Tuesday, March 31, 2009

North Korea Putting U.S. Journalists On Trial For Spying

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday that it would put on trial for "hostile acts" two U.S. journalists arrested earlier this month on its border with China.

The planned trial comes as tension mounts over North Korea's planned rocket launch in the next few days, which it says is to send a communications satellite into space but which the United States and others say is to test a long-range missile that could carry a warhead as far as U.S. territory.

The two women reporters were arrested two weeks ago by the Tumen River which runs along the east side of the border between North Korea and China.

"The illegal entry of U.S. reporters into the DPRK (North Korea) and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements, according to the results of intermediary investigation conducted by a competent organ of the DPRK," North Korea's KCNA news agency said.

"The organ is carrying on its investigation and, at the same time, making a preparation for indicting them at a trial on the basis of the already confirmed suspicions."
It added that while the investigation is underway, the reporters would be allowed consular access and treated according to international laws.

"We have seen (the report) and are still in the process of working diplomatically ... to achieve a favorable outcome," U.S. State Department spokesman Fred Lash said , declining further comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Space Outpost "Colbert?"

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA's outreach to the public to drum up interest in the International Space Station started innocently enough with an online contest to name the station's new living quarters.

But Stephen Colbert, a comedian who poses as an ultra right-wing news commentator on cable television's Comedy Central, nosed into the act with a grass-roots appeal that has backed the staid U.S. space agency into a corner.

The comedian's supporters cast 230,539 write-in votes to name the new module at the $100-billion space outpost "Colbert." The top NASA-suggested name, "Serenity," finished a distant second, more than 40,000 votes behind.

Contest rules stipulate that the agency retains the right to basically do whatever it wants, but it may not be that easy.

Last week, U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Democrat, called on NASA to do the democratic thing and use the name that drew the most votes.

"NASA decided to hold an election to name its new room at the International Space Station and the clear winner is Stephen Colbert," Fattah said in a statement. "The people have spoken, and Stephen Colbert won it fair and square -- even if his campaign was a bit over the top."

NASA is taking some time to ponder its next move.

"We have a plan and we're working with some folks and in a couple of weeks you'll know what the answer is," NASA's associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said.

Expert: N. Korea has several nuclear warheads

Expert: N. Korea has several nuclear warheads: SEOUL, South Korea — Nuclear-armed North Korea warned Japan on Tuesday that intervening in Pyongyang’s impending rocket launch would be considered an act of war.

North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multi-stage rocket between April 4 and 8. The U.S., South Korea and Japan think the communist regime is using the launch to test long-range missile technology, and they warn Pyongyang would face sanctions under a U.N. Security Council resolution banning the country from ballistic activity.

Japan has deployed battleships and Patriot missile interceptors off its northern coast to shoot down any rocket debris that the North has said might fall over the area.

Tokyo has said it is only protecting its territory and has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself, but North Korea said it is not convinced and accused Japan of inciting militarism at home to justify developing a nuclear weapons program of its own.

If Japan tries to intercept the satellite, the North’s army “will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of reinvasion more than six decades after the Second World War and mercilessly destroy all its interceptor means and citadels with the most powerful military means,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.

China, North Korea’s neighbor and often-estranged ally, continued to appeal for all the powers in the region to show restraint and “refrain from any action that would further complicate the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

But Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said he is ready to pursue punishment by the Security Council if North Korea fires the rocket, which already is on the launch pad.

“It would be crucial for the international community to make concerted action,” Aso told a news conference after both houses of Japan’s parliament passed a resolution strongly urging the North to forego the launch.

Daniel Pinkston — a Seoul-based expert for the International Crisis Group think tank, which provides detailed analysis about North Korea — said the communist nation has two underground nuclear warhead storage facilities near bases for its medium-range Rodong missiles, which are capable of striking Japan. The North is believed to have five to eight warheads, he said.

Read the full story HERE at Air Force Times.

This just in from the London Telegraph that echos the previous post:

INTELLIGENCE agencies have obtained information that North Korea has assembled several nuclear warheads for its medium-range Rodong missiles capable of targeting Japan, an analyst says.

Daniel Pinkston, senior analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said he had received the information from agencies he declined to identify.

"Intelligence agencies believe the North Koreans have assembled nuclear warheads for Rodong missiles, which are stored at underground facilities near the Rodong missile bases," Mr Pinkston said.

He said the agencies believe that probably five to eight warheads have been assembled.

