Friday, August 30, 2013

Marines forward deployed to support Obama's possible strike at Syria

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Marines in the Middle East, Africa and Europe are poised to reach Syria within hours should President Obama order a strike on the country as officials work to determine whether the government there was involved in a chemical weapons attack against its own people.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told BBC television Tuesday that the Defense Department has “moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take.”

NAVY TIMES: The Marine Corps has units forward-deployed to the region to deal specifically with crisis response missions, said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon. But so far, none have been directed to prepare for a specific mission or deployment, he said.

The various units are there for this type of reason, Flanagan added, and they include the following capabilities:

26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. MEUs typically number about 2,200 Marines and sailors. They operate at sea from Navy amphibious ships and carry infantry, aviation and logistics capabilities. The 26th MEU is distributed among the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, the amphibious transport dock San Antonio and the amphibious dock landing ship Carter Hall. The Kearsarge is in the United Arab Emirates, southeast of Syria. The Carter Hall was in the Seychelles, off the coast of Africa. And the San Antonio, is in the Gulf of Aden, just south of Syria.

Special-Purpose Marine air-ground task force Crisis Response. The Corps’ newest type of unit, the Special-Purpose MAGTF operates like a smaller-sized MEU, but is based on land and operates largely independent of the Navy. The Crisis Response Force deployed to the region is made up of about 550 Marines. Most of the Marines are at MorĂ³n Air Base in Spain. A small detachment is based at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. The force is built around a reinforced rifle company and is supported by six MV-22B Ospreys and two KC-130J aerial refuelers.

Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Teams. The Marine Corps has four FAST teams deployed to the region — two in U.S. Africa Command and two in Europe Command, Flanagan said. Typically used to respond to threats to embassy security, FAST teams are made up of about 50 Marines who can be called up by combatant commanders in the region to protect vital naval and national assets.

13th MEU. Marines and sailors with the 13th MEU departed from California on Friday. They are headed to the Middle East and North Africa for a six month deployment.

Also in the region are members of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234. Members of VMGR-234 deployed to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in June. The Marines have been tasked with refueling not only U.S. aircraft, but also aircraft from allied countries, according to a Marine Corps news release. The squadron recently took part in aerial refueling missions to provide fuel in the air for the Moroccan air force.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Snowden leaks $53B Black Budget details

ABC: Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents providing the most detail yet about how the vast U.S. intelligence community uses its nearly $53 billion so-called "black budget," according to a report by The Washington Post.
Today the Post published several stories and statistics based on the U.S. intelligence agencies' 2013 Congressional Budget Justification, a classified document that breaks down how much money goes to which agency and, to a certain extent, what those agencies do with the funds. The newspaper reported Snowden was the source of the document. Prior to the leak, only the total budget was public knowledge.
Though the newspaper published graphs and pie charts tracking the spending of each of the intelligence community's 16 agencies, it said withheld "some information after consultation with U.S. officials who expressed concerns about the risk to intelligence sources and methods."
According to the Post, the budget document reveals that the CIA receives the most funding of any intelligence agency with a proposed $14.7 billion for 2013 -- $11.5 billion on data collection expenses, $1.8 billion on management, facilities and support, $1.1 billion on data analysis and $387.3 million on data processing and exploitation.
Next up is the National Security Agency, for whom Snowden worked as a contractor, which spends almost as much on management, facilities and support -- $5.2 billion -- as it does on collecting, processing and analyzing data -- $5.6 billion.
Together the documents reportedly reveal NSA and CIA have launched aggressive "offensive cyber operations" to steal information from foreign computer networks or disrupt enemy systems.
But of all the broad missions the intelligence community undertakes, the one that is the most costly -- more than counter-terrorism or combating weapons proliferation -- is that of providing strategic intelligence and warning for major world events including a region or state's "economic instability, state failure, societal unrest and emergence of regional powers."
Another highlight from the documents, according to the Post, is that the U.S. intelligence community considers Israel a "priority target" along with China, Russia, Iran and Cuba.
The documents also filled in some details about the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Post reported the raid was assisted by a "fleet of satellites" which collected signals intelligence over Pakistan as the mission was ongoing. The documents also say the U.S. got a DNA confirmation that the man they had killed was bin Laden just eight hours after the raid concluded.
Snowden, the source behind the most massive intelligence leak in U.S. history, is in Russia three months after the 30-year-old fled Hawaii for Hong Kong with a trove of secrets he allegedly stole from the NSA and turned over to several journalists including one from The Washington Post.
Ever since there has been a steady stream of reporting on activities the U.S. government would prefer to keep secret, including details of its vast foreign and domestic surveillance programs, the role that major telecommunications companies play in the programs, the CIA's penchant for spying on government officials from foreign nations and, most recently, just how much this is all costing American taxpayers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MV-22 makes hard landing in Nevada

