Friday, April 30, 2010

Weird Or What?

As many of you know (and from the many e-mails I have received over the past couple of days) I recently appeared on a new Discovery Channel series called "Weird or What?" that began airing this week.

I was one of the so-called "experts" they called on to help solve the mystery of the "Stephenville Lights" unidentified flying objects that have been sighted in Erath County (south-central Texas) with the most notable sighting happening in January of 2008.

I won't rehash the history of Stephenville here, but you can read all bout it at this LINK. This is the second time I have been contacted for video commentary due to an article by Phil Patton. I helped research the article and I'm quoted in it.

My involvement in "Weird or What" began when a producer who read the article called me last November. The series was described as a sort of Unsolved Mysteries - but where they actually solved the mysteries.

After talking to several producers (as the show was passed down from producers-to assistant producers-to field producers and finally directors) I decided to do the project under the caveat that it would not become another "UFOs are aliens -blah-blah-Area 51-blah-blah- Roswell-Alien Abductions - blah-blah "It was as big as a Wal-Mart" TV show that cable channels seem to crank out with amazing frequency.

Mine would be (as one producer eloquently put it) "The credible voice of reason and sanity among a growing cadre of UFO-crazies.

In other words-my job was to analyze the reports-talk to my sources-do a little digging and come up with an logical answer to what the good people of Erath County really witnessed.

Intrigued,I signed on to do the show even though (from experience) I know that skeptics and debunkers usually got scant camera time because no-one wants to be told what they saw wasn't the mother-ship from Zeta-Two Reticuli!"

Think about it. Would you want to watch a show about people who thought they saw a UFO but it turned out to be military aircraft? Booooooring!

Be that what it may, we shot the program on a cold wet-drizziling day in February in Dublin Texas while I was suffering with a massive dental infection.

Despite that, my interview took six hours to film. We spent two days in the area (Michael Wilhelm and myself) scanning the
local military airwaves and exploring the Brownwood MOA.

I took with me a new computer-controlled Uniden BCD996XT scanning radio and in no-time we had mapped all the military communications in the area.

BTW: the Uniden 996Xt is an excellent scanning radio-best I've ever owned and if you are thinking of getting into military monitoring this is the scanner to buy. I'll be posting a full review of the BCD996XT soon.

It was clear, after searching out all the known and discrete UHF military aero-band frequencies in the area that (despite the bad weather) the Brownwood MOA was a very active area indeed. I logged and recorded over 350 military communications.

It would have taken less time, but I was adamant about getting my point across that what the witnesses saw that night in 2008 was what amounted to a "Dog & Pony show" put on by the military to cover for a black (covert) aircraft that either was being tested in the area or inadvertently (because of a malfunction) was forced down to where the Erathlings could see it.

It was more than evident (from the military's first denial that anything was flying that night -to their sudden reversal (it was only F-16s in the Brownwood MOA) that something Skunky was going on.

I had observed this type of standard operating procedure before. It happened in Phoenix.
It happened in the Hudson Valley - and now over Stephenville.

It was a variation of any old magician's trick. When you don't want the audience to notice the ace you have hidden in your left hand, put a gold coin in the right.

As I researched the sighting and the standard procedure of disinformation began to appear, I couldn't help but be reminded of a line from The Wizard of Oz, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Anyway- as I watched the show the other night I was pleasantly surprised. Despite my earlier misgivings, as promised, it hadn't descended in a UFO show and wasn't actually half bad.

Most of my better points did not make the final-cut-but I expected that. The show was fairly-balanced and except for a few moments where they substituted computer-animation and photos of the XB-46 for the "Beast of Kandahar - Sentinel. but on the whole- it was fairly accurate.

The show wasn't perfect - but it wasn't pablum either. Good job Cineflix Productions! I hope the series gets picked up.

With that in mind - I just turned down doing another Discovery Channel program (Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura) after a viewing their HAARP episode.

Despite the offer to fly out to Nevada (Area 51) I could see that their production company (A. Smith & Co.) really had no clue or real impetus to produce a show based on getting at the truth but it was more about a personality - Jesse Ventura as "The body and the brain" and also netting high ratings.

The truth ain't sexy - but UFOs are and UFO crazies are.

But enough about a bad show. Weird or What is much better.

If you didn't see the show, you can download a bit-torrent of the video here: LINK

You'll need a bit-torrent client such as Vuze to assemble it.

-Steve Douglass

Thursday, April 29, 2010

DARPA-crafted Glider Falls Short In 1st Flight
Published: 28 Apr 2010 07:42 PRINT | EMAIL
WASHINGTON - U.S. military scientists lost contact with a hypersonic glider nine minutes into its inaugural test flight, a defense research agency said April 27.

The unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) is designed to fly through the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere at speeds of up to Mach 20, providing the U.S. military with a possible platform for striking targets anywhere on the planet with conventional weapons.

The HTV-2 was launched April 20 aboard a Minotaur IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The test flight called for a 30-minute mission in which the vehicle would glide at high speed before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, north of a U.S. military test site at the Kwajalein Atoll.

The glider separated from the booster but soon after the signal vanished, a spokeswoman said.

"Preliminary review of data indicates the HTV-2 achieved controlled flight within the atmosphere at over Mach 20. Then contact with HTV-2 was lost," said Johanna Spangenberg Jones, a spokeswoman for DARPA.

"This was our first flight [all others were done in wind tunnels and simulations], so although of course we would like to have everything go perfectly, we still gathered data and can use findings for the next flight, scheduled currently for early 2011," she said in an e-mail message.

The test flight was supposed to cover a total of 4,100 nautical miles (7,600 kilometers) from lift-off and scientists had hoped to conduct some limited maneuvers, with the HTV-2 banking and eventually diving for its splash down.

U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin builds the hypersonic glider, which the military calls "revolutionary."

The hypersonic program appears to fit in with U.S. plans to develop a way of hitting distant targets with conventional weapons within an hour, dubbed "prompt global strike."

According to a Pentagon fact sheet for the vehicle, "the U.S. military seeks the capability to respond, with little or no advanced warning, to threats to our national security anywhere around the globe."

A hypersonic plane could substitute for a ballistic missile armed with a conventional warhead, as other countries might suspect the missile represented a nuclear attack.

"Aside from its speed, another advantage is that it would not be mistaken by Russia or China for a nuclear launch," said Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute who has done consultant work for Lockheed Martin.

The U.S. Air Force has also looked at hypersonic vehicles for intelligence-gathering if spy satellites in low orbit were attacked, he said.

Iranian Plane Buzzes US Carrier

Middle East
Published: 29 Apr 2010 10:23

An Iranian maritime patrol aircraft buzzed the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower at sea in the Middle East last week, passing within 1,000 yards of the ship, but American defense officials sought to downplay the encounter as relatively common.

The Iranian navy Fokker F27 turboprop reconnaissance plane had been flying near the Eisenhower Strike Group for about 20 minutes before it made its low pass on April 21, according to a defense official who was not authorized to talk publicly about the incident and asked not to be identified. The official did not know if the Eisenhower took any defensive actions, such as changing course or ordering its fighters to escort the intruder away. No one was hurt and the Iranian aircraft soon retired.

The Eisenhower and its escorts had been tracking the Fokker surveillance plane the entire time, the defense official said; it didn't try to pop up from low altitude or surprise them. There was no information about exactly where the encounter took place - for example, in the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman - but the official said it happened in "international waters."