Mr Pinkston said the agencies did not reveal the source of their information to him.

"It might be right, it might be wrong - but if others believe it is true, it has implications for the psychological aspects of deterrence," he said, describing the assessment as "quite significant".

In public at least, intelligence officials have not previously said that the communist North - which tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 - has the capability to manufacture nuclear warheads.

The North is preparing to test-fire its longest-range missile the Taepodong-2 within the next few days, but is not believed to have created any atomic warhead for this.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tu-95 close up (short video)

Tu-95 close up (short video): "

Russia’s decision to fly long-range missions with its air force has yielded some very nice photos. Now, thanks to the Danish air force, we also have a nice video (even if a only a short one):

The Tu-95 was video was taken yesterday. The Danes were at Keflavik air base, where they are on a NATO rotation. For NATO pilots, it’s become the preferred place for Tu-95 spotting.

Two Danish F-16s were involved in the meeting.

There’s been a slew of these encounters in recent months. Here’s a snapshot:

The Eurofighter Typhoon also has had its close-up moment with the Tu-95 Bear.

As has the F-22.

As has the Mirage 2000.


(Via Ares.)

Was light, booming in sky falling Russian booster or something else?

CNN) -- The mysterious burst of light in the sky and loud booms witnessed Sunday night by residents along the Mid-Atlantic coastline was likely caused by a Russian rocket booster re-entering the atmosphere, said an official at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

A mysterious flash in the sky Sunday night may have been debris from the Soyuz spacecraft's booster.

The exact cause of the flash that caused hundreds of people to call the media, local authorities and the National Weather Service was still unknown Monday afternoon. But eyewitness accounts of the color, shape and timing of the light and sound had officials at the Naval Observatory confident of the phenomenon's cause: the re-entry of orbiting space junk from the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that blasted off last week from Kazakhstan.

"An object like this will have a pretty spectacular display when it enters the atmosphere," said U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester.

Monday morning after the incident, Chester said he traced the rocket booster's path and found it was hovering over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, around the time people reported seeing the light.

Sunday's mysterious flash and booms also could have been a fireball, a natural phenomenon that occurs when a rock about the size of a suitcase slams into the earth. Naval Observatory officials say that scenario is unlikely in this case, since the space junk was already orbiting in the area.

Chester said the yellow, orange and iridescent green flashes reported by witnesses resemble both fireballs and burning space junk.

"The visual reports are consistent with either case," he said. "But the fact that a Russian rocket booster was passing through that area of the sky at the same time, it's a pretty strong factor in my opinion to make that the culprit."

The timing of the light and sounds also indicates it was likely space debris. Chester said it usually takes up to a week for a rocket booster's orbit to decay. The Russian spaceship was launched last Thursday.

Read the full story HERE at CNN.com

Update: This was posted at MarylandWeather.com

Virginia fireball was not Russian booster rocket

There has been plenty of debate today about the nature of the fireball spotted around 9:40 p.m. Sunday in the southern sky (as seen from Maryland). But I'm now convinced that it was a natural meteor, and not space debris.

Geoff Chester, spokesman for the U.S. Naval Observatory got out in front early on this story, saying he was "99.44 percent" sure the object was a Russian rocket booster, falling to Earth after the launch of the Russian Soyuz space capsule en route to the International Space Station.

I don't think so. Man-made space debris is traveling at orbital velocities, and re-enters the atmosphere at a fairly slow speed compared with meteors. We all remember the painful video images of the space shuttle Columbia breaking up on re-entry in 2003, with the loss of its crew. It is very slow compared with meteor entries.

Eyewitness descriptions of Sunday night's event said they watched this object for only a few seconds before it vanished. Here's a eyewitness comment we received this morning:

"I live along the coast on the Eastern Shore of MD. I too saw this amazing fireball. From my vantage point the bright orange ball of fire just suddenly appeared at approximately 9:40 PM. It was definitely larger than a refrigerator, as reported. It fell downward and slightly east then seemed to burn out. It only lasted about 5 seconds; however, this was the most spectacular site I have ever seen! - Jill Schline"

Now, Ted Molczan, a knowledgeable and experienced satellite watcher active with SeeSat, an international group of hobbyists who track and observe Earth satellites, says he agrees. This was not space debris. I asked him to check the orbit of the Russian rocket body, and whether it might have been what was seen by observers from Maryland to North Carolina. Here's his response:

Dear Frank,

The object was 2009-015B / 34670, the SL-4 rocket body from the recent Soyuz-TMA 14 launch to ISS. Geoff Chester of the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. expressed certainty that its decay is what was seen last night, but he is mistaken: http://www.livescience.com/space/090330-rocket-debris.html

The U.S. Strategic Command's final report on this decay, predicted decay over 24 N, 125 E, [near Taiwan] on 2009 Mar 30, within 1 minute of 03:57 UTC (11:57 PM EDT).

