Monday, February 28, 2011

British mount clandestine rescue in Libya

(CNN) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron says a military-led rescue mission into the Libyan desert was "the right thing to do," despite the fact that U.K. planes didn't have permission to enter Libyan airspace.

Three Royal Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft successfully evacuated some 150 civilians of multiple nationalities from eastern Libya, according to a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The civilians were retrieved from multiple locations in the desert south of Benghazi, said Liam Fox, the secretary of state for defense. Another 150 civilians were flown out by British forces in similar missions mounted Saturday, according to previous statements from the FCO.
One plane was hit by small arms fire when it tried to land at an airstrip, according to a press officer with the Ministry of Defence, but the damage was superficial and the plane was able to continue. All three aircraft have arrived in Malta, the officer said.

At a news conference Sunday, Cameron celebrated the successful return of the three C-130s. "Good work has been done today," he said. "I pay tribute to the very brave pilots and armed services personnel who've managed to help so many British citizens back to safety."
Video testimonials from Libya Gadhafi control wanes outside Tripoli Libya: Stranded in Benghazi Gadhafi's history of tension with the West

When questioned about the lack of permission for British craft to enter the skies over Libya, Cameron said, "Well, it is risky and difficult but I judged it was the right thing to do." The number of British citizens working on oil platforms in the eastern desert area meant the government had to take action to "get those people home," he said, adding, "It is difficult to arrange these things but it was the right thing to do."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lubbock residents react to having a terrorist next door,

Lubbock, Texas (KCBD) - A college student from Saudi Arabia who studied chemical engineering in Lubbock, Texas bought explosive chemicals online as part of a plan to hide bomb materials inside dolls and baby carriages to blow up dams, nuclear plants or the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush, the Justice Department said Thursday. "After mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad," or holy war, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari wrote in his private journal, according to court documents.

Aldawsari lived at The Centre at Overton Park just down the hall from Texas Tech student Landon Lepard. "My friends called and said hey there is a terrorist in your apartment and I said what? I found out that he lived down the hall and I saw that he was literally right around the corner," Lepard said.

Aldawsari lives in unit 2303 at The Centre where students say he kept a low profile. Court documents show that on February 14th and 17th the FBI searched Aldawsari's apartment. They found chemicals like sulfuric and nitric acids, dismantled alarm clocks, and other tools for making explosives.

Lepard said he noticed more police around his apartment last week. "Over the weekend I saw a heavier police presence. We were here on Thursday and there were lots of sheriffs and deputies."

Mayor Tom Martin said the FBI and local officials have been following Aldawsari for weeks. "There was information that came over a period of weeks but it takes that long I assure you that he was not out of surveillance while they were gathering that information," Martin said.

Students say they often saw Aldawsari at the bus stop. "He was just a normal guy I guess, sometimes he seemed a little weird," Tech student Bo Whitney said.

"He was kind of quiet, he always stood off by himself in the corner using his ipod or something. Somebody like that who is secluded makes you wonder like what's he doing on his own time, I guess as it turns out he's was making bombs," Whitney continued.

Landon Lepard says he still cant believe he was living down the hall from someone who had the intentions of committing a terrorist attack in the US.

"It's unbelievable and shocking you know, that this happened in Lubbock, much less in the same building," Lepard said.

"It's scary, I don't want that going on anywhere, much less where I lay my head at night, what if he messed up and blew up the whole building," Tech student Bo Whitney said.

The 20-year-old Aldawsari wrote that he was planning an attack in the United States for years, even before coming to the U.S. on a scholarship. He said he was influenced by Osama bin Laden's speeches and that he bemoaned the plight of Muslims.



Boeing wins aerial refueling tanker contract

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The Air Force announced Thursday it awarded a $3.5 billion initial contract to Boeing for the production of 18 next-generation aerial refueling tankers.

That is a down payment on a contract worth about $35 billion for 179 planes.

Aerial refueling tankers allow the military to refuel aircraft in mid flight, greatly extending the range of operation for smaller aircraft, while also providing the capability to carry cargo and airlift personnel.

Both Boeing (BA, Fortune 500) and the North American unit of EADS -- which owns Airbus --submitted bids for the blockbuster contract and planned to base their planes on popular civilian aircraft, specifically the Boeing 767 and Airbus A330.

"We're honored to be given the opportunity to build the Air Force's next tanker and provide a vital capability to the men and women of our armed forces," Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said in a statement.

Boeing shares jumped more than 3% in after-hours trading.

The announcement is the culmination of a decade-long process that has been fraught with pitfalls and political pressure as lawmakers lobbied to bring the project -- and resulting jobs -- into their districts.

Both companies estimated the contract would support thousands of jobs, with Boeing planning to build the aircraft in Everett, Wash., and Wichita, Kan. EADS would have based its production facilities in Mobile, Ala.

On Wednesday, Gulf state governors sent a letter to President Obama, saying the contract could significantly boost their state economies, which are reeling from natural and man-made disasters.

But on Thursday, it was Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Sam Brownback of Kansas who won out.

They had sent a letter of their own to Obama, arguing, "We believe this tanker will best meet the Air Force's requirements and prove the best value for the American taxpayer."

Gregoire said in a statement Thursday that it was a great day for "the 11,000 aerospace workers in Washington state alone that will play a role in assembling the NewGen tanker."

In a conference call with reporters, Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said that the program will support more than 50,000 jobs and 800 suppliers spread across more than 40 states.

EADS has the right to protest the Pentagon's decision, but Pentagon officials said Thursday they were confident any appeal would fail. Still, with jobs at stake, there will be political pressure to try and overturn the decision.

"I am deeply disappointed that the EADS team was not selected to build the next air refueling tanker for the Air Force," Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said in a statement. "In light of today's result, I intend to examine the process carefully to ensure it was fairly conducted."

The contract has had a long and convoluted history.

Northrop Grumman and European partner EADS originally won the contract in February 2008. But Boeing protested and the Air Force reversed its decision and changed the requirements for the plane.

Northrop later said it would not bid on a multi-billion-dollar contract to build the tanker because it believed the rules for the contract favored its competitor, Boeing.

After Northrop dropped out, its partner company, EADS, asked the Pentagon for a 90-day extension to file its own bid.

The tankers will replace the aging Boeing KC-135, which first entered service in 1957. About 100 of the oldest "Stratotanker" models have been grounded since 2006 due to age.

Originally needed to keep B-52 nuclear bombers in the air for long periods of time, the Stratotanker quickly found new missions in Vietnam, where it enabled small fighter bombers to strike targets anywhere in the country. It revolutionized the use of air power, and is continuing to play that role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

-- CNN Senior Producer Scott Spoerry contributed to this report

Discovery blasts of on final mission...

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Discovery, the world's most traveled spaceship, thundered into orbit for the final time Thursday, heading toward the International Space Station on a journey that marks the beginning of the end of the shuttle era.

Views across most of Southwest Florida were obscured by clouds. But some WINK News viewers in Cape Coral and Collier County report seeing the launch.

The six astronauts on board, all experienced space fliers, were thrilled to be on their way after a delay of nearly four months for fuel tank repairs. But it puts Discovery on the cusp of retirement when it returns in 11 days and eventually heads to a museum.

Discovery is the oldest of NASA's three surviving space shuttles and the first to be decommissioned this year. Two missions remain, first by Atlantis and then Endeavour, to end the 30-year program.

Launch director Mike Leinbach anticipated it would be "tough" to see Discovery take off for the 39th and final time, and even harder when it returns March 7.

"It's a very, very personal thing that we love to do," Leinbach explained. "It's a lot more than just our livelihood. It gets in our soul."

Emotions ran high as Discovery rocketed off its seaside pad into a late afternoon clear blue sky, and arced out over the Atlantic on its farewell flight. There were a tense few minutes before liftoff when an Air Force computer problem popped up. The issue was resolved and Discovery took off about three minutes late, with just a few seconds left.

"The venerable veteran of America's human spaceflight fleet," as the launch commentator called it earlier in the day, will reach the space station Saturday, delivering a small chamber full of supplies and an experimental humanoid robot. The orbiting lab was soaring over the South Pacific when Discovery blasted off under the command of retired Air Force Col. Steven Lindsey.

NASA is under presidential direction to retire the shuttle fleet this summer, let private companies take over trips to orbit and focus on getting astronauts to asteroids and Mars.

An estimated 40,000 guests gathered at Kennedy Space Center to witness history in the making, including a small delegation from Congress and Florida's new Gov. Rick Scott. Discovery frenzy took over not only the launch site, but neighboring towns.

Roads leading to the launching site were jammed with cars parked two and three deep; recreational vehicles snagged prime viewing spots along the Banana River well before dawn. Businesses and governments joined in, their signs offering words of encouragement.

"The heavens await Discovery," a Cocoa Beach church proclaimed. Groceries stocked up on extra red, white and blue cakes with shuttle pictures. Stores ran out of camera batteries.

The launch team also got into the act. A competition was held to craft the departing salutation from Launch Control; Kennedy's public affairs office normally comes up with the parting line. Souvenir photos of Discovery were set aside for controllers in the firing room. Many posed for group shots.

Lindsey and his crew paused to take in the significance of it all, before boarding Discovery. They embraced in a group hug at the base of the launch pad.

Unlike the first try back in November, no hydrogen gas leaked during Thursday's fueling.

NASA also was confident no cracks would develop in the external fuel tank; nothing serious was spotted during the final checks at the pad. Both problems cropped up during the initial countdown in early November, and the repairs took almost four months. The cracks in the midsection of the tank, which holds instruments but no fuel, could have been dangerous.

The lengthy postponement kept one of the original crew from flying.

Astronaut Timothy Kopra, the lead spacewalker, was hurt when he wrecked his bicycle last month. Experienced spacewalker Stephen Bowen stepped in and became the first astronaut to fly back-to-back shuttle missions.

Packed aboard Discovery is Robonaut 2, or R2, set to become the first humanoid robot in space. The experimental machine - looking human from the waist up - will remain boxed until after Discovery departs. Its twin was at the launch site, perched atop a rover, waving goodbye.

Discovery already has 143 million miles to its credit, beginning with its first flight in 1984. By the time this mission ends, the shuttle will have tacked on another 4.5 million miles. And it will have spent 363 days in space and circled Earth 5,800 times.

No other spacecraft has been launched so many times.

Discovery's list of achievements include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit, carrying the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a U.S. spaceship, performing the first rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir with the first female shuttle pilot in the cockpit, returning Mercury astronaut John Glenn to orbit, and bringing shuttle flights back to life after the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

Discovery is expected to be eventually put on display by the Smithsonian Institution.

Read more:

Lubbock resident arrested on WMD charges.

WASHINGTON – Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 20, a citizen of Saudi Arabia and resident of Lubbock, Texas, was arrested late yesterday by FBI agents in Texas on a federal charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his alleged purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary to make an improvised explosive device (IED) and his research of potential U.S. targets.

The arrest and the criminal complaint, which was unsealed in the Northern District of Texas, were announced by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; James T. Jacks, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas; and Robert E. Casey Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Dallas Field Division.

Aldawsari is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Lubbock at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning. Aldawsari, who was lawfully admitted into the United States in 2008 on a student visa and is enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the complaint, Aldawsari has been researching online how to construct an IED using several chemicals as ingredients. He has also acquired or taken a substantial step toward acquiring most of the ingredients and equipment necessary to construct an IED and he has conducted online research of several potential U.S. targets, the affidavit alleges. In addition, he has allegedly described his desire for violent jihad and martyrdom in blog postings and a personal journal.

"As alleged in the complaint, Aldawsari purchased ingredients to construct an explosive device and was actively researching potential targets in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of many agents, analysts and prosecutors, this plot was thwarted before it could advance further," said Assistant Attorney General Kris. "This case serves as another reminder of the need for continued vigilance both at home and abroad."

"Yesterday's arrest demonstrates the need for and the importance of vigilance and the willingness of private individuals and companies to ask questions and contact the authorities when confronted with suspicious activities. Based upon reports from the public, Aldawsari's plot was uncovered and thwarted. We're confident we have neutralized the alleged threat posed by this defendant. Those reports resulted in the initiation of a complex and far-reaching investigation requiring almost around the clock work by hundreds of dedicated FBI agents, analysts, prosecutors and others. Their effort is another example of the work being done to protect our country and its citizens. These individuals are deserving of our respect and gratitude," said U.S. Attorney Jacks.

"This arrest and criminal charge is a result of the success of the FBI's counterterrorism strategy, which is to detect, penetrate, and disrupt terrorist plots in the United States and against U.S. interests abroad. In this case, FBI Agents and other FBI experts worked tirelessly to neutralize the imminent terrorist threat described in the criminal complaint. The public can be justifiably proud of the national security expertise shown by the FBI in this investigation," said Special Agent in Charge Casey.

Purchases of Chemical Ingredients and Other Equipment

The affidavit alleges that on Feb. 1, 2011, a chemical supplier reported to the FBI a suspicious attempted purchase of concentrated phenol by a man identifying himself as Khalid Aldawsari. According to the affidavit, phenol is a toxic chemical with legitimate uses, but can also be used to make the explosive trinitrophenol, also known as T.N.P., or picric acid. The affidavit alleges that other ingredients typically used with phenol to make picric acid, or T.N.P., are concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids.

Aldawsari allegedly attempted to have the phenol order shipped to a freight company so it could be held for him there, but the freight company returned the order to the supplier and called the police. Later, Aldawsari falsely told the supplier he was associated with a university and wanted the phenol for "off-campus, personal research." Frustrated by questions being asked over his phenol order, Aldawsari cancelled his order and later e-mailed himself instructions for producing phenol. The affidavit alleges that in December 2010, he successfully purchased concentrated nitric and sulfuric acids.

According to the affidavit, legally authorized electronic surveillance revealed that Aldawsari used various e-mail accounts in researching explosives and targets, and often sent emails to himself as part of this process. On Feb. 11, 2011, for instance, he allegedly e-mailed himself a recipe for picric acid, which the e-mail describes as a "military explosive." He also allegedly sent himself an e-mail on Oct. 19, 2010 that contained information on the material required for Nitro Urea, how to prepare it, and the advantages of using it.

The affidavit alleges that Aldawsari also e-mailed himself instructions on how to convert a cellular phone into a remote detonator and how to prepare a booby-trapped vehicle using items available in every home. One e-mail allegedly contained a message stating that "one operation in the land of the infidels is equal to ten operations against occupying forces in the land of the Muslims." During December 2010 and January 2011, Aldawsari allegedly purchased many other items, including a gas mask, a Hazmat suit, a soldering iron kit, glass beakers and flasks, wiring, a stun gun, clocks and a battery tester.

Searches of Aldawsari's Residence

Two legally authorized searches of Aldawsari's apartment conducted by the FBI in February 2011 indicated that the concentrated sulfuric and nitric acids; the beakers and flasks; wiring; Hazmat suit; and clocks were present in Aldawsari's residence.

