Thursday, March 29, 2012

FBI releases Jet Blue/Osbon charges affidavit

(C) Steve Miller/The Reporter's Edge

Related: The case of the JetBlue captain who came unglued at 35,000 feet has focused attention on what some aviation experts say is a flimsy system for detecting psychological problems in pilots.

During required checkups every six months or one year, airline pilots are subjected to a battery of physical tests, but the doctor usually doesn't ask about their mental state, experts and pilots say. And many pilots would probably hesitate to tell the truth, for fear it would be a career-ender.

"It's very clear to every pilot that the moment you say yes, you've had an issue, they're going to deny your license," said John Gadzinski, a captain for a major airline and an aviation consultant.

Still, there appears to be little interest in beefing up the examinations because mental breakdowns in the cockpit are extremely rare.

"Of the tens of thousands of employees" airlines have, "there are a couple that lost it," said Robert Francis, a former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. "That's hardly enough evidence to lead to new regulations."

On Tuesday, Clayton Osbon, the 49-year-old captain of a New York-to-Las Vegas flight, started ranting about a bomb aboard and screamed, "They're going to take us down!" A co-pilot locked him out of the cockpit and guided the plane to an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, as passengers wrestled Osbon to the floor. He was carried off the plane and taken to a hospital. JetBlue said he suffered a "medical situation."

The outburst came weeks after a distraught American Airlines flight attendant was taken off a plane at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport for getting on the public address system and rambling about 9/11 and her fears the plane would crash. She, too, was hospitalized.

JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger said on NBC's "Today" show that he has known Osbon personally and that he is "a consummate professional," with nothing in his past to indicate he would be a risk on a flight.

Osbon, a pilot for JetBlue since 2000, was charged Wednesday with interfering with a flight crew. The airline suspended him.

"Clearly, he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown," said Tony Antolino, a security executive who sat in the 10th row of the plane and tackled the captain when he tried to re-enter the cockpit. "He became almost delusional."

Man tries to board plane with explosives.

A 29-year-old-man was taken into police custody this morning at the Philadelphia airport after attempting to board a flight to San Francisco while carrying items that could have been assembled into an explosive device -- a vial with a fuse, a plastic bottle filled with explosive powder and three M-80 type fireworks.

Joseph Picklo of Dallas, Pennsylvania told authorities he is a self-employed salesman who "likes to conduct experiments with explosives." Picklo told authorities he had "fooled around" with the fireworks and other materials and forgot he had them in his backpack when he attempted to board the flight.

FBI official told ABC News there is no known connection to terrorism, but authorities said some or all of the elements could have been combined to make a bomb. Picklo was detained at 6 a.m. after a suspicious item was seen in a carry-on bag at a security checkpoint as he was headed for a US Airways flight.

Airport operations were only minimally affected. One gate was closed for 20 minutes while police responded. The Philadelphia Police Bomb Squad removed the material to its range for examination.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Exclusive photo: Pilot taken off Jet Blue flight in Amarillo - by Feds

(CBS News) A police officer and an off-duty airline pilot subdued a JetBlue captain Tuesday morning aboard a Las Vegas-bound flight when the captain started pounding on the cockpit door after the flight's co-pilot asked him to leave and subsequently locked him out, a federal official told CBS News.

The captain became incoherent during JetBlue Flight 191 from New York's John F. Kennedy International, prompting the co-pilot to get him to leave the cockpit, the official said. JetBlue said in a statement to CBS News that the flight was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, "for a medical situation involving the captain."

Jet Blue flight 191 enroute from JFK to Las Vegas. The flight was diverted to Amarillo after the pilot reported an in-flight-emergency concerning an out-of-control passenger on board.
Law enforcement and FBI was summoned to the aircraft and a man strapped to a gurney was photographed being taken off the aircraft.

The man was transported to Northwest Texas Hospital for "evaluation." Another ambulance was also summoned to check on a passenger having chest pains.