It did pass within sight of the Virginia and Maryland Sunday night, but at about 9:26 PM EDT, about 2.5 hours before decay. It was 137 km high, but that is far too high to have begun burning. Burning begins a little below 100 km. The object was in Earth's shadow, so it was invisible, because it was not burning yet.

But clearly it was a meteor, based on its high angular velocity.

I observed a satellite decay five years ago, and the object took about 90 seconds to cross from a point low above the SW horizon to a point low in the SE.

That is much faster than a normal satellite, but nowhere near as fast a meteor, which could traverse the same angle in about one tenth the time.

Best regards,

Ted Molczan

Navy Aegis Ships Moving To Intercept N Korean Rocket

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Navy ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles are being moved to the Sea of Japan, a Navy spokesman said.
The USS Chaffee is one of two destroyers headed to South Korea for an upcoming ceremony.

The USS Chaffee is one of two destroyers headed to South Korea for an upcoming ceremony.

The move came as North Korea was preparing for an expected rocket launch next month.

Later Thursday, Japan announced it was ready to fire on the rocket if any part of it enters Japanese airspace.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada's order was to destroy debris from the North Korean rocket if its launch fails and fragments fall in Japanese territory, said defense ministry spokesman Yuichi Akiyoshi.

The U.S. ships, with powerful Aegis radar that can track ballistic missile launches, were on regularly planned deployments but were, "prepared to track a launch or more, if afforded," according to a U.S. Navy official who could not be named due to the sensitivity of the information.

The United States generally has a number of Aegis-capable ships in the Sea of Japan because of the threat posed by North Korea to launch missiles. The ships monitor the region and are designed to track and, if need be, shoot down ballistic missiles.

Satellite Photo Of N Korea Rocket Released

CNN) -- A North Korean rocket slated for launch sometime early next month can be clearly seen in a satellite photograph taken Sunday, the Institute for Science and International Security said Sunday.

The latest satellite image shows a rocket sitting on its launch pad in the north east of the country.
1 of 2

The satellite imagery, obtained by the ISIS from DigitalGlobe, is said to show the rocket at the Musudan-ri launch site in northeastern North Korea. The image casts a shadow on the ground below.

CNN could not independently confirm the information provided by the institute, led by former U.N. nuclear inspector David Albright. Defense Department officials were not immediately available for comment.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday there is little doubt that the planned launch is designed to bolster that North Korea's military capability.

He also indicated that the U.S. military could be prepared to shoot down a North Korean missile if the rogue regime develops the capability to reach Hawaii or the western continental United States in a future launch.

The North Korean government says it will launch a commercial satellite atop a rocket sometime between April 4 and April 8.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

ISR blimp would fly for 10 years uninterrupted

ISR blimp would fly for 10 years uninterrupted: "A blimp that hovers at 65,000 feet and stays aloft for a decade is what the Air Force hopes within five years will revolutionize its intelligence gathering."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Gates: United States Can Do Nothing to Stop Missile Launch

The United States can do nothing to stop North Korea from breaking international law in the next 10 days by firing a missile that is unlikely to be shot down by the U.S. or its allies, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

Appearing on "FOX News Sunday," Gates said North Korea "probably will" fire the missile, prompting host Chris Wallace to ask: "And there's nothing we can do about it?"

"No," Gates answered, adding, "I would say we're not prepared to do anything about it."

Last week, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. is "fully prepared" to shoot down the missile. But Gates said such a response is unlikely.

"I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii, that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it," Gates said. "But I don't think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point."

North Korea has moved a missile onto a launch pad and says it will be fired by April 8. Pyonyang insists the missile is designed for carrying a communications satellite, not a nuclear warhead that the secretive nation appears bent on developing.

Gates said while he doesn't think North Korea has the capability yet to shoot off a long-range nuclear-tipped missile, "I don't know anyone at a senior level in the American government who does not believe this technology is intended as a mask for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile."


Editors note: This is exactly what I expected Defense Secretary Robert Gates to say, trying to convince the North Koreans we do not have the capability to shoot down their rocket, when indeed we do.