"From our perspective, this is not something to get excited about - this is not out of the ordinary - this is within the bounds of what has happened in the past," the official said.

The date of the fly-by would seem to put it near the start of a series of Iranian naval exercises that took place last week in the Persian Gulf; dubbed Great Prophet 5, the Iranian navy and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps practiced small boat swarms and unveiled a new fast-attack missile craft.

Iranian ships and aircraft approach U.S. warships relatively often, apparently to test how they respond in close proximity. In 2008, Iranian speedboats darted among a formation of three American warships transiting through the Strait of Hormuz, which blasted a warning with their horns and went to flank speed to escape.

The U.S. Navy has a long history of sometimes tense encounters at sea, including years' worth of jousting between carrier aircraft and Russian Tu-95 bombers, whose crews liked to get as close as possible to U.S. carriers during the Cold War. When two Russian bombers buzzed the carrier Nimitz in the Pacific in 2008, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said at the time it didn't worry him - "they were stretching their wings, so to speak."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boeing’s X-37B: Star Wars 2.0?


The X-37B during launch preparations
Last week, Air Force Space Command launched Boeing’s X-37B unmanned space vehicle (USV) from an Atlas V rocket in Cape Canaveral. That much was made public. What wasn’t made public was what the spacecraft would be used for or when it’s coming back to Earth (although it can stay in space for at least 9 months at a time).

However, since there are no secrets in space (amateurs all over the world track pretty much everything shot into space and NORAD can track objects in space 4 inches across), DoD has dropped a few clues for some possible uses for the USV, starting with the Air Force press release issued the day of its launch. Col. AndrĂ© Lovett, the 45th Space Wing vice commander and the launch’s commander said, ”this launch helps ensure that our warfighters will be provided the capabilities they need in the future.”

The phrasing he used – ensuring that our warfighters will be provided the capabilities they need – echoes a recommendation of the Joint Operating Environment Report released last month. Because America’s 21st-century rivals see themselves as military competitors in space, the U.S. has to anticipate attacks to neutralize mission-critical technologies like GPS and the upgraded WideBand SATCOM satellites that make up the backbone of our armed forces’ command and control networks. The JOE report advocates avoiding complete dependence on a networked environment, an easily-exploitable “Achilles’ heel” in military capabilities that could be defended with, for example, an unmanned defense craft that can stay in orbit for nine months at a time.

The Defense Department has been worried about a “Space Pearl Harbor” at least since 2001, and in 2007, China shocked the world by shooting down a weather satellite. That the U.S., Russia and China possess ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities isn’t in dispute, so adding a space-based anti-ASAT defense mechanism isn’t all that far-fetched. Also, since Boeing recently tested a solid-state laser designed to disrupt or disable a boosting ballistic missile, the technology currently exists to build such a platform.

The Air Force release says that new technologies on board the X-37B will “will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector toward being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly” if they prove successful, according to Gary Payton, Air Force deputy undersecretary for space programs. From that statement, it sounds like the Air Force is testing at least one Prompt Global Strike (PGS) capability.

Last week, the White House confirmed that it was considering adopting a hypersonic missile like the X-51 (also built by Boeing) that is capable of striking a target anywhere in the world in less than an hour. Prompt and precise strikes are a priority of Admiral Mike Mullen, who notes “Each time we kill a civilian inadvertently, we not only wreak devastation on the lives of their loved ones, we set our own strategy back months if not years. We make it hard for people to trust us.”

Even if the Air Force only plans to use the X-37B instead of the Space Shuttle to repair satellites in orbit, the program represents a major investment in America’s space capabilities, and programs like it might forestall our “slide to mediocrity.”

Stars on earth?

Livermore, California (CNN) -- Scientists at a government lab here are trying to use the world's largest laser -- it's the size of three football fields -- to set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the Earth.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's formula for cooking up a sun on the ground may sound like it's stolen from the plot of an "Austin Powers" movie. But it's no Hollywood fantasy: The ambitious experiment will be tried for real, and for the first time, late this summer.

If they're successful, the scientists hope to solve the global energy crisis by harnessing the energy
generated by the mini-star.

The lab's venture has doubters, to be sure. Nuclear fusion, the type of high-energy reaction the California researchers hope to produce, has been a scientific pipe dream for at least a half-century. It's been pitched as a miracle power source. But it hasn't yielded many results.

To make matters worse, the U.S. Government Accountability Office this month released an audit of the lab's work that cites delays and mismanagement as reasons it's unlikely the scientists will create a fusion reaction this year.

But researchers in Livermore, about an hour's drive east of San Francisco, say it's not a matter of if but when their laser-saves-the-Earth experiment will be proved successful.

"We have a very high confidence that we will be able to ignite the target within the next two years," thus proving that controlled fusion is possible, said Bruno Van Wonterghem, a manager of the project, which is called the National Ignition Facility.

That would put the lab a step closer to "our big dream," he said, which is "to solve the energy problems of the world."
How to build a star

Here is the boiled-down recipe for how the Livermore lab plans to cook up a star:
Step one: Build the largest laser in the world, preferably inside a drab-looking office building. (To do this, you'll have to suspend all previous notions about what a laser looks like. This one is basically a giant factory full of tubes. The laser beam, which is concentrated light, bounces back and forth over the distance of a mile, charging up as it goes.)

Step two: Split this humongous laser into 192 beams. Aim all of them -- firing-range style -- at a single point that's about the size of a BB.
Step three: On that tiny target, apply a smidge of deuterium and tritium, two reactive isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from seawater. Surround those atoms with a gold capsule that's smaller than a thimble.

Step four: Fire the laser!
If all goes well, the resulting reaction will be hotter than the center of the sun (more than 100 million degrees Celsius) and will exert more pressure than 100 billion atmospheres. This will smash the hydrogen isotopes together with so much force and heat that their nuclei will fuse, sending off energy and neutrons.

Voila. An itty-bitty star is born.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

News of the future: Slain terrorist American born cleric.

CNN) -- An American-born Muslim cleric has appeared in a video released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda recruiter and supporter based in Yemen, is on the United States' list of al Qaeda leaders targeted for capture or assassination. He has appeared in other videos but has never before been featured in an official video by AQAP, al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen.
It is not clear from the video when it was recorded.
In the video released to media outlets, al-Awlaki said the goal of the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq is to get Muslims to fight each other by blaming market bombings on Islamic militants.

According to al-Awlaki, Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, came up with the strategy.

Al-Awlaki also blamed the U.S. military for an airstrike in December that killed about 30 suspected al Qaeda militants in a district in the Shabwa governorate. The state news agency SABA credited Yemeni forces with the strike at the time of the attack.
In January, a top Yemen government official said al-Awlaki met with Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who has been charged in a botched attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day. The attempt to ignite explosives hidden in AbdulMutallab's underwear failed to bring down the plane.

Some video obtained by news outlets appears to show AbdulMutallab taking part in militia training in Yemen with AQAP.

The group includes terrorist operatives in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
In a video first aired on ABC News, a man identified as AbdulMutallab is shown training in the desert with several other armed men. The men are shown firing at flags bearing the insignia of the Union Jack, the Star of David and the United Nations.

