Monday, January 31, 2011

China slips Top Gun clip into combat propaganda

China Central Television (CCTV) reported in its Network News Broadcast that the Chinese Air Force has acquired combat capabilities for distant waters. A video clip of a J-10 Fighter in a live combat exercise was shown. Sharp-eyed netizens quickly noticed a less than two second long clip of an aircraft exploding in midair that was taken from the 1986 U.S. movie hit Top Gun. A frame-by-frame comparison of the CCTV news video and the footage from Top Gun has widely spread on the Internet.

CCTV’s Network News Broadcast is a 30-minute news program that has been aired every night at 7 p.m. since 1976.

A Jan. 27 report by Yunnan Information News said the video in question was aired on Jan. 23. An Internet user by the name of “Liu Yi” pointed out that the exploded target was a U.S. F-5 jet fighter, and that the video was from the movie Top Gun, where Tom Cruise piloted an F-14 shooting at the F-5.

This discovery was first posted on Jan. 26 at 14:48 on a Sina microblog by someone calling himself “X-rated”. A frame-by-frame comparison of the two videos shows that the two footages are identical, including such details as the moving direction of fragments from the explosion and the shape of the smoke.

The video clip was aired by CCTV with the following narration: “The J-10 Fighter is a new acquisition to this division and made by our country … [it] won the first battle against a brother division by 13 to 1. All 18 targets were hit in its first live target combat practice.”

“X-rated” sectioned the CCTV video into 3 frames and compared them side by side to footage from Top Gun, saying, “How come they look the same to me?”

“Liu Yi” responded, “Just saw the frames. The target is confirmed to be an F-5.”

He then posted in his microblog another picture from the CCTV video showing clearly an F-5. The same footage in Top Gun was found at 96' to 98' where a few scenes show an F-14 fighter destroying an F-5.

Other people noticed that the color of the clip in question is lighter than the rest of the video. The conversion from NTSC used in the U.S. to PAL used in China might be the reason.

Some netizens suggested that Top Gun should ask CCTV for copyright damages.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New photos of RQ-170 UAV "Beast" surface.

Originally posted HERE!

Click to enlarge:


China denies it copied U.S. stealth ...

Chinese military experts say that China didn't steal U.S. technology to build the J-20, country's first stealth plane.

"China is completely capable of making its own stealth fighter jet," Li Daguang, a professor at the country's National Defense University, told the Wall Street Journal. "I think we developed the J-20 largely on our own research, but at the same time learning from existing foreign models. Many countries have already possessed stealth-jet technology… stealth materials are not considered highly sophisticated or confidential at all."

Previous reports on China's plane said that the country used technology gleaned from a U.S. F-117 Nighthawk fighter plane that was gunned down over Serbia in 1999.
The fallen F-117 left huge debris scattered throughout farmland in Serbia. Some people collected these parts as souvenirs and later sold them to Chinese agents who were in the region at the time.

"We believe the Chinese used those materials to gain an insight into secret stealth technologies… and to reverse-engineer them," Adm. Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia's military chief of staff during the Kosovo war, told the AP.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Breaking: Moscow airport rocked by terror bomb - 35 dead.

Moscow (CNN) -- Terrorists detonated a bomb at Moscow's busiest airport on Monday, killing 35 people and wounding another 152, Russian authorities said.
President Dmitry Medvedev, who called the bombing a terrorist attack, ordered additional security at Moscow's other airports and transportation hubs, and Moscow police went on high alert in case of additional bombs.

The explosion occurred about 4:30 p.m. at the entrance of the international arrivals section of Domodedovo Airport, Itar-Tass said, citing a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee, Tatyana Morozova.
State TV aired video of the smoke-filled terminal, including what appeared to be bodies and luggage on the ground.

The Russian National Anti-Terrorist Committee said 35 people were dead and 152 had been wounded in the explosion.
State TV, citing Russian authorities, said the bombing was the act of a suicide bomber who stuffed a homemade bomb with small metal objects to make it more deadly, then activated it in a crowded area where many people were either preparing for flights or waiting for arriving passengers. CNN could not independently verify those claims.

A heavy police presence remained outside of the airport nearly four hours after the explosion, and more than 10 ambulances with lights flashing and sirens screeching left the airport.

Incoming flights scheduled to land at Domodedovo were being diverted to Moscow's other airports, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo, Russian TV said.
However, airport spokeswoman Yelena Galanova told Russian state TV that the airport was "operating as usual."

"There have been no departure delays. We were shut for only about 20 minutes after the explosion," she told state TV.
An airport employee, Andrei Surkov, told CNN that while the international arrivals area is still closed, international passengers were being routed through the domestic terminal located on the other end of the airport.

Lufthansa spokeswoman Claudia Lange said the airline has suspended all flights to Domodedovo until further notice.