A Marine Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft made a hard landing Monday near Creech Air Force Base during a routine training operation, Air Force and Marine officials said Monday.
No injuries were reported during the 3:38 p.m. incident involving the MV-22 Osprey assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
“There were four crew members and all four walked away from the aircraft,” said Marine Capt. Anton Semelroth, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
A map from Clark County fire officials indicates the Osprey landed on public land about 3 miles northwest of the base along U.S. Highway 95 near Indian Springs, about 48 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Base officials, however, had not confirmed the hard-landing location at 7:15 p.m.

MV-22 Ospreys can make vertical takeoffs and landings but their twin turboprops can be shifted into horizontal positions so the aircraft can fly like a fixed-wing plane.
Semelroth said no damage estimate was available for the Osprey involved in Monday’s hard landing. In 2008, the MV-22 was priced at $67 million per aircraft.

Syrian airports - most likely first cruise missile targets

The idea for the surgical strikes was set out by Chris Harmer, an analyst at the US Institute for the Study of War, who argued it was possible to keep an attack against the Assad regime short and sharp and cost-efficient, while avoiding significant risk to US servicemen.
Since those were precisely the factors that had paralysed the US as the Syrian crisis has unfolded during the past 30 months, it has been eagerly seized on.
Senator John McCain, a critic of President Barack Obama's apparent inaction in Syria, said Mr Harmer's analysis "confirms what I and many others have long argued - that it is militarily feasible for the US and our friends and allies to significantly degrade Assad's air power at relatively low cost, low risk to our personnel, and in very short order".
The study indicates the Syrian Air Force regularly conducts three missions which give it a strategic advantage over rebel forces: it brings weapons and other supplies from Iran and Russia, it resupplies army units fighting the rebels, and it has been involved in the bombing of rebel-held districts.

"An initial strike would require just three US navy surface combatant vessels and 24 total US navy and USAF aircraft," Mr Harmer said.
"A limited strike resulting in the degradation of Syrian Air Force infrastructure could be accomplished with no US military personnel entering Syrian air space or territory, at relatively small cost."
Six of Syria's 27 airbases would be primary targets: Damascus International (which also takes civilian traffic), Damascus Mezzeh military base, al-Qusayr, Bassel al-Assad International, Dumayr and Tiyas. The plan would be to damage runways, fuel storage plants, maintenance hangars and control towers and radars.
Cruise missiles were not designed for all-out destruction, he said, but could crater runways, thus putting them out of action. It would also hinder Russian cargo aircraft trying to land with weapons or ammunition, and Iranian transporters bringing in fighters.
A typical initial sortie, Mr Harmer calculated, would entail eight cruise missiles fired from each of three naval vessels, backed up by 24 strike fighters.
Mr Harmer was nervous yesterday that his analysis was being talked up by military planners who are anxious to give an Allied strike a modest flavour.
"Tactical action in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counter-productive," he told the US foreign policy blog The Cable.

NY Times - Twitter hacked by Syria?

By Gerry Shih and Joseph Menn
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Media companies, including the New York Times, Twitter and the Huffington Post, lost control of some of their websites Tuesday after hackers supporting the Syrian government breached the Australian Internet company that manages many major site addresses.
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a hacker group that has attacked media organizations it considers hostile to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, claimed credit for the Twitter and Huffington Post hacks in a series of Twitter messages.
Security experts said electronic records showed that, the only site with an hours-long outage, redirected visitors to a server controlled by the Syrian group before it went dark.
New York Times Co spokeswoman Eileen Murphy tweeted the "issue is most likely the result of a malicious external attack", based on an initial assessment.
The Huffington Post attack was limited to the blogging platform's British web address. Twitter said the hack led to availability issues for 90 minutes but that no user information was compromised.
The attacks came as the Obama administration considers taking military action against the Syrian government, engaged in a civil war against rebels for more than two years.
In August, hackers promoting the Syrian Electronic Army targeted websites belonging to CNN, Time and the Washington Post by breaching a third party service used by those sites.
The SEA managed to gain control of the sites by penetrating MelbourneIT, an Australian Internet service provider that sells and manages domain names including and NYTimes.
The New York Times, which identified MelbourneIT as its domain name registrar and the main hacking victim, told employees not to send sensitive emails from corporate accounts.
MelbourneIT tracked the breach to an Indian Internet service provider, saying two staff members from one of their resellers opened a fake email seeking login details.
"The SEA went after the company specifically to create a high-profile event," CEO Theo Hnarakis told Reuters. "This was quite a sophisticated attack."
One staff member was the direct manager of the NYTimes domain, along with other media companies and had the login and password information of the company in his email, which the hackers accessed.
Hnarakis confirmed that other media organizations were also attacked, but this proved unsuccessful as their customers used a secondary security measure known as a registry lock.
MelbourneIT said it restored the correct domain name settings, changed the password on the compromised account, and locked the records to prevent further alterations.
Twitter did not respond to requests for comment. In a blog post, the company said "it appears DNS (domain name system) records for various organizations were modified, including one of Twitter's domains used for image serving, Viewing of images and photos was sporadically impacted.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

U.S. war machine cranking up in response to Syria's gas attacks - Syria warns US

CBS NEWS: U.S. naval forces are moving closer to Syria as President Obama considers military options for responding to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government.

The president emphasized that a quick intervention in the Syrian civil war was problematic, given the international considerations that should precede a military strike.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to discuss any specific force movements while saying that Mr. Obama had asked the Pentagon to prepare military options for Syria.

The Pentagon has dispatched into the eastern Mediterranean a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles capable of striking Syrian targets.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported Friday that the Pentagon is making the initial preparations for a cruise-missile attack on Syrian government forces. Such an attack wouldn't happen until the president gives the green light, and it was clear during an interview on CNN Friday that he is not there yet.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey is expected to present options for a strike at a White House meeting on Saturday, Martin reported.

On Saturday, a White House official said Mr. Obama would "make an informed decision" about the U.S. response to Wednesday's attack "once we ascertain the facts."

The official referred to the president directing the U.S. intelligence community Thursday to investigate the attack because of the alleged use of chemical weapons.

"We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we're making decisions consistent with our national interest as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria," the official said Saturday.

U.S. Navy ships are capable of a variety of military action, including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as they did against Libya in 2011 as part of an international action that led to the overthrow of the Libyan government.

"The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options — whatever options the president might choose," Hagel told reporters traveling with him to Asia.

Hagel said the U.S. is coordinating with the international community to determine "what exactly did happen" near Damascus earlier this week. According to reports, a chemical attack in a suburb of the capital killed at least 1,000 people. It would be the most heinous use of chemical weapons since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in the town of Halabja in 1988.


The Syrian government accused rebels of using chemical weapons Saturday and warned the United States not to launch any military action against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack last week, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze.

The accusations by the regime of President Bashar Assad against opposition forces came as an international aid group said it has tallied 355 deaths from a purported chemical weapons attack on Wednesday in a suburb of the Syrian capital known as Ghouta.

Syria is intertwined in alliances with Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militant groups. The country also borders its longtime foe and U.S. ally Israel, making the fallout from military action unpredictable.

Violence in Syria has already spilled over the past year to Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters have joined the combat alongside Assad's forces.

Meanwhile, U.S. naval units are moving closer to Syria as President Barack Obama considers a military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad's government.

U.S. defense officials told The Associated Press that the Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss ship movements publicly.

Obama emphasized that a quick intervention in the Syrian civil war was problematic, given the international considerations that should precede a military strike.

After Obama met with his national security team Saturday, the White House said U.S. intelligence officials are still trying to determine whether Assad's government unleashed the chemical weapons attack earlier this week.

The White House statement said Obama received a detailed review of the range of options he has requested for the U.S. and the international community to respond if it is determined that Assad has engaged in deadly chemical warfare.

Syria's Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi dismissed the possibility of an American attack, warning that such a move would risk triggering more violence in the region.

"The basic repercussion would be a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East," al-Zoubi said in an interview with Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV. "An attack on Syria would be no easy trip."

In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Abbas Arakji, warned that an American military intervention in Syria will "complicate matters."

"Sending warships will not solve the problems but will worsen the situation," Arakji said in comments carried by Iran's Arabic-language TV Al-Alam. He added that any such U.S. move does not have international backing and that Iran "rejects military solutions."

In France, Doctors Without Borders said three hospitals it supports in the eastern Damascus region reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours on Wednesday morning, when the attack in the eastern Ghouta area took place.