Later in the video, the man identified as AbdulMutallab delivers a "martyrdom" statement -- messages that would-be suicide bombers record before carrying out their missions.
The man begins by reading a verse from the Quran: "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust."

Al-Awlaki also has claimed a connection to the U.S. Army psychiatrist accused of fatally shooting 13 people at the Fort Hood, Texas, military base last year. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan communicated with the radical Islamic cleric via e-mail for about a year before he went on a shooting rampage that also wounded 40 on November 5, the cleric told in late December.
Hasan, a U.S.-born citizen of Palestinian descent, has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ET-don't phone home. I don't want to be lunch.

Stephen Hawking warns over making contact with aliens

Mr Hawking says it is 'perfectly rational' to believe in aliens
Aliens almost certainly exist but humans should avoid making contact, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.
In a series for the Discovery Channel the renowned astrophysicist said it was "perfectly rational" to assume intelligent life exists elsewhere.

But he warned that aliens might simply raid Earth for resources, then move on.
"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans," he said.

Prof Hawking thinks that, rather than actively trying to communicate with extra-terrestrials, humans should do everything possible to avoid contact.
He explained: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet."

The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like
Stephen Hawking

In the past probes have been sent into space with engravings of human on board and diagrams showing the location of our planet.

Radio beams have been fired into space in the hope of reaching alien civilisations.
Prof Hawking said: "To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.

"The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."
The programme envisages numerous alien species including two-legged herbivores and yellow, lizard-like predators.

But Prof Hawking conceded most life elsewhere in the universe is likely to consist of simple microbes.

In the recent BBC series Wonders of the Solar System, Professor Brian Cox, a physicist from the University of Manchester, also suggested life may exist elsewhere within our solar system.
He said organisms could be present under the ice sheet that envelops Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Professor Cox added: "Closer to home, the evidence that life could exist on Mars is growing.
"We will only know for sure when the next generation of spacecraft, fine-tuned to search for life, are launched to the moons of Jupiter and the arid plains of Mars in the coming decades."

Iran rattles sabres again: Great Prophet 5!

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran said Sunday it fired five new types of locally-made coast-to-sea and sea-to-sea missiles in the last stage of its "Great Prophet 5" military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.
The missiles were fired simultaneously and struck a single target at the same time -- a feat the Revolutionary Guard Corps described to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting as "very important."

The military exercises on Sunday also included high-speed boats waging a "war" against a warship.
The maneuvers fell on the 31st anniversary of the elite force and were designed to demonstrate new weapons systems.

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy chief of the Revolutionary Guard told Iranian media that the exercises were aimed at demonstrating Iran's "strength, will and national resolve to defend independence and territorial integrity.

The U.S. military official noted there have been several Iranian exercises in the past, but this one received attention because the Revolutionary Guard Corps discussed it publicly in advance.

The U.S. Navy currently is operating several warships in the region, and commanders are often reminded not to let any encounters with Iranians inadvertently escalate.
Iran's missile development is being watched closely by the United States, which is pressing for tougher sanctions against the Islamic republic for its controversial nuclear program.

Report: Close-range blast sank S. Korean ship

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- An explosion at close range, and not a direct hit, caused the 1,200-ton patrol ship Cheonan to sink last month, a team of South Korean military and civilian investigators has tentatively concluded.

The investigators' determination was reported Sunday by the Yonhap news agency.
"Instead of being directly hit by a torpedo or other underwater weapon, the Cheonan was affected by a strong explosion that occurred below its bottom at a close range," the news agency quoted a government official as saying.

The explanation matches one that investigators offered shortly after the ship's stern was salvaged 10 days ago.

A final result is not expected for a month, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told reporters.
He said that the most likely cause of the sinking was a "bubble jet" created by the external explosion under the ship.

A bubble jet effect occurs when an explosion goes off under a ship. The change in pressure causes a huge column of water that strikes the ship with great impact.

On Saturday, recovery crews found the body of a missing sailor in the wreckage of the ship.
The ship sunk in the Yellow Sea near the western sea border with North Korea on March 26.

Forty of Cheonan's 104 crew members have now been confirmed dead, and six more are also believed dead, though they are still listed as missing.
Fifty eight others were rescued before the vessel sank.
South Korea has not ruled out a theory that North Korea was involved.
But Seoul has avoided directly blaming North Korea, which sloughed off allegations it is responsible.

The families of the dead sailors began a five-day mourning period on Sunday.
On Thursday, the South Korean navy will hold a funeral ceremony at a naval command in Pyeongtaek, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Seoul.
The navy has also decided to posthumously promote the dead seamen by one rank and award them a military honor for their patriotism.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Air Force Launches Hypersonic Glider.

Air Force launches hypersonic glider over Pacific

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — The Air Force has launched an experimental hypersonic glider able to travel more than 4,000 miles in 30 minutes over the Pacific Ocean.

The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base says a Minotaur 4 rocket carrying the glider blasted off Thursday afternoon from the central California coast. The Air Force statement does not reveal the result of the test involving the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2.

A fact sheet from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says the vehicle was to be accelerated into the upper atmosphere, separate from its booster and glide across the Pacific at 13,000 mph.

Thirty minutes and 4,100 miles later it was to crash and sink near Kwajalein Atoll, some 2,100 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Related ARES Link: Is the XB-37 and Hypersonic Glider in kahootz?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not so secret-secret spaceplane launches!

A prototype spaceplane developed for the US military has been launched into orbit from Florida.
The X-37B, which has been likened to a scaled-down space shuttle, blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1952 EDT (2352 GMT) on Thursday.

The military vehicle is unpiloted and will carry out the first autonomous re-entry and landing in the history of the US space programme.
The spacecraft can return experiments to Earth for inspection and analysis.
At 9m (29ft) long and with a 4.5m (15ft) wingspan, the reusable spaceplane is about one-quarter the size of the shuttle, with a large engine mounted at the rear of the ship for orbit changing.

The project could lead to the military's first operational spaceplane

"It might be at this point in time that [the Air Force is] going to roll the dice and see if something good happens." Dr Joan Johnson-Freese US Naval War College

And while the space shuttle uses a fuel-cell power-system, the military vehicle is powered by a solar array and lithium-ion batteries.

The precise objectives and cost of the programme are secret, but the first few flights will allow officials to evaluate the vehicle's performance and ensure components and systems work the way they are supposed to.

"The top priority technology demonstration on this first flight is the vehicle itself," Gary Payton, the US Air Force's deputy under secretary for space programs, told journalists on a teleconference this week.

"Getting it into orbit, getting the payload bay doors open, the solar array deployed, learning about on-orbit attitude control and bringing it all back."

The X-37B was launched vertically atop an Atlas V rocket. The Air Force (USAF) says the vehicle will be used to test advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics and high temperature structures and seals.

The Pentagon has not specified a duration for this mission, but the X-37B is designed to operate on orbit for up to 270 days: "In all honesty, we don't know when it's coming back for sure. It depends on the progress that we make with the on-orbit experiments, the on-orbit demonstrations," said Mr Payton.

Once the mission is complete, a command will be sent from the ground prompting the 5,000kg (11,000lb) spaceplane to fire its engine to re-enter the atmosphere - reportedly for landing at Vandenberg AFB in California.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another two senior terrorists bite the big one.

Iraqi security forces killed a suspected senior leader of al Qaeda in Iraq during an operation in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

On Monday Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said two of the most wanted terrorist figures in Iraq had been killed in a joint Iraqi-U.S. operation.

Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq – an umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq – were killed in a security operation in al-Tharthar, north of Baghdad, al-Maliki said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the deaths of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri during a news conference in Baghdad on Monday, showing photos of their bloody corpses to reporters. U.S. military officials also confirmed their deaths.

Ground forces surrounded a house and used rockets to kill the two, who were hiding inside, al-Maliki said.

The U.S. military said an American helicopter crashed during the assault, killing one U.S. soldier.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden called the killing of the two a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

There have been false alarms before about the fate of al-Masri. At least twice — in 2006 and in May 2007 — reports circulated that al-Masri was dead, but they were later proven wrong.

Al-Masri took over al-Qaeda in Iraq after its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed June 7, 2006, in a U.S. airstrike northeast of Baghdad.

Little is known about al-Baghdadi, who is credited with organizing the Sunni insurgent campaign over the past years.

Read more:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Discovery Lands in Florida

With Commander Alan G. Poindexter and Pilot James P. Dutton Jr. at the controls, space shuttle Discovery descended to a smooth landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-131 crew members concluded their successful mission to the International Space Station when the shuttle touched down at 9:08 a.m. EDT.

Discovery arrived at the station April 7, delivering more than seven tons of equipment and supplies. During the 10-day stay, Mission Specialists Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson conducted three spacewalks to install a 1,700-pound ammonia tank assembly on the station’s exterior to replace a depleted predecessor. They also replaced a rate gyro assembly, retrieved a Japanese experiment and two debris shie

Monday, April 19, 2010


The law does not authorize the Department of Homeland Security to regulate or penalize the publication of sensitive transportation security-related information on private websites, the Department advised Congress (pdf) recently.

Last December, the Transportation Security Administration inadvertently posted a manual marked "sensitive security information" that described procedures for screening of airline passengers. Following its discovery, the manual was removed from government websites, but it had already been mirrored on non-governmental websites that continue to host the document.

What is DHS going to do about that?, several members of Congress wanted to know. The answer is this: nothing.

"How has the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration addressed the repeated reposting of this security manual to other websites and what legal action, if any, can be taken to compel its removal?" wrote Reps. Peter T. King (R-NY), Charles W. Dent (R-PA) and Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL) on December 9 (pdf).

"No action has been initiated by the agency to address reposting on other web sites," DHS replied in a February 7 response that was released this month under the Freedom of Information Act. Existing "statutes do not provide specific authority to remedy the dissemination of SSI [sensitive security information] by noncovered persons [who are not subject to DHS jurisdiction]."

If Congress wanted to try to compel removal of such material from public websites, DHS said, "specific new statutory authority... would be necessary to provide enhanced legal support to pursue the full range of civil and criminal remedies against unauthorized dissemination of SSI by persons who are not covered persons as defined by 49 C.F.R. §1520.7."


Monday Landings Waved Off

Mission Control Entry Flight Director Bryan Lunney has given Discovery's seven astronauts a "no go" to perform the deorbit burn and decided to wave off the 10:23 a.m. EDT landing opportunity because of continued low cloud coverage at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.

The first Kennedy landing opportunity Tuesday is on orbit 237 with a deorbit burn at 6:28 a.m. and landing at 7:34 a.m. Edwards Air Force Base also is expected to be called up for Tuesday landing opportunities.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You had me at "New F15"

Discovery Crew Performs Landing Preparations

Sun, 18 Apr 2010 11:27:59 AM CDT

The STS-131 crew powered up Discovery’s flight control system and tested the flaps and rudder that will control the shuttle’s flight once it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. Next they test-fired the reaction control system jets that will control the shuttle’s orientation before it reaches the atmosphere. All seven crew members stowed items in Discovery’s cabin in preparation for re-entry and landing.

The first Kennedy landing opportunity on the mission’s 222nd orbit would see a deorbit burn at 7:43 a.m. EDT Monday for the 8:48 a.m. landing.

Upgraded F-15Cs to protect F-22s

Upgraded F-15Cs to protect F-22s: "

F-22 stealth fighter production is capped, so USAF officials are upgrading their best F-15C with advanced, long-range radars to beef up the air dominance force.

Because of the larger size of the F-15s radar and the aircraft’s greater flight endurance, they also will serve as ‘stand-in’ electronic warfare jamming and attack aircraft as part of the Air Force’s composite air dominance force that also includes stealthy F-22s stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Each fighter type will shoulder 50% of the air dominance mission now that the F-22 force has been capped at 187 aircraft. The upgraded F-15Cs will carry the larger APG-63(V)3 active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The radar's long range and small target detection capability will allow F-22s to operate in electronic silence with their low observability uncompromised by electronic emissions.

The first F-15C modified with the Raytheon radar was declared operational with the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing last week.

‘Our objective is to fly in front [of any strike force] with the F-22s, and have the persistence [because of larger fuel loads] to stay there while the [stealthy fighters] are conducting their LO attack,’ says Maj. Todd Giggy, the wing’s chief of weapons and tactics. Giggy was formerly with the chief of weapons and tactics for the 1st Air Dominance Wing at Langley. ‘That persistence is something we can add that no one else can in the air dominance world.’

The Florida, Louisiana and Oregon ANG will field the first 48 V3 radar-equipped F-15Cs. Massachusetts and Montana ANG units will follow so that the East, West and Gulf coasts have a cruise missile defense capability.

‘We’re embracing an air-launched concept for theater ballistic missile defense as a deterrent and as a tactical capability to protect our forces in theater and for homeland defense,’ Giggy says.

One of the missiles in consideration for the theater ballistic missile mission is Raytheon’s NCADE variant of the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

‘We’re talking to the ANG about a demonstration of an air-launched, hit-to-kill system, says Ramon Estrada, Raytheon’s F-15 AESA program manager. ‘It takes the AMRAAM body and extends the range to support a ballistic missile mission.’ The AIM-120C-6 and AIM-120D AMRAAM models were optimized in part to attack small-signature cruise missiles.

The Air Force will deliver up to six AESA radars this summer for installation on F-15Cs at the Weapons School and 442 Sgdn. at Nellis AFB, Nev. The fleet will eventually grow to 176 Golden Eagles that are slated to serve until 2030. 

The F-15Cs also will provide electronic jamming and attack capability, self-protect the force against enemy missiles and aircraft, shoot their beyond visual range missiles to supplement limited numbers carried by the F-22s and use the radar to create situational awareness for everyone else.

‘Weapons effects are the priority, and we are carrying so few weapons that BVR fighting is going to be distributed among all the platforms out there,’ Giggy says. ‘So we distribute the targets and weapons management.’

The F-15C’s electronic surveillance capability also can identify and precisely locate electronic emitters – communications and radars in the air and on the ground – to direct the attacks of other aircraft carrying conventional missiles or non-kinetic, electronic or cyber weapons. Examples of the latter are Raytheon’s Miniature Air Launched Decoy – Jammer (Mald-J) and the CHAMP high power microwave (HPM) generator for cruise missiles being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

There are also more modifications to come, say aerospace industry officials.

‘The simple answer is yes,’ says Jim Means, Boeing’s director of proprietary programs for global strike systems. ‘We are looking in all the right places for the future and that includes the radar and modification to the [AESA] antenna.’

