Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Laser downed 5 UAVs in May

Laser downed 5 UAVs in May: "A laser system built for the Air Force shot down five unmanned aircraft during a test in May at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, Calif.The Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments — or MATRIX — fired a 2½ kilowatt-class high energy laser that knocked down the aircraft, according to an Air Force Research Laboratory statement.MATRIX ‘acquired, tracked’ and destroyed the targets at ‘significant ranges,’ the statement said. Scientists and engineers will design the laser system to protect the U.S. from enemy unmanned aircraft.It was unclear how the laser brought down the aircraft or how big they were.Boeing Directed Energy Systems built the MATRIX.

The defense contractor has also developed the Airborne Laser — a Boeing 747 with a laser mounted on the nose designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.Boeing also tested its Laser Avenger system at China Lake. The Humvee-mounted directed energy air defense system shot down another unmanned aircraft.The Air Force Research Lab sponsored the test, which also was attended by Army and Navy officials.‘These tests validate the use of directed energy to negate potential hostile threats against the homeland,’ Bill Baker, chief scientist of the Lab’s Directed Energy Directorate, said in a statement."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Two wings get F on nuclear inspection

Two wings get F on nuclear inspection: "Two Air Force wings failed nuclear inspections in November, showing that the service’s nuclear mission still isn’t back on track.The 377th Air Base Wing and 498th Nuclear Systems Wing, both at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., received grades of unsatisfactory from Air Force Material Command and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency [DTRA] for problems in personnel reliability, maintenance operations and nuclear weapons security.

The 498th maintains nuclear warheads and cruise missiles while the 377th oversees training and installation security for the DTRA, the Air Force Inspection Agency and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, all based at Kirtland. The Nuclear Weapons Center maintains the service’s nuclear stockpile inside the U.S. The U.S. stockpile in Europe is overseen by U.S. Air Forces in Europe.‘Unsatisfactory inspection results should not be interpreted as suggesting that the ultimate security, safety or health of the American people has been put at risk,’ AFMC commander Gen.

Don Hoffman said in a statement. ‘However, we must meet the highest standards of safety, security and reliability in maintaining the nuclear force. Anything less than full compliance is not acceptable.’The wings are already working to correct the problems, according to the statement. Hoffman did not take away the wings’ certification to handle nuclear weapons.‘The mission of the inspected units continues while they work to refine their capabilities, processes and procedures,’ the statement read.Inspectors will return to both wings by late February.Hoffman did not say if the wings’ commanders, Col. Michael Duvall of the 377th and Col. Richard Stuckey of the 498th, will keep their jobs.

The Air Force sacked Col. Joel Westa and Col. Christopher Ayers in September after their nuclear wings at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., failed nuclear surety inspections.Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has instructed his numbered Air Force and major command leaders to hold wing commanders accountable.‘We owe it to our airmen and to the American public to ensure we have the right people for the times in these key positions, and this is what our numbered Air Force and major command commanders have done,’ Schwartz told Air Force Times in a telephone interview Oct. 30, the same afternoon Westa was fired."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

Pentagon Wants Troop Surge in Afghanistan

Washington (CNN) -- The Pentagon is making detailed plans to send about 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in anticipation of President Obama's decision on the future of the 8-year-old war, a defense official said Tuesday.
Obama held a lengthy meeting with top advisers Monday night and said Tuesday that he would announce plans for Afghanistan after the Thanksgiving holiday.

A Defense Department official with direct knowledge of the process said there has been no final word on the president's decision. But planners have been tasked with preparing to send 34,000 additional American troops into battle with the expectation that is the number Obama is leaning toward approving, the official said.
Obama ordered more than 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in March. Gen.
Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reportedly has called for up to 40,000 more to wage a counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban, the Islamic militia originally ousted by the U.S. invasion in 2001.

The president has weighed several options for bolstering the American contingent, ranging from sending a few thousand troops to sending the 40,000 McChrystal requested.

McChrystal was among those who took part in Monday's conference with Obama and other top advisers, which broke up at 10 p.m.

Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen and Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, were among the other senior officials in the meeting.
Obama said Tuesday that the deliberations have been "comprehensive and extremely useful."

"It's going to be important to recognize that in order for us to succeed there, you've got to have a comprehensive strategy that includes civilian and diplomatic efforts," he said at a news conference Tuesday with visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The military has planning under way to send these units: three U.S. Army brigades, totaling about 15,000 troops; a Marine brigade with about 8,000 troops; a headquarters element of about 7,000; and between 4,000 and 5,000 support troops -- a total of approximately 34,000 troops, according to a defense official with direct knowledge of Pentagon operations.

CNN reported last month that this was the preferred option within the Pentagon.
The troops would be dispatched throughout Afghanistan but would be focused mainly on the southern and southeastern provinces, where much of the recent fighting has taken place.

Currently, brigades from Fort Drum in upstate New York and Fort Campbell in Kentucky are among those that are next in line to deploy.
About 68,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, along with about 45,000 from the NATO alliance.

Two U.S. military officials said NATO countries would be asked to contribute more troops to fill the gap between the 34,000 the Pentagon expects Obama to send and the 40,000 McChrystal wanted. The request is expected to come during a December 7 meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell would not discuss specific numbers, but he said NATO would be asked for additional help.
"Clearly, if the president decides to commit additional forces to Afghanistan, there would be an expectation that our allies would also commit additional forces," Morrell said.

U.S.-led troops invaded Afghanistan in response to the al Qaeda terrorist network's September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The invasion overthrew the Taliban, which had allowed al Qaeda to operate from its territory, but most of the top al Qaeda and Taliban leadership escaped the onslaught.

Taliban fighters have since regrouped in the mountainous region along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, battling U.S. and Afghan government forces on one side and Pakistani troops on the other.

Al Qaeda's top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain at large and are suspected to be hiding in the same region.
The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 900 Americans and nearly 600 allied troops.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Tuesday suggests that the U.S public is split over whether more troops should be sent to Afghanistan. Fifty percent of those polled said they would support such a decision, with 49 percent opposed.
The poll found that 66 percent of Americans believe the war is going badly, up 11 percentage points from a similar survey in March. Overall support for the war has fallen to 45 percent, with 52 percent opposed.

Afghanistan was among the topics Obama and Singh discussed in their meetings Tuesday. Singh said the international community needs "to sustain its engagement in Afghanistan, to help it emerge as a modern state."
"The forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world and have to be defeated," he said. "President Obama and I have decided to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counterterrorism."

India is one Afghanistan's biggest international donors, contributing $1.2 billion in aid. That involvement has been met with suspicion in Pakistan, India's nuclear rival in South Asia. But it has helped the United States by sharing some of the burden of stabilizing the country and providing civilian support.
In addition, several leading analysts have argued that settling the decades-old tensions between India and Pakistan would allow both sides to pull troops off their borders, giving Pakistan more resources to battle the Taliban along its northwest frontier.

"I think that will certainly be at the center of the agenda this week," Nicholas Burns, a former State Department official, said on CNN's "American Morning." U.S. prospects in Afghanistan depend partly "on convincing Pakistan to be more cooperative in the fight against those terrorist groups."

"The United States is not going to be an outright mediator between Pakistan and India, but we can quietly, behind the scenes, push them to reduce their problems," Burns said.

Out Of Calling Area: New Techniques For Calling E.T.

Alien-seeking researchers have designed a new, simple code for sending messages into space. To a reasonably clever alien with math skills and a bit of astronomical training, the messages should be easy to decipher.

As of now, Earthlings spend much more time searching for alien radio messages than broadcasting news of ourselves. We know how to do it, but relatively little attention has been paid to “ensuring that a transmitted message will be understandable to an alien listener,” wrote California Institute of Technology geoscientist Michael Busch and Rachel Reddick, a Stanford University physicist, in a study filed online Friday on arXiv.