FBI agents also found a notebook at Aldawsari's residence that appeared to be a diary or journal. According to the affidavit, excerpts from the journal indicate that Aldawsari had been planning to commit a terrorist attack in the United States for years. One entry describes how Aldawsari sought and obtained a particular scholarship because it allowed him to come directly to the United State and helped him financially, which he said "will help tremendously in providing me with the support I need for Jihad." The entry continues: "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for Jihad."

In another entry, Aldawsari allegedly wrote that he was near to reaching his goal and near to getting weapons to use against infidels and their helpers. He also listed a "synopsis of important steps" that included obtaining a forged U.S. birth certificate; renting a car; using different driver's licenses for each car rented; putting bombs in cars and taking them to different places during rush hour; and leaving the city for a safe place.

Research on Potential Targets

According to the affidavit, Aldawsari conducted research on various targets and e-mailed himself information on these locations and people. One of the documents he sent himself, with the subject line listed as "Targets," allegedly contained the names and home addresses of three American citizens who had previously served in the U.S. military and had been stationed for a time at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In another e-mail titled "NICE TARGETS 01," Aldawsari allegedly sent himself the names of 12 reservoir dams in Colorado and California. In another e-mail to himself, titled "NICE TARGETS," he listed two categories of targets: hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants. On Feb. 6, 2011, the affidavit alleges, Aldawsari sent himself an e-mail titled "Tyrant's House," in which he listed the Dallas address for former President George W. Bush. The affidavit also alleges that Aldawsari conducted research that could indicate his consideration of the use of infant dolls to conceal explosives and possible targeting of a nightclub with an explosive concealed in a backpack.

The affidavit also alleges that Aldawsari created a blog in which he posted extremist messages. In one posting, he expressed dissatisfaction with current conditions of Muslims and vowed jihad and martyrdom. "You who created mankind….grant me martyrdom for Your sake and make jihad easy for me only in Your path," he wrote.

This case was investigated by the FBI's Dallas Joint Terrorism Task Force, with assistance from the Lubbock Police Department. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard Baker and Denise Williams from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas, and Trial Attorney David Cora from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.

The charges contained in the criminal complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Discovery set for final flight tomorrow ...

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA has given a unanimous "go" for Thursday's planned launch of space shuttle Discovery.

It will be the final flight for Discovery, the world's most traveled rocketship.
Shuttle managers met Wednesday and agreed to proceed with the flight after a four-month delay caused by fuel tank cracks. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. ET Thursday. There's an 80 percent chance of good weather.

Six astronauts will ride Discovery up to the International Space Station. They will deliver and install a closet full of space station supplies, and drop off a humanoid robot. Robonaut will become the first humanoid in space.
Discovery has already logged nearly 143 million miles, more than any other reusable spacecraft.

Libyan pilots crash fighter jets instead of attacking their own people

UPDATE CNN: An opposition figure told CNN the pilot had been ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi but refused and instead ejected from the plane.
The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that two people were on board, and that both -- the pilot and co-pilot -- parachuted out, allowing the plane to crash into an uninhabited area west of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Benghazi. The newspaper cited military sources.

By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY

Two Libyan air force pilots bailed out of their fighter jet and let it crash today rather than obey orders to attack opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, the website for the Libyan newspaper Quryna reports.

The website quotes an unidentified colonel in the air force control room near Benghazi as reporting that Capt. Attia Abdel Salem al Abdali and his second in command Ali Omar Gaddafi parachuted from their Russian-made Sukhoi-22 plane, which had taken off from an air base in Tripoli.

Quryna, which is based in Benghazi, is Libya's most reliable news outlet, Reuters reports. Although owned by a media group linked to Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, it has begun to report openly on events now that Tripoli has lot control of Benghazi, the new agency says.

The plane crashed near Ajdabiya, 100 miles southwest of Benghazi, the newspaper says.

One of the pilots was from Gadhafi's tribe, the Gadhadhfa, says Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, the AP reports.

Getting out of Libya ...

(CNN) -- Governments around the world are making a run to get their citizens out of volatile Libya. Here is a country-by-country breakdown:

Two ferry boats carrying more than 3,000 Turks left the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi early Wednesday morning, the foreign ministry in Turkey said. Two more ferry boats -- each capable of carrying 1,200 people -- are headed to the North African nation. The boats will carry food and medical supplies for Libyans as demanded by the Turkish prime minister, the foreign ministry said. The ministry added that in addition to the daily scheduled flights by Turkish Airlines to Tripoli, seven more planes are on standby in case it is permitted to fly to Benghazi airport or make additional flights to Tripoli. Since Saturday, Turkey has evacuated 2,100 citizens from Libya, the ministry said.

The British Foreign Office said a charter flight is leaving Gatwick Airport early Wednesday afternoon for Tripoli, and will be carrying supplies of food and water for British nationals at the airport in the Libyan capital. A second flight will leave the U.K. as soon as possible, the Foreign Office said. A consular team from the British Embassy is already on the ground at Tripoli's airport and is in place to assist British nationals. That team will be reinforced by two specialist consular teams, one of which has already arrived in Libya. The other is on the charter flight from Gatwick, the Foreign Office said.
The British Embassy is in contact with about 300 British nationals in and around Tripoli and was giving them instructions on how to catch the charter flights, the office explained.
Britain said its citizens who don't have "a pressing need to remain in the country should leave by commercial means if it is safe to do so." The government was advising Britons who want to leave Libya but can't buy tickets online "to travel to the airport carrying sufficient cash to buy tickets."
British Airways and BMI canceled its flights to and from Tripoli for Wednesday, and was reviewing flights scheduled to depart later in the week.

The foreign ministry in France said that it had sent three planes to Libya to help repatriate French citizens and that its embassy in Tripoli was helping to get citizens to the airport.

Saudi Arabia said it is sending a special passenger plane to Tripoli Wednesday morning.

Syria said it will send two flights Wednesday morning and had sent two others Tuesday to run between Damascus and Tripoli. The Syrian Arab News Agency said the country is ready to launch an "unlimited number of flights if necessary." It added that Syria may also send a ship to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi to help evacuate Syrians.

The government in the Netherlands said a military plane and a Dutch frigate would help evacuate its nationals in Libya.

The United States State Department was not able to land charter planes in Tripoli to fly out U.S. citizens because Libyan authorities did not give permission for those aircraft to land, a senior administration official said Tuesday. So, the State Department was chartering a ferry to take travelers from central Tripoli's As-shahab port to Valletta, Malta, on Wednesday.
The American embassy in Libya confirmed that the ferry was anchored near the harbor of the As-shahab Port in central Tripoli. The processing of U.S. citizens had begun and seats were still available. Travelers should have all proper travel documents and may bring one suitcase and one carry-on item, the embassy said. Pets are allowed, but must meet stringent EU requirements once they reach Malta. The passengers will be required to reimburse the U.S. government later. U.S. military forces have not been requested to assist in the evacuation of American citizens from Libya, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.

Oil companies, such as Total, BP, OMV and BP, said they would or planned to evacuate people some staff and families.

The U.N. refugee agency is urging neighboring countries not to turn away asylum-seekers and refugees should they flee the upheaval. A spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said reports she has received have been worrying. "A journalist has passed information to us from Somalis in Tripoli who say they are being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries. He says they feel trapped and are frightened to go out, even though there is little or no food at home," Melissa Fleming said.

Meanwhile, about12,000 people have crossed into Egypt from Libya, officials say, in an effort to flee the violence engulfing the North Africa nation. "There is no security over there," said Esat Abubakr, an Egyptian living in Benghazi said Tuesday after he arrived in Sollum, Egypt. He described widespread violence and a climate of fear with no security. He said people drove to the border and then walked across. "Every Egyptian I know is trying to come back to Egypt," he said.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

B-3 bomber shoots lasers - bust bunkers - mothership for a swarm of drones?