The APG-82(V)4 radar and a new radome planned for the Air Force’s fleet of about 220 F-15Es ‘we may retrofit to the F-15Cs,’ Means says. ‘There’s also a new computer, a larger cockpit display and enhanced bandwidth datalinks that can send more data to other aircraft faster.’

‘Our goal is to break the [enemy’s] kill chain,’ Giggy says. ‘The AESA is a critical component. We can’t stand-in against the current threats unless we can build that [electronic and radar] picture of the battlefield. The V3 allows us to pick and chose where we can go to deliver the [weapons’] effect. And some of those EW and non-kinetic warfare effects are very important.’

But they are expected to be only a few of the upgrades considered through the end of the F-15C’s operational life in 2030.

‘With the capability gap that the Air Force is trying to address through the air dominance category with the F-15C, we looked at a lot technologies,’ says Robert Martin, a Boeing business development official for the F-15 program.’ The Air Force is going to look across platforms for effects to enhance warfighter capability.’

Technologies already in consideration include advanced processing, electronic warfare, multi-spectral sensors, high volume, low probability of intercept datalinks and interoperability with unmanned platforms, he says.


(Via Ares.)


"No enemy can have a foul thought of invading Iran's territory," Iranian president says
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran wants peace and progress for all countries
Iran held its own nuclear conference Saturday after not being invited to one in U.S.
Ahmadinejad calls U.N. Security Council a "tool" of "a few bullying nations"

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran is so powerful today that no country would dare attack it, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday during an annual army parade.
"Iran's army is so mighty today that no enemy can have a foul thought of invading Iran's territory," the Iranian leader said, according to state media.

"Of course, Iran is a friend and brother of regional and independent nations and it wants peace, progress and security for all countries," Ahmadinejad said.
During the event near the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- who ushered the Islamic Revolution into Iran more than 30 years ago -- several models of Iran's medium- and long-range missiles, including the Shahab 3, were on display.

Ahmadinejad has amped up his rhetoric against the West after not receiving an invitation to the nuclear summit hosted in Washington last week. On Saturday, the Iranian president had a few choice words for the United States at Tehran's own nuclear conference.
The hardline leader slammed Western powers for what he called hypocritical and dangerous policies that can only lead to nuclear proliferation, according to remarks broadcast on state-run Press TV. He said the United Nations and the International

Atomic Energy Agency were ineffective because they were dominated by a few nations.
"The Security Council has openly turned into a tool for the implementation of the policies of a few bullying nations," Ahmadinejad said. "This group should act in a way where all independent countries and governments could have a say and a role in running the affairs of that group," he said.
President Obama has been pressing the U.N. Security Council to slap Iran with tougher sanctions for its nuclear ambitions. Iran says that its nuclear program is intended for civilian purposes.
Obama convened a 47-nation nuclear summit last week that focused partly on persuading Iran's reluctant trade partners like

China to favor sanctions.
Ahmadinejad said he sent a letter to Obama earlier this week, telling his American counterpart that Iran was his only chance at success, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The United States and its allies should abandon policies designed to dominate the oil-rich nations of the Middle East, Ahmadinejad said, adding that reliance on arms was a sign of a country without culture.
Iran, he said, is prepared to do all it can to counter nuclear weapons.

"One of the greatest treasons by those that monopolize nuclear weapons is to equalize nukes with nuclear energy," Ahmadinejad said. "The way to produce weapons is totally different than nuclear energy. And they know these very well, but they plan to talk about both these things in their own monopolized way. "

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ash cloud grounds 17,000 flights.

London, England (CNN) -- A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano stymied European air traffic and choked international travel on Saturday as airlines cut flights, left stranded passengers, and watched their daily revenue nosedive.
Thousands of flights have been canceled. European air traffic officials said 5,000 flights took place instead of the customary number of 22,000 on Saturday. About 10,400 flights took place in Europe on Friday, compared with the normal 28,000.

President Obama canceled his trip to Poland to attend the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski because of the snarled air traffic, the White House said Saturday.

There were restrictions on civil flights in 23 countries across most of northern and central Europe. This swath comprises Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, most of France, most of Germany, Hungary, Ireland, northern Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The eruption began March 20 beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in southern Iceland, blowing a hole in the ice. It worsened this week, forcing local evacuations and eventually affecting European airspace. Although barely visible in the air, the ash -- made up of tiny particles of rock, glass and sand -- poses a serious threat to aircraft.

Friday, April 16, 2010

USAF Eyes July SBSS Launch, New Space Fence

USAF Eyes July SBSS Launch, New Space Fence: "

U.S. Air Force officials say the first Space-Based Space Surveillance satellite is set to launch July 8 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. on a Minotaur IV rocket, and another SBSS spacecraft is likely to be purchased to add capacity in orbit.

The Boeing/Ball Aerospace satellite is the first designed specifically to surveil objects in space from space. It features a two-axis gimballed visible light sensor capable of spotting objects in geosynchronous orbit from its low-Earth orbit. The Air Force has lacked this data since the demise of a space-based visible sensor on the Missile Defense Agency’s MSX satellite in 2008.

The requirements for a second SBSS spacecraft have not changed, pointing to the need to buy a clone of the first, according to Col. Stephen Butler, the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) space situational awareness lead. A second satellite would improve the revisit rate, or number of times in a given time period the SBSS system can spot a particular object. ‘The first sensor is the first step,’ says Col. J.R. Jordan, vice commander of the wing that oversees procurement of space superiority technologies for the Air Force.

Eventually, AFSPC will likely purchase a follow on to SBSS, but that is unlikely near-term and requirements have not yet been set, Butler says. It is likely, however, there will be a competition to build the system, Jordan adds.

The first SBSS satellite is expected to last at least seven years in orbit. Once boosted, in-orbit checkout should take less than 200 days, Jordan says.

The satellite was procured by the Air Force under an $823 million fixed price contract.

SBSS will provide day/night surveillance whereas ground-based electro-optical systems can only capture data at night.

Butler says that he expects a new Space Fence, a series of new ground-based S-band radars, will deliver its first new site in  Australia in Fiscal 2015. Two more sites are expected, including another one overseas and one on U.S. soil.

Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have been forming competing designs for the space fence. However, in parallel, the Air Force is still refining requirements. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Sheridan, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, says that -- for example -- the radar size hasn't yet been determined.


(Via On Space.)

Watchkeeper UAV Makes First Flight in UK

Watchkeeper UAV Makes First Flight in UK: "Watchkeeper, the newest unmanned aircraft to join the ranks of the British Army, performed its first flight in the U.K. on April 14, 2010, at Parc Aberporth in West Wales. Parc Aberporth facilities, managed by QinetiQ through- the West Wales Unmanned Air vehicle (UAV) Centre, are premier test facilities for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in the UK.

blog post photo

Performing the first successful flight was the first milestone in the UAV induction of the Watchkeeper system into Army units, demonstrating that the vehicle and its system meet the robust safety and airworthiness criteria required to fly UAVs initially on ranges and in segregated airspace in the UK. Thales UK, the system integrator and prime contractor, is scheduled to deliver the first Watchkeeper systems to the MOD this year. The Watchkeeper is a derivative of Hermes 450, developed by Israel's Elbit System's Silver Arrow subsidiary.

