Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fire aboard Navy ship Stennis injures 10

Navy personnel aboard a carrier off the coast of California were injured late Tuesday after a fighter jet caught fire.

Ten sailors were working on the flight deck near an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to a training squadron when the aircraft experienced engine failure and caught fire.

The sailors were treated by medics on board. Four servicemen airlifted to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego are in stable condition.

The blaze was immediately extinguished and caused no significant damage the ship, the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire.

The carrier, which has the unique ability to circle the world without refueling, was conducting fleet replacement squadron qualifications when the accident took place.

"I am extremely proud of our crew," Capt. Ronald Reis, commanding officer of the Stennis, said in a statement. "The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is an inherently dangerous place, but our personnel are well-trained to operate safely in this environment."

Read more:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CIA on the ground in Libya ...

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.

As is common practice for this and all administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. "I will reiterate what the president said yesterday -- no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya."

The CIA declined comment.

News that Obama had given the authorization surfaced as the President and other U.S. and allied officials spoke openly about the possibility of sending arms supplies to Gaddafi's opponents, who are fighting better-equipped government forces.

The United States is part of a coalition, with NATO members and some Arab states, which is conducting air strikes on Libyan government forces under a U.N. mandate aimed at protecting civilians opposing Gaddafi.

Interviews by U.S. networks on Tuesday, Obama said the objective was for Gaddafi to "ultimately step down" from power. He spoke of applying "steady pressure, not only militarily but also through these other means" to force Gaddafi out.

Obama said the U.S. had not ruled out providing military hardware to rebels. "It's fair to say that if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. We're looking at all our options at this point," he told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted to reporters that no decision had yet been taken.

U.S. officials monitoring events in Libya say neither Gaddafi's forces nor the rebels, who have asked the West for heavy weapons, now appear able to make decisive gains.

While U.S. and allied airstrikes have seriously damaged Gaddafi's military forces and disrupted his chain of command, officials say, rebel forces remain disorganized and unable to take full advantage of western military support.


People familiar with U.S. intelligence procedures said that Presidential covert action "findings" are normally crafted to provide broad authorization for a range of potential U.S. government actions to support a particular covert objective.

In order for specific operations to be carried out under the provisions of such a broad authorization -- for example the delivery of cash or weapons to anti-Gaddafi forces -- the White House also would have to give additional "permission" allowing such activities to proceed.

Hole in plane was caused by bullet ... FBI

CNN) -- A hole in a US Airways jet that landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, was caused by a bullet that pierced the passenger cabin, three government sources told CNN Tuesday.
Officials believe the bullet was fired in Charlotte, after passengers had exited the aircraft, one source said. The hole was discovered after the Boeing 737-400 landed Monday.

The sources said a bullet has been recovered inside the plane.
"We do not believe its terrorism related," said one of the government sources. "It appears to be a random event. We do not believe the plane was targeted. No one heard the bullet fired."
An investigation into who fired the shot into the aircraft has begun, said multiple government sources.

Flight 1161 from Philadelphia landed safely at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport about 4 p.m. Monday. The plane was being prepped for another flight when the pilot discovered the hole above a passenger window toward the back of the plane, according to airline officials. The airline pulled the jet from service and called in the FBI.

The plane holds 144 passengers, according to the US Airways website. It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard the flight. All of the passengers on the next flight were accommodated on other planes, a US Airways spokeswoman said.
"We've released the plane back to US Airways last night," after completing their investigation, FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson said Tuesday

Man indicted for trying to sell UAV on Ebay!

TAMPA – A federal grand jury in Tampa returned an indictment charging Henson Chua, 47, of Manilla, Philippines, with violations of the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ( ICE ) Homeland Security Investigations ( HSI ).

If convicted on all counts, Chua faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

Chua was arrested on a criminal complaint on the evening of Feb. 10 in Los Angeles.

“ICE HSI is committed to protecting the security of our homeland and our troops abroad by ensuring that the sale and distribution of weapons and military technology is done lawfully, and that these items do not fall into the wrong hands,” said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa. “We make use of our full statutory authority to investigate and enforce criminal violations of all U.S. export laws related to military items, controlled ‘dual-use’ commodities and sanctioned or embargoed countries. Our national security depends on it.”

According to the indictment, Chua knowingly and willfully caused the temporary import into the United States of an item designated as a defense article on the U.S. Munitions List, namely an RQ-11B “Raven” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle ( UAV ), and aided and abetted the attempted export from the United States of the same item, without having first obtained from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization.

Chua is also accused of knowingly bringing an item into the United States contrary to law.

According to court documents, Chua initially listed the item for sale on eBay and then engaged in communications with undercover agents from ICE HSI which culminated in the recovery of the item by U.S. officials.

ICE HSI was assisted by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spying on the spooks ...

Click to enlarge:

A MC-130 Dragon Spear from Cannon AFB has been "secretly" orbiting over Amarillo tonight.

I couldn't help but notice my apartment complex seemed to be in the center of his orbit - either that or I'm just paranoid.

He was running dark most of the time- but I could hear his engines and were monitoring his communications with Albuquerque Center.

Interesting enough while Ken and I were talking about the aircraft - on cell phones Ken threw in a few keywords " and said , "I wish Obama would bomb Allah at Admiral Ackbar's palace."- as a joke.

We were amazed to see the MC-130s orbit change to include Ken's place who is about seven miles away as the crow flies. I can't help but wonder what the monitoring suite on the aircraft can do.

I cobbled my digital Cannon to my Russian night vision scope and turned the tables on our high flying spy friend and captured a fairly decent snap of a military aircraft flying at night.

Say hello to the rest of the spokes back at Cannon for us!

Amateur skywatchers intercept X-37B mini shuttle

After an intense search, a crew of amateur satellite sleuths has spotted the U.S. Air Force's second X-37B space plane – a robotic spacecraft that launched into orbit March 5.

The mission of the unmanned X-37B space plane, which is known officially as the Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2), is shrouded in secrecy. The Boeing-built spacecraft is believed to be involved in reconnaissance — perhaps testing powerful sensors for a new generation of spy satellites. It looks much like a small version of NASA's space shuttles and blasted off from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

While its mission is secret, the OTV-2 itself has attracted the eyes of dedicated skywatchers hoping to spot it in orbit just as they saw its predecessor – the first X-37B spacecraft, OTV-1 – during the OTV-1's months-long flight last year.

A new video, recorded by amateur Canadian skywatcher Kevin Fetterof Brockville, Ontario, shows the OTV-2 as a bright point of light soaring across the night sky. [Video: Skywatcher Spots Second X-37B Space Plane]

Fetter was successful in getting video of the OTV-2 gliding past the binary star Eta Serpentis on March 24. The OTV-2 and the star can easily be seen with the naked eye, shining at a magnitude 3 on the scale astronomers use to measure the brightness of sky objects (with the lowest numbers representing the greatest brightness).

Many satellites and spacecraft are regularly tracked by skywatchers. The International Space Station, for example, can appear to the unaided eye to outshine Venus and the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, under optimum viewing conditions. [Photos: Spotting Spaceships From Earth]

But to find satellites and spacecraft in orbit, skywatchers need to know ahead of time where to look. The secretive nature of the OTV-2's mission for the U.S. military made that task very difficult.

Once the OTV-2 launched, satellite watchers started scanning the skies for a glimpse of it. Skywatcher Ted Molczan of Toronto developed a set of orbital elements based chiefly on last year's OTV-1 flight to help prospective observers in the search.

And days after the launch, on March 9, Molczan announced that OTV-2 had been sighted by satellite tracker Greg Roberts of Cape Town, South Africa. Roberts spotted the spacecraft "in difficult observing conditions," Molczan reported.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Satellites successfully track ballistic missile from cradle to grave


Lasers destroy missiles, missiles shoot down satellites, and soon, satellites may tell both where to aim, as the United States successfully managed to track an entire ballistic missile launch from "birth-to-death" with its prototype Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

After a year and a half in orbit, two Northrop Grumman-built satellites managed the feat last week, in what the company's calling "the Holy Grail for missile defense."

While we're not reading about any plans to mount any lasers on the satellite's... ahem... heads, Space News reports that the US Navy will attempt to relay the satellite tracking data to its Aegis ships with interceptor missiles on board, and hopefully obliterate incoming projectiles with the extra range and reaction time that satellite coordinates afford.

The Navy has reportedly scheduled its first game of space-based Missile Command for next month.

NATO taking command over Libya

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Boosted by support from two significant nations -- one Arab and the other the sole Muslim alliance member -- NATO prepared to assume command over the Libya mission Friday as coalition airstrikes pounded targets for a sixth consecutive night.

The United Arab Emirates announced Friday that it will send 12 aircraft in the coming days to help patrol and enforce the United Nations-mandated no-fly zone. And Turkey, once reluctant of military operations, agreed to the use of an eastern air base in Izmir.

Other Muslim nations participating in the Libya mission include Qatar, which will begin flying planes this weekend, and Jordan, which has agreed to provide humanitarian support.

Early Friday, coalition warplanes roared through Libyan skies, bombing the periphery of the capital where military bases are located. Anti-aircraft fire burst out but then fell silent.

International reporters in Tripoli were escorted to farmlands east of Tripoli in Tajura, where Moammar Gadhafi's government claims airstrikes killed civilians.
A military base along the way had been bombed and was still smoldering Friday.nations -- one Arab and the other the sole Muslim alliance member -- NATO prepared to assume command over the Libya mission Friday as coalition airstrikes pounded targets for a sixth consecutive night.

The United Arab Emirates announced Friday that it will send 12 aircraft in the coming days to help patrol and enforce the United Nations-mandated no-fly zone. And Turkey, once reluctant of military operations, agreed to the use of an eastern air base in Izmir.

Other Muslim nations participating in the Libya mission include Qatar, which will begin flying planes this weekend, and Jordan, which has agreed to provide humanitarian support.

Early Friday, coalition warplanes roared through Libyan skies, bombing the periphery of the capital where military bases are located. Anti-aircraft fire burst out but then fell silent.

International reporters in Tripoli were escorted to farmlands east of Tripoli in Tajura, where Moammar Gadhafi's government claims airstrikes killed civilians.
A military base along the way had been bombed and was still smoldering Friday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

US Bombs F-15 wreckage...was it a Silent Eagle?

US fighter planes returned to bomb the crash site of the F-15E Strike Eagle that crash-landed Monday night outside the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi, a senior US defense official confirmed Wednesday to FOX News Channel.

Tuesday night's mission was to ensure that none of the sensitive avionics or parts ended up in enemy hands. It was carried out after dark to diminish the chances of civilian casualties, the source said.

The jet, normally stationed at a Royal Air Force base in Lakenheath, eastern England, took off from an Italian air base late Monday. The two men bailed out at approximately 11:30pm local time after encountering "equipment malfunction" over Libya. The pair ejected in separate locations before being safely rescued by American forces. Military officials said there was no suggestion that the aircraft was downed by enemy fire.

"One crew member was recovered by coalition forces," said Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Africa. "The other crew member was recovered by the people of Libya. He was treated with dignity and respect and is now in the care of the United States."

The military refused to be drawn on reports that several Libyan villagers were fired upon as a helicopter rescued one of the airmen. Pressed for details, Locklear would neither confirm nor deny that shots were fired.

BLOGGERS NOTE: Speculation to follow: I can't help but wonder if the F-15 that crashed was a new SILENT EAGLE F-15 variant equipped with a stealth retrofit?

This might explain the overall melted look of the skin of the fighter (burned RAM?)and fibers from the split tail indicating it is made of composite materials.

It is interesting to note although the media and and local Libyans have been crawling all over the crash site (in a rebel controlled area) the USAF chose to bomb the remains rather than visit the site to look for clues into why it crashed.

On closer observation - the twin tails do not look as canted as they do on published photos of a Silent Eagle - but it's really difficult to tell just how they were originally canted on an aircraft that smacked into the Libyan desert.

YouTube videos of a Silent eagle internal missile storage test show hardly any cant at all.

What is needed is a detailed analysis by someone (maybe an Eaglekeeper)to see if anything looks out of the ordinary on this downed bird.

-Steve Douglass

UPDATE: Mystery surrounds F-15 crew
Washington (CNN) -- After the rescue of a pilot and the weapons systems officer in Operation Odyssey Dawn, the military is keeping the names of the two crew members under wraps.

The initial press release about the crash of a U.S. Air Force F-15 in eastern Libya said both members of the air crew ejected from the jet before it crashed. Later reports said they suffered minor injuries in the ejection.

The press release also made clear that "the identities will be released after the next of kin have been notified."

But after repeated requests from CNN for details about their identities and whereabouts, Maj. Beverly Mock, a spokesperson for the Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, wrote in an email: "We will not release the names of the aircrew. I realize initially it was said they would be released but because they are being reintegrated and will return to their unit we will not release their names for their safety and privacy."

As for their whereabouts, the U.S. Marine Corps reported the pilot was brought aboard the USS Kearsarge and that he was in the medical facility on the ship.
CNN has learned from military officials that the weapons specialist was brought to Europe, although nobody would say where.

Press officers were less helpful. Mock wrote: "We don't have information on where the aircrew are."

Texting from a B-52?

By Jennifer Hogan

Boeing has designed this text-messaging capability for the B-52 to allow communication via satellites when line-of-site radio communication is not possible.

For most people who exchange brief text messages on their phones and other portable devices, a common communication might be “whats 4 dinner?” or “luv u.” But U.S. Air Force Lt. Steve Adelmund, a flight engineer at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., texted a very different message when an engine on the B-52 bomber he was flying in was shut down unexpectedly.

Adelmund and fellow crew members, part of the 49th Test Squadron, were conducting a test flight last September with Boeing’s new Evolutionary Data Link (EDL). The EDL is a satellite-enabled texting capability that is used when line-of-sight radio communication is unavailable, which often happens on long missions over the Atlantic Ocean. After successfully testing EDL over a remote area in Montana, the generator on the B-52’s number-five engine failed.

"We had just finished final test points and the overheat light came on for generator number five," said Maj. Steve Waldon, the aircraft’s commander. "We tried decoupling the generator from the engine and we weren’t able to verify that it was successful. Our tech order states we must shut down the engine if decoupling is not verified to keep the generator from catching fire."

The engine, which controls all of the hydraulics on the right side of the aircraft, was shut down, leaving the crew with only half of its braking capability and limited steering ability.

“Because the crew was able to send us a text message, we pre-coordinated the emergency landing and were ready for them when they arrived.”
The crew was three-and-a-half hours from its home base and needed to notify its command of the need for an emergency landing. The plane was out of radio range, so the only way to communicate was by text-messaging on the EDL laptop.

The U.S. Air Force plans to buy enough laptop kits to give the entire active B-52 fleet this capability.

"Because the crew was able to send us a text message, we pre-coordinated the emergency landing and were ready for them when they arrived," said Rick Westerfield, a Boeing field service representative stationed at Barksdale.

While a generator failure is not uncommon, it requires that the plane land on a dry runway to maximize the braking performance of the wheels that still have hydraulic braking available.

"To fly back to line-of-sight and then begin communications would have really lengthened our time in the air by an hour before the base could prepare for our landing," said Waldon. "If the runway had been wet, then we would have been diverted to another base. Knowing ahead of time we were not going to be diverted helped us to manage our fuel and have a better game plan."

The crew landed the B-52H safely at Barksdale, experiencing firsthand why warfighters need technology like EDL.

The Air Force currently has 19 EDL kits, which are shared among its 76 B-52s. The Air Force plans to buy enough additional kits from Boeing to equip the entire fleet by the second quarter of 2012.

"Having more kits will allow all B-52 crews to have this capability," said Westerfield. "It will also decrease the workload of maintainers and increase the durability of the equipment because the hardware will no longer be moved from aircraft to aircraft."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

F-15 Crash timeline video

Amarillo built Ospreys rescue downed F-15 pilot and WSO

- A U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed in Libya after experiencing an equipment malfunction, but both crew members ejected safely and are now out of Libya and in U.S. hands, the U.S. military and a senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday.

A pilot and weapons officer aboard an F-15E Strike Eagle had flown from Aviano Air Base in Italy to Libya when the fighter experienced problems, the U.S. military command for Africa said in a statement. Both pilots ejected, the statement said.

The pilot and weapons officer suffered minor injuries but landed safely in two different places on Libyan soil, the military said.

The U.S. military dispatched a pair of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, about 100 miles off the coast of Libya, to pick up the pilot. He was then flown to the vessel, which has extensive medical facilities, military officials said.

The MV-22 Osprey Tiltrotor aircraft is assembled at the Textron-Bell-Boeing plant in Amarillo.

Marines rescued one using an M -22 Osprey — the first time the massive tilt-rotor craft has been used in a combat rescue..

The Osprey, which costs $100 million a copy, has long been the target of budget cutters in Washington, but has survived due to a large base of support from lawmakers representing states where its components are built.

Libyan rebels recovered the second crew member and "took good care of him" until coalition forces were able to reach him, a senior defense official said.

UPDATE: The pilot of a downed Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jet in Libya was reportedly rescued by Marines in an MV-22 Osprey, media reports said.

The jet crashed late Monday after two crew members safely ejected, U.S. Africa Command said in a statement. The aircraft, based out of RAF Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Aviano Air Base, Italy, in support of a no-fly zone approved by the U.N. Marine spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment, but the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., has been floating off the coast of Libya to provide support as needed in the Libyan mission, known as Operation Odyssey Dawn. AV-8B Harriers with the MEU participated in air strikes there over the weekend.

The Associated Press, citing an unnamed defense official, said one crew member was rescued by the Marines, while the other was taken in by rebel fighters in Libya. The Belfast Telegraph, a newspaper in the United Kingdom with a journalist in Libya, reported that the pilot was rescued by Marines and a weapons officer was taken in by rebels.

It was not clear who with the MEU may have participated in a rescue mission. The Corps sent infantrymen with Lejeune’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, to reinforce the unit after it became clear that it could be used in Libya. Most of the Marines with the MEU’s original ground combat unit — Battalion Task Force 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Lejeune — landed in Afghanistan in January to support combat operations in Helmand province, and are still there.

Ospreys with the MEU operate from ships with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and are from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (reinforced), out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.

F-15 crash site video ..

Click to enlarge:

F-15 Strike Eagle Crashes in Libya- Crew Safe


Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- A U.S. Air Force fighter jet crashed in Libya after experiencing an equipment malfunction, but both crew members ejected safely and are now out of Libya and in U.S. hands, the U.S. military and a senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday.

A pilot and weapons officer aboard an F-15E Strike Eagle had flown from Aviano Air Base in Italy to Libya when the fighter experienced problems, the U.S. military command for Africa said in a statement. Both pilots ejected, the statement said.

The pilot and weapons officer suffered minor injuries but landed safely in Libya, the military said.

A U.S. military plane picked up the pilot, a senior defense official said. Libyan rebels recovered the second crew member and "took good care of him" until coalition forces "could come get him," the official said.
Nic Robertson: Fox 'human shield' claims 'outrageous' What's in store for Libya? Pro-Gadhafi forces dramatically halted

Both crew members are out of Libya, the official said.
The jet was based out of the Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath, England. It flew to Libya as part of a coalition attack on Libyan air defense targets meant to protect civilians in that country. The action was authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

The crash was "not due to enemy or hostile actions," said Kenneth Fidler, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rods from the gods?

Gadhafi's compound bombed - Libyan leader missing ...

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- The heart of Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli lay in shambles Monday as the United States and allies continued their mission to dilute the Libyan leader's strength. But Gadhafi's whereabouts -- and his plans after promising a "long-drawn war" -- remained unknown.

A coalition military official insisted neither Gadhafi nor his residence were intended targets of the bombing late Sunday. But the official -- who was not being identified because of the sensitivity of the information -- said the compound was targeted because it contained capabilities to exercise command and control over Libyan forces.

U.S. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney reinforced the coalition's objective.
"We are not going after Gadhafi," he said at a Pentagon press briefing. "Regime forces are more pressed and less free to maneuver."
Robertson: Inside Gadhafi's compound Tripoli under attack Fighter jets hit Libyan army convoy

Asked about reports of smoke rising from the area of Gadhafi's palace, Gortney said, "We are not targeting his residence."
Western journalists, including CNN's Nic Robertson, were taken inside the compound by Libyan officials to survey the destruction.

Robertson reported a four-story building was heavily damaged, possibly by cruise missiles. He held a chunk of metal retrieved from the site -- with writing in English -- that appeared to be from a missile.

A Libyan government official said the building was used by Gadhafi officials and said there were no casualties from the building.

The building is only 100 yards or so from a statue of a golden fist crushing a model plane emblazoned with "USA" -- a monument to the 1986 American bombing of Libya, in which a U.S. plane was shot down

Sunday, March 20, 2011

B-2s fly from Whiteman to bomb Libya

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The world's most expensive warplane rarely leaves its climate-controlled hangar but when it does, the B2 bomber makes a spectacularly effective start to a war -- including during this weekend's attack on Libya's air defenses.

The mission of the B2 Spirit stealth bomber is to penetrate heavily defended enemy territory and "kick down the door" on the opening night of a conflict, and the stealth aircraft has been put to that use during the Iraq War, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Costing 2.1 billion dollars each, the B2 has a contoured, radar absorbing skin that makes it almost impossible to detect.

The long-range, heavy bomber capable of penetrating sophisticated and dense air-defense, and with one refueling, is able to fly to any point in the world within hours.
The aircraft is famous for rather ominous-looking bat-like silhouette: The leading edges of the wings are angled at 33° and the trailing edge has a double-W shape. It is manufactured at two Northrop Grumman facilities in Pico Rivera and Palmdale in California.

The aircraft also are deadly and effective: An assessment published by the USAF showed that two B2s armed with precision weaponry can do the job of 75 conventional aircraft

That makes it a powerful weapon to strike targets including bunkers, command centers, radars, airfields, air defenses.
The B2 can carry 16 2,000 pound (900 kilogram), satellite-guided bombs, including an earth penetrating version.
It also is the only US warplane equipped to deliver the GBU-37 "bunker buster," a 5,000 pound (2,250 kilo) bomb with a hardened nose that can bore through 20 to 30 feet of rock or reinforced concrete before detonating.
Its bomb bays can carry eight GBU-37s, and it also can carry 16 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), which have been tested at ranges 180 miles (290 kilometers) from the target, or the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), a glide bomb that releases cluster bombs.

A major drawback, however, is the intensive maintenance required by the B2s, whose heat and moisture sensitive skin must be painstakingly taped and cured after every mission.
In previous conflicts, the maintenance requirements kept the B2s tethered to their home base at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

In Afghanistan, that meant 44-hour bombing runs for their two-member crews, the longest air combat missions in history. It also meant few B2 missions.

But the air force has built special climate controlled shelters at bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and at Fairford, England for B2s, which were built by Northrop Grumman and first flew in 1989.

However, US defense officials said Sunday that three B-2 Stealth bombers flew non-stop from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., dropping 40 bombs on a major Libyan airfield in an attempt to destroy much of Ghadafi's air force.

Growls and Harriers growl over Libya ...

Mediterranean Sea, Mar 20, 2011 — U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers positioned in coalition military bases and U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD3) launched during the early hours in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which is centered on protecting Libyan citizens from any further harm from Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi's regime, March 20, 2011.

U.S. Navy Growlers provided electronic warfare support over Libya while AV-8B Harriers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted strikes against Qadhafi 's ground forces and air defenses joining an international effort to halt an offensive against the Libyan populace.

"Protecting the innocent and conducting combined operations are what we are designed to do," said Colonel Mark J. Desens, commanding officer of 26th MEU. "Our forces are doing both as part of the U.S. commitment to protect Libyan citizens."

Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces. JTF Odyssey Dawn is commanded by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III.

B-2 Stealth Bombers pound Libyan AirField

WASHINGTON — Three US B-2 stealth bombers have dropped 40 bombs on a major Libyan airfield.
There was no immediate official confirmation of the attack.

On Saturday, the United States unleashed a barrage of Tomahawk missiles against the Libyan regime's air defenses, but ruled out using ground troops in what President Barack Obama called a "limited military action".

Nineteen U.S. warplanes, including stealth bombers and fighter jets, conducted strike operations in Libya on Sunday morning, officials said.

Tomahawk cruise missiles are unmanned and fly close to the ground, steering around natural and man-made obstacles to hit a target programmed into them before launch.

A senior U.S. military official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the cruise missiles landed near the city of Misrata and the capital, Tripoli.

Scores of missiles were fired in the pre-dawn darkness, and the exact results of the mission were not immediately clear. The United States is expected to conduct a damage assessment of the sites.
The salvo, in an operation dubbed "Odyssey Dawn," was meant "to deny the Libyan regime from using force against its own people," Gortney said.

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said the Royal Air Force deployed Tornado GR4 fast jets, which flew 3,000 miles from the United Kingdom and back -- making the venture the longest-range bombing mission conducted by the force since the Falklands conflict in 1982.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the international mission "is necessary, it is legal, and it is right."

"I believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people," Cameron said late Saturday night.

But Gadhafi remained defiant, saying Libya will fight back against undeserved "naked aggression."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who's - who over Libya ...

In all, the U.S. Navy has five combat ships in the Mediterranean, including at least one guided-missile destroyer, but there are no U.S. aircraft carriers close to Libya.

The USS Enterprise, which recently was stationed in the Red Sea, has been moved eastwards, away from Libya, to join the USS Carl Vinson, in the Arabian Sea to support Afghanistan operations.

—Has two guided-missile destroyers in the Mediterranean, the USS Barry and USS Stout, two amphibious warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, and a command-and-control ship, the USS Mount Whitney. The submarine USS Providence was also in the Mediterranean.

—Witnesses reported five F-18s, two C-17s and a C-130 cargo plane arrived at U.S. air base at Aviano in northern Italy, which is home to the 31st Fighter Wing.

Aviano, south of the Alps in Italy, is the region's only U.S. air base with aircraft assigned to it -- 42 F-16s. The Pentagon has not discussed the positioning of other planes in the region. The United States has a range of Mediterranean military bases and installations in Italy, Greece, Spain and Turkey.


Canada's HMCS Charlottetown warship has joined naval actions, including a naval blockade, taking place off Libya, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters.

Canadian fighter jets have reached the region but need another day or two of preparation before they can join the mission, a Canadian government spokesman said.


Italy has deployed dozens of combat aircraft at its base at Trapani, in western Sicily in readiness for possible involvement in airstrikes on Libya.

Tornado fighters that can be used to destroy enemy air defenses and radar as well as F-16s and Eurofighters used for air-to-air defense have been moved to Trapani from bases in Piacenza in northern Italy, Gioia del Colle in Apulia.

Italy has offered the use of a NATO base near Naples for joint command center for the joint operation, and could participate later on in military activities, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said in all seven bases in Italy -- at Amendola, Gioia del Colle, Sigonella, Aviano, Trapani, Decimomannu and Pantelleria -- were available and some allies had asked to use them.

Five are on the southern mainland or Sicily, making them some of the closest available bases to Libya.


—Deployed eight Rafale and four Mirage jets to survey rebel-held Benghazi; one fired on a Libyan military vehicle in first military strike of operation.
—Six C-135 refueling tankers
—1 AWACS surveillance plane
—Deploying the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the region Sunday from Toulon
—Also envisages using anti-air frigates Jean-Bart and Forbin, anti-submarine frigate Dupleix, the Aconit frigate and a refueling ship La Meuse.


—Six F-16s arrived at U.S. air base in Sigonella, Sicily and could be deployed as early as Sunday; 132 support staff.

—Sent four F-18s and a Boeing 707 refueling plane to Italy base.
—Deploying a submarine, naval frigate and a surveillance plane.
—Placed two bases at NATO's disposal, Rota and Moron de la Frontera, where several U.S. Air Force planes were seen Friday.


—Said it would send Typhoon and Tornado jets to air bases, but no British fighter assets have yet been forward deployed, the Ministry of Defense said.

Tornadoes took off from RAF Marham in Norfolk shortly after a barrage of 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles - some of them British - was fired at Libya to knock out the dictator's air defence systems at more than 20 coastal locations.

—Britain's air base in southern Cyprus, RAF Akrotiri, supporting AWACS surveillance aircraft and has a team of personnel there to coordinate British aircraft movement.
—Two British frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Cumberland, are in the Mediterranean off Libya's coast.


—Offered six F-16s, with around 100 support staff, but operational capabilities five-six days off.
—Considering contributing an Orion maritime surveillance plane.

Brits fly from AF Marham to pound Libya

RAF jets join international action
(UKPA) – 1 hour ago
At least three RAF Tornado jets set off from the UK on Saturday night to take part in the operation to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya as the international community swung into action against Muammar Gaddafi.

The flights took off from RAF Marham in Norfolk shortly after a barrage of 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles - some of them British - was fired at Libya to knock out the dictator's air defence systems at more than 20 coastal locations.

A Royal Navy Trafalgar-class submarine stationed in the Mediterranean took part in the co-ordinated assault, which also involved forces from the US, France, Italy and Canada under the operational control of US Africa Command.

The missiles targeted radar systems and ground-to-air missile sites around the cities of Tripoli and Misrata in what was described as "the first phase of a multi-phase operation", clearing the way for allied planes to take control of the skies.

The onslaught on Gaddafi came after an emergency summit in Paris agreed military action to enforce United Nations resolution 1973, which authorised "any necessary measures" short of foreign occupation to defend Libyan civilians.

Around 20 French Mirage and Rafale fighter jets were immediately sent into action over the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, firing the first shots of the operation to destroy a number of Gaddafi's tanks and armoured vehicles.

Benghazi had come under fierce attack during the day, despite a supposed ceasefire, raising fears that Gaddafi would take advantage of delays in the international response to smash the opposition and commit atrocities against those who rose up against his 42-year rule a month ago.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced that British forces had gone into action in a brief statement outside 10 Downing Street following a meeting of senior ministers and military top brass in the Government's Cobra emergency committee.

As he initiated his first military campaign as PM, Mr Cameron described the operation as "necessary, legal and right". His thoughts were with British service personnel who were risking their lives to save others, he said.

President Barack Obama, making a visit to Brazil, said the US would contribute its "unique capabilities" to enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone which will be led by its international partners. Repeating his pledge that no US ground troops will be sent to Libya, Mr Obama said the "limited" use of force was "not an outcome the US or any of our partners sought". But he added: "We can't stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy."

Libya attacked by US - France - Brits launch "Odyssey Dawn"

The UK, US and France have attacked Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces in the first action to enforce a UN-mandated no-fly zone.

Pentagon officials say the US and the UK have fired more than 110 missiles, while French planes struck pro-Gaddafi forces attacking rebel-held Benghazi.

Col Gaddafi has vowed retaliation and said he will open arms depots to the people to defend Libya.

Missiles struck air defence sites in the capital, Tripoli, and Misrata.

A French plane fired the first shots against Libyan government targets at 1645 GMT, destroying a number of military vehicles, according to a military spokesman.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that British planes are in action over Libya.

Despite the fact that it was French war planes which launched the first attacks, it's clear that this early phase of the operations is an overwhelmingly American affair - all but a very small number of cruise missiles have been fired from American ships and submarines.

Only they have the capability to inflict the sort of damage to Libya's air defences that's needed before a no-fly zone can be safely patrolled, a point alluded to by President Obama even as he repeated the limits of American involvement.

President Obama has launched these attacks with great reluctance and seems anxious that this not be interpreted as yet another American-led foray into the Arab world.

But for all his desire to be seen to take a back seat, he and everyone else knows that this sort of thing doesn't happen unless Washington is deeply involved.

US President Barack Obama, speaking during a visit to Brazil, said the US was taking "limited military action" as part of a "broad coalition".

"We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy," he said.

He repeated that no US ground troops would take part.

After the missile bombardment and the air strikes, Col Gaddafi made a brief speech calling on people to resist.

"Civilian and military targets in the air and sea will be liable to serious danger in the Mediterranean," he said.

"Arms depots are now open and the masses are being equipped with all sorts of weapons in defence of Libya's independence, unity and honour," the Libyan leader warned.

A British submarine has fired a number of missiles at Libyan air defence targets, the Ministry of Defence said.

Mr Cameron said that launching military action against Libya was "necessary, legal and right".

Libyan state TV reported that what it called the "crusader enemy" had bombed civilian areas of Tripoli, as well as fuel storage tanks supplying the western city of Misrata.

Sources in Tripoli told BBC Arabic that the attacks on the city had so far targeted the eastern areas of Sawani, Airport Road, and Ghasheer. These are all areas believed to host military bases.

After midnight on Sunday, heavy bursts of anti-aircraft fire arced into the sky above Tripoli and several explosions were heard.

The strikes on Misrata targeted a military airbase, the Reuters news agency reported, quoting two residents who denied the state TV reports that fuel stores were hit.

UK: Providing Typhoon and Tornado jet fighters; surveillance planes; HMS Westminster and HMS Cumberland; submarines
France: Carried out mission with at least 12 warplanes including Mirage fighters and Rafale jets; deploying aircraft carrier, warships
US: Firing guided missiles from USS Barry and USS Stout; providing amphibious warships, and command-and-control ship USS Mount Whitney
Italy: Nato base at Naples understood to be central hub; other Mediterranean bases made available
Canada: Providing six F-18 fighter jets and 140 personnel

The cruise missiles were fired from one British submarine and a number of American destroyers and subs, said a Pentagon official.

The missiles hit more than 20 air defence sites along the Mediterranean coast, said Navy Vice Adm William E Gortney.

The action came hours after Western and Arab leaders met in Paris to agree how to enforce the UN resolution, which allows "all necessary measures" to protect civilians from forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

Benghazi battle
Earlier on Saturday, pro-Gaddafi forces attacked Benghazi despite declaring a ceasefire a day earlier.

Reports from the city said that government tanks and artillery had bombarded the city and there was fighting around the university.

Obama: "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy"
Rebels in the city said thousands of people were fleeing the attack, heading east, and the UN refugee agency said it was preparing to receive 200,000 refugees from Libya.

Journalists later said the bombardment ended in the later afternoon and that rebel forces were in control of Benghazi.

The Libyan government blamed the rebels for breaking the ceasefire and said its forces had fought back in self defence.

French planes are reported to have hit government tanks and armoured vehicles around Benghazi.

French planes also flew reconnaissance missions over "all Libyan territory", military sources in Paris said earlier.

In addition, Canada is sending warplanes to the region, while Italy has offered the use of its military bases. A naval blockade against Libya is also being put in place.

The international community was intervening to stop the "murderous madness" of Col Gaddafi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

"In Libya, the civilian population, which is demanding nothing more than the right to choose their own destiny, is in mortal danger," he warned. "It is our duty to respond to their anguished appeal."

Shortly after the airstrikes began, Libyan state TV said a French plane had been shot down near Tripoli. However, French military officials said all their planes had returned safely.

Col Gaddafi has ruled Libya for more than 40 years. An uprising against him began last month after long-time leaders of neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt were toppled.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Satcom solution for piracy situation

Satcom provider Iridium has been suggesting a useful application for its system in combating the Indian Ocean pirate threat.

Iridium says that one tactic that has proven effective has been for the crew, when attacked, to disable the ship’s propulsion plant and barricade themselves inside a pre-prepared ‘citadel’– a hardened safe room - that pirates cannot break into. There, the crew can wait for rescue from naval patrols without exposing themselves to danger in a crossfire between their captors and rescuers.

A key element in this strategy is a reliable communication link the crew can use from inside the citadel to inform patrolling naval forces that they are under attack. This can be difficult, since the pirates onboard can quickly disconnect the ship’s primary satellite and radio antennas. Iridium suggests that there needs to be a separate dedicated, secure satellite phone line to the citadel with a concealed installation above decks. To that end, Iridium is working with its service partners to develop and deploy satellite phone solutions specifically designed for this application.

According to Iridium, as from 28 February, the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center reported that pirates were holding 33 merchant vessels and 711 crewmembers pending ransoms. In 2011 alone, these gangs captured 13 ships and 243 hostages - an average of more than one ship per week. The seafarers are being used as human shields to forestall rescue attempts by military teams, and are being subjected to increasing levels of severe mistreatment by their captors – including torture and even execution. Despite the presence of scores of warships from multiple navies, the area of operations is too vast for them to prevent attacks, and a military response after the seizure only puts the hostages in greater danger.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

UN approves No Fly over Libya

United Nations (CNN) -- Joyous Libyan rebels in Benghazi erupted with fireworks and gunfire after the U.N. Security Council voted Thursday evening to impose a no-fly zone and "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

The opposition, with devoted but largely untrained and underequipped units, has suffered military setbacks this week. It has said such international action was necessary for it to have any chance of thwarting Moammar Gadhafi's imminent assault on the rebel stronghold.