The Air Force’s new stealth bomber might do more than just drop bombs, top generals said in recent days. The so-called “Long-Range Strike” plane — likely to be designated B-3 — could also carry bunker-busting, rocket-boosted munitions, high-powered lasers for self-defense and datalinks, and consoles for controlling radar-evading drones.

These add-ons, described by Air Force generals Philip Breedlove, William Fraser and David Scott, are meant to make the new bomber more lethal and harder to shoot down, even in the face of rapidly-modernizing air defenses such as China’s. “The purpose of this aircraft is to survive in an Anti-Access Area Denial environment,”Scott said, using the latest Pentagon term for defended airspace.

To that end, the bomber’s lasers might zap incoming missiles and fighters; the drones could fly ahead to scout and disable air-defense radars; the bunker-busters should ensure the bomber can actually destroy the enemy’s facilities once it breaks through the defenses.

With just $3.7 billion budgeted over the next five years to develop the bomber, lasers, bunker-busters, and drone-controls might seem unaffordable. And risky, considering the Air Force has said it must stick with “proven” technologies to keep the new bomber on-budget.

n fact, the bomber and its enhancements could be surprisingly far along the development process. The airframe itself might already be flying in prototype form, according to an investigation by ace reporter Bill Sweetman. Each of the add-on capabilities already exists, too, though not all in the same aircraft.

For years, the Air Force has been working on a chemical laser installed in the fuselage of a 747 freighter and fired from a turret mounted to the airliner’s nose. The Airborne Laser was originally meant for a combat role intercepting ballistic missiles, but in 2009 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates downgraded it to a strictly test asset, citing its high cost, short firing range and vulnerability. Future military lasers will dispense with the chemicals in favor of solid crystals, potentially making them much smaller, safer and more reliable. That’s the kind of laser we can expect to see on the new bomber.

Bunker-busting bombs have been around since World War II. In their modern form, they date back to the 1991 Gulf War. Today’s 5,000-pound GBU-28 bunker-buster can be carried by the F-15E and by bombers. For more deeply-buried targets, the Pentagon is working on the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, which is so big only the B-2 and B-52 can haul it.

To save on cost, the new bomber will be smaller and therefore carry less ordnance than the B-2. MOP probably won’t fit. Noting that penetrating-capability is a function of mass and velocity, the Air Force Research Laboratories is working on a rocket-boosted bunker-buster that would be a fraction of the MOP’s size while being just as lethal against underground targets.


Gaddafi orders sabotage of Libya's oil facilities.

Reuters) - Time Magazine's intelligence columnist reported on Tuesday that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has ordered his security forces to sabotage the country's oil facilities, citing a source close to the government.

In a column posted on Time's website, Robert Baer said the sabotage would begin by blowing up pipelines to the Mediterranean. However he added that the same source had also told him two weeks ago that unrest in neighboring countries would never spread to Libya -- an assertion that has turned out to be wrong.

"Among other things, Gaddafi has ordered security services to start sabotaging oil facilities," Baer wrote. "The sabotage, according to the insider, is meant to serve as a message to Libya's rebellious tribes: It's either me or chaos."

The growing violence in Libya has forced a number of oil companies to shut in production in Africa's third-largest oil producer and disrupted flows from the country's export terminals.

Security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya's oil-producing east last week. As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi.

Baer, a former Middle East CIA officer, said the source told him that as of Monday Gaddafi had the loyalty of only about 5,000 of the country's 45,000-strong regular army.

Paraphrasing the source, he said that Gaddafi had also ordered the release from prison of the country's Islamist militant prisoners in hopes they would act on their own to sow chaos.

(Reporting by Jonathan Leff; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Countdown Progresses Toward Discovery's Launch

Tue, 22 Feb 2011 10:10:08 AM CST

Space shuttle Discovery continues to move toward launch Thursday, Feb. 24, as technicians put the finishing touches on the spacecraft and the launch team runs through the countdown checklist. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. EST. The weather forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time.

A minor problem came up when a regulator in the reactant storage system developed a slight leak, NASA Test Director Steve Payne said.

"In this case, we've seen it before," Payne said, adding that the system has numerous redundancies and the leak is so small. A waiver is to be completed soon and no impact to the countdown or launch is expected.

This is the last flight of Discovery, and with the shuttle program nearing retirement, Payne said crowds are growing to see the last launches.

"People are starting to realize they either see one now or they don’t get to see one," Payne said.

Breaking: Americans killed by Somali pirates during rescue attempt

Four Americans, including a couple from Southern California, who were taken hostage by Somali pirates were fatally wounded by their captors while negotiations between the pirates and U.S. military forces were underway in the Gulf of Aden, U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.

The four were aboard the vessel Quest, which was captured last week.

"We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest," said Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, commander of Central Command.

[Updated, 6:45 a.m.: The bodies of the four Americans are on board the carrier Enterprise off the Horn of Africa, according to Central Command. The names of the Southern California couple were Scott and Jean Adam, boaters who were based out of Orange County.]

Four U.S. Navy ships had been shadowing the Quest after it was taken over by the pirates, Mattis said. While negotiations were underway to gain the release of the Americans, U.S. forces responded to gunfire aboard the Quest. The four Americans had been shot, Mattis said.

Two of the pirates were killed by U.S. forces and 13 captured, Mattis said. After boarding the Quest, military personnel found the bodies of two other pirates. The incident occurred about 1 a.m. EST.

"Despite immediate steps to provide lifesaving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds," according to a statement from Central Command.

The four Americans also included a couple from the Seattle area.

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Libyan Migs defect to Malta

AP: VALLETTA, Malta — Two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta on Monday and their pilots asked for political asylum amid a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters in Libya, a military source said.

The two Mirage jets landed at Malta International Airport shortly after two civilian helicopters landed carrying seven people who said they were French. A military source familiar with the situation said the passengers had left in such a hurry that only one had a passport.

The source, who insisted he not be identified further, said the jet pilots — both Libyan air force colonels — had communicated from the air that they wanted political asylum. They had left from a base near Tripoli and had flown low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection, the source said.
The aircraft remained at Malta's airport, away from the commercial area, while the pilots and helicopter passengers were being questioned by airport immigration officials, the source said.

After a week of protests, anti-government unrest spread Monday to the capital Tripoli with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. European governments and oil and gas companies were evacuating their citizens.

Monday, February 21, 2011

CIA contract agent accused of murder in Pakistan.

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The American accused of killing two Pakistani men isn't a diplomat, as U.S. officials have said, but rather a CIA contractor in the country doing security work, a U.S. government official said Monday.
The revelation that Raymond Davis was working for the U.S. intelligence agency when he shot two men -- one of them in the back, according to Lahore police -- is a dramatic twist in a case that has already inflamed hard-line clerics and an angry public that wants the American tried in a Pakistani court.

In protests since Davis' arrest last month, hard-line Pakistani clerics have condemned the shootings and demanded that the government not release the American.

Despite the revelation of Davis' true line of work, U.S. officials on Monday renewed their argument that he enjoys diplomatic immunity and must be released.
U.S. officials notified Pakistan that Davis had been posted to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in January 2010, U.S. officials said. Pakistan's only recourse under international law is to order Davis out of the country, according to a senior U.S. official who briefed reporters on background Monday.
"Any other form of action, including a judicial action or any other proceeding, is inconsistent with his status," the official said.

Davis was jailed January 27 after fatally shooting two men who pulled up to him on a motorcycle in a bustling Lahore neighborhood.

U.S. officials and Lahore police said Davis told them he shot the men in self-defense. Evidence showed the two men may well have been robbers, according to police who found cash and cell phones linked to a robbery reported earlier that day.