Elina Bakhtina told state TV she was at the airport cafe she owns when the explosion occurred.

"The blast must have been very strong, because our cafe is about 100 meters from the arrivals area. When we heard the blast, glass just started falling from the ceiling," she said.

Tatyana Papova, who was waiting at passport control when the explosion occurred, told state TV that escalators stopped working at the baggage claim area and airport employees started breaking down walls to help clear people from the area.
Domodedovo is 22 kilometers (14 miles) southeast of Moscow. According to the airport's website, it is the largest of Moscow's three airports, as well as the busiest in terms of passenger traffic.

U.S. President Barack Obama called the bombing a "premeditated attack against innocent civilians."

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the attack and urged greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said British officials are "in urgent contact with Russian authorities to establish the facts and to provide consular support to any British nationals who may have been affected."

Will Geddes, terrorism expert and managing director of International Corporate Protection Group, called the bombing a "very significant terror strike."
"To strike in the airport -- which is fundamentally believed and understood by many to be one of the most secure types of installations in a city or in a country -- to have such a devastating an attack with such a tragic result, means that they had planned this considerably well and gone ahead in achieving their aims," he said.

Russia has a long history of dealing with terror attacks.
Most recently, female suicide bombers struck the Moscow metro during rush hour in March, setting off two explosions that killed at least 38 people and wounded more than 60 others. Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for that attack.
In November 2009, an explosive device derailed an express train, killing at least 26 people.

China uses tech gleaned from F-117 to build J-20?


China was able to build its first stealth bomber using technology gleaned from a downed U.S. fighter, it has been claimed.

Beijing unveiled its state-of-the-art jet – the Chengdu J-20 – earlier this month.
Military officials say it is likely the Chinese were able to develop the stealth technology from parts of an American F-117 Nighthawk that was shot down over Serbia in 1999.

Lift-off: China's J-20 stealth plane has made a successful test flight. Military officials say it is likely the Chinese were able to develop the stealth technology from parts of an American F-117 Nighthawk that was shot down over Serbia in 1999

It was during Nato's aerial bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war, that an anti-aircraft missile shot a Nighthawk (pictured). It was the first time one of the 'invisible' fighters had ever been hit

The Pentagon believed a combination of clever tactics and luck had allowed a Soviet-built SA-3 missile to bring down the jet.

The pilot ejected and was rescued but the wreckage was strewn over a wide area of farmland.
Civilians collected the parts – some the size of small cars – as souvenirs.

‘At the time, our intelligence reports told of Chinese agents crisscrossing the region where the F-117 disintegrated, buying up parts of the plane from local farmers,’ says Admiral Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia’s military chief of staff during the Kosovo war.

‘We believe the Chinese used those materials to gain an insight into secret stealth technologies... and to reverse-engineer them.’

A senior Serbian military official confirmed that pieces of the wreckage were removed by souvenir collectors, and that some ended up ‘in the hands of foreign military attaches’.

The fighter jet's successful test follows reports that China is planning to launch its first aircraft carrier and has tested a ballistic missile capable of sinking U.S. vessels in the Pacific.
The prototype jet was shown in flight, with civilians and air force personnel watching on, in pictures on several unofficial Chinese military websites, after local media outlets had claimed a successful test flight had taken place.

While the Chinese government is renowned for its stringent approach to state secrets, photos and reports of the J-20's test have remained online.

According to international agencies, the scheduling of the test flight to coincide with Mr Gates' visit to China, coupled with the seemingly relaxed approach to reports about the flight, indicated Beijing's willingness to be more open about its military intentions.
Nonetheless, reports of the stealth's successful test will do little to quell anxieties about the speed of China's military progress.

The U.S. F-22 Raptor is currently the only operational stealth fighter in the world, while Russia's Sukhoi T-50 jet is expected to enter active service in the next four years.
But pictures of China's J-20, which looks larger than the F-22 or T-50, will be of concern to the Taiwanese government, whose antiquated aircraft and radar systems would provide little resistance to radar-evading Chinese jets.

The U.S. has claimed China would not be capable of developing a stealth jet for years and production of the F-22 was recently capped.
But the J-20's successful test, coupled with reports of the development of an aircraft carrier and missile system, confirms China's growing military might.

RELATED- F-117 mockup spotted in China.


The image above, captured in March of 2010, depicts an F-117A mockup. Normally, a mockup of the F-117A wouldn’t be a very big deal, but this one is in the middle of Luoyang, China. First spotted by the intrepid members of the China Defense Forum, the mockup appears to be partially completed, apparently missing the forward fuselage.

Now what would an F-117A Stealth Fighter be doing in China? According to the article, the F-117A mockup is sitting at the Electro-Optical Technology Development Center in Luoyang, China. Apparently the center does R&D for Chinese air-to-air missiles.