-Steve Douglass

Photos (C) Steve Miller/The Reporters Edge
for reproduction rights and high rez images contact webbfeat@gmail or Steve Douglass at 806-336-7583


Monday, March 26, 2012

North Korea preparing long-range rocket launch despite warnings.

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Just hours after the United States warned that North Korea would achieve nothing with threats or provocations, Pyongyang moved a long-range rocket it plans to test fire to a launch pad Monday, a South Korean defense ministry official said.

The news broke at the start of a two-day nuclear summit in Seoul that is bringing together leaders from the United States, Russia, China and dozens of other nations to discuss how to deal with nuclear terrorism and how to secure the world's nuclear material.

But North Korea's announcement that it plans to carry out a rocket-powered satellite launch in mid-April is overshadowing a message of international cooperation for the summit.

South Korea has said it considers the satellite launch an attempt to develop a nuclear-armed missile, while U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday such a launch would bring repercussions.

"Here in Korea, I want to speak directly to the leadership in Pyongyang. The United States has no hostile intent toward your country," Obama said during a speech to students at Seoul's Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

"But by now it should be clear, your provocations and pursuit of nuclear weapons have not achieved the security you seek. They have undermined it."

Obama : 'No rewards for provocations' Obama on Iran: 'Time is short' President Obama visits Korean DMZ Nuclear security summit in South Korea.

If the rocket is launched, South Korea is prepared to "track its trajectory," said the defense ministry official, who did not want to be named.

"There are concerns that parts of the rocket may fall within South Korean territory," he said. "If that were to happen it would threaten lives and cause damage to the economy. To guard against that, they (the military) will be tracking the orbit."
The official did not say what steps South Korea would be forced to take if it determined the rocket was falling within its territory.

The rocket was moved to a launch pad in the northeastern portion of Dongchang-ri, a village in northwest North Korea, the official said.

North Korea says it has a right to a peaceful space program and has invited international space experts and journalists to witness the launch. Prior to Obama's speech, Pyongyang said it will see any critical statement of its nuclear program as "a declaration of war."

Using ballistic missile technology is in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 and against a deal struck with the United States earlier this month that it would not carry out nuclear or missile tests in return for food aid.
"There will be no rewards for provocations. Those days are over," Obama said in his speech. "To the leaders of Pyongyang I say, this is the choice before you. This is the decision that you must make. Today we say, Pyongyang, have the courage to pursue peace and give a better life to the people of North Korea."

The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency's director general, Yukiya Amano, said that the U.S.-North Korea deal is "not over" despite Pyongyang's plans to test fire a rocket.
"We have established contact at a working level, and they are keeping contact with the North Korean mission in Vienna," Amano said. "Nothing has been decided yet."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nuclear powered drone tech shelved ...

Secret Drone Technology Barred by “Political Conditions”
March 22nd, 2012 by Steven Aftergood

A certain technology that could extend the mission duration and capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was favorably assessed last year by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. But they concluded regretfully that “current political conditions will not allow use of the results.”

The assessment was carried out to explore the feasibility of next generation UAVs. The objective was “to increase UAV sortie duration from days to months while increasing available electrical power at least two-fold,” according to a June 2011 Sandia project summary.

And that objective could have been achieved by means of the unidentified technology, which “would have provided system performance unparalleled by other existing technologies,” the project summary said.

“As a result of this effort, UAVs were to be able to provide far more surveillance time and intelligence information while reducing the high cost of support activities. This technology was intended to create unmatched global capabilities to observe and preempt terrorist and weapon of mass destruction (WMD) activities.”

But it was all for nought.

“Unfortunately, none of the results will be used in the near-term or mid-term future,” the project summary stated. “It was disappointing to all that the political realities would not allow use of the results.”

Not only that, but “none of the results can be shared openly with the public due to national security constraints.”

On close reading, it seems clear that the Sandia-Northrop project contemplated the use of nuclear technology for onboard power and propulsion.

The project summary, which refers to “propulsion and power technologies that [go] well beyond existing hydrocarbon technologies,” does not actually use the word “nuclear.” But with unmistakable references to “safeguards,” “decommissioning and disposal,” and those unfavorable “political conditions,” there is little doubt about the topic under discussion.

Furthermore, the project’s lead investigator at Sandia, the aptly named Dr. Steven B. Dron, is a specialist in nuclear propulsion, among other things. He co-chaired a session at the 2008 Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion at the University of New Mexico.

Interestingly, opposition to flying nuclear power sources in this case was internalized without needing to be expressed, and the authors were self-deterred from pursuing their own proposals. “The results will not be applied/implemented,” they stated flatly.

Meanwhile, integration of (conventional) unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System will proceed, as mandated by Congress. On March 6, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a request for public comments on the pending designation of six UAS test sites around the country.

Last month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and other public interest organizations petitioned the FAA “to conduct a rulemaking to address the threat to privacy and civil liberties that will result from the deployment of aerial drones within the United States.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

F-16 or an A-10 crashes in South Korea - clear as mud.

FOX NEWS GUNSAN, South Korea - A US military F-16 jet crashed in southern South Korea on Wednesday during a training mission but its pilot ejected to safety, US authorities said.

The plane crashed into a rice paddy around noon local time near a US air base in the western port city of Gunsan, the US military said in a statement.
"The [lone] pilot safely ejected before the plane crashed. Emergency response teams are on scene at this time," it said.

There were no casualties or serious damage on the ground, a US Air Force spokesman said, adding details would be released later.

A local fire station officer in Seocheon county near Gunsan said previously the pilot was injured and taken away by ambulance. The officer had identified the aircraft involved as an A-10 tank buster.

The crash came as South Korean and US troops stage an annual joint military exercise, called Foal Eagle, from March 1 to April 30. It was unclear if the F-16 was involved in the drill.

Read more:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

bin Laden plotted to kill Obama

BBC: Osama bin Laden was plotting to kill US President Barack Obama, US media reports say.

The plans are said to be in papers found in the compound in Abbottabad where the al-Qaeda leader was killed by US special forces last year.

Bin Laden asked deputies to plan an attack against an aircraft carrying Mr Obama and General David Petraeus.

He said the killing would throw the US into crisis, as Vice President Biden was "totally unprepared" to take over.

The documents were seen by the Washington Post. There is growing anticipation in the US over government plans to publish all the papers seized at the compound when it was raided in May 2011.

Laptops, notepads and computer hard drives were also taken.

Bin Laden asked one of his deputies, Ilyas Kashmiri, to start preparing the attack.

"Please ask brother Ilyas to send me the steps he has taken into that work," he wrote in a 48-page note.

The US media says intelligence officials believe it is unlikely that al-Qaeda had the capacity to launch such an attack in the US, and have not seen evidence of any preparations.

Kashmiri was killed in a US air attack a month after the death of Bin Laden.

In his 48-page note Bin Laden called on al-Qaeda operatives to move away from the Pakistani tribal areas because of the constant attacks by US remotely-controlled planes.

He also debated changing al-Qaeda's name, because US officials "have largely stopped using the phrase 'the war on terror' in the context of not wanting to provoke Muslims", he said.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Phoenix flash - not identified.

PHOENIX - A large, fleeting flash of light that appeared in the darkened skies over the northwestern edge of metropolitan Phoenix remains a mystery.

The ball of light that looked like an explosion was captured by a traffic camera on Interstate 17 around 4:45 a.m. Thursday and happened to be broadcast by KSAZ-TV when the station showed footage of the roadway during a report on the morning's commute.

The two electric utilities that serve metro Phoenix say they didn't have any reports of electric transformer explosions that might explain the flash.

