytime we find one we mark where it is on the map and we can measure how much material actually hit the surface of the earth," DiLulio said.

West is about 70 miles south of Dallas.

Marines Eye Consolidation Of V-22 Basing

Marines Eye Consolidation Of V-22 Basing: "Proposed action to base up to 10 MV-22 squadrons on the West Coast to replace nine squadrons in California"

(Via Aerospace Daily & Defense Report on

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pop Mech Article on UFO myths.

in Popular Mechanics ( March issue) this month there is an excellent cover story by my friend and fellow writer Phil Patton.

I'm not just saying it is excellent because I am quoted within, but because it is a well researched piece, exploring the current UFO myths and in particular the recent Stephenville, Texas UFO sighting.

True Believers will hate it, but Interceptors will concur, that most of what UFO buffs are seeing, are most likely the products of a even more mysterious world known as the Black World.

Some of these "UFOs" are being flown by little green men - but by "men" - I do mean humans wearing OD green flight suits.

In any event, its a good read and I hope you buy a copy.

-Steve Douglass

PM Investigates: UFO Myths
Glowing orbs
Strings of lights
Odd Phenomena
- what's really behind the new sightings.

Satellites that keep on working

Satellites that keep on working: "

The US Air Force’s Defense Satellite Communications System III constellation has bragging rights as the longest-serving on-orbit military communications system in US history.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the system has surpassed 200 years of uninterrupted secure voice and high-data rate communications for Defense Department users worldwide. In all, 14 DSCS III spacecraft have been built at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., facility.''

Their design life is 10 years but smart management of station keeping fuel, plus a solid design and construction, mean that 10 of them have provided a total of 71 years beyond their design life.'

There are nine operating currently, beginning with B12 launched on July 2, 1992, through the latest, B6 launched August 29, 2003'

Alas, all good things come to an end.''

DSCS’ replacement, the Boeing-built Wideband Global Satcom constellation,'is on its way. WGS-1 is in operation; WGS-2 is due for launch Mar. 13 and WGS-3 in July. The new spacecraft take advantage of innovations in commercial comsat technology and are more capable than the older DSCS III design.'

Phase-out of DSCS III is expected in 2011 after the launch of WGS-5. The network will grow to six satellites in 2013.'

Meanwhile, LockMart is busy on the Advanced Extremely High Frequency program, a replacement for the Milstar constellation. The first AEHF is to be delivered to the Air Force nest year. AEHF will increase data rates by a factor of five over Milstar and double the number of possible connections.'

Milstar will pass its 50th year of on orbit operations in April.


(Via On Space.)

New nuclear plants to protect against jet strikes

New nuclear plants to protect against jet strikes: "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted Tuesday to require any future nuclear power plants to be designed to withstand strikes from commercial jetliners, addressing a possible terrorist scenario that has haunted some people since the September 11, 2001, attacks.



Russian Stealth You Can Touch

Russian Stealth You Can Touch: "

Checking out the Zhuk-M1E radar at Aero-India - the new unit developed by Phazotron for the MiG-29M, MiG-29K and upgrades - one detail was obvious:' the backside of the radome and the front of the bulkhead were covered with what looked like something you'd clean the barbecue with.

blog post photo
Photo by Bill Sweetman

It's radar-absorbent material (RAM) and pretty effective RAM at that. Nothing very exotic, but it does not need to be, since it is sealed up inside the radome and protected from aerodynamic forces, heat and moisture. In fact, US RAM specialists Emerson & Cuming sell a very similar product on the open market, an open-cell plastic foam doped with carbon absorber.

Russians are not stupid and do not do things if there is no point, and there would not be a lot of point in dealing with the radar-cross section (RCS) hotspot from the radar antenna if they had not also dealt with the other sore-thumb hotspots, namely the inlets/compressor faces and the cockpit.

The technology to do this was described in detail in technical papers delivered in London some years ago by representatives from the ITAE research institute, who had applied it to the Su-27 family. ITAE had even worked out how to apply RAM directly to the first-stage fan blades, which is quite a neat trick, and had devised spray-on RAM for missiles. One may assume these or similar measures are available to MiG.

The same kind of measures are also used on many Western aircraft, but are usually not shown in detail unless someone screws up:

blog post photo
Lockheed Martin

Whoops. That's a Have Glass II F-16 and the white plastic shroud around the radar workings is RAM.

Reducing the front-sector RCS, mostly in X-band, is a far cry from full-up stealth technology. It does not make the aircraft invisible. But what it does do (and quite effectively) is make jamming more effective by reducing the burn-through range (the point at which a radar defeats jamming because the reflection is stronger than the jamming signal).

The lesson:' Any combat-effectiveness comparisons that are based on the old standard for the nose-on RCS of a fighter - around 5 m2 - can be considered invalid.



(Via Ares.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Trim setting caused B-52 crash

Trim setting caused B-52 crash: " The U.S. Air Force has completed its investigation into the July 21, 2008 crash of a B-52 30 mi. off the coast of Guam in which all six crew members died.