RELATED: DId Spy leak F-117 flight operations plans?

Related: Did stolen F-35 plans help China build J-20?

WASHINGTON -- Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the Defense Department's costliest weapons program ever -- according to current and former government officials familiar with the attacks.

Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, officials say, potentially making it easier to defend against the craft.

The latest intrusions provide new evidence that a battle is heating up between the U.S. and potential adversaries over the data networks that tie the world together. The revelations follow a recent Wall Street Journal report that computers used to control the U.S. electrical-distribution system, as well as other infrastructure, have also been infiltrated by spies abroad.
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Attacks like these -- or U.S. awareness of them -- appear to have escalated in the past six months, said one former official briefed on the matter. "There's never been anything like it," this person said, adding that other military and civilian agencies as well as private companies are affected. "It's everything that keeps this country going."

Many details couldn't be learned, including the specific identity of the attackers, and the scope of the damage to the U.S. defense program, either in financial or security terms. In addition, while the spies were able to download sizable amounts of data related to the jet-fighter, they weren't able to access the most sensitive material, which is stored on computers not connected to the Internet.

Former U.S. officials say the attacks appear to have originated in China. However it can be extremely difficult to determine the true origin because it is easy to mask identities online.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bin Laden raises his ugly head again.

Security is being stepped up across the country today after the release of a new audiotape in which Osama bin Laden threatens to attack the U.S. homeland -- though the government is not elevating the national alert level.

The new security measures are being taken as ABC News learns that al Qaeda Web sites have posted messages saying yet another tape is about to be released -- this one from al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who apparently escaped a missile attack that targeted him in Pakistan a week ago. The Web sites say he will mourn his colleagues who were killed in that attack.

The bin Laden tape, declared authentic by the CIA, was broadcast Thursday by the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera. It was scratchy, and bin Laden's voice sounded weak -- less robust than on his last audiotape a year ago.

But there was nothing weak about what he had to say.

"The operations are under way," he said in a translation of the tape, which was in Arabic. "And you will see them inside your own home as soon as they are finished, God willing."

"He has renewed his threats against the United States," said FBI Assistant Director John Miller, who once interviewed bin Laden as a reporter for ABC News. "He has renewed his threats to have an attack on U.S. soil."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stuxnet joint Israeli/American project?

Israel and US fingered for Stuxnet attack on Iran
Worm tested in secret desert nuclear complex, NYT claims
By John Leyden

Posted in Enterprise Security, 17th January 2011 14:52 GMT
The US and Israel jointly developed the infamous Stuxnet worm before using the sophisticated malware to sabotage key components of Iran's controversial nuclear program, according to an investigation by the New York Times.

Stuxnet selectively infects industrial control (SCADA) systems from Siemens, establishing a backdoor that creates a means to reprogram compromised systems. The worm initially spread using a battery of four zero-day Windows vulnerabilities before using insecure network shares and USB sticks to spread across networks. Windows machines can carry the infection but malware only comes into play if infected systems are used to operate certain industrial control systems.

The malware is finely tuned so that it can alter the speed of high-speed frequency converter drives, such as those used in uranium enrichment, as explained in a blog post by Symantec here. It doesn't do anything for mainstream industrial control set-ups, even after they are connected to industrial control systems.

Stuxnet began spreading in June 2009 but its sophistication, including elaborate steps to disguise its presence on infected systems, meant it was not detected until June 2010. The malware infected hundreds of thousands of systems, with most infections appearing in Iran and Indonesia.

After months of confusing and occasionally conflicting statements, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently confirmed that the worm had sabotaged uranium-enrichment centrifuges at Natanz. Production at the facility reportedly dropped by 30 per cent, setting Iran's nuclear programme back by months as a result.

The consensus among anti-virus analysts, who have spent months pouring over the details of the 1.5MB malware code, was that the malware would have taken weeks to develop by a skilled team – with access to industrial control systems, for testing.

The absence of any clear financial motive, and the obvious time and trouble needed to develop the malware, point to the likely involvement of a state-sponsored intelligence agency.

Either Israel or the US have long been fingered as the most likely suspects in creating the worm. The New York Times investigation fleshes out this theory, a little, by saying both Israel and the US created the worm.

Unnamed sources at Israel's Dimona Complex said the malware was developed there over the last two years as part of a joint US-Israeli operation designed to sabotage Iran's nuclear programme. The foundations of this work were reportedly laid by American intelligence agencies, who identified the type of controllers Iran intended to use and their vulnerabilities back in 2008. Testing of the Siemens controllers took place at the Idaho National Laboratory as part of a larger exercise in cybersecurity testing, according to the sources.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

North pole shift causes runway re-designation ...

A runway at Florida's Tampa International Airport is scheduled to reopen Thursday with new numbers and signage to account for the gradual shift of the Earth's magnetic North Pole.