Watchkeeper is a high-performance, multi-sensor, all-weather, unmanned aerial system  (UAS), remaining airborne for over 16 hours in a single mission. It includes a high degree of automation, with automatic take-off and landing (ATOL), and has a de-icing capability to expand its ability to operate in all-weather operational environment.

Delivered in a dual-payload configuration, the system includes enhanced electro-optic / infrared sensors, with laser target-designator, as well as an advanced I-Master synthetic aperture radar / ground moving target indicator radar.

Until the Watchkeeper becomes fully operational, the Army relies on the services of a fleet of leased Hermes 450 unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) operated by Thales UK.

The company offers the military an innovative ‘ISTAR-by-the-hour’ contract. Since the contract award, in July 2007, these Hermes 450 UAVs have flown more than 30,000 operational hours in over 2,000 sorties, supporting British forces in current operations, primarily in Afghanistan. The company launched this service in response to an Urgent Operational Requirement (UoR) contract issued by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD),  running through to contract completion in October this year, which could potentially be extended until April 2011 when the Hermes 450s will be phased out as the new Watchkeeper system delivers frontline capability.

Photo Credit: Thales UK

(Via Ares.)

Humming Bird UAV Going To Afghanistan.

FORT WORTH, Texas - The U.S. Army will soon sign an agreement with U.S. Special Operations Command to borrow one of its A160 Hummingbird UAVs for deployment to Afghanistan, according to Army officials.

The Army has no formal requirement for a vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAV, but the service's deputy chief of staff for intelligence (G-2) is interested in developing a quick reaction capability, said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, the Army's project manager for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

On April 16, Gonzalez said, he will sign a memorandum of understanding with Special Operations Command for the A160. The Army plans to install the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VADER) aboard the 2,500-pound UAV and send it to Afghanistan. VADER is designed to track moving vehicles and people on the ground.

Army staff members are considering buying some A160s, said Tim Owings, deputy project manager for Army UAS.

Boeing builds the A160; Northrop Grumman developed the VADER.

The Army program office also announced that on April 14 the service's UAVs exceeded one million flight hours. It plans to celebrate the milestone in May with events at the Pentagon and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.

"External Explosion" Cause of SK Sinking.

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- A South Korean investigator said Friday that an "external explosion" was the most likely cause of the mysterious sinking of a naval ship in which 46 South Korean sailors were lost in tense waters off the North Korean coast.
"There is a higher possibility of an external rather than an internal explosion," Yoon Duk-yong, the co-head of a government-appointed team to investigate the March 26 sinking of the corvette Cheonan, said Friday in a televised press conference.

The Cheonan's stern section, where the missing sailors were believed to have been trapped, was raised from the Yellow Sea bottom Thursday after a salvage operation that was made both risky and difficult by low underwater visibility and strong currents. The bow section is expected to be salvaged next week.
Of the Cheonan's 104-man crew, 58 men were rescued from the sea on the night of the explosion. Thirty-eight bodies have so far been recovered; eight remain missing.
Yoon's comment was based on a preliminary investigation of the stern wreckage. He added, however, that it was necessary "to make a detailed analysis, leaving all possibilities open."

President Lee Myung-bak has demanded a transparent probe into the sinking, which Defense Minister Kim Tae-young on Friday called "a grave national security incident."

While Seoul has avoided blaming North Korea, Kim has said that a sea mine or torpedo appear the most likely causes. The media has been rife with speculation -- theories aired range from an internal boiler explosion to a North Korean naval special forces attack.

On Thursday, Open Radio for North Korea, a Seoul-based radio station that maintains covert contacts north of the border, announced that Northern authorities are calling the Cheonan sinking "self-inflicted."
North Korea's state-run media have been silent on the issue, and both South Korean and U.S. forces in South Korea say they have not detected any unusual moves by the armed forces of the hard-line state.
However, the Cheonan went down close to the disputed inter-Korean sea border, off which fatal naval skirmishes took place in 1999 and 2002.

If forensic evidence does point to North Korean involvement, it is unclear what moves South Korea could take against a country that has artillery ranged in on Seoul, and which is believed to possess at least six nuclear devices..

The United States declined to strike militarily against North Korea when the spyship USS Pueblo was seized in international waters off North Korea in 1968.

Nor did South Korea retaliate in 2002, when three Southern sailors were killed and their patrol boat sunk in a North Korean attack on the same day that South Korea was playing its last match of the World Cup.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcanic Ash Closes European Air Space

London, England (CNN) -- European countries shut their airspace one after the other Thursday as a cloud of volcanic ash wafted over from Iceland and posed a danger to flights.

Airspace over the United Kingdom was due to be closed for six hours from midday but air authorities later extended the closure until at least 7 a.m. BST (2 a.m. EST) Friday.
Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands also announced the closure of their airspace, authorities in each country said.

Norway also closed its ocean territory and canceled helicopter flights to off-shore oil installations, according to Avinor, the Norwegian agency responsible for the Norwegian airport network.

Air Travel
In all, around 3,000 flights across Europe were expected to be affected by the closures, according to Eurocontrol, the intergovernmental body that manages European air travel.

Many airports were already shut and flights were grounded across the United Kingdom on Thursday because of the ash, which came after an eruption under an Icelandic glacier early Wednesday, airport authorities said.
The ash cloud came from an eruption of a volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier early Wednesday.
The eruption -- the latest in a series that began on March 20 -- blew a hole in the mass of ice and created a cloud of smoke and ash that went high into the air.

Explainer: Why ash cloud endangers aircraft

The volcano was still active Thursday, creating floods in the area and producing a lot of volcanic ash, a spokesman for Iceland's Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management told CNN.
The disruption was causing havoc for air travel around the world.
"There will be an immediate impact today in terms of passengers not being able to travel," said independent air transport consultant John Strickland, of JLS Consulting in England. "The key thing is we don't know how long it's going to last ... but even

if that were to be resolved, it will take some significant time for airlines to recover."
iReporter captures footage of eruption
Finland's air space remained opened but was "heavily restricted" according to airport controller Finavia.

Full closure from 4.30 p.m. CET
12 p.m Thursday to 7 a.m. BST Friday
From 6 p.m. CET
From 12 p.m. BST
"Heavily restricted"
From 7 p.m. CET
From 10 p.m CET

In Germany, the Hamburg airport was open but flights to England, Norway, and Sweden were either canceled or delayed, a spokeswoman there said.

Stockholm Airport canceled around 20 flights to the rest of Europe and around 20 domestic flights, but a spokesman there said they expect the number to increase and the airport may shut later in the day.
Flights to or from Norway and Britain were canceled from several Spanish airports, the Spanish Airports and Air Navigation authority said.
Flights to the United Kingdom from Japan, Hong Kong, India and Australia were also affected. Etihad Airways announced that five flights between Abu Dhabi and England were canceled Thursday.

A spokeswoman at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris said the airport remained open.
The U.S. Air Force says RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath in England are shut down for at least two days. That means dozens of U.S. Air Force F-15s and other fighter jets and tankers are not flying. Flights to Iraq and Afghanistan flying through that airspace are being diverted to other routes.

April 1982 -- British Airways flight 009 en route to Auckland from London flew into a cloud of ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, Indonesia, causing engines to fail. Crew were eventually able to restart three engines and land safely in Jakarta after gliding through the cloud.