Of those, 355 died, the Paris-based group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that its estimated death toll from the alleged chemical attack had reached 322, including 54 children, 82 women and dozens of fighters. It said the dead included 16 people who have not been identified.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ellsworth B-1Bs cleared to fly - airspace over crash site still restricted

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Flights were resuming out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota on Thursday, three days after a B-1B bomber crashed in a remote area of southeastern Montana, an Air Force official said.

Two pilots and two weapons system officers safely ejected Monday morning before the South Dakota-based bomber crashed near Broadus, in southeastern Montana.Col. Brooks McFarland, commander of the 28th Maintenance Group, said the cause of the crash remains under investigation. He said crews at Ellsworth have carefully inspected all of the B-1Bs for airworthiness before releasing them to fly.

Col. Kevin Kennedy, commander of the 28th Bomb Wing, said the base temporarily shut down flights until maintenance and operations group commanders could ensure Kennedy that it was safe to resume normal flying operations. Kennedy said he made the decision Thursday that flights would recommence that day.

“B-1s have continued their missions elsewhere, and I have been in contact with the maintenance leadership of those units,” McFarland said in a statement. “With no evidence of fleet-wide problems, it is important that we resume flying and keep proficient at our primary mission.”

The last time a B-1B was destroyed in a crash was on Dec. 12, 2001, when a bomber involved in the war in Afghanistan slammed into the Indian Ocean near the island of Diego Garcia. In April 2008, an Ellsworth B-1B bomber caught fire after landing at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Aerial photos of Monday’s crash site show a massive charred area of prairie land void of recognizable aircraft parts. Some people who live near the remote locale say the plane broke apart in midair, scattering debris over several miles.

The crew members were taken to Rapid City-area hospitals. They are instructor pilot Maj. Frank Biancardi ll, of Methuen, Mass.; instructor pilot Capt. Curtis Michael, of Albion, Neb.; instructor weapons systems officer Capt. Brandon Packard, of Ashland, Ky.; and instructor weapons systems officer Capt. Chad Nishizuka, of Kailua, Hawaii.

Five days later the airspace over the crash area (encompassing a 240 mile area) is still under DOD restrioctions. View the TFR here. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Warning: Windows 8 could provide back door to NSA or the Chinese

According to leaked internal documents from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) that Die Zeit obtained, IT experts figured out that Windows 8, the touch-screen enabled, super-duper, but sales-challenged Microsoft operating system is outright dangerous for data security. 

It allows Microsoft to control the computer remotely through a built-in backdoor. Keys to that backdoor are likely accessible to the NSA – and in an unintended ironic twist, perhaps even to the Chinese.

The backdoor is called “Trusted Computing,” developed and promoted by the Trusted Computing Group, founded a decade ago by the all-American tech companies AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Wave Systems. Its core element is a chip, the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and an operating system designed for it, such as Windows 8. Trusted Computing Group has developed the specifications of how the chip and operating systems work together.

Its purpose is Digital Rights Management and computer security. The system decides what software had been legally obtained and would be allowed to run on the computer, and what software, such as illegal copies or viruses and Trojans, should be disabled. The whole process would be governed by Windows, and through remote access, by Microsoft.

Now there is a new set of specifications out, creatively dubbed TPM 2.0. While TPM allowed users to opt in and out, TPM 2.0 is activated by default when the computer boots up. The user cannot turn it off. Microsoft decides what software can run on the computer, and the user cannot influence it in any way. Windows governs TPM 2.0. And what Microsoft does remotely is not visible to the user. In short, users of Windows 8 with TPM 2.0 surrender control over their machines the moment they turn it on for the first time.

It would be easy for Microsoft or chip manufacturers to pass the backdoor keys to the NSA and allow it to control those computers. NO, Microsoft would never do that, we protest. Alas, Microsoft, as we have learned from the constant flow of revelations, informs the US government of security holes in its products well before it issues fixes so that government agencies take advantage of the holes and get what they’re looking for.

Experts at the BSI, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Federal Administration warned unequivocally against using computers with Windows 8 and TPM 2.0. One of the documents from early 2012 lamented, “Due to the loss of full sovereignty over the information technology, the security objectives of ‘confidentiality’ and ‘integrity’ can no longer be guaranteed.”

Elsewhere, the document warns, “This can have significant consequences on the IT security of the Federal Administration.” And it concludes, “The use of ‘Trusted Computing’ technology in this form … is unacceptable for the Federal Administration and for operators of critical infrastructure.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pentagon slashes F-35 cost estimate by 20 percent

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON | Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:54pm EDT

(Reuters) - The U.S. government has slashed its estimate for the long-term operating costs ofLockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets by more than 20 percent to under $1 trillion, according to a senior defense official, a move that could boost international support for the program.