Runway 18R/36L, which runs north-south, has been closed since January 3 for numeric redesignation of the compass headings at each end of the runway and to change taxiway signage to account for the one-degree shift.

It will reopen tomorrow as 19R/1L, indicating its alignment along compass headings, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

Every five years, the FAA reevaluates shifts in the poles – its magnetic variation – and makes changes to runways and flight procedures as needed, Bergen said.

The FAA also publishes new aeronautical charts for pilots every 56 days, and with the next one due on Thursday, it made sense to make the changes at Tampa International Airport effective the same day, she said.

"The Earth's magnetic fields are constantly changing," she said. "It’s a very dynamic system so we make these changes effective every 56 days."

Redesignation of runway compass headings is a common practice that occurs whenever the Earth's magentic fields change, she said. It happened last year at Palm Beach International Airport and is scheduled to happen at the Tampa-Clearwater International Airport later in 2010, she said.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New sky spies take flight ...


An experimental spy plane with a wingspan almost the size of a Boeing 747's took to the skies over the Mojave Desert last week in a secret test flight that may herald a new era in modern warfare with robotic planes flying higher, faster and with more firepower.

The massive Global Observer built by AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia is capable of flying for days at a stratosphere-skimming 65,000 feet, out of range of most antiaircraft missiles. The plane is built to survey 280,000 square miles — an area larger than Afghanistan — at a single glance. That would give the Pentagon an "unblinking eye" over the war zone and offer a cheaper and more effective alternative to spy satellites watching from outer space.

The estimated $30-million robotic aircraft is one of three revolutionary drones being tested in coming weeks at Edwards Air Force Base.

Another is the bat-winged X-47B drone built by Northrop Grumman Corp., which could carry laser-guided bombs and be launched from an aircraft carrier. The third is Boeing Co.'s Phantom Ray drone that could slip behind enemy lines to knock out radar installations, clearing the way for fighters and bombers.

These aircraft would represent a major technological advance over the Predator and Reaper drones that the Obama administration has deployed as a central element of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Unlike most of the current fleet of more than 7,000 drones, the new remotely piloted planes will have jet engines and the ability to evade enemy radar.

"We are looking at the next generation of unmanned systems," said Phil Finnegan, an aerospace expert with Teal Group, a research firm. "As the U.S. looks at potential future conflicts, there needs to be more capable systems."

Finnegan pointed out that propeller-driven Predator and Reaper drones are not fast or stealthy enough to thread through antiaircraft missile batteries. Boeing's Phantom Ray and Northrop's X-47B, by comparison, "can enter contested air space, attack the enemy, and leave without detection on a radar screen," he said.

The Global Observer that was tested last week is designed for reconnaissance and would not carry weapons. But it would greatly extend the surveillance capabilities of drones.

Current spy planes can stay airborne for only about 30 hours. The Global Observer is designed to beat that mark several times over, flying up to a week at a time, and company officials say it may be ready to go into service by year's end.

The drone is designed to do the work that so far has been done by satellites, including relaying communications between military units and spotting missiles as they are launched.

On Thursday, the Global Observer performed its first test demonstrating its ability to use liquid hydrogen as fuel. The drone circled above Edwards at about 3,000 feet above ground level in a four-hour test, according to AeroVironment executives, who plan to announce the achievement Tuesday.

"This is a paradigm shift from capabilities that have come before," said AeroVironment Chairman and Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver. "It's so radically different that it's hard for people to wrap their minds around it."

AeroVironment was founded in 1971 and has built several lightweight aircraft over the years. It is now the largest provider to the U.S. military of small, hand-launched drones that soldiers use to see over hills or around other obstructions.

The Global Observer was built under a Pentagon demonstration program by 150 engineers and technicians at a company production facility in Simi Valley.

If AeroVironment lands a big production contract, it would be a major boost for Southern California's drone industry. That industry employs an estimated 10,000 people, fueled by at least $20 billion in Pentagon spending since 2001, with additional billions from the CIA and Congress.

The Pentagon has increasingly focused on drones because they reduce the risk of American casualties and because they can be operated for a fraction of the cost of piloted aircraft.

That has been a benefit to Southern California's aerospace industry, which has a hand in most of the drones being developed.

Century City-based Northrop is building the X-47B drone at Plant 42 in Palmdale under a $635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007.

Currently, combat drones are controlled remotely by a human pilot. With the X-47B, which resembles a miniature version of the B-2 stealth bomber, a human pilot designs a flight path and sends it on its way; a computer program would guide it from a ship to target and back.

"The X-47B represents game-changing technology that will allow American forces to project combat power from longer distances without putting humans in harm's way," said Paul Meyer, general manager of Northrop's Advanced Programs & Technology division.

Boeing's Phantom Ray is being built in St. Louis with engineering support from its Phantom Works facilities in Huntington Beach. The company does not have a contract; it is developing the drone at its own expense.