According to Busch and Reddick, neither the Arecibo message, beamed at star cluster M13 in 1974, nor the Cosmic Calls sent in 1999 and 2003 were tested for decipherability. So the pair devised their own alien-friendly messaging system: Busch invented the code, and Reddick role-played the part of an alien trying to decode it.

Like the earlier codes, Busch’s used radio to send a string of ones and zeroes. But whereas those messages were meant to be translated into pictures, Busch’s code is supposed to be turned into mathematical equations.

Reddick received the code, minus a chunk at its beginning and fragments throughout its body, as if she’d tuned in late to a signal slightly distorted by its passage through space. Knowing nothing about the code, and using nothing but a pencil, paper and a computer’s search-and-replace function, she decoded its start: descriptions of gravity and atomic mass ratios, which are “dimensionless numbers that should be universally recognized.” Once Reddick worked those out, the rest of the message — descriptions of atoms, chemical formulas for the elements required for life on Earth, and details of our solar system — came quickly.

The code does presume that alien listeners have “at least an equivalent knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and physics,” wrote Busch and Reddick. But even five undergraduate students needed only an hour to figure out a few of Busch’s mathematical and grammatical basics, so it can’t be that hard.

For now, it seems unlikely that the code will actually be sent into space. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence runs on a shoestring budget, and doesn’t directly receive national funding. But if it’s this cheap and easy to talk to aliens, perhaps humanity should try more often.


Chinese Blogger Jailed

Beijing, China (CNN) -- A Chinese blogger who helped victims of a devastating earthquake has been sentenced to three years in prison, his attorney said Monday.

Huang Qi received the maximum sentence for "illegally holding secret state documents," according to his lawyer, Mo Shaoping.

The U.S. State Department had protested the blogger's jailing, saying his activities support China's efforts to institute the rule of law.

Huang was detained in June 2008 after working to help families of children killed in the May 12, 2008, Sichuan earthquake because of the collapse of poorly constructed school buildings, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid has said.
Huang, founder of the human rights Web site 64Tianwang, had been posting articles on the site criticizing the way the earthquake relief was being organized, according to the organization Reporters Without Borders.
"The reports we are seeing are biased," he wrote on May 20, 2008, according to the group.

"In reality, it is very difficult for NGOs to deliver food aid. They are obliged to go through government channels. The government is using its propaganda to portray itself as a savior to little avail. Few citizens trust the government because of the corruptions scandals that already occurred during similar disasters in the past."
Huang was charged with illegal possession of state secrets after posting the appeals and complaints of the families. Officials said they found two municipal documents in his house.

The Chinese government is penalizing someone who is trying to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake

--Amnesty International
He was tried secretly in August, Amnesty International said.
The human rights organization protested the sentencing, saying Huang should not have been arrested and should be released immediately.

"The Chinese government is penalizing someone who is trying to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Huang Qi should be treated as a model citizen, committed to the rule of law, but instead he has fallen victim to China's vague state secrets legislation," said Sam Zarifi, director of Amnesty International's Asia Pacific program.

"We urge the judges to display humanity by freeing a seriously ill man who has already spent more than six and a half years of his life in prison," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement following Huang's sentencing last week.
"We also hope that the court will remember that all this courageous human rights activist did was provide information about the Sichuan earthquake victims, which cannot be considered a crime. If Huang were given another long prison sentence, we fear it could be fatal."

Huang previously spent five years in prison following a June 2000 arrest on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on demonstrators in Tinananmen Square, according to Reporters Without Borders.
He was charged with subversion for posting articles about the incident by exiled dissidents on his Web site.
Reporters Without Borders in 2004 awarded him its Cyber-Freedom Prize "for his online defense of free expression and human rights," the group said.

The organization said last week Huang had been held in "very harsh conditions since his arrest, although he has been suffering from very bad headaches."
The State Department raised concerns about Huang's arrest before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited China in February.

Huang plans to appeal the sentencing by the Chengdu Wuhou District Court, Mo said. If unsuccessful, he is scheduled to be released in June 2011, three years after authorities arrested him.
CNN's Wen-Chun Fan in Beijing, China contributed to this report.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin