Thursday, September 15, 2011

Navy christening Speahead - fast - stealthy - agile ship

By John Roach, contributing writer at

The U.S. Navy will christen on Saturday a catamaran-style cargo ship that can zip through shallow waters at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, loaded down with 1.2 million pounds worth of gear.

The joint high speed vessel, named Spearhead, is the first of ten 338-foot-long aluminum dual-hull boats that are being constructed by Austral USA in Mobile, Ala., as part of a contract worth a reported $1.6 billion.

The company is also under a $3.5 billion contract to build ten trimaran Littoral Combat Ships, which can cruise at more than 45 miles per hour.

This need for speed stems from a desire for ships to operate in near-shore environments in the post Cold-War era, explained Loren Thompson, a defense analyst and chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

"The Navy decided that its future was going to be mainly about influencing
developments ashore," he told me Thursday. "It therefore started thinking about what sorts of vessels could survive close to shore and the conclusion it came to was speed mattered a lot."

Fast ships, for example, can outrun enemy warships and torpedoes, and the nimble agility of these new boats also allow quick maneuvers to dodge other types of dangers, Thompson added.

The JHSV being christened on Saturday in Mobile can berth 146 passengers and carry an additional 312 in airline-style seating. A flight deck allows helicopters and rotary air vehicles to take off and land. It has a range of more than 1,380 miles.


Navy interested in stealth boat for special teams ...

By Jesse Emspak

A new kind of boat is designed to move quickly and stealthily through water by generating a layer of gas around its underwater surfaces.
The design reduces friction by a factor of 900, according to the New Hampshire company that produced the boat. Its smooth speed makes it ideal for special operations. It could also revolutionize shipping.

Juliet Marine recently unveiled the Ghost, a ship it says can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. The shape of the craft is similar to earlier attempts at making watercraft less visible to radar — notably the Navy's "Sea Shadow" project of the 1980s.

Gregory Sancoff, president and chief executive officer of Juliet Marine, says this boat is a quantum leap beyond those early designs. "The Sea Shadow was an 11-knot craft," he said. "This is much faster."

Sancoff isn't willing to go into too much technical detail, partly because the U.S. government is interested and the company is working with a defense contractor to build a 150-foot model. He can say that the double-hulled boat generates and surrounds itself with a layer of gas, reducing friction and boosting its speed.

The phenomenon is called supercavitation. Supercavitation occurs when a projectile moving through water generates a low-pressure zone around its surface. Go fast enough and the low-pressure zone becomes a layer of gas. In that respect the Ghost is similar to a Russian-made torpedo (called the "Shkval," or squall), though the underwater portion of the boat's twin hulls are a new design.

The task of making a ship less visible to radar is physically the same as what is done with an airplane — the idea is to make the radar waves bounce off, just not back toward the sender. Jan Brink, an electromagnetic compatibility specialist at Kockums, a Swedish company that designed and built the Visby-class stealth ships for that country's navy, says the shape of a ship has to account for radar coming from above, whereas an airplane has to deal with radar from below.

"For us on a ship looking to reduce radar cross section, it's a radar beam from another ship or radar from a missile," he said.

The Ghost is designed for missions close to coasts, such as getting special operations teams into and out of areas quickly. Another possible mission would be dealing with pirates and "swarm" attacks on aircraft carriers and destroyers. Sancoff says the speed of the Ghost makes it useful against smaller boats that can outrun and outmaneuver larger ones. Contrary to popular belief, aircraft carriers and destroyers carry little in the way of defensive guns.

The 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen was accomplished with a small boat that simply ran into its side.

"Right now we have thousands of sailors whose only defense against high-speed craft is a .50 caliber machine gun from World War II," Sancoff said.
Eric Wertheim, analyst at the U.S. Naval Institute, says the big issue for a boat like the Ghost will be identifying its niche within the military.

"This is a tough budget time to be introducing any technology that isn't being specifically called for by the Navy," he said. "For the last 100 years the stealth boat has been the submarine," he said. Submarines can do special ops missions too, as demonstrated by the fact that smugglers have recently made good use of them. "You have to answer the question of what is the need not being met," he said.