The technology is still experimental and Top Secret.
if deployed and it destroys the Korean rocket (should it look like it threatens Japan or Alaska) the United States will NOT take credit for the shoot down for two reasons.

A. It's better for the world to think the North Korean military is incompetent and impotent.

B. Russia is watching and if the American missile technology is revealed to be as good as they fear, talks for deploying the NMD system in Europe will break down.

-Steve Douglass

National Missile Defense System/How It Works LINK HERE

Saturday, March 28, 2009

U.S. intel head disputes N. Korea's claim

WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. intelligence chief challenged North Korea's repeated claim it will launch a satellite into space next month, not a missile test.

"Most of the world understands the game they are playing," National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair said during a news briefing. "I think they're risking international opprobrium and hopefully worse if they successfully launch it."

Satellite images indicate North Korea is in the final stages of assembling a multistage rocket at a launch site along its coast, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. North Korea says it plans to launch a communications satellite between April 4-8, but Western leaders said they are concerned that the launch is a missile test-firing.

Western nations and North Korea have been sparring over consequences of the launch, with the United States, South Korea and Japan saying they would seek punitive action from the United Nations, while Pyongyang threatening to reverse the steps it has taken on nuclear disarmament if sanctions are imposed.

"They're trying to use the rationale of a legitimate space launch for a missile, which is in its foundation a military missile," Blair said, describing the rocket as a Taepodong, a multistage missile that may be capable of reaching Alaska.

GhostNet Attack Infiltrates Computer Systems

Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries

Published: March 28, 2009
TORONTO — A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.

This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The F.B.I. declined to comment on the operation.

Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that China’s government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.”

“We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a member of the research group and an associate professor of political science at Munk. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”


Welcome back Discovery!

Space Shuttle Discovery Returns Home
Sat, 28 Mar 2009 02:15:16 PM CDT

Space shuttle Discovery rolled to a stop at Kennedy Space Center, completing its 13-day journey of more than 5.3 million miles in space.

The post-landing news conference is set for approximately 5:15 p.m. EDT and will air live on NASA Television. The participants are Bill Gerstenmaier, LeRoy Cain and Mike Leinbach. The crew's return to Houston's Ellington Field is expected about 5 p.m. Sunday.

STS-119 was the 125th space shuttle mission, the 36th flight for Discovery and the 28th shuttle visit to the station.

Shuttle lands after first try scrubbed

Shuttle lands after first try scrubbed: "NASA engineers announced they have set 3:13 p.m. Saturday as the time for the space shuttle to land at Kennedy Space Center.


(Via CNN.com.)


Waveoff!: "

Mission managers have waved off the space shuttle Discovery from its first landing opportunity at Kennedy Space Center, deciding to wait another orbit to give iffy weather at the Florida landing site time to get better.

A cloud deck and head- and crosswinds gusting out of limits at the KSC shuttle landing strip forced the waveoff.

blog post photo

Clouds from 2,700 to 4,000 feet were moving into the area, and crosswinds were gusting too high for a safe landing. Mission Control Center-Houston said meteorologists considered chances better for an attempt later.


(Via On Space.)

Russia Building New Nuke Subs

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russia will build at least six nuclear-powered submarines with long-range cruise missiles for its navy, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry told the Itar-Tass news agency.

The missiles can potentially carry low-capacity tactical warheads, the news agency reported Friday.

"These supersonic, highly maneuvering missiles are designed for strikes on aircraft carriers of the enemy if the latter poses a direct threat to Russia's security," the unnamed source told Itar-Tass. "The missiles can be launched at the most important coastal facilities."

The source added, "Despite the construction of a new nuclear submarine with new missiles, Russia intends to observe firmly international arms control agreements on equal terms with other countries."

The Severodvinsk-class submarines are being built at the Sevmash shipyard, the center of Russian nuclear submarine production, according to Global Security's Web site.

The new subs will be put into service for the Russian navy in 2011, the source told Itar-Tass.

Russia will finance the construction of the new submarine with long-range cruise missiles, First Deputy Chief of the Navy's General Staff, Vice-Admiral Oleg Burtsev told Itar-Tass.

Friday, March 27, 2009

U.S. ships on move as N. Korea launch nears

U.S. ships on move as N. Korea launch nears: "As North Korea prepares for an expected rocket launch next month, the U.S. Navys says it is moving to the Sea of Japan ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles.