These aircraft may be several years away from service, but defense industry analysts say there is little doubt that they represent the wave of the future.


Return of BlackSwift?

Editor's note: Awhile back when it was reported that BlackSwift was cancelled - I speculated that it really wasn't and that it just retreated into the black world. I hate to say I told you so but ...

By Guy Norris
Los Angeles

The U.S. Air Force is studying a hypersonic road map which calls for development of ambitious high-speed weapons and a high-speed reusable flight research vehicle (HSRFRV), slightly larger than the Darpa-led Blackswift Mach 6 demonstrator cancelled in 2008.

Both high-speed elements emerged from a government-industry workshop meeting in Washington DC held on Dec. 8-9, and covered development priorities designed to maintain the recent impetus in hypersonics gained with the X-51A WaveRider and to some extent the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and HTV-2 hypersonic test.

The plan, discussed by Steven Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering, at the recent AIAA Aerospace Sciences conference in Orlando, Fla., includes parallel development paths towards both hypersonic weapons and the reusable testbed.

The weapons path would be relatively fast-track, with development of a demonstrator over five years and first flight by October 2016. Three major options for the demonstrator include an “X-51-like” vehicle that would, like the WaveRider, be air-launched from a B-52. A second option would cover development of a “tactically-compliant” high-speed version that could be carried by internally-carried by the Northrop Grumman B-2, and externally by the Lockheed Martin F-35. A third option, also involving a B-2/F-35 capable launch, would be an all-new vehicle configuration.

The more advanced element of the road map is Walker’s call for a re-usable demonstrator incorporating a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC), as well as the ability to take-off and land on a runway. As with the Blackswift project, the HSRFRV’s TBCC will combine a high-Mach turbojet with a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet, the two sharing a common inlet and nozzle. Unlike Blackswift’s TBCC, however, which was designed to power the demonstrator from takeoff to a very short period of five-minutes at Mach 6 cruise and back, the HSRFRV appears to be aimed at more ambitious goals.

Walker says the proposed vehicle will have the capability for up to 15 minutes at Mach 4 plus. In addition it will have limited duration at higher Mach numbers. Mindful of the pitfalls that have swallowed up so many previous hypersonic goals, not the least of them the X-30 National Aerospace Plane (NASP), the plan calls for a steady development schedule towards a first flight in October 2021. Walker says “the team feels if the money is available we can get there”.

Speaking to Aviation Week, Air Force Research Laboratory X-51A program manager Charles Brink says “the Air Force, under Steve’s leadership, has been doing a good job of herding all the cats, and coming up with a more streamlined, coherent high-speed vehicle roadmap.” The completion of the X-51A, he says, will provide data that “plays into the rules and tools development” for use in the following weapons and platforms developments. Brink adds that the Air force is aiming to conduct the second attempted flight of the X-51A in late March, having abandoned a potential window this month owing to unavailability of a B-52 launch aircraft.


J-20 Chengdu Chicken proves it isn't a flightless bird!

High Speed Taxi:


Monday, January 10, 2011

Nuke Secrets Trial Lawyers Get Clearances

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Lawyers for a New Mexico physicist, who is accused of trying to help Venezuela develop a nuclear weapon, have received security clearances and can begin to review documents after agreeing with prosecutors on a deal to share unclassified material.

Attorney Amy Sirignano, representing former Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, says the clearances were issued Thursday.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni and his wife, Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, are accused of offering to help develop a nuclear weapon for Venezuela through dealings with an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a representative of the Venezuelan government.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Chinese: J-20 not a threat ...

(CNN) -- A top Chinese military official said his country's growing military muscle posed no threat to countries in the region. His statement came after high-level talks with his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said on state-run television that his country's "research and development of weapons systems are absolutely not intended for targeting any country, and will not pose a threat to any country in the world."
"The Sino-U.S. military relationship has new opportunities for development," Liang told state-run newspaper China Daily. "It also faces challenges," he said, likely referring to the U.S. sale of 60 Black Hawk helicopters, 114 advanced Patriot air defense missiles, a pair of Osprey mine-hunting ships and dozens of advanced communications systems to longtime Chinese adversary Taiwan.

The talks come after tensions flared over a series of heightened security issues between the two countries, including China's development of a radar-evading fighter jet.

Rare look inside Chinese military base 2009: China's military power 2009: China's
Images and cell phone video of the stealth fighter, known as the J-20, being tested on a runway surfaced recently on the internet.
"I think that what we've seen is that they may be somewhat further ahead in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted," said Gates, saying earlier that it would not be fully operational until 2020 or 2025.

Analysts believe the J-20 stealth fighter will have the radar-evading capability of fifth-generation fighters produced by the United States, such as the F-22 and F-35.
But Gates questioned how advanced that capability will be.

The defense secretary said he is still concerned about Chinese progress in developing an anti-ship cruise and ballistic missile that could potentially target U.S. vessels in the region, calling for more cooperation between the two countries.
"Our two nations now have an extraordinary opportunity to define our relationship, not by the obstacles that at times divide us, but by the opportunities that exist to foster greater cooperation and bring us closer together," Gates said Monday. This is his second visit to China since he assumed the post in December 2006.

Read Aviation Week's much better analysis of the J-20 HERE

Friday, January 7, 2011

Area 51 featured in summer movie "Super Eight"

If you liked that - you'll probably LOVE this.

New: Chinese "Chengdu Chicken" J-20 new video and photos surface


Gates wants Defense budget cuts - but also hints at B-3 bomber.

Washington (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates staged a pre-emptive attack Thursday in Washington's looming budget battles, announcing cuts of $78 billion to the U.S. military and defense department, including reducing the size of the Army and Marine Corps.
In addition, Gates said the Army, Navy and Air Force had found $100 billion of savings that they would retain, allowing them to continue developing major weapons and modernizing their forces over the next five years.

"These reform efforts, followed through to completion, will make it possible to protect the U.S. military's size, reach and fighting strength despite a declining rate of growth and eventual flattening of the defense budget over the next five years," Gates said at the start of a lengthy opening statement at the Pentagon.

Under the Gates plan, the Marine Corps would slash 15,000 to 20,000 people, a 10% reduction. The Army would shrink by 27,000 active duty personnel, 4% cut, on top of an already planned reduction of 22,000 -- for a total of 49,000 fewer soldiers.
US military budget cuts

The smaller fighting force won't take effect until 2015, to coincide with the scheduled handover of security to local forces in Afghanistan.
"A major objective beyond creating monetary savings is to make this department less cumbersome, less top heavy and more agile and effective in the execution of its responsibilities," Gates said. "My hope and expectation is that as a result of these changes over time, what had been a culture of endless money, where cost was rarely a consideration, will become a culture of savings and restraint."

The chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, seated beside Gates at the Pentagon briefing, pushed back against anticipated criticism that the proposed troop reductions would cut too deeply.

"These are modest changes and ones that we think are well within the risk envelope, as we understand things right now, particularly given where we think we'll be with respect to Afghanistan in 2015, when these force structure changes start to kick in," Mullen said.
And Gates said he is proposing a slowdown in the rate of growth of the military, not what he called "absolute cuts," and he insisted the U.S. military will be ready and able for the future.

"My message to both our allies and to our friends -- and in light of what some of our closest allies have had to do in terms of their own military capabilities -- is that this president understands and accepts our global responsibilities and we will continue to invest in the defense capabilities that are necessary to sustain our military strength and meet our global responsibilities," Gates said.

The Defense Department had instructed the individual branches of the military to identify $100 billion in cuts over the next five years, with Gates' pledge that they could keep the savings they identified instead of it being returned either to the larger Defense Department pool or the U.S. Treasury.

Some of the plan could collide with the wishes of members of Congress, which often include protecting jobs in their districts, although part of the proposals can be implemented by Gates alone.
The cuts Gates announced Thursday drew quick fire from Capitol Hill.

"I'm not happy," said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-California, who just took over as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "I remain committed to applying more fiscal responsibility and accountability to the Department of Defense, but I will not stand idly by and watch the White House gut defense when Americans are deployed in harm's way."
McKeon said he is particularly concerned by the proposed cuts for the Marine Corps.

"Members of the House Armed Services Committee remain committed to the Marine Corps as an expeditionary fighting force 'in ready,' which includes the capability to conduct amphibious landings," McKeon said in a prepared statement. "This mission could be jeopardized by the cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a capability revalidated by the secretary just last year, and delays in the Joint Strike Fighter and amphibious ship construction."

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, also signaled that Congress wants a say in Defense Department spending, saying the Gates announcement was just the start of a process.

"Everyone is concerned about the debt, no one wants to make substantial cuts that jeopardize our national security, and it's going to be a very hard public policy challenge to balance those two interests," Smith said in a written statement

Some big programs, identified by Gates and the services as "troubled or unneeded," are under the budget ax, including the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. And some parts of the multiservice Joint Strike Fighter will be stretched out over a longer time. Gates announced that the vertical take-off version of the jet requested by the Marine Corps -- and plagued by design and cost problems -- will be placed on what amounts to a two-year probation.
Gates warned that if the program couldn't meet its goals it would be cancelled.

The Pentagon plan for savings came from reducing overhead and finding new efficiencies and improved business practices as well as combing through weapons programs.
Substantial new investment harvested from these savings will stave off additional cuts to the number of personnel in uniform as well as allow additional modernization.

In one example of the proposed cuts -- certain to fire up sharp opposition in Congress and elsewhere -- the Pentagon will seek to increase medical premiums for retired working-age military personnel. Gates said the costs of health coverage had not been revised since the 1990s and are only a fraction of the costs of private health insurance.
These cuts have no direct impact on the continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are funded separately.

The Pentagon budget will increase next year and taper off at the end of the five-year period now under consideration.

As part of its budget cuts, the Pentagon is previewing expansion in certain areas. For example, the Air Force will be able to use its savings to develop a new long-range nuclear-capable penetrating bomber, a project that had earlier been put on hold, and buy additional unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Army can use its savings to invest in suicide prevention and substance-abuse counseling and to modernize its tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Strykers and other vehicles.
The Navy will be able to purchase additional ships, and more F18s to hedge against any delays in the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Marines will be able to use savings to repair and refurbish equipment returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The budget plan brings the Pentagon in line with President Obama's request to reduce projected spending on the military by $78 billion over the next five years.
The Defense budget, under the Gates plan, has overall spending increasing 3 percent in the coming year, then dropping for two years before zero growth in the final two years.

"This country's dire fiscal situation, and the threat it poses to America's influence and credibility around the world, will only get worse unless the U.S. government gets its finances in order," Gates said. "As the biggest part of the discretionary federal budget, the Pentagon cannot presume to exempt itself from the scrutiny and pressure faced by the rest of our government."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

CNN weighs in on the "Chinese Chengdu Chicken" stealth warplane

(CNN) -- Images believed to be of China's next generation of military air power have been buzzing around the internet, but Pentagon officials are insisting it does not mean China has matched American air capabilities.

The new Chinese stealth fighter jet, known as the J-20, isn't supposed to be operational until at least 2017, but a Chinese air force commander told Chinese TV in 2009 that flight testing would begin much sooner. Stealth jets, such as the United States' F-22, are designed to evade detection by radar and anti-aircraft defenses.

Now unknown sources have posted photos of what appears to be the plane on an airfield runway in southwestern China. "We are aware of their plans to develop this fifth-generation fighter," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Wednesday. "The photos that were released recently are presumably of some taxi testing."

At a Thursday briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei declined to comment on reports on China testing the jet.
"China insists on a path of peaceful development," he said. "We have adopted a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and do not threaten any other countries. China has been an important force in maintaining regional and global peace."

The emergence of the photos comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to China this weekend to discuss the military relationship between the U.S. and China. And later this month, President Hu Jintao will go to Washington for a summit with President Barack Obama.

One China watcher says Beijing's failure to censor the grainy images on the web proves the photos are of the new jet and the country wants them to circulate.

"The Chinese military and the police could have swept the area around the airfield very easily, but what they've done is they've controlled this. They've allowed Chinese to only take photos with cell phones, meaning that the photos that we have are low-resolution, do not give us a great deal of detail about the aircraft and they're put on the web with a low-resolution format," said China military scholar and author Richard Fisher.

"The response within China has been overwhelmingly positive and has spurred national pride to an enormous degree."

The Pentagon is taking a low-key approach to the surge in publicity about the Chinese fighter, saying their existing top-of-the-line warplane has engine problems and that their next plane is years away. But Fisher says that timeline could be sped up if the Chinese buy an engine from Russia as opposed to developing it themselves.
"It's something that is in some form of development, as a fifth-generation fighter.

As I noted, the Chinese are still having difficulties with their fourth-generation fighter," Lapan said in an off-camera question session with journalists in his office.

And he said that while the new jet was not mentioned in the Pentagon report on China that was sent to Congress in August as an annual update for China's defense capabilities, the Defense Department has talked about it.
"We as a department have publicly spoken about it in the past. It is not as if we have not acknowledged that they are pursuing a fifth-generation fighter," Lapan said. "So we are aware of it. But it is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter."

Fisher, however, says it should be a concern, citing the Chinese jet's potential ability to overtake that of America's F-22 in thrust and "supercruise" speed, which is the ability to fly supersonically without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.
"We can't say precisely what the capabilities are, but we have a good idea. Right now, we should be reviving production of the F-22 and not just reviving production, we should be developing an advance version of the F-22," said Fisher. "And sadly, even though it is a troubled program, already the F-35 needs another rework. It needs to be made competitive with this fighter."

The F-22 was scaled back in production in 2009. The production of the F-35, which is being developed and tested, could be slowed under Gates' budget-cutting initiative.
In 2009, Gates said that no nation comes close to the United States' air power, and he anticipated the Chinese having only "a handful" of fighters that challenge the U.S. advanced fleets by 2025. But Fisher cautions that this Chinese jet could cause a change in the balance of power in the Pacific.