Damon Gross, a spokesman for Arizona Public Service, says a blown fuse on a transformer can produce a flash, but he said the utility had no such report Thursday morning.
"It's a mystery to us as well. I can't even offer a guess," said Doug Nintzel, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Charlotte Dewey, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Phoenix, says there was no weather activity that might explain the flash.
Messages left for officials at nearby Luke Air Force Base weren't immediately returned Friday afternoon.

KSAZ is asking viewers to come forward if they have any information about the mysterious flash.
In 1997, dozens of people saw lights in a V-formation over Phoenix, a mystery that was captured on videotape and spurred calls for a government investigation.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Iron Dome protecing Israel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- There's a new distinction in the strife between Israel and Gaza-based armed groups -- Israel's portable anti-rocket system called the Iron Dome.
With the ability to effectively take down mid-range rockets targeted at Israeli cities, and with a success rate of over 90%, the system is helping Israel offset the most widespread threat to its citizens in recent years, according to Israeli officials.

Thirty-seven rockets fired out of Gaza towards Israeli cities have been intercepted since Friday, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.
"I must point out that the Iron Dome system has proven itself very well and we will, of course, see to its expansion in the months and years ahead. We will do everything in our power to expand the deployment of this system," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at his cabinet meeting.

Casualties mount in attacks between Gaza, Israel
First deployed in April 2011, the Iron Dome system targets incoming rockets it identifies as possible threats to city centers and fires an interceptor missile to destroy them in mid-air. Each battery is equipped with an interception management center to calculate the expected location of impact, and to prioritize targets according to pre-defined targets. The battery also has firing-control radar used to identify targets, and a portable missile launcher.

The makers of the system praise its mobility, with just a few hours required to relocate and set up, thereby enabling the Israeli military to adjust itself on multiple fronts. Israeli officials say although the system currently is deployed near three major cities in the south of Israel, it is capable of handling missile threats in other fronts if needed.

But such protection comes at a price.
Developed by Israel's defense technology company Rafael, the system carries an the estimated cost for each battery of tens of millions of dollars. Each "Tamir" interception missile used by the system comes at a price of no less than $62,000.

While the initial development of the system was a sole Israeli enterprise, the system is now heavily sponsored by the United States. In May of 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a plan to allocate $205 million for Israel's Iron Dome system.

Israel currently has three Iron Dome batteries and is scheduled to receive a fourth in the coming months. According to Israeli media, Israel plans to deploy a total of nine batteries by 2013.

A defense ministry official told CNN that Israel would need up to 13 batteries to completely cover all its borders.
But how important is the Iron Dome for Israel? According to former Israeli ambassador to the United States Dore Gold, the Iron Dome system could potentially be a real game-changer.

"The most important question is how would the Iron Dome affect the decisions of Hamas leaders and their Iranian supporters? While Hamas rockets are aimed primarily to target civilians and terrorize the Israeli home front, a secondary and just important aim is to hit strategic sites in the future. Eliminating the ability to hit strategic targets may lead Hamas to rethink the efficiency of acquiring the rockets it has used in the past," Gold said.

Visiting an Iron Dome battery Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave an insight into the broader advantages of defensive skills.
"This system is part of a wider multi-layer interception system, which not only protects our citizens but also allows freedom of activity for the IDF and political leadership. This is crucial as we face threats from all around us," Barak said.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Contract pilot/retired Top-gun/blogger flying Israeli F-21 Kfir - dies in crash.

LAS VEGAS — Authorities say a contract pilot killed in the crash of an Israeli-made military jet in Nevada was a retired Navy captain, former Top Gun fighter school instructor and military blogger originally from Alexandria, Va.

The Navy Times reported that Carroll LeFon was killed in the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday crash of the Airborne Tactical Advantage Co. F-21 Kfir (kuh-FEER) aircraft at Fallon Naval Air Station east of Reno.

The 51-year-old LeFon's death was marked Thursday by memorial entries on a Web page where he blogged under the name Neptunus Lex.

An official with ATAC in Newport News, Va., declined comment pending the release of a company statement.

The cause of the crash is being investigated.

A base spokesman in Fallon had reported snow and fog at the time.

War with China would start with a cyber-attack.

By Ellen Nakashima
For a decade or more, Chinese military officials have talked about conducting warfare in cyberspace, but in recent years they have progressed to testing attack capabilities during exercises, according to a congressional report to be released Thursday.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) probably would target transportation and logistics networks before an actual conflict to try to delay or disrupt the United States’ ability to fight, according to the report prepared by Northrop Grumman for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The Chinese military conducted an exercise in October involving “joint information offensive and defensive operations” and another in 2010 featuring attacks on communications command-and-control systems, according to the commission, which was set up by Congress.

Such exercises, combined with evidence that China is streamlining its forces to integrate cyber and electronic warfare and is financing research in the two areas, show that “Chinese capabilities in computer network operations have advanced sufficiently to pose genuine risk to U.S. military operations in the event of a conflict,” the report asserted.

Although the report provides no evidence that China can launch destructive attacks on U.S. targets, it serves as yet another warning to policymakers and the public that the United States has adversaries intent on catching up to, or surpassing, it in cyber capabilities. The report comes as Congress considers major cybersecurity legislation.

“The United States suffers from continual cyber operations sanctioned or tolerated by the Chinese government,” Dennis Shea, the commission chairman, said in a news release.

“Our nation’s national and economic security are threatened, and as the Chinese government funds research to improve its advanced cyber capabilities these threats will continue to grow,” he added.

The exercises are an indication that the Chinese “are beginning to practice a capability that some senior U.S. officials say makes them near-peers,” said James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

What that suggests, he said, is that because the United States’ war-fighting capability depends heavily on information technology, “if we get into any kind of a conflict with the PLA, cyber will be their opening move.”

The report was researched in the United States and drew largely on published materials.

American officials have stated that the Chinese have penetrated the U.S. electric grid and that they have gained access to U.S. government and corporate networks.

Leveraging such access, “the PLA may target a combination of networks” in the Pacific Command area, including those focused on logistics and, potentially, transportation, the report asserted.

The report states that the United States lacks a policy to determine appropriate responses to a large-scale cyberattack on U.S. military or civilian networks in the event that the attacker’s identity cannot be conclusively determined.

“Beijing, understanding this, may seek to exploit this gray area in U.S. policymaking and legal frameworks to create delays in U.S. command decision-making,” the report said.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WIRED: Pentagon helped F-35 cheat on exam?

WIRED: It seemed like a promising step for America’s next stealth fighter: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter passed a key Pentagon test of its combat capability. But it turns out that the family of jets cleared the mid-February exam only because its proctor agreed to inflate its grade. In essence, the military helped the F-35 cheat on its midterms.

The collusion between the Pentagon testing body, known as the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), and the F-35 program — first reported by Inside Defense — confirmed that the U.S.’ most expensive warplane met previously established performance criteria. Specifically, the review was meant to show that the jet can fly as far and take off as quickly as combat commanders say they need it to.

But the review council, which includes the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, eased the standard flying profile of the Air Force’s F-35A model — thereby giving it a range boost of 30 miles. And it tacked an additional 50 feet onto the required takeoff distance for the Marines’ F-35B version, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just took off budgetary probation.

The grade inflation comes at a critical time for the new warplane. The military’s new five-year budgeting blueprint, also released in February, cut more than 100 existing Air Force fighters while leaving intact plans to produce nearly 2,500 F-35s — essentially doubling down on the new plane despite a recent report listing 13 serious design flaws. The total cost to buy and fly the full fleet of F-35s over 50 years is estimated at around $1 trillion, once inflation is factored in, making it the costliest defense program in human history.

In fairness, it’s not unknown for capability standards, also known as “Key Performance Parameters,” to shift during a weapon’s development. But the shifts usually reflect the evolving needs of the military or some change in the operational environment, such as a likely enemy tweaking its own defense plans. In this case, the JROC gave the F-35 a pass that was apparently designed so the over-weight, over-budget, long-delayed stealth fighter could avoid yet another embarrassing scandal.