December 1989 -- KLM flight 867 en route to Anchorage in Alaska from Amsterdam flew into a volcanic ash cloud caused by eruption of Mount Redoubt in Alaska, resulting in failure of its engines as it tried to climb out of the cloud. Pilots were able to restart engines, two at a time, before landing the badly damaged airliner.
Manchester Airport spokesman Russell Craig said the ash poses a threat to aircraft, even if it isn't visible in the air.

"If you think about the way an aircraft engine works, it sucks in air, it compresses it, forces it out on the other side. That creates thrust," Craig told CNN. "If that air were mixed with ash, it can cause engine failure and electrical difficulties with an aircraft. It's happened before, and the aircraft didn't come out the other end in one piece."
Eric Moody was the pilot aboard a British Airways flight that managed to fly through volcanic ash thrown up by Mount Galunggung in Indonesia in 1982. All four of the engines stopped because of the ash, and the plane glided through the air for about 15 minutes, he told CNN on Thursday.

"The engines just ran down," Moody said. "We couldn't see out the windscreen and half the electronic aids to landing weren't working, either."

Passengers were told to prepare for an emergency crash landing, with Moody making this now-famous announcement to passengers: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, It's Captain Eric Moody here. We've got a small problem in that all four engines have failed. We're doing our utmost to get them going, and I trust you're not in too much distress."
Eventually at 13,000 feet, the engines started working again and the plane was able to land. That, said Moody, is why this Icelandic ash could be so dangerous.

"I don't know how thick this ash is, but I wouldn't go anywhere near it," Moody said.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Obama's Space Budget ...

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama will announce his administration's vision for America's space program during a visit to Florida on Thursday, according to documents provided to CNN by a White House official.
"The Administration is committed to a bold, new approach to human spaceflight, and is increasing the NASA budget by $6 billion over the next five years in order to embark on this ambitious strategy that will foster the development of path-breaking technologies, increase the reach and reduce the cost of human spaceflight, and help create thousands of new jobs," the documents say.

The future of the space agency as outlined in the White House documents would include a multi-billion-dollar moderization of Kennedy Space Center, expansion of private-sector and commercial space industries, creation of thousands of jobs and eventually human travel to Mars.

The president's announcement will come during what have been uncertain times surrounding the agency. The space shuttle is scheduled for retirement at year's end, with just three scheduled launches remaining. Obama has cancelled the Bush administration's Constellation moon program. The space agency had already spent about $9.5 billion on that project to develop a next-generation rocket and the crew capsule.

Allard Beutel, news chief at the Kennedy Space Center, told CNN that layoffs at the center will likely reach "the 7,000 range" with the end of the shuttle and the cancellation of the Constellation program.
Obama's plans would shift some funding away from NASA's costly human spaceflight program to NASA's scientific programs, including robotic missions to other planets.

The president's budget would also provide funding to private launch companies to develop spacecraft to ferry astronauts.
Once the space shuttle is retired, U.S. astronauts will need to ride Russian Soyuz rockets to reach and return from the International Space Station. It's expected to take several years or more before commercial launch companies are capable of carrying astronauts into orbit.

This new strategy means more money for NASA, more jobs for the country, more astronaut time in space, and more investments in innovation," the documents from the Obama administration say.
"It will result in a longer operating lifetime for the International Space Station, new launch capabilities becoming available sooner, and a fundamentally more ambitious space strategy to take us to an increased number of destinations and to new frontiers in space.

"By undertaking this strategy, we will no longer rely on our past achievements, and instead embrace a new and bold course of innovation and discovery."
During a briefing in early April, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden praised the new future being charted for the agency.

"This budget provides an increase to NASA at a time when funding is scarce," Bolden said. "It will enable us to accomplish inspiring exploration, science and (research and development), the kinds of things the agency has been known for throughout its history."

The budget "enables NASA to set its sights on destinations beyond Earth orbit and develop the technologies that will be required to get us there, both with humans and robots," Bolden said.
"We're talking about technologies that the field has long wished we had but for which we did not have the resources," he said.
"These are things that don't exist today but we'll make real in the coming years. This budget enables us to plan for a real future in exploration with capabilities that will make amazing things not only possible, but affordable and sustainable."

Related: Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration's vision for the future of manned space flight will bump the United States to "second or even third-rate" status as a space-faring nation, the commanders of three U.S. moon missions warned Thursday.

The letter was signed by the first and last men to walk on the moon -- Neil Armstrong from Apollo 11 and Eugene Cernan from Apollo 17 -- and James Lovell, who commanded the heroic Apollo 13 flight.

"Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity," the letter said. "America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal."
President Obama is scheduled to announce his space plans Thursday during a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the White House announced. The White House said the five-year strategy involves a $6 billion increase in NASA's budget and additional support for new space technologies.

Armstrong, Lovell and Cernan praised Obama's increase in total funding for space exploration, which includes money for research, the international space station and a heavy-lift rocket. But the astronauts said the decision to cancel the Constellation program for manned space flight "is devastating."

"America's only path to low Earth orbit and the international space station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz (at a price of over 50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future) until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves," they wrote.

NASA's space shuttle fleet will be retired at the end of this year, leaving the Russian Soyuz capsules as the only avenue into space until commercial ventures are ready to do the job, expected to be years away. Obama's proposal to use commercial transport to reach orbit "cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope," the astronauts said.

Cernan, Lovell and Armstrong said the more than $10 billion spent so far on Constellation -- including the Orion space capsule and the Ares rockets to boost it into space will be wasted by the cancellation "and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded."

NASA's future, as outlined in the White House documents, would include a multibillion-dollar modernization of Kennedy Space Center, expansion of private-sector and commercial space industries, creation of thousands of jobs and eventually human travel to Mars.

But Allard Beutel, news chief at the Kennedy Space Center, told CNN that layoffs at the center will likely reach the 7,000 range with the end of the shuttle and the cancellation of the Constellation program.

The president's plans would shift some funding away from NASA's costly human space flight program to NASA's scientific programs, including robotic missions to other planets.

During a briefing in early April, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden praised the new future being charted for the agency.

"This budget provides an increase to NASA at a time when funding is scarce," Bolden said. "It will enable us to accomplish inspiring exploration, science and (research and development), the kinds of things the agency has been known for throughout its history."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cannon AFB Open House Next Weekend!

by Greg Allen
27th Special Operations Public Affairs

4/9/2010 - CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The 27th Special Operations Wing will open its main gate to the public April 17, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., for its first-ever open house. The event is free and visitors will have the chance to see numerous aircraft on the flightline as well as meet the Air Commandos who operate, maintain and fly them.

Aircraft on display will include the AC-130H Gunship, MC-130W Combat Spear, MC-130H Combat Talon II, CV-22 Osprey, MQ-1 Predator, HH-60 Pave Hawk and more. The Navy SEALs, military recruiters and booths with various services will also be part of the event.
Food and drinks will also be available,

"We will have several aircraft on display such as our light tactical airlift aircraft, the remotely piloted MQ-1 Predator and the venerable AC 130 Gunship, as well as many other combat vehicles and equipment used in operations around the world," said Col. Stephen Clark, 27 SOW commander in a public service announcement.

Colonel Clark added that everyone on base was looking forward to introducing the
AFSOC command mission to everyone who attends.

In 2005 Cannon was recommended for closing by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission by 2009, but a groundswell of local community support was rewarded when the Air Force Special Operations Command stepped forward with a plan to establish a second AFSOC wing. On Oct. 1, 2007, the 27 SOW was formally activated.