NASA wants to build most powerful rocket ever - but if wishes were horses -beggars would be riders...

WASHINGTON (AP) — To soar far away from Earth and even on to Mars, NASA has dreamed up the world's most powerful rocket, a behemoth that borrows from the workhorse liquid-fuel rockets that sent Apollo missions into space four decades ago.

But with a price tag that some estimate at $35 billion, it may not fly with Congress.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and several members of Congress on Wednesday unveiled the Obama administration's much-delayed general plans for its rocket design, called the Space Launch System. The multibillion-dollar program would carry astronauts in a capsule on top, and the first mission would be 10 years off if all goes as planned. Unmanned test launches are expected from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in six years.

Calling it the "largest, most powerful rocket built," NASA's exploration and operations chief, William Gerstenmaier, said the rocket will be tough to construct. But when NASA does it, "we'll have a capability to go beyond low-Earth orbit like no other nation does here on Earth," he said in a telephone briefing Wednesday.

The rocket resembles those NASA relied on before the space shuttle, but even its smallest early prototype will have 10 percent more thrust than the Saturn V that propelled Apollo astronauts to the moon. When it is built to its fuller size, it will be 20 percent more powerful, Gerstenmaier said. That bigger version will have the horsepower of 208,000 Corvette engines.

NASA is trying to remain flexible on where it wants to go and when. The space agency is aiming for a nearby asteroid around 2025 and then on to Mars in the 2030s. There could even be a short hop to the moon, but not as a main goal. All those targets require lots of brute force to escape Earth's orbit, something astronauts have not done since 1972.

The far-from-finalized price tag may be too steep given federal budget constraints.
"Will it be tough times going forward? Of course it is," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in a separate news conference. "We are in an era in which we have to do more with less — all across the board — and the competition for the available dollars will be fierce. But what we have here now are the realistic costs" verified by independent experts.

Although five senators of both parties who are leaders in science issues praised the plan in a joint press release, outside experts are skeptical that Congress will agree to such a big spending project.

"In the current political environment, new spending is probably the most taboo thing in politics," said Stan Collender, a former Democratic congressional budget analyst. He put the odds of this getting congressional approval at "no better than 50-50 this year. There are going to be a lot of questions asking what kind of commitment we're going to be making here. You can find yourself with a rocket that no one wants to fire."

Nelson puts the cost of the program at about $18 billion over the next five years. But that estimate is mostly for development and design through the first test flight in 2017, and doesn't include production of later rockets, Gerstenmaier said. Gerstenmaier wouldn't give a total estimate, but it is almost double that, according to senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make the announcement.


Speed Agile concept for a stealth transport

The internets are all abuzzing over "Speed Agile" stealth STOL transport concept today. Apparently "stealthies" happened on this .pdf file -and it has gone viral.

WARNING! Click on this link at your own risk. It is a government monitored site.


Al Qaeda leader bites the big one ...

Al Qaeda leader killed in Pakistan
By National Security Supervising Producer Adam Levine

An al Qaeda figure identified as the terrorist network's chief of operations in Pakistan has been killed, a U.S. officials said Thursday.

Abu Hafs al-Shari was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan, according to one of the sources. While there was no explanation how he was killed, it is known armed predator drones have been used to kill suspected terrorists.

One US official called it a "blow" to the core of Al Qaeda.

"The loss of their chief of operations in Pakistan, an individual who played a key operational and administrative role for the group, will pose a challenge for Zawahiri. Abu Hafs was a contender to assume some of [recently killed Atiyah abd al-Rahman's] duties, coordinated al Qaeda’s anti-US plotting in the region, and worked closely with the Pakistani Taliban to carry out attacks inside Pakistan."

A senior administration official said the strike will "further degrade" Al Qaeda's ability to recover from the Rahman killing in August because " because of his operations experience and connections within the group."

The pressure on Al Qaeda in Pakistan has been significant with a number of key leaders, most notably Osama bin Laden, being eliminated. Earlier this week, the top intelligence official at the Pentagon said US counterterrorism operations have left the group feeling "besieged."