Wreckage showed the bomber’s stabilizer trim setting was set in a 4.5-5 deg. nose-down setting when the aircraft impacted. However, the investigators were unable to identify the cause for the incorrect setting, citing the absence of survivors, voice communications or other clues from the aircraft instruments.

Despite the lack of data, the investigators note that there was ‘clear and convincing’ evidence the faulty trim stabilizer trim setting was the cause for the aircraft loss.

Contributing to the accident was the combination of low aircraft altitude with a descending left turn and the fact that the crew was late to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

However, accident investigators were careful to avoid placing much blame on the crew, noting that ‘even an experience aircraft could have found it difficult to recognize, assess, and recover from the very rapidly developing situation involving the stab trim setting.’

Raider 21 belonged to the 20th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing, and was normally based at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. It was deployed to Anderson AFB in Guam as part of the Air Force's routine bomber presence there. The aircraft was on a training mission and was getting ready to participate in Guam Liberation Day festivities.'

The USAF accident investigation report can be found here.


(Via Ares.)

Not a UFO says FAA

DALLAS — The fireball that blazed across the Texas sky and sparked numerous weekend calls to authorities was probably a meteor and not falling space junk from last week's satellite collision, officials said Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the fireball appeared to be a natural phenomenon, and a University of North Texas astronomer said more specifically that it was probably a pickup truck-sized meteor with the consistency of concrete.
The object was visible Sunday morning from Austin to Dallas and into East Texas. In Central Texas, the Williamson County sheriff's office received so many emergency calls that it sent a helicopter aloft to look for debris from a plane crash.
The FAA backed off its weekend statement that the fireball possibly was caused by falling debris from colliding satellites plummeting into the atmosphere. That assertion was rebuffed Sunday when a major with U.S. Strategic Command said there was no connection to the sightings and last week's collision of satellites from the U.S. and Russia.

The FAA had a weekend warning out to pilots to watch out for satellite debris but rescinded the warning Sunday, FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said.
Herwig acknowledged Monday that "we are no longer saying it might have been satellite debris."

Note: The photo attached to this post is NOT the Texas fireball.

Photo by Dale Stanton

"We suspect a natural phenomenon, but we are not the experts on that," Herwig said.
Preston Starr, the observatory manager at the University of North Texas, said he believes the object was a carbonaceous meteor "about the size of a pickup truck. It was a slow mover, and probably has the consistency of concrete."
Such objects bombard the planet on a daily basis. Objects as large as the one spotted Sunday enter the atmosphere about eight or 10 times a year, Starr said. It was probably moving between 15,000 miles per hour and 40,000 miles per hour and was likely visible for several seconds.

The object was unlikely to be satellite debris, Starr said, because the trajectory was wrong and debris would be too small and too slow for so many to have seen it during the day.
"It would have looked like a blip, and nobody would be able to notice if it were a daytime entry," Starr said.
Starr described the object as a bolide, a term used by astronomers to describe a meteor with an exploding brightness. That's the description given by those who saw the fireball, saying it was reddish orange and left a trail of white smoke.
Starr said it's likely the meteor struck ground somewhere. He doubted it would have left a crater and guessed what's left of it would be smaller than the size of a fist.

Emergency operators in at least six East Texas counties received calls about the object. Several people in the Dallas area reported seeing the meteor. In Williamson County, north of Austin, a sheriff's department helicopter spent 45 minutes searching for a possible plane crash after receiving numerous calls about a fireball.
"That's why we don't have any doubt that what they saw is what they saw. We are fairly certain that whatever happened, happened," said Detective John Foster, a spokesman for the Williamson County sheriff's department. "We believe them. But we couldn't find it. We tried."

Texas Fireball Update: What was it?

There are now conflicting reports that the fireball over Texas may or may not be debris from the recent satellite collision.

Here's the latest:

A mysterious fireball streaked across the Texas sky yesterday prompting a flood of calls to the emergency services and news organisations.

The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office sent up a helicopter to look around after witnesses said that they had seen what appeared to be falling debris from a plane crash at around 11am local time.

Sheriff's spokesman John Foster said the search was inconclusive. “We don’t doubt what people saw; but authorities found nothing."

“We don’t know what it was,” confirmed Roland Herwig, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

"The tail was intact for several seconds, then became segmented," said Mr Lyon. "I conclude that the single object became several objects during incineration aftermath - a white tail remained visible for up to 10 minutes."

Matthew Donelon of Georgetown said he saw a very bright orangey-purple object dart across the northern sky.

"The object left a smoke trail for a distance and then went out," said Mr Donelon. "The smoke trail lasted for more than 15 minutes before it dispersed. There was no sound, so I estimate it was some distance away."

The US Strategic Command said it did not believe there was any connection with an incident last Tuesday when two satellites from the US and Russia collided, creating a cloud of space junk.

“There is no correlation between the debris from that collision and those reports of re-entry,” said Major Regina Winchester, with STRATCOM.

The FAA issued a warning to pilots on Saturday to be aware of possible space debris after the collision between US and Russian communication satellites.

The chief of Russia’s Mission Control says clouds of debris from the collision will circle Earth for thousands of years and threaten numerous satellites.

Some experts are now suggesting that the fast-moving Texas object was a meteor that burned up in the earth's atmosphere.


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