(Via CNN.com.)

WhiteKnightTwo Resumes Flight Tests

WhiteKnightTwo Resumes Flight Tests: "Third and longest test flight reached 140 knots, altitude of over 18,000 ft. and included in-flight engine restarts"

(Via AviationWeek.com Space Channel.)

More to the story: Relatives Remember F-22 Pilot

COLLINSVILLE -- David Cooley was born to fly, his father said a day after Cooley's jet crashed in Southern California.
Cooley, 49, was a 21-year Air Force veteran who retired as a lieutenant colonel and went to work for Lockheed Martin testing jets. Cooley was flying an F-22 on Wednesday when he crashed in the Mojave Desert and was killed.

David Cooley attended Belleville East High School and played soccer. From there, he went to the U.S. Air Force Academy and became a pilot. Cooley lived with his family in Lancaster, Calif., near Edwards Air Force Base.

The Cooley family moved to the metro-east in 1971, first to Fairview Heights and eventually Collinsville. Bill Cooley, who still lives in Collinsville, said his son loved to fly from his youth.
"He just loved it, he couldn't wait to get in the air," Bill Cooley said.

"I think he's flown about every fighter in the Air Force," Bill Cooley said. "David enjoyed his flying, he really did."
On the ground, David was well-liked, Bill Cooley said. Among David's hobbies was cycling -- he was almost a career cyclist, going on 100-mile rides through the west, his father said.

"He was a warm individual, very caring, and he would help anyone who needed help," Bill Cooley said. "He was a devoted family man -- he has a wife and three children. ... He was devoted to his job and to his family."
David's mother has passed away, but he had many friends throughout the area, Bill Cooley said.
"I loved him very dearly," his father said. "He had a good life."

Read the full story HERE.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Secrecy surrounds F-22 crash.

Edwards F-22 Pilot Did Not Eject: "Some senior U.S. Air Force officials were notified yesterday that there was no pilot ejection from the F-22 that crashed near Edwards AFB Base.

The Lockheed Martin pilot was declared dead at the hospital which seemed to indicate he was killed after ejection, but officials at Edwards said that statement was simply a pro forma statement for the investigation. USAF officials said the report of no ejection came soon after the crash, but almost immediately a complete security blanket was dropped over the investigation and no more data has been revealed.

(Via AviationWeek.com Defense Channel.)

Clinton: N. Korea rocket is 'provocative'

Clinton: N. Korea rocket is 'provocative': "North Korea has positioned what is believed to be a long-range ballistic missile on its launch pad, a U.S. counter-proliferation official said on Wednesday.


(Via CNN.com.)

N. Korea defends right to 'explore space'

N. Korea defends right to 'explore space': "North Korea defended Thursday its right to explore outer space after reports that a rocket, believed by the United States to be a long-range missile, had been positioned on its launch pad.


(Via CNN.com.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Breaking News: F-22 Pilot Killed In California Crash Identified.

Lockheed Martin just realeased this statement:

8:15 PM CDT

Lockheed Martin test pilot David Cooley, 49, was killed today at about 10 a.m. Pacific time in the crash of an F-22 aircraft flying on a test mission from Edwards AFB, California.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of David and our concerns, thoughts and prayers at this time are with his family.

David joined Lockheed Martin in 2003 and was a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He worked at the F-22 Combined Test Force, where a team of Lockheed Martin and Air Force pilots conduct F-22 aircraft testing.

Edwards AFB released this statement:

F-22A crash claims life of Edwards pilot

95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2009 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An Air Force F-22A crash today claimed the life of a USAF veteran and Lockheed Martin test pilot.

David Cooley, 49, of Palmdale, Calif., died when the F-22A he was piloting crashed northeast of Edwards AFB.

Cooley worked as a test pilot with Lockheed Martin, and was employed at the 411th Flight Test Squadron, 412th Test Wing, on Edwards AFB. Cooley joined Lockheed Martin in 2003 and was a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He worked at the F-22 Combined Test Force, where a team of Lockheed Martin and Air Force pilots conduct F-22 aircraft testing.

"This is a very difficult day for Edwards and those who knew and respected Dave as a warrior, test pilot and friend," said Maj Gen David Eichhorn, Air Force Flight Test Center commander. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dave and his family as we struggle through, and do all we can to support them."

At approximately 10 a.m. this morning Edwards received word that the F-22A had gone down 35 miles northeast of the base. First responders transported Cooley from the crash scene to Victor Valley Community Hospital in Victorville, where he was pronounced dead.