Citing earlier efforts to boost the Joint Strike Fighter’s image, defense analyst Winslow Wheeler accused the Pentagon of “putting lipstick on the pig.” That’s an apt characterization of recent moves by the Pentagon’s F-35 boosters

Anonymous: leaked e-mails suggest bin Laden was not buried at sea.

Huffington Post:

Osama Bin Laden was reportedly buried in the waters of the north Arabian sea, but internal emails from intelligence service Stratfor, obtained by hacker group Anonymous and posted by WikiLeaks suggest otherwise.

According to official accounts, he was wrapped in a sheet and “eased” off the decks of the U.S.S Carl Vinson just hours after he was killed on May 2 in a United States-led operation, in accordance with Muslim tradition.

But a leaked email from Stratfor vice president for intelligence Fred Burton, sent on 2 May 2011, at 5.26am states: “Reportedly, we took the body with us. Thank goodness.”

A subsequent email on the same day at 5.51am states: “Body bound for Dover, DE on CIA plane. Than (sic) onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda.”

US forces said Bin Laden was killed in a siege at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on 2 May 2011, just after 1am local time.

At 6.26am Burton wrote: “If body dumped at sea, which I doubt, the touch is very Adolph Eichman like. The Tribe did the same thing with the Nazi's ashes. We would want to photograph, DNA, fingerprint, etc.

“His body is a crime scene and I don't see the FBI nor DOJ letting that happen.”

The reference to Eichmann regards the cremation of the Nazi’s body following his capture, trial and execution, in order to prevent any memorial or shrine being built.

Stratfor CEO George Friedman appears to agree, noting: “Eichmann was seen alive for many months on trial before being sentenced to death and executed. No comparison with suddenly burying him at sea without any chance to view him which I doubt happened.”

By 1.36pm Burton writes again: “Body is Dover bound, should be here by now.”

The conversation takes a puzzling turn at 3.11pm, with Burton stating: “Down and dirty done, He already sleeps with the fish…”

A note adds: “It seems to me that by dropping the corpse in the ocean, the body will come back to haunt us… gotta be violating some sort of obscure heathen religious rule that will inflame islam?

"The US Govt needs to make body pics available like the MX’s do, with OBL’s pants pulled down, to shout down the lunatics like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck.”

The exchange casts a mystery over just what happened to the body of the Al Qaeda leader.

The thread of emails - under the heading The Global Intelligence Files - was published by WikiLeaks on 27 February 2012 and contains correspondence dated between July 2004 and late December 2011.

The site states: "They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

"The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods."

The New American reports: “The release of the Stratfor emails will likely revive the debate over just what happened to bin Laden’s body and consequently, whether or not US forces actually killed the terrorist mastermind in the first place.

“Secrecy prior to the raid is understandable; a refusal to produce the key piece of evidence that the raid was successful, on the other hand, is quite curious indeed."

According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, a member of the military “read prepared religious remarks” that were translated into Arabic at the burial ceremony.

The lair where Bin Laden lived in secrecy before the alleged final stand off with US Commandoes was razed to the ground last month.

Bin Laden moved into the three-storey house in 2005 and lived there until it was stormed by Navy Seals in May 2011.

The house was located just half a mile from one of Pakistan’s top army training academies, which caused embarrassment for the country’s intelligence services, AP reported.

US officials say there was no evidence senior Pakistan officials were aware of Bin Laden’s location.

Residents living nearby told the Independent they had thought the building would be turned into a mosque, school or clinic.

Shah Mohammad said: “I think they should build a mosque. If you build a school there, people will just associate it with Bin Laden.”

A source had told the paper demolition was on the cards ahead of the event, adding: “There is an issue, in our culture, of such places becoming shrines.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

USAF limiting F-35 basing ...


