Monday, September 17, 2012

Harrier jet squadron leader killed and six AV-8B Harriers damaged in attack

Lt. Col. Chris "Otis" Raible, commanding officer of the jet squadron whose Harrier fleet was decimated last week at Camp Bastion, was among two Yuma Marines killed when insurgents infiltrated the main NATO strategic base in southwestern Afghanistan.
Raible, 40, died early Saturday during an unprecedented breach on the sprawling base in Helmand province that also resulted in the destruction of six AV-8B Harriers and significant damage to two more jets from the unit he commanded, Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211.
Also killed was Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, of Kokomo, Ind. The electrical systems technician served with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing announced Monday.
Both units are part of the airwing headquartered in San Diego at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
In addition to the two deaths, nine other coalition personnel were wounded in the brazen overnight assault on Camp Bastion, according to details released Saturday by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.
Three refueling stations were also destroyed and six aircraft hangars damaged during the attack on both fixed wing and rotor craft, coalition officials said. With each of the six Harrier jets destroyed costing at least $24 million, damages in the attack total well over $144 million.
The deadly rampage on the Bastion flight line left the Marine Corps' relatively small and tight-knit aviation community reeeling with sadness and rage.
Some questioned whether the drawdown of more than half the Marine force in Helmand province over the last year had compromised the security of remaining personnel. The Marine force swelled to about 20,000 during the height of the surge, but has since dropped under presidential order close to 7,000.
Marine airwing commanders vowed to remain steadfast in their combat mission.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, the San Diegan serving as commanding general of the Marine air element in Afghanistan, said "Despite this tragedy, our Marines, sailors and civilians remain focused on the protection of our force and execution of our mission. I ask that you please keep the families of the fallen in your thoughts and prayers."
Brig. Gen. Steven W. Busby, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said: "The deaths of Lt. Col. Chris 'Otis' Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell are a stark reminder of the selfless service and extraordinary sacrifices made by our Marines and Sailors and their families each and every day.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those brave Marines. We will honor their memories and continue to support our Marines and Sailors still in the fight and their loved ones here at home," Busby said.
Raible's Arizona-based squadron, nicknamed “the Avengers,” is the only Marine Harrier unit serving in Afghanistan. After deploying to Afghanistan in April, VMA-211 relocated its fleet of AV-8B Harrier jump jets from Kandahar Airfield to the British-run airfield at Camp Bastion this summer, because of the drawdown and consolidation of Marine forces.
Raible flew the first jet to the base in Helmand province on July 1.

NASA reschedules shuttle ferry

NASA managers have postponed the ferry flight of space shuttle Endeavour to Wednesday, Sept. 19. 

The decision was made to ensure a safe flight for Endeavour and the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. A low pressure front in the northern Gulf of Mexico is generating thunderstorms along the predicted flight path.

Managers will hold another weather briefing at 11 a.m. Tuesday. 
The route of photo-ops is in keeping with the final flights taken by the shuttle Enterprise, which flew by the Statue of Liberty on its way to a New York City museum, and the shuttle Discovery, which buzzed monuments in Washington, D.C., before landing at a Smithsonian annex at Dulles International Airport.
On its trip from Kennedy Space Center, Endeavour will also do fly-bys of NASA facilities that played big roles during the 30-year shuttle program.
Endeavour will leave Kennedy Space Center at sunrise Sept. 19, flying over Florida's Space Coast and then over NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
It will then fly over Houston, Clear Lake and Galveston in Texas before landing at Ellington Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center.
On Sept. 20 the shuttle will head to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso for refueling and conduct low-level flyovers of White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M.
About midday, Endeavour is expected to touch down at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards air base in the Mojave Desert, where it sometimes landed on its own after space missions.

"Models" of secret RQ-170 drone to be exhibited in Iran

Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Monday, Commander of IRGC's Tehran Corps General Seyed Mohsen Kazzemeini said exhibitions will be held on the occasion of the Sacred Defense Week (September 21-28), marking the Iranians' sacrifices during the 8-year-long Iraqi imposed war on Iran in the 1980s. 

He added that models of the US RQ-170 spy drone will be displayed in one of the exhibitions due to be held in Police Park in Northeastern Tehran. 

In February 2012, the IRGC displayed a model of the United States' RQ-170 spy plane, that was "downed"  by the country's Armed Forces in December (actually in crashed) after violating the Iranian airspace, during the February 11 rallies - marking the 33rd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. 

A model has been built by the aerospace unit of the IRGC and was displayed during the pro-government rallies in Tehran at the time. 

Iran announced on December 4 that its defense forces had downed the aircraft (yeah right) through a sophisticated cyber attack. 

Protests continue over stupid online film

(CNN) -- Protests sparked by an online film that mocks Islam's holy prophet entered a second week Monday, raising questions about whether the furor is isolated or a sign of broader anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

On Monday, demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Lebanon. Answering a call from the leader of the Hezbollah -- deemed a terrorist organization by the United States -- thousands packed the streets of Beirut's southern suburbs and chanted "Death to America!"

The largely peaceful crowd waved the yellow flag of Hezbollah and carried posters that read, "No to the insulting of the prophet."

"Prophet Mohammed is our commander," they chanted. "Down with Zionism."

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for fresh protests Monday over the video, which he described as "a dangerous turn in the war against Islam and the great prophet."

Earlier in the day in Afghanistan, hundreds of demonstrators attacked police officers along a road leading to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In neighboring Pakistan, at least one person was killed Monday when protesters clashed with police in an anti-American demonstration in the tribal region along the Afghan border.