But Lahore's police chief, Aslam Tareen, has said witnesses told police that Davis kept firing, even when one of the men was running away.
"It was clear-cut murder," Tareen told reporters.

That Davis was working for the CIA as a contract employee -- his actual employer is a company called Hyperion Protective Services -- seems to explain the assortment of gear Lahore police reported finding in his rental car following his arrest.

According to a Lahore police report, Davis' car contained 9mm pistol, five ammunition magazines, two cell phones, an infrared light, a digital camera, a telescope, a long-range wireless set and a survival kit.

While acknowledging that Davis is a CIA contractor, the U.S. official said that Davis is not a case officer or paramilitary officer.
"Davis is a protective officer, someone who provides security to U.S. officials in Pakistan. Rumors to the contrary are simply wrong," the official said.

He was doing "advance work," scouting areas of Lahore at the time of the shooting, the official said. Davis' role required him to "know the environment" such as traffic patterns and areas to avoid, the official said.

Until Monday, U.S. officials had described Davis only as an employee who was attached to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and who was working at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore at the time of the shootings.
Formally, they continue to describe him only as a member of the "technical and administrative staff" of the embassy.


Breaking: Libya coming apart/pilots defect to Malta

LIBYA, 3:29 p.m. ET: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi still is in Libya, a Libyan diplomatic source told CNN. The source also denied the Libyan air force was conducting air raids against protesters in Libya.

Separately, a senior official in the Italian secret service also said that Gadhafi remains in Libya. Earlier today, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Reuters that Libyan leader Gadhafi may have been on his way to Venezuela.

SUDAN, 3:24 p.m. ET: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he will not run for re-election four years from now, a senior member of the country's ruling National Congress Party announced Monday.

"He will also leave his post as chair of the NCP to allow for the transformation of power to a new generation," said Rabi Abd al-Ati. The senior NCP member rejected the notion that al-Bashir's decision was prompted by popular uprisings in the region, including neighboring Egypt.

LIBYA, 2:15 p.m. ET: Two Libyan Air Force pilots defected to Malta on Monday after being asked to bomb Libyan citizens, a Maltese government source said. The pilots' fighter jets were armed with rockets and loaded machine guns, the source said. Malta is a short flight from Libya.

LIBYA, 2:04 p.m. ET: Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi met in Tripoli with ambassadors of the European Union, blaming the unrest in the country on "terrorists and destructive plans" and stressing that Libya has the right to "take any measures" to protect its unity, stability, people and resources, Libyan state television reported.

LIBYA, 1:19 p.m. ET: Libyan helicopter gunships are firing into crowds of protesters, according to the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, an opposition group. CNN was unable to confirm the report independently.

LIBYA, 12:45 p.m. ET: Oil company Total says it will evacuate most of its expatriate employees and their families from Libya. Shell said it has temporarily relocated the families of expatriate staff.

LIBYA, 12:30 p.m. ET: The U.S. State Department has ordered family members of U.S. Embassy employees and non-emergency personnel to leave Libya.

LIBYA, 12:26 p.m. ET: Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has declared war on the Libyan people and is committing genocide. Who is Gadhafi?

YEMEN, 12:17 p.m. ET: Two human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, are reporting that 12 people have died as a result of protests in Yemen.

LIBYA, noon ET: British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Reuters that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be on his way to Venezuela. CNN has not confirmed. Gadhafi has maintained power in the country for 42 years. The Libyan ambassador to the UK, Omar Jelban, is denying that Gadhafi is on his way to Venezuela.

Libya, noon ET U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had talked with Gadhafi, saying he was deeply concern about the violence, and that it must stop. At least 233 people have been killed in the protests, according to Human Rights Watch. Its report cites information from hospital sources. CNN is not able to independently confirm the figure, as the network has not been granted access to report on the ground.

Google has designed this map of protests based on what it calls "reliable tweets." Personal up-to-the-minute audio reports have been uploaded on Google here. CNN has not yet vetted these reports.

LIBYA, 11:45 a.m. ET The government is demanding that citizens cooperate with security forces, and warning "organized gangs," Libyan state television reported, as security forces conduct raids on what it called "nests of terror and sabotage." Libya's justice minister, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has resigned to protest the "bloody situation and use of excessive force" against protesters by security forces, a Libyan newspaper reported. Meanwhile, two Libyan fighter jets have landed in Malta, according to journalists at the airport.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Today at Tac Air in Amarillo ...

Just a few snips of personal video taken today at Rick Husband Int. In Amarillo. Wonderful weather and a great day to see a Chinook and V-22 Osprey flying.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Shuttle set for next Thursday!

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA will try to launch space shuttle Discovery next week following a four-month delay.
Discovery's final liftoff is set for Thursday afternoon. Senior managers voted unanimously Friday on the new launch date.

Discovery has been grounded since the beginning of November. Cracks in the external fuel tank were discovered following a launch attempt that was foiled by leaking hydrogen gas. It's taken this long to understand and repair the cracking.
Discovery will carry six astronauts and a humanoid robot, along with a full load of supplies, to the International Space Station. One of the human crew is a substitute, replacing an astronaut who was injured last month in a bicycle crash.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tomorrow only - my book for a buck!

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cyber Command Code Cracked ...


A security researcher said on Thursday he was the first to crack the code embedded in the seal of the U.S. Cyber Command (Cybercom), the group responsible for protecting the country's military networks from attack.

Sean-Paul Correll, a threat researcher with antivirus vendor Panda Security, said that the characters visible in a gold ring on Cybercom's official seal represent the MD5 hash of the group's mission statement. MD5 is a 128-bit cryptographic hash most often used to verify file integrity.

A representative of Cybercom confirmed that Correll had it right. " Mr. Correll is's a MD5 hash," said Lt. Commander Steve Curry of the U.S. Navy, in an e-mail.

"It wasn't very difficult," said Correll, adding that thanks to the clue on's Danger Room blog, it took him just a few minutes to figure out that the characters -- 9ec4c12949a4f31474f299058ce2b22a -- were the hash value for Cybercom's mission statement.

"I knew right away it was an MD5 hash, and I was fairly confident that it wasn't a specific file," said Correll, adding that security professionals will often use an MD5 hash as reminders, or to verify that a file's contents after downloading match the original edition.

Correll said he figured out the mystery shortly after 10 a.m. PT Wednesday, within an hour of publishing its story.

At least one other code-breaker came up with the same solution. Buried in the nearly 500 comments added to the story was the solution, posted Wednesday at 12:46 p.m. PT by someone identified only as "jemelehill".

In a follow-up story, credited jemelehill with first decoding the message.

"Information security professionals are very challenge driven," said Correll, so tackling the problem was fun...while it lasted. "Absolutely, this was definitely fun," he said.

Correll is familiar with code-breaking problems, since Panda regularly sponsors secret code challenges. The next challenge is scheduled to go live at 3:00 a.m. ET Saturday, 12:00 a.m. PT.

The MD5 value is a hash of Cybercom's 58-word mission statement, Correll noted on his blog: "USCYBERCOM plans, coordinates, integrates, synchronizes and conducts activities to: direct the operations and defense of specified Department of Defense information networks and; prepare to, and when directed, conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains, ensure US/Allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny the same to our adversaries."


Wow ...

Thanks to Kurpav for passing this on to me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

U.S. using "technical means" to keep an eye on Egypt

The U.S. military and intelligence community are using "national technical means" in the skies over Egypt to gather information about the demonstrations and the deployment of Egyptian security forces.
The phrase "national technical means" is used by the U.S. government to generally refer to the use of reconnaissance satellites or other assets to gather imagery or signals intelligence.

A senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the operation confirmed the intelligence gathering, but declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

The official declined to say to what extent the Egyptian government is aware of the activity. The official would not say specifically which intelligence gathering elements were being used, but indicated operations were being conducted in a manner that would not be visible to the Egyptian populace.

The official said the decision to use intelligence gathering assets came in part after the initial violence erupted in the early days of the Cairo demonstrations.

Egypt In absence of a dictator ...

Update at 11:08 a.m. ET: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators erupted in jubilation in Tahrir Square as vice president Omar Suleiman announces that President Mubarak has resigned and called on the army to "run the affairs of the country."

Update at 11:05 a.m. ET: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigne.d Vice President Omar Suleiman said in a brief televised statement. His statement in full: "Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of presidency and told the army to run the affairs of the country.



Tanks guarding the presidential palace in Cairo turned their turrets away from approaching demonstrators, eliciting a huge cheer from the crowd, CNN's Ivan Watson reported.

Breaking: Mubarak flees Cairo?

UPDATE: CAIRO - EMBATTLED Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left Cairo with his family on Friday, a source close to the government told AFP, and a ruling party spokesman said the ruler was now in Sharm el-Sheikh.

'Mr Mubarak has left Cairo with all his family,' the source said.

'He is in Sharm el-Sheikh,' National Democratic Party spokesman Mohammed Abdellah told AFP.

His departure comes on the 18th day of massive nationwide rallies demanding his immediate overthrow. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have rejected concessions made by Mr Mubarak's government and vowed to keep demonstrating until their demands are met.

And his apparent departure to Sharm, a Red Sea resort town in which he maintains a residence, appeared to do little to placate protesters.

'He has to leave the country, our demands are clear,' said Magdy Sabry, one of thousands blockading the state television building in central Cairo. -- AFP

l Arabiya television reported on Friday that President Hosni Mubarak and his family had left Cairo from a military airbase in the suburbs and had travelled to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

It did not give a source for the series of reports on the movement of the president and his family. Al Arabiya said it had confirmed the arrival of the president and his family in Sharm el-Sheikh.

UPDATE: A local government official says President Hosni Mubarak is in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, 250 miles from the capital Cairo, where protesters are deluging squares and marching on presidential palaces and the State TV building.

The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Friday that Mr. Mubarak arrived at the airport in Sharm and was greeted by the local governor.

View Larger Map

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Live from Egypt:

Update 7:00 PM CST : Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Major Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei warned of potential violent unrest after President Hosni Mubarak announced late Thursday he would not step down before September elections.
Mubarak "is gambling with his country" in order to stay at the helm, ElBaradei told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

He reiterated the message of his Twitter account, which read, "Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now."
Major clashes between the people and the army, which Egyptians traditionally believe has been on their side, would be devastating, said ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Key players in Egypt

ElBaradei's outlook had changed since hours before, when Egyptians, including thousands packed in Cairo's Tahrir Square, expected Mubarak to step down rather than delegate powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
Thursday afternoon, ElBaradei wrote: "I am closely following the situation. We are almost there."
But he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Egyptians will not accept the new arrangement.

"Suleiman is considered to be an extension of Mubarak. They are twins. Neither of them is acceptable to the people," ElBaradei said. "For the sake of their country, they should go."
ElBaradei said a leadership council and a caretaker government should rule the North African nation for one year during a transition to a more democratic process.

Mubarak's defiant remarks about foreign intervention, and his determination to see the transition through, was not what most in the Tahrir Square crowd wanted to hear.
"Get out! Get out!" many chanted as he spoke.
Suleiman told the protesters to go home and back to work. That had not happened by early Friday.

Yaser Fathi, one of the organizers of a post-speech protest in the northern city of Alexandria, told CNN hundreds of demonstrators marched to an Egyptian military base. They asked the armed forces to intervene and shouted that "the military must step in to get Mubarak out," Fathi said.

The vice president referred to the past two weeks as the "revolution of the young people."
Khalid Abdalla, a demonstrator in Tahrir Square and star of the motion picture "The Kite Runner," said early Friday that it's "an incredibly sad moment right now." "Everyone's lost," the actor said. "People are trying to work out what more they can do."

Here are the latest developments, as confirmed by CNN, on the uprising in Egypt. Throngs of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Egypt's major cities to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, prompting the government to deploy the military to deal with civil unrest for the first time in a generation. Check out our full coverage and the latest tweets from CNN correspondents on the ground.


[Update 12:40 p.m. in Cairo, 5:40 p.m. ET President Hosni Mubarak has transfered all effective powers of the presidency to Vice President Omar Suleiman, making Suleiman the de-facto president of Egypt, the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States said.

"The president did indicate very clearly he was transferring all his presidential authority to the vice president," Sameh Shoukry told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "President Mubarak has transferred the powers of the presidency to his vice president, who will now undertake all authority as president."

That makes Mubarak the de jure head of state, or as a matter of law, and Suleiman, the de-facto head of state and the military, Shoukry said, attributing the information to the Egyptian government.

[Update 12:25 p.m. in Cairo, 5:25 p.m. ET] CNN's Ivan Watson says you need only look at the network of tents and a makeshift wooden shelter erected in the middle of Tahrir Square for evidence of what people are planning to do next: "These people are not going. 'When he leaves, we leave.' This is just the beginning."

[Update 12:15 p.m. in Cairo, 5:15 p.m. ET] Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak offered his view on the situation in Egypt Thursday during a visit to the United Nations:

"I think we should not pretend that we are more important for the Egyptian people than their own interests... it's up to the Egyptian people to find their way and to do it according to their own constitution, norms and practices."

[Update 11:58 p.m. in Cairo, 4:58 p.m. ET] Protesters are forming a human chain around the offices of the state-run television after Mubarak's announcement that he will stay in power until September. "The anger is deep, it's profound and widespread," CNN's Ben Wedeman reports of the crowd reaction. Some speculate that the government is trying to provoke strong reaction to justify a crackdown.

[Update 11:38 p.m. in Cairo, 4:38 p.m. ET] Vice President Omar Suleiman says President Hosni Mubarak's speech affirms his commitment to responding to "the demands of the people" and to making the "safety, security and stability" of Egypt a priority above any other consideration.

He also commended the "youth revolution" while urging young people to "go back to your houses, go back to your work, the homeland needs your work." He also told them to ignore the "satellite images" that "mar Egypt" by fomenting revolt.

Breaking: Mubarak NOT stepping down - protesters enraged.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak said in a national address Tuesday evening that he will not step down until a new president is selected in elections scheduled for September.

Saying a peaceful transfer of power is underway, Mr. Mubarak refused to give in to demands of tens of thousands of anti-government protesters who took to the streets for a 17th straight day.

It is the second time in two weeks that Mubarak told the nation he will stay in office until September.

The dramatic announcement came on state television shortly after 10:45 p.m. in Egypt. Demonstrators in Cairo's main Tahrir Square had earlier danced and sang in jubilation in expecation that Mubarak would resign.

Earlier in the day, Egyptian military officials and members of the ruling party said Mr. Mubarak will "meet protesters' demands."

Egyptians have been calling for the ouster of President Mubarak, 82, who has been in power for nearly 30 years. They have been demanding he leave immediately. He had previously announced he will not seek reelection in a presidential vote scheduled for September.

Earlier in the day, the military's supreme council met without the commander in chief, Mr. Mubarak. The military is due to issue a statement shortly on state television.

More than two weeks since demonstrators first took the streets of Egypt's major cities to demand an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign, thousands have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square amid speculation that he may announce his resignation. Here are the latest developments, as confirmed by CNN:

[Update 11:05 p.m. in Cairo, 4:05 p.m. ET] "This guy is calling for more rage in the country," a protester in Tahrir Square tells CNN's Fred Pleitgen after Mubarak speaks. "This guy doesn't want to leave in peace."