"Its senior leaders are being eliminated at a rate far faster than al Qaeda can replace them, and the leadership replacements the group is able to field are much less experienced and credible," said Michael Vickers, the Under Secretary for Defense Intelligence at an event in Washington on Tuesday. Vickers said the pressure on Al Qaeda has left it in a "precarious" postiion and predicted that at this rate the group could be eliminated wtihin the next two years.

"We have substantially attrited AQ's mid-level operatives, trainers and facilitators, its recent recruits, including several westerners, and senior leaders and operatives of its safe haven providers," Vickers said.

Fireball over Southwest - not aliens - but space rocks.

Photo by sottnet.
When a streak of fire blazed through the air above southern California, people could have been forgiven for thinking the Earth was under attack.

Thousands saw it from Phoenix in Arizona to Las Vegas and Los Angeles and local authorities were swamped with reports of ball of flame in the night sky.
One witness said: 'It was huge. It had a green glow in front of it and a white tail. It looked like green fireworks going across the sky.'

Blazing through the sky: The fireball seen over southern California and Arizona

But experts have revealed the phenomenon was most likely a fireball - a fragment of an asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere.

The light was seen shooting quickly from west to east at around 7.45pm PDT, or 2.45am GMT.

Many reported it as bluish-green and others as yellow and orange. Some captured video of the object.

Read more here

Al Qaeda in Pakistan life expectancy? 2 years.

US: Al Qaeda in Pakistan could be gone in two years
By Sr. National Security Producer Pam Benson

Al Qaeda's ability to carry out operations from its Pakistan base could be eliminated within the next two years, according to Michael Vickers, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Vickers told a conference at the National Defense University this week that, "Assuming sustained CT (counterterrorism) operations against the group, within 18 to 24 months, core al Qaeda cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment and exist mostly as a propaganda arm and power could devolve to regional affiliates."

This marks the first time a senior U.S. official has put a time frame on the end of the threat of attack posed by al Qaeda's senior leadership operating in the ungoverned areas of Pakistan.

On his first trip to Afghanistan as defense secretary in July, Leon Panetta told reporters that the United States was "within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda." He said the successful operation to take out Osama bin Laden and the identification of other key al Qaeda leaders put the United States in a better position.

"If we can be successful at going after them, I think we can really undermine their ability to do any kind of planning, to be able to conduct any kind of attack" on the United States. "That's why I think it's within reach. Is it going to take some more work? You bet it is. But I think it's within reach," Panetta said.

In his speech on Tuesday, Vickers said al Qaeda's leaders "are being eliminated at a far faster rate than al Qaeda can replace them," and noted the replacements "are much less experienced and credible."

He said eight of al Qaeda's 20 key leaders have been eliminated this year, citing the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, the death of al Qaeda second-in-command Atiya Abdul Rahman in August, and the capture of Younis Mauritani, a senior planner of operations, earlier this month.

Only al Qaeda's current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remains active among those who were the top nine terrorists at the time of the 9/11 attacks against the United States in 2001.

But Vickers did note al Qaeda is resilient and remains a dangerous threat to the United States.

"It maintains a worldwide strength numbering in the low thousands, it has broadened its reach through affiliate organizations" in general, but in particular he mentioned al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which he said has been able to increase its operating space in Yemen.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been linked to the attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit in December 2009 and a cargo plane plot last year.

Defense officials told Pentagon reporters on Wednesday that the United States sees "cross-pollenization between AQ affiliates." The two officials, who would only speak to reporters on the condition their identities not be used, cited a recent attack by Boko Haram, a militant group based in Nigeria.

The official said, "When you see a group like Boko Haram, which is focused internally, use a car bomb the way they did, it's a capability they clearly got from AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)." But a senior defense official said of the idea of al Qaeda affiliates banding together, "You aren't going to see some Legion of Doom. It's an opportunity for an alliance of convenience."

Although Vickers predicted al Qaeda's core might be marginalized within 18 to 24 months, he said it might take longer to sufficiently disrupt the affiliates. "We likewise may not be done with the operational dismantlement of all of the group's regional affiliates within the next two years."



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