And in Indonesia, protesters threw rocks and used slingshots to launch marbles at riot police outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Police responded with tear gas.

The United States has made it clear that it did not sanction the low-budget, amateurish 14-minute movie trailer posted on YouTube and produced privately in the United States. The clip, which has been banned by YouTube in several countries, mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.

The film clip was relatively unheard of until last Tuesday, when protesters upset about it attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The same day, rioters breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, although there were no casualties.

Islam forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is taboo among many in the Muslim world.

Since last Tuesday, protests have spread to more than 20 nations, and the United States has increased security at its embassies and consulates worldwide.

The demonstrations are part of the turbulence that is inevitable in a region that has undergone tremendous change over the past year, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told CNN on Sunday."It's a change that the United States has backed because we understand that when democracy takes root, when human rights and people's freedom of expression can be manifested, it may lead to turbulence in the short term, but over the long term, that is in the interest of the United States," she said.

Rice described the mobs outside U.S. embassies as a minority. "They're the ones who have largely lost in these emerging democratic processes, and just as the people of these countries are not going to allow their lives to be hijacked by a dictator, they're not going to allow an extremist mob to hijack their future and their freedom," she said.

Libya has taken steps to find and arrest those responsible for last week's deadly consulate attack, arresting dozens over the weekend, according to Libyan officials. The exact number of arrests was unclear. Four others were arrested Thursday.

The United States has also sent FBI agents to the region to investigate the Benghazi attack, which Rice said appears to have been spontaneous.

"We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice told CBS on Sunday. She said "extremist elements" joined in a violent protest outside the consulate that had been "sparked by this hateful video."

While U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters over the weekend that the worst of the violence appeared to be over, the United States was tightening security measures anyway.

Nonessential personnel were ordered to leave the American diplomatic missions in Sudan, Tunisia and Libya. In Yemen, consular services have been suspended until the end of the month. And on Monday, the U.S. State Department -- citing "current safety and security concerns" -- urged U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon.

But the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the scene of five consecutive days of protests, returned to full staffing Sunday, the U.S. State Department said.

Despite U.S. officials' condemnation of the video, some Muslims do not accept that it could have been produced without Washington's approval, one analyst said.

That is particularly true for people raised in countries whose governments must authorize any film production, Council of Foreign Relations scholar Ed Husain said.

The movie trailer was privately produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California man on probation for bank fraud.

Reports that Nakoula, who initially told The Wall Street Journal he was an Israeli, is a Coptic Christian have raised concern about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt, where tensions between Copts and Muslims have risen in recent years.

Reports that Nakoula is a Coptic Christian have raised concern about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt, where tensions between Copts and Muslims have risen in recent years. Nakoula initially told The Wall Street Journal he was an Israeli.

Muslim and Coptic leaders were scheduled to hold a joint news conference Monday in Los Angeles to condemn the violence.

Google India has blocked access to the video, India's external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Sunday in a statement.

Japan & US agree on new missile defense system

Published: Yesterday

TOKYO (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to put a second defense system in Japan aimed at protecting the country from the threat of a missile attack from North Korea.

The exact location of the radar installation has not yet been determined. It will be in the south, U.S. officials said, but not in Okinawa.

Officials stressed that the system would be aimed at protecting the region against the threat from North Korea and is not directed at China.

The U.S. already has similar early warning radar systems on ships in the Asia-Pacific.
This second Japan-based system will allow the U.S. vessels to spread out and cover other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

Panetta said the new installation would also be effective in protecting the U.S. homeland from a North Korea threat. He spoke during a press conference in Tokyo with the Japanese defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto.

Morimoto said it would not be appropriate at this time to specify a location for the new radar, and said a date for its deployment has not yet been set.
While officials insisted the radar system would not be aimed at China, the decision was sure to raise the ire of Beijing.

The radar will "enhance our ability to defend Japan," Panetta said, adding that he would talk to Chinese leaders about the system to assure them that this about protecting the U.S. and the region from North Korea's missile threat.

"We have made these concerns clear to the Chinese," he said. "For that reason ... we believe it is very important to move ahead" with the radar system.

Japan has worked closely with the U.S. for several years on missile defense, and has both land- and sea-based missile launchers.

North Korea's ballistic missiles are considered a threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region because of the risk of conflict erupting on the divided and heavily militarized Korean peninsula, and because of the secretive North's nuclear weapons program.
The long-range rockets it is developing have been test-fired over Japan and could potentially reach the U.S.
The North conducted its latest long-range rocket launch in April, defying a U.N. ban. Pyongyang said the launch was intended to send an observation satellite into space but it drew international condemnation as the rocket technology is similar to that used for ballistic missiles.
The launch was a failure and the rocket disintegrated shortly after takeoff.
Panetta is on his third trip to Asia in 11 months, reflecting the Pentagon's ongoing shift to put more military focus on the Asia-Pacific.

The defense chief is urging countries involved in territorial disputes in the region to find a way to peacefully resolve those problems before they spark provocations and violence.
Panetta's visit to Japan also included discussions with Morimoto about the deployment of V-22 Ospreys to the southwestern island of Okinawa. Tens of thousands of people have protested the hybrid aircraft's planned use, saying they are unsafe.

The U.S. had hoped to have the aircraft in place as early as next month, but Morimoto said no specific date has been set on that matter, either.
The Pentagon plans to deploy 12 of the aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like a plane. U.S. officials have assured Japanese leaders the Ospreys are safe.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin