Sunday, January 31, 2010

NORAD Monitoring Upgrade

Buried deep beneath Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has monitored the skies above North America for more than 50 years. During the height of the Cold War, NORAD was the US and Canada’s early warning system for a Soviet 1st nuclear strike.

Following 9/11, NORAD moved to improve its ability to detect and monitor aircraft originating from within the US and Canada. One of those efforts, funded by the US Air Force, is development of the Battle Control System-Fixed (BCS-F). BCS-F integrates data from civil air traffic sensors, as well as airborne, ground and naval sensors, into an integrated air picture that allows commanders to better monitor the North American airspace.

BCS-F prime contractor ThalesRaytheonSystems in Fullerton, CA recently received an $8 million contract (FA8722-10-C-0001) to provide interim support for the program…

The BCS-F has command and control nodes at NORAD posts in Alaska, New York state, Washington state, Hawaii, and Canada.

Among other things, BCS is designed to help detect off-course aircraft like the ones that struck the World Trade Center in 2001. Using high-speed servers that correlate data from radar and flight control sources, BCS is intended to deliver a heads-up when something is wrong in the skies over North America.

An interview with Defense News, Lt. Col. Robert Bubello, BCS-Fixed program manager, explained:

”[BCS] enables our warfighters in the air defense sectors to monitor the airspace over the United States, which during 9/11 was a big gap in our capability. This system is the long-term system that not only enables us to look out, but also to monitor the airspace over the U.S. and Canada.”

The system combines Hewlett-Packard DL585 rack-mounted servers and DL360 workstations with Northrop Grumman’s Gateway Manager system. The system can be used in a fixed configuration, BCF-F, as well as a mobile configuration, BCF-Mobile, such as mounted in a Humvee.

Commenting on how the system could detect domestic aircraft deviating from approved flight plans, Dan De Sollar, C2 Air Operations program area director at ThalesRaytheonSystems, told Defense News that:

“Each aircraft that is flying has to have [filed] an approved flight plan with the FAA. [BCS] takes the data from the FAA and the data from radar and datalinks and correlates it to make sure it’s flying within its flight plan. When it deviates by a certain amount, it alerts the operator to determine what to do next.”

An effort would be made to establish radio contact with a deviating flight, but the ground commander would have the option of scrambling jets to establish visual contact if necessary. Such a tactic could be used to intercept a hostile flight or provide aid to one in distress, De Sollar said.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Putin praises stealthski - says better than F-22

Vladimir Putin praised the maiden flight of Russia’s new stealth plane as “a big step” towards giving the air force a fighter fit for the twenty first century.
The Russian prime minister told a cabinet meeting he wanted the first batch of T-50 stealth fighters to be in service by 2013, well ahead of earlier deadlines. The fighter will be the first all-new military aircraft Russia has built since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.

Russian aviation and air force officials lost little time in boasting that the plane would equal if not better America's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.

Experts believe the T-50s maiden test flight underlines the Kremlin's determination to overhaul its ageing Soviet-era military hardware even as it is locked in key nuclear arms reductions talks with the United States.

President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, discussed a new nuclear arms treaty as recently as last Wednesday. The putative treaty would slash the number of war heads both countries possess and is seen as the centrepiece of a thus far largely rhetorical "reset" in relations between Moscow and Washington.

Negotiators have been hammering out the details of such a deal for months and are said to be weeks if not days away from a final settlement.
But though Russia may be ready to scale back its ageing nuclear arsenal it has signalled it will continue to actively renew its nuclear shield. So far unsuccessful tests to develop a new submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile dubbed the Bulava continue apace, a new strategic nuclear bomber is in development, and the country's strategic rocket forces have asked for a new silo-based heavy intercontinental missile too.

The stealth project is so secret that until yesterday photographs of the prototype had not even appeared in the Russian media. But state TV broke that embargo on Friday and showed the plane soaring over snowy forests in Russia's far east more than 5,000 miles east of Moscow.

Sceptics believe that Russia's plans to negotiate cuts in its nuclear arsenal do not mean it is ready to downsize its military ambitions. The warheads are ageing and would need to be replaced soon anyway.

Video of Russia's "F-22ski" Stealth Prototype

DoD's '11 Budget: $10.7B for F-35, $4B for New Bomber, More for SpecOps


The Pentagon's 2011 budget will seek nearly $11 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, while also putting $4 billion toward a new long-range bomber and boosting funds for special operations forces, according to a draft overview of the spending request obtained by Defense News.

THE FY2011 BUDGET calls for $10.7 billion to be spent on the F-35. (LOCKHEED MARTIN)
The Obama administration's 2011 Pentagon spending request follows a tumultuous 2010 Pentagon budget process that saw Defense Secretary Robert Gates cancel, restructure or otherwise alter about 50 major U.S. weapon programs.

Due to be sent to Congress on Feb. 1, the new budget will call for the termination of yet more programs while doubling the purchase of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft, according to the summary document, titled "Overview - FY 2011 Defense Budget" and labeled "Draft - Predecisional." And as in years past, the budget will push to finally kill purchases of the Air Force's C-17 cargo plane and an alternative engine for the F-35.

"Since taking office, Secretary Gates has taken decisive action to increase the capabilities available to our deployed forces - especially those forces in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," the summary says. "The FY 2011 budget builds upon his previous actions, which Congress generally has supported, and advances the [Quadrennial Defense Review's] emphasis on current conflicts."

Despite that current-war focus, the summary also describes a 2011 budget request that "funds a robust program to develop and procure superior [tactical] aircraft to guarantee continued air dominance over current and future battlefields."

The summary calls the F-35 program "the most important" and says its procurement quantities have been adjusted to reflect "new data on costs and on likely orders from our foreign nation partners and realigned development and test schedules." In 2011, the Pentagon wants $10.7 billion for more development and to buy 42 F-35s, according to the summary.

The summary does not include a DoD-wide top-line number, but is chock full of program funding lines.

For special operations forces, the 2011 budget will call for $6.3 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, which the summary calls a "6 percent" boost from this fiscal year. The added funds would be used to buy new gear and ISR assets and to improve existing ones, training, and communications systems.

"DoD plans to call for SOF funding to continue to increase sharply over the next several years," the summary says.

It also will propose adding 2,800 new special operations personnel.

One of the biggest questions about the closely held budget: will the Pentagon put new money toward an on-again, off-again effort to develop and field a new long-range bomber? The summary says yes: $4 billion over 2011-15.

Echoing public comments made in recent weeks by Pentagon and Air Force officials, the summary says the funds will be used for work on "a portfolio of initiatives to improve long-range strike capabilities." The $4 billion also would go for maintaining "the bomber industrial base" while the Pentagon studies what kind of bomber will be "appropriate for future decades."

The long-range strike portion of the request also will seek funds for development of a Prompt Global Strike system, as well as efforts to upgrade B-2 and B-52 bomber aircraft, according to the DoD summary. The summary does not specify funding levels for those three initiatives.

"Later in this [2011-2015] time frame, funds are available to begin developing a new bomber and cruise missile," it says.

For the Army's ground forces modernization program, the budget plan will support a program to develop and field a new next-generation ground combat vehicle - but it does not include a funding amount.

"The design of the new program will take into account the success of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected [MRAP] vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan," the summary says.

Over the past year, senior Pentagon officials - including Gates - have sounded alarms about the U.S. military's helicopter fleet and industrial base. To that end, the budget will ask Congress for $9.6 billion "for the acquisition of a variety of modern rotary wing aircraft," the summary says. That list includes:

■ $1.4 billion for Army UH-60 Black Hawks.

■ $1.2 billion for Army CH-47 Chinooks.

■ $2.7 billion for V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

■ $1.7 billion MH-60R/S Seahawks for the Navy.

The budget also will propose creation of two "combat aviation brigades" by combining existing aviation platforms to create a 12th active duty brigade in fiscal 2011. It also will set in motion efforts to field a 13th in fiscal 2015.

Meantime, the 2011 spending blueprint also will support one of Gates' other primary focus areas: bolstering the military's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance portfolio.

The plan will ask lawmakers to approve the Pentagon's desire to "double procurement of the MQ-9 Reaper … over the next few years," the summary says. Such a buy rate is aimed at bringing about "an increase in the number of [combat air patrols] provided by this type of aircraft from 37 now to 65 CAPs" by fiscal 2015, the summary states.

The plan includes $2.7 billion for "increased capabilities" called for by the Gates-created ISR Task Force.

"ISR funding is supporting key enhancements for our deployed forces including: Introduction of innovative airborne collection platforms - such as new unmanned aircraft and ground-based collection systems; marked increases in the number of full motion video and signals intelligence collection systems optimized for counter-insurgency operations; enhanced ISR communications and its supporting infrastructure; and significant increases in processing, exploitation and dissemination capabilities - both people and systems," the budget summary states.

Also for ISR, the blueprint will "advance" the Pentagon's goal of fielding six CAPs per deployed Army brigade combat team by fiscal 2015.

On shipbuilding, the 2011 budget will reflect "the department's formulation of a realistic, executable shipbuilding plan" that will span 2011-15.

"The FY 2011 budget reinforces the on-going transition to a naval force that will address operational capabilities needed in the near term and to reduce the reliance on certain major combatants in the far term," states the summary.

For new ship construction, the spending plan will ask for $14.1 billion in 2011 monies. The sea service's shipbuilding plan will propose a nine-ship 2011, and 50 total through 2015, according to the budget summary.

On specific ship programs, the plan will seek:

■ Two DDG 51 destroyers.

■ Two Virginia class submarines.

■ Two Littoral Combat Ships.

■ One Amphibious Assault Ship Replacement (LHA-R).

■ One Mobile Landing Platform (MLP).

■ Two Joint High Speed Vessels (one Navy funded and one Army funded).

"This shipbuilding plan balances capability, affordability, and industrial base stability," the summary says.

The 2011-15 funding the budget plan will seek would put the Navy on track to maintain aircraft carrier production "on a five-year build cycle, resulting in a long term force structure of 10 aircraft carriers by 2040," it states.

It will put the Navy on pace to produce two attack submarines per year beginning in 2011, while also continuing development of a new "strategic deterrent submarine," according to the summary.

The Pentagon also will propose buying three Mobile Landing Platform vessels - one each in fiscal 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Further, the 2010 QDR will call for better electronic warfare capabilities.

To that end, the Pentagon will add $203 million in fiscal 2011 and $2.3 billion in fiscal 2012 for 26 additional EA-18G Growler aircraft. That would add to current plans two EA-18s in 2011, and 24 more in 2012, according to the budget summary.

Those jets would recapitalize four "expeditionary EA-6B squadrons the Navy plans to dissolve by fiscal 2012."

"To sustain EW capabilities while new EA-18Gs are procured, about $26 million in [fiscal] 2011 and $22 million in [fiscal] 2012 was added to extend the availability of EA-6Bs previously slated for retirement," the budget summary states. "This initiative will help fill an EW shortfall that has been consistently highlighted by the Combatant Commanders as one of their highest war fighting priorities."

The summary says the Air Force's budget plan will put the service on track to award a KC-X tanker contract in "summer 2010." It would start buying the aerial tankers in fiscal 2013 under this time frame.

On the F-35 alternative engine, which the Pentagon has for years proposed terminating only to see lawmakers keep alive with annual budget plus-ups, the summary says defense officials "considered all aspects of this program and decided that - because of cost and management issues - the department should not develop and procure an alternate engine."

The budget request also will seek $9.9 billion for ballistic missile defense programs, including $8.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency.

"This funding supports the development and fielding of an integrated, layered Ballistic Missile Defense System [BMDS] architecture that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads before they can reach their targets," according to the summary.

The 2011 budget will propose terminating the Navy's next-generation cruiser program, the sea-service's EP-3 replacement effort (known as EP-X), the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance system, and the Net Enabled Command and Control program.

Russia Unveils New Stealth Fighter

Russia Unveils Fighter Seen as Rival to F-22
Published: 29 Jan 2010 07:53 PRINT | EMAIL
MOSCOW - Russia on Jan. 29 unveiled a new fighter aircraft touted as a rival of the U.S. F-22 stealth jet and developed amid the highest secrecy as part of a plan to modernize the armed forces.

THE SUKHOI FIFTH generation fighter jet, currently known as the PAK FA, makes its maiden test flight on January 29. (SUKHOI via AFP)
The fifth generation fighter, manufactured by the Sukhoi company and known as the PAK FA, made a maiden flight of just over 45 minutes at the firm's home base of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Far East region.

"The flight lasted 47 minutes during which all the aircraft's systems were tested. It was successful," Sukhoi spokeswoman Olga Kayukova told AFP.

"This is the first time it has been unveiled."

Pictures broadcast on state television showed the fighter jet - which has been kept closely under wraps for years - flying at altitude and then landing on a snow-surrounded runway.

"The aircraft performed well in all stages of the flight program. It is easy and comfortable to pilot," said Sergei Bogdan, the pilot for the flight, in comments published on the Sukhoi website.

The new plane can fly long distances above the speed of sound as well as simultaneously attack different targets, according to the Interfax news agency.

It can also collate information from satellites and other planes in line with the demands of modern warfare.

Until now, even Russian state television had only shown artist's impressions of the plane.

Only the United States has such a fifth generation fighter in its armed forces - the F-22 - although it is also developing the lighter F-35.

China is also working to develop a fifth-generation model.

"The PAK FA project is one of the most complicated technological projects realized in the post-Soviet era," said the daily Vedomosti. "Without PAK FA, Russia will not be able to independently assure its own security."

Russia is currently embarking on a major program to re-equip its military, not least the air force which is still using largely Soviet-era equipment and suffers from frequent crashes.

The new fighter, which has been in development since the 1990s, is due to enter the armed forces in 2015, Russian news agencies said.

The first flight of the PAK FA (Prospective Aviation System of Frontline Aviation) is being seen in Russia as a major boost for the military after the project was hit by repeated delays over the last years.

"There is no doubt that the plane is needed," the ex-commander of the Russian air force, Anatoly Kornukov, told the Interfax news agency.

"Our Su-27 and MiG-29 planes are good but have aged. They are 20 or more years old and it's time to have something as a replacement," he said.

He said the new plane could easily stand comparison with the U.S. F-22. "It's going to be no worse than an F-22. I've been in an F-22 and I know."

Russia's liberal Nezavisimaya Gazeta struck a more circumspect tone, saying the test version was only a prototype that did not yet contain an advanced engine and it was still unclear what weapons it would carry.

Russia's campaign to modernize its military has been marred by repeated setbacks with new equipment, above all a string of failed tests of its new Bulava sea-based intercontinental nuclear-capable missile.

Its main defense partner India has also been involved in the PAK FA project and will develop a two seater version of the aircraft under an intellectual property agreement made with Russia.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Command Solo Over Haiti

San Juan, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- Sixty miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an Air Force C-130 makes slow and lazy ovals over the Golfe de la Gonzave, a 264-foot weighted wire dangling from its belly like a plumb line.
This is Commando Solo, a radio station in the sky. The long wire, kept vertical by a 500-pound lead weight, is helping transmit an AM radio signal to the people of Haiti. Four other antenna on the wings and fuselage are sending FM signals.
The U.S. government is using Commando Solo to deliver news and information to the survivors of the January 12 earthquake. During much of the day, the plane relays live broadcasts of Voice of America news call-in shows in Creole, the native tongue of Haiti.
During lulls in the VOA programming, it sends pre-recorded public service announcements, including advice on sanitation, what to do when encountering a dead body, and a warning from the Haitian government not to attempt dangerous and illegal ocean crossings to Florida in small boats.
None of the 10-member crew aboard Commander Solo speaks Creole. But the technician who monitors the broadcast says he nonetheless can get a sense of the impact of the quake.
"You can hear in people's voices a lot of emotion, sometimes a little bit of frustration, sometimes really anxiety," said Brian. (The Air Force asked CNN to identify crew members only by first name and rank.)
"We hear a lot of people calling in trying to check in with their relatives and find out where they're at. And so it's pretty interesting just to hear it, even though I don't understand the language, the message really does come through," he said.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breaking News: Ethiopian Airliner Crashes

(CNN) -- An Ethiopian airliner with 83 people on board crashed into the sea after takeoff from Lebanon early Monday, Lebanese army officials said.
The Boeing aircraft was en route from Beirut to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, when it disappeared from radar 30 minutes after takeoff from Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut about 4 a.m. local time, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.
On board were 54 Lebanese nationals and 29 people of other nationalities, the army officials said.
No additional information was immediately available

Osama takes credit for Detroit underwear bomber - blah-blah-blah.

Speaking in an audio recording released after Britain raised its terror threat level, the al-Qaeda terror chief also threatened fresh attacks against American targets.
He praised Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with explosives concealed in his underpants, as "a hero".

The one-minute recording, which bin Laden directed personally to President Barack Obama, sought once again to draw a direct link between al-Qaeda's terror campaign and US support for Israel.Although he did not claim direct responsibility for the attack, bin Laden said that Abdulmutallab's mission was intended to "re-affirm" the message sent to the United States on September 11, 2001.
"America will never dream of living in peace unless we live it in Palestine," bin Laden is heard to say in the recording, which was broadcast by al-Jazeera television in Qatar. "It is unfair that you enjoy a safe life while our brothers in Gaza suffer greatly."
Despite warnings of a potentially imminent terror attack on British soil, possibly to coincide with conferences in London this week to discuss Yemen and Afghanistan, bin Laden made no specific threats, confining himself to a pledge to continue his struggle against the US.
"With God's will, our attacks on you will continue as long as you continue to support Israel," he concluded.
While the voice on the recording appeared to resemble bin Laden, the audiotape has yet to be authenticated by Western intelligence. If confirmed, the recording would represent his first audio message released since Sept 25 when he issued a demand for the withdrawal of European troops from Afghanistan that was timed to coincide with federal elections in Germany.
Bin Laden's latest recording appeared partly designed to show that he retained control of al-Qaeda even after it transformed itself into a series of loosely linked franchises extending from West Africa to Afghanistan.
Abdulmutallab is believed to have embarked on his failed mission after making contact with al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (Aqap), which has claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attack.
Yemen's growing reputation as a safe haven for Islamist extremists has been a cause for concern in Britain and the US for over a year and efforts to counter the resurgence of al-Qaeda in the country have been stepped up over the past month.
According to Yemeni experts, the local leadership of Aqap sees bin Laden as its inspiration rather than as a commander and consequently plans its missions without reference to him.
"All operations are locally planned and implemented," said Mohammed al-Ahmadi, a Yemeni journalist who has long covered Aqap. "There may be encouragement from the core leadership, but nothing more."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Britain: Terrorist Threat Level Raised

Published: January 22, 2010

Britain’s intelligence services raised the threat level of a terrorist attack from “substantial” to “severe” on Friday. The rating, the fourth highest of five levels, means an attack is considered to be highly likely. Home Secretary Alan Johnson said there was no intelligence to suggest that an attack was imminent. “All I would say to the public is we need to be vigilant,” he said.

Officials: U.S. To Give Unarmed Drones To Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - The United States plans to provide Pakistan with a dozen unarmed drone aircraft that will help bolster its military as it takes on Taliban militants, U.S. defense officials said.
Details of the drones emerged late Jan. 21 during a visit to Pakistan by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was asked in an interview with Pakistani television if Washington would supply Islamabad with the unmanned aircraft. "There are some tactical UAVs that we are considering, yes," Gates said.
Defense officials in his delegation afterward confirmed funds had been set aside to secure 12 Shadow aerial drones for Pakistan.
The Shadow drones, smaller than the armed Predator and Reaper aircraft, are about 11 feet long and have a wing-span of 14 feet, with sensors and cameras feeding video images back to operators on the ground.
The Pakistani military already had some less sophisticated drones for surveillance but would need to heavily invest in training specialists to be able to take advantage of the new hardware, said U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. employs armed drones for missile strikes against al-Qaida and Taliban figures in Pakistan, fueling anti-American sentiment and drawing public condemnation from the government in Islamabad.
Pakistani officials have previously called for Washington to provide its military with armed drones.