A board of officers is investigating the accident through an Accident Investigation Board, whose findings will be released to the public upon completion.

Base officials stress that the accident site is remote and may contain hazardous materials released from the crash, and ask that individuals refrain from entering the area until the full investigation has been completed, and debris removed from the scene.


Air Force Week Los Angeles
Dave Cooley explains to Grant Ivey how the F-22 Raptor simulator operates during the Air Force Expo at Hollywood and Highland Boulevard in Los Angeles on Nov. 14. Air Force Week Mr. Cooley is an F-22 Raptor test pilot for Lockheed Martin, and Mr. Ivey is the president of Navy Days-LA. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

F-22 Crashes in California/Pilot's Fate Still Unknown


EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – One of the Air Force's top-of-the-line F-22 fighter jets crashed Wednesday in the high desert of Southern California. There was no immediate word on whether the pilot ejected.

The F-22A Raptor crashed 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, Pentagon spokesman Gary Strassburg said. The Bureau of Land Management identifies the area as Harper Dry Lake, a vast and empty expanse of sometimes marshy flat land.

Rescue crews were at the site in the afternoon but there was no information on the status of the pilot, said Lt. Col. Karen Platt, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

The crash occurred at 10 a.m., said Airman 1st Class William O'Brien, a spokesman at Edwards.

Editors notes:

Reports from the public in the area at the time of the crash described what sounded like a "very loud sonic boom" which are common to the area.

According to early pressreports, the crash site is near Harper Dry Lake, a remote area located southwest of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake ranges.

Not much is known about the dry lake other than it was used by Howard Hughes in the 40s for aircraft testing and was the proposed site for Lockheed's cancelled spaceplane proposal Venture Star.

Jack Northrop also flew prototypes of his flying wing aircraft out of a landing strip ( now abandoned) at Harper Dry Lake.

Harper Dry Lake on Google Earth:

Breaking News: North Korea loading rocket on launch pad

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- North Korea is loading a Taepodong rocket on its east coast launch pad in anticipation of the launch of a communications satellite early next month, U.S. officials say. U.S. counterproliferation and intelligence officials have confirmed Japanese news reports of the expected launch between April 4 and 8.

North Korea announced its intention to launch the satellite in February. Regional powers worry the claim is a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said earlier this month that all indications suggest North Korea will in fact launch a satellite.

North Korea faked a satellite launch in 1998 to cloak a missile development test. In 2006, it launched a Taepodong-2 that blew up less than a minute into flight.

Both the satellite launch rocket and long-range missile use similar technology, and arms control experts fear even a satellite launch would be a test toward eventually launching a long-range missile.
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have urged North Korea to refrain from launching a satellite or missile, calling it a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution barring the country from ballistic activity.

North Korea insists it bears the right to develop its space program and on Tuesday warned the U.S., Japan and its allies not to interfere with the launch.

Officials at the South Korea's National Intelligence Service and the Defense Ministry were not available for comment early Thursday in Seoul.
South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac, said Wednesday after returning from talks with his Beijing counterparts, that a launch would trigger a response.

"If North Korea launches rocket, certain countermeasures are unavoidable," he said. He refused to elaborate, saying the measures, including any sanctions, would be discussed among U.N. Security Council member nations.
It probably won't be clear if the latest launch is a satellite or a missile test until footage can be analyzed after the event; the trajectory of a missile is markedly different from that of a satellite.

Analysts have been watching for signs of a satellite or missile on the launch pad in Musudan-ni, the northeast coastal launch site. Satellite imagery from March 16 showed progress toward mounting a rocket, with a crane hovering over the launch pad, said Christian LeMiere, an editor at Jane's Intelligence Review in London.
He said that once mounted, scientists would need at least a week to fuel and carry out tests before any launch. Images from earlier this month did not indicate the rocket or missile had been mounted, he said Wednesday.
Associated Press Writer Jean H. Lee in Seoul contributed to this report.

This JSF Post Is Hot

This JSF Post Is Hot: "

This item caught my eye from Dave Fulghum's post, referring to a certain'all-singing, all-dancing omnipotent fighter aircraft:

‘Thermal problems were first identified in hot-weather ground operations,’ he says. ‘The problem was that the fuel-air heat exchanger was not providing enough cooling. In the short-term, at least, they’ll just limit hot weather activity.’