[Update 11:00 p.m. in Cairo, 4:00 p.m. ET] The crowd in Tahrir Square erupts into roars of "get out" as Mubarak announces he will not step down.

"I will not submit to any international pressures," he says. "I love Egypt, I I have worked hard for its renaissance and I have never tried to have more authority, and I think the majority of other people here know very well who Hosni Mubarak is and it hurts my heart when I see and I hear from my own people."

Update 10:55 p.m. in Cairo, 3:55 p.m. ET] "President Hosni Mubarak announced Thursday that he "will follow the track of peaceful transition until September." He also said he will hold accountable those who fomented violence against demonstrators during the past two weeks.

[Update 10:50 p.m. in Cairo, 3:50 p.m. ET] "I will not nominate myself for next the presidential election and I will be satisfied with what I have done to the country and the homeland for more than 60 years during years of peace and war," Mubarak says.

[Update 10:45 p.m. in Cairo, 3:45 p.m. ET] "I will respond to your demands and your voices and this is a commitment that cannot be reversed. I am committed to carrying out my promises in all credibility," President Hosni Mubarak says in a televised address.

Breaking News: CIA "Mubarak resigning."

Reports are saying that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will "meet protesters demands," with some saying that he will transfer power to the military tonight.

Reports the AP:

Military and ruling party officials say President Hosni Mubarak will speak to the nation soon and meet the demands of protesters. Protesters are insisting he step down immediately.

Military officials say the armed forces' supreme council has been meeting all day long and will issue a communique shortly that they say will meet the protesters' demands.

The ruling party chief, Hossan Badrawy, tells The Associated Press he expects Mubarak to address the nation and make a announcement that will satisfy their demands.

This is a developing story.

[Update 6 p.m. in Cairo, 11 a.m. ET] There is a strong likelihood that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will step down Thursday night, CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress.

[Update 5:58 p.m. in Cairo, 10:58 a.m. ET] Cairo's Tahrir Square is packed and the atmosphere is festive amid talk that President Hosni Mubarak may deliver important remarks to the country later on Thursday.

[Update 5:55 p.m. in Cairo, 10:55 a.m. ET] National Intelligence Director James Clapper defended U.S. intelligence operations in Egypt, telling members of Congress that accurate information has been provided, but "specific triggers" for incidents that will cause a regime to fall cannot always be accurately predicted. "We are not clairvoyant," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered condolences to the friends and loved ones of Khairy Ramadan Aly, who went missing on January 28 and has been confirmed dead. Aly was a carpenter for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

[Update 5:48 p.m. in Cairo, 10:48 a.m. ET] Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian activist on leave from his job at Google, said, "Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the brave young Egyptians," on Twitter amid signs of possible imminent change in Egypt. Ghonim has been hailed by many fellow protesters as a hero.

[Posted 5:32 p.m. in Cairo, 10:32 a.m. ET] Some of the most senior military officers in Egypt met Thursday to discuss the crisis in that country and plan to meet further to discuss "what can be achieved to preserve the homeland and the gains of the Egyptian people," a spokesman for the Egyptian military said.

The new secretary general of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party told CNN he expects President Hosni Mubarak will "take the next steps" after amending the constitution. Asked what the next step would be, Houssam Badrawi said "accommodating the demands of the youth" and the "best interests of the country." Badrawi told CNN that the demands of Egypt's protesters had been met. "They won," he said.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Meet "The Punisher"

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 3, 2011) -- Only five XM25 weapons exist today, but Soldiers lucky enough to have used them in Afghanistan are saying more are needed.

Two Soldiers took the prototype weapons into theater to link them up with requesting units. They trained troops on the weapon's use and managed the Forward Operational Assessment to collect information about the weapon's performance in theater and how Soldiers used it.

"The XM25 brought the difference to whether they would stay there 15 to 20 minutes shooting (and) taking pot shots or the actual fight ended after using the XM25," said Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Smith, Soldier Requirements Division, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga. "That was due to the defilade capabilities of the XM25 to shoot beyond targets and behind targets."

The XM25 allows Soldiers to engage defilade targets -- those behind a barrier, protected from oncoming weapons fire. The XM25 measures the distance to the enemy's protective barrier, and can then program the round to detonate a user-adjustable distance past that -- allowing Soldiers to put an air-bursting round directly above the enemy's head, inside their protected area.

The round measures the distance it travels by counting its own rotations after leaving the barrel.

Both Smith and Maj. Christopher Conley, an assistant product manager for Program Manager Soldier Weapons, at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., were part of the team that brought those weapons into theater for Soldiers to use in actual combat. The five prototype weapons entered theater in November, and were first used in combat Dec. 3.

Since then, hundreds of XM25 rounds have been fired in theater, though only 55 of those rounds were fired as part of combat, on nine different operational missions.

"We disrupted two insurgents on an OP (observation point) and we silenced two machine-gun positions -- two PKM positions," Conley said, describing some of the scenarios he witnessed in theater where the XM25 had been used. "We destroyed four ambush locations, where the survivors fled."

"And when we launched it at a longer range target, who was carrying a machine gun and it exploded near his target -- it either badly wounded him or scared him good enough that he dropped his machine gun and ran away," Conley recalled.

Overall in Afghanistan, the five XM25s have been with two separate units. The first unit used the weapon on four engagements and fired 28 rounds in combat. The second unit was able to use the XM25 on five engagements and fired 27 rounds in combat.

"The troops are very excited to carry it," Conley said. "We've limited who can carry it based on the number of folks that we've trained. But within that group of Soldiers that are trained on the operation of the XM25, I heard a Soldier say 'hey, he carried it yesterday, so I get it today.'"

Some Soldiers who've used the XM25 in Afghanistan had taken to naming the weapon -- though there is no official name for the system yet.

"The kids are calling it 'the Punisher,'" said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, who heads up the Program Executive Office Soldier. "I don't know what we're going to title this product, but it seems to be game-changing. You no longer can shoot at American forces and then hide behind something. We're going to reach out and touch you."


SuperTanker hijacked!

Athens-based shipping company Enesel said they had lost communication with the Irene SL.

The 333m (1,093ft) vessel was on its way from the Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico when it was attacked.

Although the incident happened hundreds of miles from Somalia, pirate gangs are known to operate there.

"This morning the vessel was attacked by armed men," said Enesel in a statement quoted by Reuters.

"For the moment there is no communication with the vessel."

Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry told the Associated Press that the ship was carrying 266,000 tons of crude oil. It is believed to be one of the largest vessels ever seized.

It has a 25-member crew including seven Greeks, 17 Filipinos and one Georgian, according to the ministry.

The EU's naval mission in the region Eunavfor said in a statement on its website the Irene was sailing 400 miles (650km) south-east of Muscat.

The incident comes a day after pirates took control of an Italian oil tanker in the Indian Ocean, some 800 miles from Somalia's coast.

Before the latest incident, Eunavfor said pirates were currently holding 29 vessels along with an estimated 681 hostages.

Somali pirates have made millions of dollars in recent years by capturing cargo vessels in the shipping lanes around the Horn of Africa and holding the ships and crew for ransom.

Somalia has had no functioning central government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish off its coast.

Napolitano: Terror threat highest since 9-11.

Washington (CNN) -- The terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland has continued to "evolve" and may now "be at its most heightened state" since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told members of Congress on Wednesday.

There is an increased reliance on recruiting Westerners into terrorist organizations, she told the House Homeland Security Committee. State and local law enforcement officers are increasingly needed to combat terror, and the focus must be on aiding law enforcement to help them secure communities, she said.