"We're hoping and praying that the United Nations will come up with a very firm and very fast resolution and they will enforce it immediately," said Ahmed El-Gallal, a senior opposition coordinator, before the vote.

"We should not arrive too late," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said at the U.N.
UN approves no-fly zone in Libya Libyan army pushes forward Libyan amb. still hopeful for airstrikes Frustration and anger in Benghazi
The resolution was approved with 10 votes, including those of the United States and the United Kingdom.

There were no opposing votes on the 15-member council, but China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil abstained. Germany said it was concerned about a protracted military conflict.
U.N. member states can "take all necessary measures ... to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force," according to the resolution.

It was not immediately clear just how the international military operation and possible strikes against the Libyan military would unfold. The no-fly zone prohibits Libya's air forces from entering certain zones within the country.
Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim, speaking in Tripoli, told reporters after the vote that the country will safeguard civilians and its territorial integrity.
He called on the international community to send a fact-finding missing to the African nation, but not lend material support to rebels.

A few dozen pro-Gadhafi supporters chanted, "Down with the U.N. Down with Britain. Down with the United States."

The U.S. military does not view a no-fly zone as sufficient to stopping Gadhafi.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that establishing such a zone "would not be sufficient" to stop the gains made by Gadhafi.
Schwartz told the committee that establishing a no-fly zone would take "upwards of a week."
Gadhafi's son, Saadi, told CNN Thursday evening that troops will change their tactics and take up positions around Benghazi Saturday or Sunday and assist people fleeing from the city.

The younger Gadhafi said there will be no large-scale assault. Instead police and anti-terrorism units will be sent into the rebel stronghold to disarm the opposition. Unspecified humanitarian groups can help with the exodus of civilians from Benghazi, Saadi Gadhafi said.
In a radio address aired on Libyan state TV, Gadhafi criticized residents of Benghazi and called them "traitors" for seeking help from outsiders.

U.S. military officials have said that a no-fly zone would typically be enforced by fighter jets whose speed and altitude make it difficult to target Gadhafi's helicopters and that it would not halt the heavy artillery the regime is using on the ground.

The resolution condemns the "gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions." It details enforcement of an arms embargo against Libya, the freezing of assets and a ban on certain flights.
"The United States stands with the Libyan people in support of their universal rights," said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice.

The resolution deplores the use of mercenaries by Libyan authorities, expresses concern about the safety of foreign nationals and demands an immediate cease-fire. Kaim said the Gadhafi government supports a cease-fire, but is working out certain details.
The Arab League's U.N. ambassador, Yahya Mahmassani, said two Arab countries would take part in a no-fly zone operation, but he was not sure which two.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the U.N. vote shows the need for Libyan citizens "to have a more representative government."
Earlier Thursday, Libyan state TV said that the rebel capital of Benghazi would soon come under attack.

Gadhafi said that his forces would enter Benghazi to rid the city of those "traitors" and that his forces will search everyone for weapons. He added that his forces gave amnesty to those who gave up their weapons in the city of Ajdabiya. "We will not allow further bloodshed among Libyans," Gadhafi said.
"Search for the traitors, for the fanatics. Show them no mercy. We will look for them behind every wall," Gadhafi said. "This farce cannot go on."

There were air strikes on Benghazi's airport Thursday, with three blasts hitting the site about 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) outside the city.

The opposition has been using the airport to launch its own air strikes, using a handful of jets that rebels have managed to get off the ground, opposition leaders said.
It is not clear that Gadhafi's ground forces are actually within striking range of Benghazi, but they have been fighting their way in that direction for several days.

State TV claimed Thursday that Gadhafi's forces were in control of Ajdabiya, on the road to Benghazi, a claim disputed by opposition leaders.

El-Gallal, speaking from eastern Libya, said "morale is high" and people do not want to leave strongholds because Gadhafi "is willing to kill everybody here."


US urges airstrikes against Libya ...

United Nations (CNN) -- The United States is suggesting that the United Nations should do more than just impose a no-fly zone on Libya as Moammar Gadhafi's forces fight their way east toward the rebel capital of Benghazi.

Airstrikes against Gadhafi's forces are among options being discussed as diplomats try to hammer out a U.N. Security Council resolution, a diplomatic source said.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. raised the possibility of "going beyond a no-fly zone," Wednesday.

Ambassador Susan Rice said a "range of actions" were up for serious discussion, including but not limited to a no-fly zone, which has "inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians." She said she hopes to see a serious resolution as early as Thursday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear spewing "extremely high" levels of radiation

Tokyo (CNN) -- Spent fuel rods in Unit 4 of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been exposed, resulting in the emission of "extremely high" levels of radiation, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.

"What we believe at this time is that there has been a hydrogen explosion in this unit due to an uncovering of the fuel in the fuel pool," Gregory Jaczko told a House energy and commerce subcommittee hearing. "We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool, and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures."

The water served to both cool the uranium fuel and shield it. But once the uranium fuel was no longer covered by water, the zirconium cladding that encases the fuel rods heated, generating hydrogen, said Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former official with the Department of Energy.

That caught fire, resulting in a situation that is "very, very serious," he told CNN. He said the next step may involve nuclear plant workers taking heroic acts. Asked to be more specific, he said, "This is a situation where people may be called in to sacrifice their lives. ... It's very difficult for me to contemplate that but it's, it may have reached that point."

Global Hawks/U-2 over disaster stricken Japan

The U.S. military will send an unmanned Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance plane to take photos and infrared images of Japan's damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a Japanese government source told Kyodo News on Wednesday. The images could help workers figure out what's going on inside the radiation-contaminated buildings.

In related news:

3/16/2011 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- In response to the devastation caused by the March 11 earthquake off the eastern coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami, Pacific Air Forces is utilizing an RQ-4 Global Hawk from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to assist the government of Japan in disaster relief and recovery efforts.

The Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system, referred to as a remotely piloted aircraft, is being used to help assess damage to towns, industrial infrastructure, and other facilities affected during the earthquake and flood waters.

"The Global Hawk is an ideal ISR asset to aid in disaster relief," said Gen. Gary North, PACAF commander. "It directly complements ongoing efforts in the region and represents how advanced technology can provide crucial and timely support to senior leadership officials and search, recovery and disaster relief efforts."

The Global Hawk was also used for disaster relief efforts following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010. This will be the aircraft's first use in a humanitarian operation in the Pacific theater since it was permanently assigned at Andersen AFB in September 2010.

With approximately 30 hours of flight endurance, the Global Hawk provides a broad view of the situation on the ground. Its ability to survey large geographic areas also offers decision-makers and first responders near real-time information to assess damage and prioritize for local need. Its long airborne dwell capacity also assures continuous and long-lasting-support for whatever requirements the Government of Japan may require.

"The Global Hawk and the expertise offered by our Airmen further enhances the country's already robust capabilities as our Air force members work side by side with Japan's Self Defense force professionals," said General North.

Based at Guam, the aircraft allows the U.S. to effectively support contingencies throughout the region, demonstrating our commitment to partners throughout the Pacific, and is one part of a wide range of PACAF personnel and aircraft that are supporting the Japanese operations.

In conjunction with the Global Hawk, another reconnaissance aircraft, a U-2, also deployed from the region, is also being used to provide imagery of damage for the Japanese recovery operations.

CIA contractor released from prison after paying "blood money" to victim's families.

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A CIA contractor who killed two Pakistani men was released from jail Wednesday after $1.4 million in compensation was paid to their families, according to a lawyer closely connected to the case .