It's just as well that US forces won't have to operate in hot climates any time soon. According to highly placed sources, the Obama administration expects that the Schleswig-Holstein question, and the assurance of a Protestant successor to the Elector of Hanover, will be the big conflict flashpoints of the next two decades.

Speaking of hotspots, take a look at these details of'F-35 AA-1 on its ferry flight to Edwards last fall:

blog post photo
JSF program office pic - full image here.

That is the'exhaust from the JSF's integrated auxiliary and emergency power and thermal management unit, located next to the left vertical tail to conceal its radar and infra-red signature - but apparently hot enough to discolor paint.

On BF-1, the first production-type JSF, the exhaust has been relocated to the underside of the aircraft.

blog post photo
JSF program office pic - full image here.

Time for the JSF enthusiasts hereabouts to show us an example of a similar, apparently round-edged and hot nozzle on the visible lower surface of any stealth aircraft.

In any event, the JSF has a thermal management problem, and one design change - moving the exhaust - hasn't fixed it, since for the time being it appears that hot-weather operations are being restricted.

The issue is a basic one for stealth aircraft:' lots of vents, grills and inlets can't be tolerated because they create radar and infra-red hotspots, so instead the heat generated by electronics and other systems (such as the F-35's electrically powered actuators) is dumped into the fuel by heat exchangers and lost from the aircraft as the fuel is burned.

The toughest conditions for this process are ground idle (where the fuel is not being used fast) and end-of-mission, where there is not much fuel to absorb the heat and the aircraft is at low altitudes where temperatures are higher.

Most problems of this kind can be fixed, perhaps with larger and more efficient heat exchangers and other changes - a new fuel pump is in the works for JSF.

The question is how much it will cost (in terms of money and weight), how long it will take - that is, which production lot will be the first to get the modifications - and how easy or otherwise it is to retrofit. The fuel pump itself will be available on LRIP 3, according to the Government Accountability Office, which says that 'Thermal management challenges hamper the ability to conduct missions in hot and cold environments.' (Emphasis added.)

Show-stopper? Probably not. A delay factor? Quite possibly, and one to keep an eye on.

Updated:' Dave's comment below about the actuators is valid. Hydraulic actuators are inherently cooled by circulation of fluid, but the electro-hydrostatic actuators on the F-35 are not on a fluid circuit. Here's a flaperon actuator on the Moog booth at Farnborough 2008:

blog post photo
AvWeek/Bill Sweetman

There's nothing in the picture to give scale, but think of a lawnmower engine. There are four of these actuators on JSF, plus many smaller actuators.'

blog post photo

The primary actuators have'to be electro-hydraulic, not electric, because a pure electric actuator can seize. The actuator itself is in the middle, flanked by two electric pumps. The actuator has to be on two independent cooling loops - it's possible that the two black-capped connectors on the nearer end of each pump assembly are cooling lines. There is also a possibility that the unit would have to be heated in high-altitude cruising flight.


(Via Ares.)

UFO Files

UFO Files: "

For anyone digging into the murky and unsubstantiated world of secret aircraft projects, the periodic de-classification of official documents about UFO sightings is always a potential gold mine. The latest batch, containing a wide range of UFO-related documents from the UK Ministry of Defence from 1987 to 1993, is no exception and includes some truly interesting reports.

However, just like the famous USAF’s Project Blue Book of the 1950s and 1960s which found only 6% of the 12,600 plus recorded UFO sightings to be inexplicable, the nuggets in the latest batch are hard to find. As usual, although the witnesses (whose identities have been redacted per Blue Book), appear largely genuine, the incidents themselves are mostly explainable by known phenomenon or are probably hoaxes. But amongst the records, which include several pages of AW&ST’s stories by William Scott on subjects such as Aurora, Northrop TR-3A and other mystery vehicles, there are a few tantalizing snippets that could be clues to real sightings or events. '''

Available on the UK government’s National Archives website, the page on the files says boldly ‘…If you want to find out more about close encounters over Heathrow Airport, alien abductions, stray satellites - and what the UK Government thought of it all - then this is the place to be.’

A quick scan showed up an interesting report from Scotland in August 1990 involving photographs of what appeared to be a large diamond shaped object in close proximity to a low flying RAF Harrier. The file is unusual in that it contains images (although poorly reproduced), plus some interesting detail about the UK MoD’s guidelines on how to deal with the issue.