"Since World War II, the American military has never gone into battle without the assurance of air superiority. China is a rising power, and it is determined to challenge the American position globally," said Fisher. "This fighter will allow them to do that on a military level... and from my perspective, that's simply unacceptable."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Israel pleads to President for spies release ...

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly appealed to U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, promising Israel would never again spy on the United States in the way Pollard did.

"Jonathan has suffered greatly for his actions and his health has deteriorated considerably," Netanyahu argued. "The people of Israel will be eternally grateful" to Obama if he pardons him, he added.

"Both Mr. Pollard and the government of Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse for these actions, and Israel will continue to abide by its commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated," Netanyahu said in a speech in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

"At the time of his arrest, Pollard was acting as agent of the Israeli government. Even though Israel was in no way directing its intelligence efforts against the United States, its actions were wrong and wholly unacceptable," Netanyahu said, reading aloud the letter he sent to Obama.
The White House has received the letter and "will review it," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Tuesday.
Netanyahu agreed in December to formally request the release of Pollard, a former

U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who was caught spying for Israel in 1985 and was sentenced in 1987 to life imprisonment.
He has already served 25 years of his sentence.

In December, Pollard's wife hand-delivered a letter from Pollard to Netanyahu, pleading for help.

Many Israeli leaders over the years have requested Pollard's release, Netanyahu observed in his letter to Obama.
"Since Jonathan Pollard has now spent 25 years in prison, I believe that a new request for clemency is highly appropriate," he said.
"Jonathan Pollard has reportedly served longer in prison than any person convicted of similar crimes, and longer than the period requested by the prosecutors at the time of his plea bargain agreement," he added.

The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on Netanyahu's request for Obama to release Pollard.

Then-CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign in 1998 if then-President Bill Clinton pardoned Pollard, Tenet wrote in his autobiography.
Netanyahu, who was prime minister at the time, offered to make concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians in exchange for Pollard's release, Tenet said.

Iran says "We have nothing to hide" when it comes to nukes. West skeptical.

Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, ahead of fresh talks with key world powers over its controversial nuclear programme.

The offer was reportedly extended to Russia, China and several EU countries, but not the US.

US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, has dismissed the offer as a "clever ploy".

Many Western countries suspect Iran is developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its programme is peaceful.

US 'snub'
"The representatives of some European Union countries, NAM [Non-Aligned Movement], and some representatives of the five-plus-one [world powers] have been invited to visit our nuclear sites," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

He said the invitation was part of the Islamic republic's attempt to demonstrate "co-operation with the IAEA", referring to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"It's a clever ploy, but it's not a substitute for Iran's responsibilities to the IAEA”

Philip J Crowley
US State Department spokesman

China, a close economic ally of Iran, has confirmed it was among the invitees, but foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not say whether any of its diplomats would go.

Asked specifically whether a US representative would be invited, Mr Mehmanparast said in Tehran: "The list of the countries invited for the visit will be unveiled when it is finalised."

But the New York Times reports that the invitation has "pointedly snubbed" the United States, citing European diplomats close to the negotiations.

Washington, which has been spearheading the campaign for sanctions against Iran, swiftly dismissed the offer.

"It's a clever ploy, but it's not a substitute for Iran's responsibilities to the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA," Mr Crowley told the New York Times.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Even more Chinese J-20 photos

Click to enlarge:

Bin Laden Top Aid Killed In Predator Strike

Islamabad: Nasir al-Wahishi, a top al-Qaeda commander, who reportedly served as an aide of Osama bin Laden, was killed in a US drone attack in northwestern Pakistan on December 28.
Al-Wahishi, 32, a Yemeni national, who presided over the January 2009 merger of Saudi Arabian and Yemeni splinters of al-Qaeda, was killed in the year end.
Wahishi was killed when two missiles were fired on a militant camp at the Ghulam Khan sub-district of North Waziristan, Kyodo reported quoting Pakistani officials.

Al-Wahishi is among four top al-Qaeda commanders killed in American drone strikes which assumed unprecedented proportions in 2010.

Those killed by US missiles include al-Qaeda number 3 Abu Mustafa al-Yazid, Sheikh Fateh al-Misri, al-Qaeda's operations head for Afghanistan and Pakistan, who replaced Yazid.
The two other commanders killed were Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, who co-ordinated Osama bin Laden's Arabs in Afghanistan, and explosives expert Abu Atta al-Kuwaiti.

The drones have also felled top Taliban commanders including its chief Baitullah Mehsud and the trainer of suicide bombers Qari Hussain Mehsud.

The officials claimed Wahishi had served as secretary of bin Laden until 2003. He was arrested in Iran and extradited to Yemen in 2003. The al-Qaeda commander was among 23 Yemeni captives who made a dramatic escape from maximum security prison in Sana'a, in 2006 and was at large since then.

The Yemeni figures in the Interpol's Orange Notice as well as US State Departments and UN Sanctions List.


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