Raymond Davis -- who has now left Pakistan, according to a U.S. official not authorized to speak for attribution -- had been in jail since January in a case that has strained the always tense relationship between the United States and Pakistan.

The families of two men he killed forgave him, a government official said Wednesday.
Davis' immediate destination after being released was unclear.

The U.S. official insisted that the release of Davis was a decision made by the Pakistanis, and that there was "no quid pro quo" between Washington and Islamabad. The official refused to comment on whether there was a exchange of so-called "blood money."

"The families of the victims ... have pardoned Raymond Davis," said Cameron Munter, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. "I am grateful for their generosity. I wish to express, once again, my regret for the incident and my sorrow at the suffering it caused."

Punjab province law minister Rana Sanaullah first told Pakistani media Wednesday that the victims' families did not want to press charges and added soon after that Davis was free to go.
The statement came just hours after the American was charged with murder in connection with the January shootings.
Davis appeared in court after the payment was made and was acquitted of the charges, in accordance with an Islamic practice known as diyat, or compensation, the lawyer said.

"Diyat," a part of Islamic law that is enshrined in Pakistan's penal code, allows victims to pardon a murderer with or without being paid "blood money," the former chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, Saeed U Zaman Saddiqi, told CNN.
On a second charge, illegal possession of a firearm, Davis was fined $250 and sentenced to time already served, the lawyer noted.

According to Davis, the January 27 shooting occurred after two men attacked him as he drove through a busy Lahore neighborhood, the U.S. Embassy has said. Munter said Wednesday the U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into the incident.
The United States had been seeking the release of Davis on the grounds that he has diplomatic immunity.

But a high court in Pakistan refused Monday to decide whether the CIA contractor has diplomatic immunity, sending the case back to a lower court, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The lower court had already ruled that Davis does not enjoy protected diplomatic status because neither he nor the Pakistani government has provided documents proving that he does.

U.S. officials originally said Davis was a diplomat and later revealed that he is a CIA contractor, intensifying the already highly charged situation.
Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in efforts against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, and the shooting deaths outraged many Pakistanis.
CIA spokesman George Little said Wednesday the agency and its "Pakistani counterparts have had a strong relationship for years.

"When issues arise, it's our standing practice to work through them," Little said in a statement. "That's the sign of a healthy partnership -- one that's vital to both countries, especially as we face a common set of terrorist enemies."
CNN's Pam Benson and journalists Nick Paton Walsh and Nasir Habib contributed to this report.

Mystery boom rattles South Carolina Coast!

KIAWAH ISLAND -- The first boom sounded like thunder. The second shook windows. The third shook an entire house. Then they quieted, mysteriously.

The series of booms were reported Monday afternoon by people on Kiawah and Johns islands and Isle of Palms. At least three booms, each more intense than the last, occurred within 15 minutes starting about 3:30 p.m.

"There's another one. The third one, just now. It's like thunder getting closer to us, only there's no rumble, just a blast. Have you ever been around dynamite? A pretty good charge when they're blowing up stumps, that's what it's like," said Dwight Ives, who was on Kiawah Island during the booms.

"We felt the house shake," said Art Morgenstern, an island resident.

Seismographs at the College of Charleston did not report any earthquakes, said Erin Beutel, S.C. Earthquake Education and Preparedness director. She suspected sonic booms, but a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort said no F-18s were flying in the area at that time. A public affairs officer for the Charleston Air Force Base said C-17s were operating, but not fast enough to cause sonic booms.

That likely leaves the strange phenomenon of the Seneca Guns, the unexplained booms that have been reported along coasts around the world almost as long as people have lived there. The sound is so close to the blast of a cannon that folk legend in the East says it's made by the guns of Seneca Indians, fired to get revenge on the settlers who displaced them.

The booms have been blamed on gases released from the sea floor, undersea landslides along the Continental Shelf, the echoed sound of distant thunder, lightning-like electrical discharges that don't cause lightning, even meteors crashing into the atmosphere at angles.

But so far, nobody has been able to say for sure what causes them.


Mystery boom rattles Moses Lake Washington Area

By Bill Stevenson
Herald managing editor

MOSES LAKE - A loud boom was heard through Moses Lake Saturday night about 8:30 p.m.
Authorities do not know what caused the sound.

People described it in a variety of ways from a methane explosion to a sonic boom.
"I don't know what it was, but it was loud," said Moses Lake police Capt. Dave Ruffin. "It sounded like a transformer blowing (up) down the street."

The Multi Agency Communications Center (MACC) received several reports through 9-1-1 about the sound of an explosion and deputies were dispatched to determine the cause, said Kyle Foreman, Grant County Sheriff's Office public information officer.
"The sound came from the sand dunes, but we couldn't find anything," said Foreman.
Moses Lake firefighters did not receive any calls for fires or explosions, said Chief Tom Taylor.

The US Air Force did not have any jet fighters operating in Grant County this weekend, nor any other types of aircraft operating at supersonic speeds, according to Foreman.

Authorities would like to determine the cause, said Foreman.
If people have information about the source of the boom, they are asked to call 9-1-1.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Libyan website reports rebels sink Gaddafi ships

Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:53pm GMT
RABAT, March 15 (Reuters) - An opposition Libyan news website reported on Tuesday that rebels flying a MiG 23 warplane and a helicopter sank two pro-Gaddafi warships off the eastern coast near the town of Adjabiyah.

The Brnieq online newspaper quoted an unnamed airforce officer at the Benina airbase in Benghazi as saying the two aircraft also bombed an unspecified number of tanks near Brega and Ajdabiya, two towns that fell to pro-Gaddafi forces on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Souhail Karam, writing by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Fourth Reactor Spews Radioactive Gas

CBS/AP) A fire at a fourth reactor in a quake-damaged nuclear plant sent radiation spewing into the atmosphere Tuesday. Earlier, a third explosion at the plant in four days damaged a critical steel containment structure around another reactor, as Japan's nuclear radiation crisis escalated dramatically.

The radiation level was elevated to a point that may damage health, a government spokesman acknowledged, though the exact amount of radiation leaked was still unclear.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other officials warned there was danger of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to stay indoors to avoid exposure that could make people sick.

"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told residents in the danger zone.

"These are figures that potentially affect health. There is no mistake about that," he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog organization, confirmed that radioactive material was released into the atmosphere as a fire burned in a storage pond for spent nuclear fuel at the stricken plant.

The IAEA said Japanese officials told it that the fire was in a pool where used nuclear fuel is kept cool and that "radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.''

Japanese officials later said the fire, in Unit 4 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, had been extinguished.

After a third explosion in four days rocked the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan early Tuesday, the country's nuclear safety agency said the explosion may have damaged a reactor's containment vessel.

Following the fire, explosion and public warning, only 50 of the plant's 800 or so workers will remain at the site to pump seawater into three stricken reactors at the plant, in order to minimize exposure to unhealthy levels of radiation, reports the New York Times.

A one-year-old boy is re-checked for radiation exposure after being decontaminated in Nihonmatsu, Fukushiima, northern Japan Monday, March 14, 2011. (Credit: AP)
Earlier fears that the prevailing winds could blow a cloud of radioactive particles deeper into the country were tempered later Tuesday by the World Meteorological Organization's forecast of a change in wind direction, reported Reuters news agency.

"At this point, all the meteorological conditions are offshore so there are no implications, for Japan or other countries near Japan," Maryam Golnaraghi, chief of WMO's disaster risk reduction division, said in Geneva.

At a shelter in Sendai, workers told CBS News that everyone must avoid Tuesday's rain, as it carries nuclear radiation. Officials in far-off Tokyo have already detected slightly higher-than-normal radiation levels there, but insist there are no health dangers.