Second man was tracked on Detroit flight

Second man was tracked on Detroit flight: "U.S. authorities had another Nigerian-born man with an engineering background on their radar when Northwest Airlines Flight 253 prepared to land in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day.


(Via - U.S..)

RQ-170 Has Links to Intelligence Loss to China

RQ-170 Has Links to Intelligence Loss to China: "The same week, Air Force officials revealed that a stealthy, all-jet RQ-170 remotely piloted aircraft had flown in Afghanistan, and its top intelligence officer said his number one priority was a larger, longer-range strike-reconnaissance aircraft.

Both events have their origins in experimental and prototype unmanned aircraft developed as a result of the internment of a U.S. Navy EP-3E electronic surveillance aircraft on April Fool's Day in 2001 and the compromise of the intelligence information on board.

The RQ-170 design has linkages to earlier programs at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs including the stealthy DarkStar and Polecat UAVs. It is a tailless flying wing whose upper surfaces have conformal sensor and/or communications pods faired into each side outboard of a capacious centerline fuselage.

‘Dark Star didnt die when Lockheed Martin [retired the airframe for being too small and short-ranged],’ said a now-retired company executive last week. ‘It just got classified.’

These recent revelations also reflect the battle to balance how the military wants to fight now in Afghanistan against how it wants to fight elsewhere in the future. Part of the test will come in the next 18 months as about 150,000 U.S. and allied troops will try to break the offensive capabilities of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and new technologies will be brought into play. The rest will involve the Air Force’s investment in advanced technologies.

‘We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has,’ says Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. ‘We can’t walk away from that capability.’

For example, surveillance aircraft can see a lot more, farther and better with technologies like long wave infrared if the platform can operate at 50,000 ft. or higher. In comparison, the RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135W Rivet Joint and E-8C Joint Stars manned surveillance aircraft are all limited to an altitude of less than 30,000 ft. – sometimes well under. Additionally, the multi-spectral technology to examine the chemical content of rocket plumes has been miniaturized to fit easily on a much smaller, unmanned aircraft. Other sensors of interest are electronically scanned array radars, low-probability of intercept synthetic aperture radars and signals intelligence.

Follow the landing of a damaged Navy EP-3E in China, in early 2001 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called a classified, all-day session of those with responsibilities for ‘Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations.’ (AW&ST, June 4, 2001, p. 30) They discussed how to avoid future embarrassing and damaging losses of classified equipment, documents or aircrews without losing the ability to monitor the military forces and capabilities of important countries like China. Their leading option was to start a new, stealthy, unmanned reconnaissance program that would field 12-24 aircraft. Air Combat Command, then led by Gen. John Jumper, wanted a very low-observable, high-altitude UAV that could penetrate air defense, fly 1,000 nau. mi. to a target, loiter for 8 hr. and return to base.

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a UAV described as a derivative of DarkStar was being prepared and was said by several officials to have been used operationally in prototype form. (AW&ST, July 7, 2003, p.20 and March 15, 2004, p.35) ‘It’s the same concept as DarkStar, it’s stealthy, and it uses the same apertures and data links,’ said an Air Force official at the time. ‘Only it’s bigger,’ said a Navy official. ‘It’s still far from a production aircraft, but the Air Force wanted to go ahead and get it out there.’ The classified UAV’s operation caused consternation among U-2 pilots who noticed high-flying aircraft operating within several miles of their routes over Iraq. Flights of the mysterious aircraft were not coordinated with those of other manned and unmanned surveillance units.

There is great interest in how the U.S. now leverages its black- and white-world UAVs and RPAs to maintain a watch over the vast and rugged areas of Afghanistan with a relatively small NATO force. The revitalized conflict in Afghanistan will be largely a ground war with airpower serving as flying artillery, rapid off-road transport and as a wide-ranging reconnaissance force.

(Via Ares.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

N. Korea Threatens South Over Contingency Plan

SEOUL - North Korea threatened Jan. 15 to wage a "holy war" against South Korea, denouncing the Lee Myung-bak administration's alleged schemes to prepare for the communist state's internal instabilities, including the death of its leader, Kim Jong-il.
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, the North's National Defense Commission warned that it will cut off all dialogue with South Korea and exclude its southern neighbor from all negotiations related to the security of the Korean Peninsula. The commission, headed by Kim, is the highest ruling agency in the Stalinist state.

"This is a plan to topple our republic," the North Korean statement said. "We will start a pan-national holy war of retaliation to blow away the den of South Korean authorities, including the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, who have led and supported the drawing of this plan.

"The strongly worded statement arrived after a South Korean newspaper reported Jan. 13 that the Seoul government had mapped out a plan that outlines administrative support measures for the South Korean-U.S. joint military contingency plan, codenamed 5029, to cope with various levels of internal turmoil in the North following the North Korean leader's reported illness and deepening economic problems in the North.
Quoting unidentified officials in Seoul, the Munhwa Ilbo reported that the plan, codenamed "Recovery," deals with five contingency scenarios: the death of Kim, a coup, a popular uprising, a massive inflow of North Korean refugees, and more sanctions or military attacks from the outside.
The Chosun Ilbo, the vernacular daily newspaper in the South, said Jan. 14 that the Recovery plan also envisions South Korea's establishment of an "administrative headquarters to liberate the North," when contingency situations arise.
Seoul's Ministry of Unification declined to comment on the reports at that time.
"We find it deeply regretful that North Korea took a threatening stance toward us based on some unconfirmed media reports," ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a statement Jan. 15.

Yemen strike kills six al Qaeda

(CNN) -- Air raids in northern Yemen killed six operatives with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen's Ministry of Defense said Friday.
The main target was the group's military commander, Qassim al-Raimi, the Yemeni Embassy to the United States said in a written statement.
The defense ministry said al-Raimi was killed.
A Yemeni government official briefed in detail on the matter said the Yemeni government is "almost certain" that al-Raimi was killed.
The official described al-Raimi as the third-highest-ranking figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.
The group has claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner on December 25. Investigators have said intelligence ties the bombing suspect, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, to the group.
Yemeni forces carried out an air raid at 2:30 p.m. near Alajasher in the country's far north, the Yemeni Embassy to the United States said in its statement.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wounded Pakistan Taliban Commander: Live or Memorex?

Peshawar, Jan.16 (ANI): While the Pakistani security forces are still ascertaining reports about the death of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike, the TTP has released an audio tape of Mehsud claiming that their leader is safe.
It may be noted that 15 militants were reportedly killed in a US missile hit in the tribal controlled region between North and South Waziristan on Thursday. Security officials said Mehsud too may have been killed in the attack, but they have failed to substantiate the report.

The Pakistan government and the Army have clarified that they are uncertain over the TTP's top commander's death.
Mehsud, in his audio message, claimed that he is unhurt, and that it is a conspiracy of the government to flash the news about his death.
"Sometimes they (the government) launch propaganda about my martyrdom through media and sometimes they say that the operation has been completed in South Waziristan. This can never happen," The Nation quoted Mehsud, as saying.

However, there was no mention of the day or date of the drone strike in which Mehsud is said to have been killed, which raises questions over whether the message was recorded after the said strike.

Meanwhile, the BBC quoted a Taliban leader, as saying that Mehsud has been injured in Thursday's attack. (ANI)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Breaking News: Pantex Nuke Plant Lockdown


Pantex alert due to "hunters with weapons" sighted by employee near plant.

CNN STORY: (CNN) -- A nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly plant in Texas was on lockdown Friday morning because of a "potential security situation," according to a news release.

The Pantex Plant in Carson County, Texas, "has activated its Emergency Response Organization to respond to a potential security situation," the release said.
The event, which was not described, occurred around 8 a.m. the release said.
"The plant is in a lockdown status and the situation is being evaluated in order to facilitate security actions. Pantex employees are sheltered in place," it said.
Further details were not immediately available.
The Pantex plant is the nation's only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility, the release said. The facility is managed and operated by B&W Pantex for the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration, according to the plant's Web site.
It is about 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas.