As of April 9, there are nearly 3,500 active duty Airmen, 600 civilians and 4,500 family members here, according to Manny Brooks, 27th Special Operation Force Services Support Squadron. This compares to fewer than 1,900 military personnel shortly after 27 SOW assumed control of the base.

Parking for the event will be at Doc Stewart Park in Chavez West housing, across from Allsup's. Guests will pass through security and will be transported to the open house by bus. The following items will not be allowed on base during the open house: alcohol, coolers, backpacks/duffle bags, large camera bags, chairs or glass (except for baby items).

Visit Cannon AFB's Web site at, and then click on the open house tab for more information, updates and a schedule of events. For questions not addressed on the Web site, contact the 27 SOW Public Affairs office at (575) 784-4131.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cannon Exercise Warning

Clovis, NM--Cannon Air Force Base will be hosting simulated wartime training soon.

Starting Saturday and ending on April 15 residents on or near the base may notice increased activity.

Residents may hear sirens and or simulated explosions near the base.

Base officials are asking not to be alarmed at the activity as it is only training to help keep the pilots at the best of their abilities.

Osprey crashes in Afganistan



KABUL—A U.S. Air Force aircraft crashed in southern Afghanistan, killing three American soldiers and a civilian employee. The U.S.-led coalition said it's trying to determine what brought down the CV-22 Osprey.

The crash took place late Thursday night in an arid and remote stretch of territory where the Taliban are active west of the city of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, which borders Pakistan, the coalition said.

The Taliban quickly claimed that insurgent fighters downed the Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land as a helicopter, and that flies as a fixed-wing plane once its engines roll forward.

A Taliban spokesman said that the Osprey was shot down around 1 a.m. Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, the spokesman, claimed that around 30 people were killed in the crash. The U.S.-led coalition said that, in addition to the four fatalities, "numerous" other coalition service members were injured.

Mr. Ahmadi warned that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should expect to lose more helicopters in Afghanistan, saying the Taliban have mastered the ability to shoot down allied aircraft.

Downing an Osprey would be a victory of sorts for the insurgents. The sophisticated aircraft, which travels at much higher speeds than conventional helicopters, is primarily used to transport troops on long-range infiltration missions and for resupply purposes.

The Taliban usually take credit whenever coalition aircraft experience problems. NATO and Afghan officials say most of these crashes and hard landings have been caused by technical problems rather than insurgent activity.

Three coalition helicopters crashed in Afghanistan last month. Only one of these incidents, involving a civilian chopper contracted by U.S. forces in the northern province of Kunduz, was caused by insurgent fire, say NATO and Afghan officials. No one died in that incident.

NATO said it was investigating what caused Osprey's crash. Afghan officials in Zabul blamed it on mechanical problems.

Original post:

A U.S. Air Force tilt-rotor aircraft crashed in south-eastern Afghanistan, killing three service members and one government contractor, NATO said on Friday.

Other personnel aboard were injured and were taken to a military base for treatment, NATO said.

The CV—22 Osprey went down about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, NATO said. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

The Osprey takes off and lands as a helicopter, but its engines roll forward in flight, allowing it to fly faster than a standard helicopter.

A Zabul government spokesman, Mohhamed Jahn Rasuliyar, confirmed the crash and the number of casualties.

A Taliban spokesman had earlier claimed militants shot down the aircraft, part of a pattern of the insurgents making such claims to promote their cause of driving foreign forces from the country.

Choppers are used extensively by both NATO and the Afghan government forces to transport and supply troops spread across a mountainous country with few roads. Losses have been relatively light, despite insurgent fire and difficult conditions, and most crashes have been accidents caused by maintenance problems or factors such as dust.

Lacking shoulder-fired missiles and other anti-aircraft weapons, the Taliban rely mainly on machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to target helicopters at their most vulnerable during landings and takeoffs.

One of the heaviest single-day losses of life for allied forces occurred on June 28, 2005, when 16 U.S. troops died aboard a Special Forces MH—47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down by insurgents.

The incident was the first known deadly crash of an Osprey since it entered active service in 2006, although numerous lives were lost in accidents while the aircraft was under development.

The Osprey is the U.S. military’s latest generation transport aircraft, able to travel twice as fast and three times farther than its predecessor, the Vietnam War—era CH—46 Sea Knight. With room for up to 24 passengers, it comes equipped with sophisticated guidance and missile defence systems.

The original programme, a $40 billion joint venture of Boeing Co. and Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit, was beset by delays and plagued by design flaws and other problems.

It was nearly cancelled several times due to cost overruns - which pushed the bill to over $100 million per aircraft - and a series of fatal crashes and other incidents. In 2000, a crash in Arizona killed all 19 Marines aboard and a separate crash killed four Marines in Florida.

Critics say the aircraft is particularly vulnerable to ground small-arms fire while its engines are shifting from vertical to horizontal flight. They say that, unlike fixed-wing aircraft, the Osprey can’t glide down to an emergency landing in case of a loss of power and its propellers lack the ability to keep rotating on their own even after the engines fail.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Obama to announce new nuclear defence strategy

Barack Obama is set to announce a new defence strategy that would reduce the circumstances in which the US would be prepared to use nuclear weapons.
It would rule out a nuclear response to attacks on the US involving biological, chemical or conventional weapons.
Nor would the US use nuclear arms on non-nuclear states that comply with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Mr Obama said he would make exceptions for states deemed in violation of the treaty, naming Iran and North Korea.

Ahead of the report's release, Mr Obama told the New York Times he was convinced Iran was on a course that "would provide them with nuclear weapons capabilities".

Last week, Mr Obama said he wanted to see new UN sanctions on Tehran "within weeks".
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful, but its refusal to adhere to international demands has raised fears of a possible strike on its nuclear facilities by the US or Israel.

Reduction pact
The New York Times said Mr Obama described his new policy as "part of a broader effort to edge the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete, and to create incentives for countries to give up any nuclear ambitions".
The details of his plan - the Nuclear Posture Review - are to be published later on Tuesday.


Its release comes ahead of a planned signing by Mr Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, of a new nuclear arms reduction pact in Prague on Thursday.

The pact, agreed last month, commits Russia and the US to big cuts in nuclear warheads.
The pact would replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), which expired last December.
The new treaty restricts both Russia and the US to 1,550 warheads, about 30% less than currently allowed, the US says.

Mr Obama hailed the treaty as the most comprehensive weapons control agreement in nearly two decades.

Mr Obama is hosting a nuclear non-proliferation summit in Washington next week, which is set to be attended by dozens of world leaders.

The US president has said his goal is to have a nuclear-free world, and has promised to cut the number of nuclear weapons in the US arsenal.

A White House statement on Monday said the new nuclear policy offered "an alternative to developing new nuclear weapons, which we reject".

All numbers are estimates because exact numbers are top secret.
Strategic nuclear warheads are designed to target cities, missile locations and military headquarters as part of a strategic plan.

Israeli authorities have never confirmed or denied the country has nuclear weapons.

North Korea
The highly secretive state claims it has nuclear weapons, but there is no information in the public domain that proves this.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in 2003 there had been covert nuclear activity to make fissile material and continues to monitor Tehran's nuclear programme.

US officials have claimed it is covertly seeking nuclear weapons.


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