Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Today's excerpt from "The Interceptors Club & the Secret of the Black Manta.

D.I.A. agent Scarlet had driven through the night and arrived at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque just before dawn.

He easily could have ordered a military jet at Holloman to fly him to Kirtland, to do that he would have to reveal who he was on a base where Pepper may have compromised security.

Although he was dead-tired from lack of sleep, Scarlet had little time for even the quickest of catnaps because a host of Pentagon brass was waiting in the base commander’s office to be briefed about the theft of Excalibur.

During the drive to Kirtland, the military machine had been put into motion and a strike team consisting of Special Forces operatives and Federal Agents had been hastily assembled and at that moment were winging their way to the staging area at Cannon Air Force Base located in far eastern New Mexico.

There they would await instructions on how to proceed.

After his meeting with the Pentagon staff, and updating them on where things stood, Scarlet requested an immediate intelligence-gathering mission over the operations area. The Pentagon chiefs agreed and an order went out that Distant Star be dispatched at once.

A mission order was immediately sent to the commanding officer of Detachment 4, based at the super-secret Groom Lake Test Flight Center at Area 51 where a Distant Star UAV was always standing by, ready to fly.

Exactly forty-five minutes later, Distant Star launched and began winging it’s way towards Holloman.

It was ironic that Distant Star was the intelligence platform of choice for it was born in the same secret enclave as Excalibur, the Lockheed Skunkworks.

In fact, Distant Star and Excalibur were directly related to each other. Both extremely stealthy, both unmanned and both first built and test flown out of Area 51.

The two aircraft even shared the same computer systems, composite materials and some avionics, but there were major differences in their missions.

Where Excalibur was conceived as being the ultimate autonomous attack aircraft, Distant Star was designed to never carry a bomb. Distant Star was a sky-spy whereas Excalibur was a warrior.

They also looked quite different. Excalibur was sleek and looked fast even on the ground, but Distant Star could only be described as looking ungainly, an albatross of an aircraft with very long drooping wings connected to a body more reminiscent of a submarine than an aircraft.

But what Distant Star lacked in good looks, it more than made up for in performance.

Distant Star was the ultimate intelligence tool, a flying ELINT gathering sponge, able to intercept even the weakest electronic emission, process it and send the data back via satellite to a command center for analysis.

It was Distant Star that helped locate deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, intercepting a very weak cordless phone call from an aid charged with keeping him safe. Although Distant Star couldn’t pinpoint his exact location, it did know the general area he was hiding in which made it possible to dispatch Task Force 121 close to where the intercepted signal was detected.

Two days after the intercept, and acting on tip from a source code-named “FAT MAN”, Task Force 121 was close at hand and in position when it was revealed that Saddam was hiding inside an orange-picker’s house just outside of ad Dawr located near the Tigris River.

Since Saddam rarely spent more than a few nights in any one hideout, Distant Star’s intercept made it possible to preposition troops in the suspected area, ready at a moments notice to pounce - and pounce they did, finding the once absolute ruler of Iraq hiding in a “spider hole.”

Distant Star flew higher than most aircraft, above 100,000 feet and could loiter for days over an area of interest, unnoticed even by Holloman’s air traffic controllers because it was so invisible on radar.

Computer networks, cellular and satellite telephone systems and even encrypted radio communications were all vulnerable to interception by Distant Star.

On board artificially brilliant cryptanalysis computers could crack even the most sophisticated ciphers and expose their secrets.

But Distant Star was not just a passive intelligence gathering aircraft. Using powerful transmitters and an advanced Artificial Intelligence suite, it could invade and compromise computer networks, especially those attached to wireless networks.

By planting logic bombs, viruses and smart programs the computers used by the enemy could be rendered useless or come under the direct control of Distant Star or its controllers.

It was then quite ironic that a flying electronic eavesdropping aircraft would be deployed to keep tabs on the Interceptors.


Six die in Pakistan drone strike

Six people have died in a US missile strike targeting militants in Pakistan's tribal district on the Afghan border, security officials say.

The raid took place in Dande Darpakhel village, 5km (3 miles) north-west of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

Officials said all the dead were with the Haqqani network, a branch of the Afghan Taliban operating in Pakistan.

It is the fourth suspected US drone attack in the region this month.

Witnesses told the BBC three aircraft were involved in the raid.

One of the unmanned planes fired two missiles at the compound, they said.

Last Friday, eight people died in two drone strikes in this tribal region.


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