Texas nuclear assembly plant in lockdown: official

Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:10pm EST
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A nuclear weapons assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas, ordered a precautionary security lock-down on Friday but there was no safety breach, a state official said.
"They did have it locked down," said an official at the Texas Department of Public Safety, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There was no security breach. It was purely a precautionary measure."
According to the Texas official, the plant was locked down because there were armed hunters on property adjacent to it. "They had some duck hunters out there," the official said. Plant officials later determined the hunters were not a threat, the official said.
The Pantex Plant maintains the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and is managed and operated by Babcock and Wilcox for the U.S. Department of Energy.
"Pantex is responding to a concern reported by Pantex employees," Steve Erhart, Pantex Site Office Manager, said in a statement. "Pantex Plant security is in control of the situation. Plant management is monitoring the ongoing response."
(Reporting by Chris Baltimore; Editing by Vicki Allen)

War warning: Terror attack imminent?

Washington (CNN) -- Information gained since the attempted airplane bombing on Christmas Day has U.S. officials concerned that al Qaeda in Yemen has "trained and equipped ... viable operatives" to strike U.S. targets -- including targets unrelated to aviation, a reliable source familiar with the investigation told CNN Thursday.
"I have not seen people this ramped up on the terror front like this for probably two years," the source said. "The palpable level of angst is incredible."
Federal officials said there was no imminent threat, but the source said the investigation into the electronic communications associated with Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged in the botched attempt to bomb an airplane, initially took officials in different directions.
Now, the source said, "the spider web" is starting to come together. Officials believe there are viable operatives -- described by this source as "people who are trained, equipped, resourced, with instructions -- maybe not with a 'go order' but all of the pieces are in place."
The source added that officials don't know where the operatives are but believe that there are "a lot" of them. This source said investigators have at least seven names. A second source said officials have identified at least some of the operatives but would not give numbers.
The first source did not believe a lot of new information had come in since Christmas, but said that, as officials followed threads, information that previously did not appear to be significant now appears to be.
The concern extends beyond aviation, and AbdulMutallab has told investigators the other operatives were trained to attack more than planes, the source said. All of the "normal vectors" are on the table -- trains, etc. -- but the belief is they would like to attack planes just to prove that they can, the source said.
The second source, a law enforcement source not authorized to speak for attribution about the investigation, also said the threat extends beyond aviation.
Also Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that aviation security was being tightened to include enhanced random screening, additional federal air marshals and the addition of names to the terrorist watch list.
The source did not say the security steps announced by Napolitano were connected with any threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A source without access to intelligence said aviation security was "ramping up pretty hard. We don't do that for just anything." He said efforts were being made to put air marshals on all inbound flights.
Separately, a U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN that "the concerns have intensified since 12/25. There is every reason to believe AQAP is planning attacks against the U.S. There are people willing to assist them."
"There is a concerning stream of information related to AQAP and its intentions that we are taking a very close look at," the official added.
The report about "viable operatives" came a day after two senior officials told CNN that the United States was monitoring a "credible threat" from al Qaeda in Yemen against the U.S. homeland.

On Wednesday, one official said the threat was general in nature and a second said it was not a case of "we connected the dots to something imminent."

Houston - we have a cocaine problem.

CNN) -- NASA says it has launched an investigation after finding cocaine in a processing hangar for a space shuttle at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A small amount of cocaine was found in a restricted area of the processing hangar for the shuttle Discovery, NASA said in a statement.
"This is a rare and isolated incident, and I'm disappointed that it happened, but it should not detract from the outstanding work that is being done by a dedicated team on a daily basis," Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said in the statement.
NASA has drug-tested employees who worked in that area, the statement said.
"There were about 200 NASA and contractor personnel who were around the facility at the time the drug was found," the statement said.
CNN affiliate WESH reported that the cocaine was found this week in a small bag on the floor near a bathroom in the restricted area.
NASA is using its own security and law enforcement officials to conduct the investigation.
Discovery's next launch is in March, NASA says.
"There is no reason whatsoever to believe this incident will have any impact on Discovery's upcoming launch," Cabana said


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