USS George Washington detects radiation

Tokyo (CNN) -- U.S. Navy personnel are taking precautionary measures after instruments aboard an aircraft carrier docked in Japan detected low levels of radioactivity from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the Navy said Tuesday.

The USS George Washington was docked for maintenance in Yokosuka, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the plant in Okuma, when instruments detected the radiation at 7 a.m. Tuesday (6 p.m. ET Monday), the Navy said in a statement.

Personnel will limit outdoor activities and secure external ventilation systems there and at a nearby air facility in Atsugi.

"There is no appreciable health risk, and we are being very conservative in our recommendations," U.S. Naval Forces Japan Commander Rear Adm. Richard Wren said.
Japan nuclear crisis continues Radiation risks rise in Japan Radiation and human health 'Very high' risk of radioactive material

In a recorded video message, Wren said the additional radiation exposure over the past 12 hours had been less than one month's exposure to naturally occurring background radiation.
Workers are scrambling to cool down fuel rods and prevent a full meltdown in three reactors at the earthquake-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned Tuesday that the risk of further releases of radioactive material from the plant remains "very high."
Radioactive steam has been released intentionally to lessen growing pressure in the reactors. But radiation levels at the plant increased Tuesday to "levels that can impact human health," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Saudis invade Bahrain

Saudi Arabia deployed 1,000 troops in Bahrain on Sunday to help the ruling Khalifa family quash a burgeoning democracy movement.

Bahraini authorities have not confirmed the presence of Saudi troops in the archipelago.

But today a Saudi official who requested anonymity confirmed the military intervention, saying that the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) had sent in a "special force" following "repeated calls by the Bahraini government for dialogue, which went unanswered" by the republican opposition.

The GCC members are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Bahraini opposition groups, which recently united in a tripartite Coalition for a Bahraini Republic to bring down the monarchic regime and establish a democratic system, said today that any military intervention by Saudi Arabia would amount to "a declaration of war and occupation."

As news of the Saudi intervention spread, thousands of opposition supporters swarmed Bahrain's central business district, forcing it to shut down.

On Sunday riot police attacked demonstrators in the Financial Harbour business complex, injuring over 200 and rattling the Western banking and financial outfits that use Bahrain as their Gulf hub.

The involvement of foreign troops in the intensifying military clampdown is certain to further polarise the strategic island kingdom, which is home to the Obama administration's main military lever against Iran, the US navy's 5th Fleet.

Bahrain's leadership is under intense pressure not to give ground to the opposition from other Western-backed ruling dynasties in the Gulf who are fearful of a democratic domino effect.

On Sunday, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa suggested that authorities were gearing up for a showdown with democratic forces.

He said "the right to security and safety is above all else" in the kingdom.

"Any legitimate claims must not be made at the expense of security and stability," the prince said in a televised speech.

The British and US governments have issued notices urging their nationals in Bahrain to remain at home or try to avoid protest areas when travelling.

"Spontaneous demonstrations and violence are expected throughout the next several days," the US advisory warned.

UPDATE: Bahrain–Eyewitnesses have reported seeing an estimated 30 tanks being transported into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia on Monday night at around 6:45pm local time. The tanks were sighted along the King Fahd causeway, which links the small island-nation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

Commuters traveling along the 25-km causeway were held up due to the presence of “15 tank carriers carrying two tanks each heading towards Bahrain.” Civilian eyewitnesses could not, however, confirm whether the tanks belonged to the Saudi military.
The presence of Saudi military hardware in Bahrain is considered highly unusual.

The development comes on the eve of yet another scheduled anti-government demonstration organized by the Bahraini opposition and protesters in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout.
Fears of Saudi intervention in the ongoing Bahraini uprising first came to the fore last week when unconfirmed reports emerged on Wednesday that Saudi officials had told US authorities that they were “prepared to intervene” in Bahrain should such a move prove necessary to protect Bahrain’s embattled government.

Tomorrow’s mass protest will be the first to take place since the arrival to the country of controversial Shia opposition leader Hassan Mosheima from self-imposed exile.

Mosheima arrived on Saturday, using his first speech to call for national unity and to urge protesters to step up demands for the ouster of Bahrain’s prime minister of 40 years, Sheikh Khalifa Al Khalifa.

UPDATE: A military force from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations moved into Bahrain on Monday to shore up the nation's Sunni rulers in the face of escalating Shiite-led protests seeking to break the monarchy's hold on power.

The force marked the first cross-border military operation to quell unrest since the Arab world's rebellions began in December.

Bahrain's main opposition groups immediately denounced the outside intervention as an "occupation" that pushed the tiny Gulf kingdom dangerously close to a state of war.

The Gulf Sunni dynasties are fearful for their own fate as the Arab push for change rumbles through the oil-rich region. They also see any gains by Bahrain's Shiites as a potential foothold for Shiite heavyweight Iran to increase influence, including with Saudi Arabia's restive Shiite minority in areas just over the causeway from the island of Bahrain.

"The Bahrain government asked us yesterday to look at ways to help them to defuse tension in Bahrain," United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in Paris. He said they sent 500 Emirati police and the Saudis and others also sent forces "to get calm and order in Bahrain."

The strife in Bahrain escalated dramatically over the weekend, just as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived to urge its leaders — key Washington allies — to heed at least some of the demands for change.

A Saudi security official said the Gulf units dispatched to Bahrain come from a special force within the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. He did not give details on the size or national breakdown of the force — estimated in some reports at about 1,000 strong — but said they were deployed by air and road and will help protect key buildings in the strategic nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. The GCC members are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf Daily News, which is close to Bahrain's rulers, said the outside forces would protect sites such as electricity stations and oil facilities.

The arrival of the military force comes a day after some of the most widespread chaos in the monthlong series of protests and clashes that have left seven dead and the nation deeply divided. On Sunday, protesters blocked the main route to Bahrain's important financial district and battled pro-government mobs at the main university, which has canceled classed indefinitely.

A group of pro-government lawmakers Monday urged Bahrain's king to impose martial law and claimed "extremist movements" were trying to disrupt the country and push it toward sectarian conflict.

A coalition of seven Shiite-led opposition factions pledged to demand a U.N. investigation into the Gulf leaders' decision to send in the special force for an internal conflict. The unit had been deployed in the past to Kuwait, including during the 1991 U.S.-led campaign to drive out Saddam Hussein's troops and before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"We consider that any military force or military equipment crossing the boundaries of Bahrain — from air, sea or land — an occupation and a conspiracy against the people of Bahrain," said a statement from the opposition groups.

There was no immediate indication how protesters would respond, nor was there public comment from Bahrain's monarch, but leaders have expressed increasing frustration that opposition groups have not accepted offers to open dialogue aimed at resolving the crisis.

In a series of Twitter messages, Bahrain's prime minister, Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, lashed out at the Shiite-led protesters. "What we are witnessing in Manama is no peaceful protest," he wrote. "It's wanton, gangster style takeover of people's lives."

Shiites, who account for 70 percent of the population, have long complained of systematic discrimination by the Sunni dynasty that has ruled for more than two centuries.

The grievances include allegations of being blackballed from key government and security posts. They also strongly object to government policies that give citizenship and jobs to Sunnis from other Arab countries and South Asia as a way to offset the Shiites' demographic edge.

The main opposition groups have called for the Sunni rulers to give up most of their powers to the elected parliament. But, as violence has deepened, many protesters now say they want to topple the entire royal family.


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