The U.S. Air Force has begun reducing the number of bases at which it plans to eventually house the new F-35 in an attempt to reduce the estimated life-cycle cost of the single-engine, stealthy fighter.

Last year, the Pentagon disclosed an estimate of more than $1 trillion to operate the fighter for the next 50 years, raising significant concern from customers, including the U.S. Navy and Air Force. Since then, the services have been working to refine their plans to operate the jet in hopes of curbing operations and sustainment (O&S) cost.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz says the original cost estimate contained more than 40 operating locations for the F-35A, and “We are pressing down on that. We are in the low 30s now.”

Schwartz adds that the initial cost estimate is “of limited value” because it projected so far out into the future – 50 years. Typical cost estimates of this type span fewer years, he notes.

Fewer operating locations could dovetail with the service’s request to conduct new rounds of base closures with a hope of reducing as much as 20% of excess infrastructure being operated by the Air Force.

Meanwhile, Schwartz notes that the service is reviewing its O&S costs with a eye toward cutting costs across its sustainment activities. Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) — when a company is called upon to manage maintenance of a weapon system — is being looked at because it is often very costly. “The model for the F-35 is now largely CLS,” Schwartz says. “That may change.”

Meanwhile, Schwartz says the first F-35A flight at Eglin AFB, Fla., is slated for next week. This is a milestone for the program as nine F-35s have been at the base on the ground awaiting clearance to fly. That clearance was issued by the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center on Feb. 28. Officials there said there were limitations to the flight profile but cited operational security as a reason for not articulating what they are.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Chinese hackers had "full functional control" of NASA


Hackers gained "full functional control" of key Nasa computers in 2011, the agency's inspector general has told US lawmakers.

Paul K Martin said hackers took over Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) computers and "compromised the accounts of the most privileged JPL users".

He said the attack, involving Chinese IP addresses, was under investigation.

In a statement, Nasa said it had "made significant progress to protect the agency's IT systems".

Mr Martin's testimony on Nasa's cybersecurity was submitted to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

In the document, he outlined how investigators believed the attack had involved "Chinese-based internet protocol [IP] addresses".

He said that the attackers had "full system access" and would have been able to "modify, copy, or delete sensitive files" or "upload hacking tools to steal user credentials and compromise other Nasa systems".

Mr Martin outlined how the agency suffered "5,408 computer security incidents" between 2010 and 2011.

He also noted that "between April 2009 and April 2011, Nasa reported the loss or theft of 48 Agency mobile computing devices".

In one incident an unencrypted notebook computer was lost containing details of the algorithms - the mathematical models - used to control the International Space Station.

Nasa told the BBC that "at no point in time have operations of the International Space Station been in jeopardy due to a data breach".

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Talk to me Goose- about Top Gun 2?


Exec: Top Gun 2 Is Real and Stars a Plane That Doesn’t Fly

A Lockheed engineer is probably the last person you'd expect to break the news of a Hollywood mega-blockbuster sequel, but here we go! Flightglobal is reporting Top Gun 2 is not only happening, but starring Tom Cruise (!) as an F-35 pilot. Ha!

The bizarre news, centered around a movie that doesn't even have an IMDB page and a broken airplane, is taking a little bit to process here.

The first question: what will Tom Cruise do? Stand on a runway, staring at his grounded F-35? Will the F-35 be a metaphor for some kind of personal growth? Is the Tom Cruise Lockheed is talking about the same Tom Cruise? Will he fix all of the plane's electrical problems to get the girl?

The film, if it does hit production next month as Tom Burbage, Lockheed Martin F-35 program manager claims, the writers will have an even greater challenge than the plane's engineers—you can only make a defective, trillion-dollar paperweight so exciting.

I can see it now: Maverick is sitting, Four Loko lodged into his beer gut, watching the air war of Libya thunder away, as his F-35 sits outside under a tarp. Fade to black. Begin volleyball scene. Val Kilmer looks better than ever. Chests glistening like so many unused guided bombs. OFFRAMP TO THE SAFETY ZONE


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