Potentially more seriously, the reports also include a number of incidents which today could be interpreted as botched attempts to bring down an airliner with a missile. One of these relates to sightings by passengers on a Dan Air Boeing 737 shortly after take off from London Gatwick, while another is the report by an Alitalia MD-80 captain of something missile-like that passed his aircraft while descending over southern England to Heathrow. Whatever your conclusions, the files make for some interesting viewing!

blog post photo

A rendition based on Chris Gibson's famous August 1989 North Sea sighting around the same period as the newly de-classified files. (credit: hubpages.com/hub/War-Weapon-Aurora-Spy-Plane)

Talking of which, it would be interesting to hear Bill Scott's and Bill Sweetman's views on some of this material, much of which surrounds the first emergence of news of 'Aurora'.



(Via Ares.)

Updated: Edwards AFB F-22 Crashes in California

WASHINGTON (CNN) — An Air Force F-22A fighter jet crashed Wednesday near Edwards Air Force Base in California, Air Force officials said.

The single-seater crashed about 10:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. ET) for unknown reasons, the officials said.

The status of the pilot was unknown.

The fighter was on a test mission when it crashed about 35 miles northeast of Edwards AFB, where it was stationed, the Air Force said in a news release.

At $150 million apiece, the F-22A is the most expensive Air Force jet.


The jet crashed six miles north of the base on Harper Dry Lakebed, said Air Force Maj. David Small at the Pentagon.

This dry lakebed in the Mojave Desert was the site of secret flight test programs

conducted by the Hughes & Northrop aircraft companies during the 1940s,

including the historic first flight by an American rocket-propelled aircraft.

Rescue crews were en route to the site and the status of the pilot was unknown, he said.

Small said the jet, assigned to Edwards' 412th Test Wing, was on a test mission but he did not know its nature.

Call to the base public affairs phone numbers were answered by recording machines.

The F-22 is the Air Force's new top-of-the-line fighter. Each of the radar-evading stealthy jets costs $140 million.

The $65 billion F-22 program is embattled, with some opponents contending that a different warplane under development, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is more versatile and less costly at $80 million per plane.

The U.S. is committed to 183 F-22, down from the original plan laid out in the 1980s to build 750.

Its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., says there are 95,000 jobs connected to the F-22.

The F-22 is able to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners. That allows it to reach and stay in a battlespace faster and longer without being easily detected.

The two-engine fighter is 62 feet long, has a wingspan of 44 1/2 feet and is flown by a single pilot.

Update 2:20 PM

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The Pentagon has confirmed that an F-22 Raptor has crashed outside of Edwards Air Force Base.
According to the Kern County Fire Department, the plane crashed near Kramer Junction.
The condition of the pilot is unknown.

The Raptors retail upwards of $145 million a piece.
According to the US Air Force Website, The F-22A features a combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats.

The F-22A possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected.

Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot's situational awareness.
In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs

In addition to being America’s most prominent air-superiority fighter, the F-22 evolved from its original concept to become a lethal, survivable and flexible multimission fighter. By taking advantage of emerging technologies the F-22 has emerged as a superior platform for many diverse missions including intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic attack.

Two squadrons of F-22s are assigned to Air Combat Command’s 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va. And two squadrons are assigned to the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Raptor pilots and maintainers train at Tyndall AFB, Fla., while operational testing is conducted at Edwards AFB, Calif., and Nellis AFB, Nev. New F-22s continue to roll from the production line and will soon operate out of Holloman AFB, N.M., and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

What bloggers are saying about the crash.

Update 4:32 PM : Aviation Week & Space Technology

David A. Fulghum davef@aviationweek.com

The U.S. Air Force has confirmed an F-22A Raptor crashed about 10 a.m. today around 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it was based.

The condition of the pilot is unknown at this time, USAF says. A program source tells Aviation Week that the reason the pilot's fate is unknown is because the F-22 was separated from the chase plane at the time of the accident and the chase pilot did not see what happened.

The Raptor was on an unidentified test mission. So far it appears to have been a captive carry weapons test by the 412th Test Wing.

A USAF statement said a board of officers will investigate the accident. "As soon as additional details of the crash become available, they will be provided," the service said.

This is the third crash of an F-22, and the second of a production aircraft. A YF-22 crashed during testing in 1992--the pilot survived without ejecting--and in 2004 a pilot at Nellis AFB was forced to eject shortly after takeoff. The Nellis crash grounded the F-22 fleet for two weeks.

The Air Force currently has 134 F-22s in its inventory.


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