Along with the joint terror task force led by the FBI, the nation's four-pronged counterterrorism response includes locally run "fusion centers" aimed at facilitating intelligence-sharing and analysis; a nationwide reporting initiative for suspicious acts; and the "If you see something, say something" campaign designed to "foster public vigilance," she said. The campaign has been rolled out at major public events such as the Super Bowl and at retail centers, Napolitano said.
In addition, as previously announced, authorities are replacing the color-coded terror alert system with a more useful one, she said. The new system will reflect the nation's need to be ready while also keeping the public as informed as possible, she said.

The most significant risk to the United States is probably posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Anwar al-Awlaki, said Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. The American-born Muslim cleric has close ties to al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda is at its weakest point in the last decade, but remains "a very determined enemy," he said, noting there have been five disrupted plots in Europe in the last five years.
Authorities are also watching groups such as the one behind the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba; Hezbollah; Greek anarchists like the ones thought to have sent letter bombs to embassies.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Huh? IS NASA schizophrenic?

I'm confused? Just days ago NASA said they wanted to extend the space shuttle program to 2017 - now they say it will be good to see it go away? Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?


CNN) -- The marching orders from Congress and the White House to NASA were pretty straightforward.

Go out and build a new big rocket to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet.
Unlike the shuttle, the new rocket has to be powerful enough to get out of low Earth orbit and carry humans to an asteroid and eventually Mars, perhaps even the moon. There must also be a test flight by 2016.

But at this point, NASA officials are warning of a potentially devastating setback to future space exploration.

Its first new rocket in 40 years may not happen because the agency doesn't think the $8 billion budgeted over the next three years is enough.
"We have done calculations with current models and approaches to doing this type of development and it doesn't work with funding constraints combined with schedules that were laid out in the Authorization Act," Doug Cooke, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems, told CNN.
Congress has already responded that unless NASA can prove there's not enough money, the rocket must -- by law -- be built.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, a key space agency supporter, was adamant when he spoke to CNN: "NASA must stop making excuses and follow this law. I believe the best and brightest at the space agency can build upon the $9 billion we've already invested in advanced technology to design a new heavy-lift rocket, while taking a stepping-stone, pay-as-you-go approach."
"We're doing everything we can to get there," Cooke said.

The $9 billion was for the now-defunct Constellation program, planned to take astronauts to the moon and on to Mars. It was cut from the federal budget last year after being called behind schedule and over budget.

After the last shuttle flight later this year, NASA will be out of the space taxi business. Commercial companies are expected to take over ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

NASA, no longer burdened with an aging vehicle and costly flights, has again been told to focus on building a new rocket.
Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz is not confident: "NASA is unfortunately becoming a black hole for the taxpayers and something needs to be done to turn things around," he said. "The Constellation program has taught us the things that work, the things that we could have done better."

The vehicle most likely to be presented to Congress would have solid rocket boosters like the shuttle, only larger; would use shuttle main engines and would also, like the shuttle, have a liquid fuel stage, Cooke told CNN. Early test flights would use a lot of existing hardware.
"We have engines that will be freed up when shuttle retires. We do have solid rocket casings that are from the shuttle program that we can use," he said.
NASA says it will tell Congress by the spring or early summer whether the rocket can be built with the money available and meet the 2016 deadline.

X-47B Takes Off

Click for high-resolution image:


On Feb. 4, 2011, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy successfully conducted the historic first flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft.

The flight, which was conducted under hazy skies at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., began at 2:09 p.m. PST and lasted 29 minutes.

The flight is a critical first step for the Navy/Northrop Grumman UCAS-D team toward demonstrating that a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned system can safely land and take off from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The flight provided test data that will contribute to the verification and validation of the X-47B's air vehicle's guidance and navigation software, and the aerodynamic control of its tailless design.

First flight represents the culmination, verification and certification of pre-flight system data collected and analyzed by both the Navy and Northrop Grumman. Prior to the flight, the test team demonstrated airworthiness of the airframe through proof load testing; propulsion system reliability through accelerated mission tests; software maturity and reliability through rigorous simulations; and overall system reliability through low speed and high speed taxi tests.

The X-47B aircraft will remain at Edwards AFB for flight envelope expansion before transitioning to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. later this year. There, the system will undergo additional tests to validate its readiness to begin testing in the maritime and carrier environment.

The UCAS-D program is preparing the X-47B for carrier trials in 2013.


Unmanned aircraft, and warfare in general, took a serious step forward Friday when the Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle demonstrator took to the skies for the first time.

The stealthy jet flew in a circular pattern known as a racetrack with its landing gear down (standard for first flights) for 29 minutes at an altitude of 5,000 in the airspace around Edwards Air Force Base in California, by all accounts the flight was a success.

From a Navy announcement on the Feb. 4 flight:
“Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the Navy’s first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the skies,” remarked Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Program Manager for the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration, after observing the X-47B maiden flight at EAFB today.

As we said above, this is a major event in the development of unmanned combat planes. For the last decade, slow and unstealthy MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers have owned the armed drone mission. The problem is, these planes aren’t likely to last long in a serious war.

While the Air Force has publicly fielded one stealth drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, that plane remains unarmed (at least officially). The Northrop Grumman-built X-47B is meant to prove the concept of a aircraft carrier-based, combat drone capable of doing everything from ISR missions to close air support. This is history being made.

The flight is the first of 50 planned for the rest of the year where Navy officials will put the jet (and eventually a second X-47B) through increasingly challenging flight situations to make sure the plane works as designed. Once this is finished, the two jets will move to Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland where they’ll gear up for carrier testing.

Stealthy, survivable planes like the X-47B and it’s successors will play an increasingly important role in the Pentagon’s plans to overcome advanced anti access and area denial systems. The planes will someday be capable of being refueled in flight; allowing them to take off from carriers far from shore and fly into relatively high threat environments where they can work with other stealth jets such as the B-2, F-22, F-35 to accomplish their mission.

However, one of the big challenges in sending these planes downrange for missions like this will be data assurance; basically protecting the signals that control the aircraft from being hijacked by the enemy.

Read more HERE

Thursday, February 3, 2011

NASA mulling keeping shuttles in service until 2017

NASA is studying plans to keep the space shuttle Endeavour in flight-worthy condition after its last scheduled mission. The ‘what if’ NASA study comes as United Space Alliance proposes a plan to continue flying Endeavour and Atlantis as commercial space vehicles.

The story, reported by msnbc, says the review includes the potential for keeping Endeavour – the youngest shuttle in the fleet – in operation through 2017. The shuttle, along with its sisterships, is currently due for retirement later this year and eventual transfer to a museum.

Another lifeline study for Endeavour? (Guy Norris)

The proposal — called Commercial Space Transportation Service, or CSTS — would use Endeavour as well as a sister shuttle, Atlantis, to fly two missions a year from 2013 to 2017 at an annual cost of $1.5 billion. United Space Alliance, the contractor that currently manages the shuttle program on NASA’s behalf, has offered the proposal for the second round of funding from the space agency’s Commercial Crew Development initiative, also known as CCDev 2.

NASA could award as much as $200 million in the second round of the CCDev initiative. During the first round, the agency distributed $50 million in stimulus funds to five companies to advance the development of crew-capable replacements for the shuttles.
Some of the recipients of first-round funding — such as the Boeing Co. and Sierra Nevada Corp. — have made proposals for second-round funding as well. The second-round competitors also include SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, which are already receiving NASA funds to build spacecraft for transporting cargo to the space station.
United Space Alliance is the only venture proposing to keep the shuttles operating rather than retiring them this year, as currently planned.


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