The Pentagon has been under pressure for over a year to revise its estimate of maintaining a fleet of more than 2,000 F-35s over 55 years, with industry and military officials arguing that many of the assumptions were outdated and off base.

The new estimate of $857 billion could help ensure the new plane turns out to be as affordable as advertised and comes days after South Korea determined that only a bid by Boeing Co for its F-15 Silent Eagle came in below a $7.4 billion price ceiling for its plan to buy 60 new fighter aircraft.

Lockheed's F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon remain in the running, but Boeing's pricing marked a step toward winning the contract, according to sources close to the process. A final decision is expected in mid-September.

It was not immediately clear what impact the lower F-35 operating estimate would have on the South Korean tender, but U.S. officials said Seoul could decide to restart the competition and ask for new bids.

The Pentagon's revision reflects data about the plane's performance based on over 7,000 hours of test flights and revised assumptions about how it will be used and maintained, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The estimate was provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee by the Pentagon's F-35 program chief, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the official said. A revision had been flagged in June when the Pentagon's acquisition chief said he had expected a review to result in lower operating and maintenance costs.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the costliest weapons program in U.S. history. The Pentagon estimates it will cost $392 billion to develop and build 2,443 of the new jets for use by the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Is this the first daylight photo of a bin Laden raid stealth helicopter - or a fabulous fake?

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Every once in awhile I receive photos from various sources. Usually they are of some strange looking fuzzy "UFO" or some other flying thing in the sky that can't be easily identified. Some turn out to be misidentification of known aircraft (maybe seen at a weird angle) or out-and-out hoax.

Sometimes (as it was with the (then) imminent release of Hollywood features such as "Stealth" and "Zero Dark Thirty" a photo of a great looking movie prop makes it's way onto the internet and gets passed around as the real thing.

Hoax photos are fairly easy to debunk - usually due to lack of EXIF data and (or) through examining it in detail in various programs to see if it has been manipulated. Here's a link to an article I did a few years back debunking a supposed alien presence at a CSETI event. LINK

Note: I took a lot of heat for this article - especially from supporters of CSETI - because I'm sure my disclosure cost them some money from some future rubes.

Another recent example of Photoshop fakery (state sponsored even) was when Iran released photos of a multiple missile launch where one missile failed to launch - so they Photoshopped one in and (the artist) did such a poor job that it was laughingly obvious. That botched attempt to portray Iran's military might - became an Internet meme and a laughing stock. LINK HERE

But then - there are those photos that fall in a grey area and cannot be proven or debunked. That is where this photo of a supposed stealth Black Hawk helicopter falls. Don't ask me who took the original photo (or created it) because I do not have that information.

Does it pass the tests? 

It passes the my own set of test criteria in many areas - but not in others.

First there is the EXIF data that shows it was photographed in 2008. Rarely do hoaxed photos have EXIF data attached.

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Second - when (light blasted) the image holds up without any obvious signs of retouching. Also at close inspection the pixel structure holds up.





But where it is "ifie" is in the fact that

It's only one photo.

Who takes one photo? I've always applied this criteria because most people when they see something unusual it's human nature to take more than one photo.

However not being in that moment - in that place, I cannot know the reason why no more photos were taken. There are many reasons only one photo could be taken, maybe there are others that were out of focus - etc  - and who knows - there may be more.

Only time will tell.

But - there are  other things that strike me odd.

It's clearly evident the helicopter is not painted with the special IR reflecting silver paint as was the case with the partially destroyed bin Laden raid helicopter - but since the photo was taken (supposedly) in 2008, that modification could have come later.

There are also no special sickle-shaped blades as most aviation experts speculate is needed to silence a stealth helicopter.

In the suspect photo there are only the standard regular four blades, not five as most speculative drawings show.

Other things that struck me proving it could something (other than real) is it could be an RC model- since there is no sense of scale or one from the Zero Dark Thirty production, since it looks so much like the one in the movie.

(C) Zero Dark Thirty

However again the Zero Dark Thirty version is a five bladed helicopter and the EXIF data (although not empirical) does not support this assumption.

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But then there's my final litmus test, one I apply to every photo I get of questionable origins.

Could I use my Photoshop skills to fake one as well? 

And the answer is - given the time - YES.

So the photo passes and fails - and thusly there is a 50 percent chance it is real and (concurrently) a 50 percent chance it's fake.

In light of this - I'm assuming by posting it, chances are it's not a classified photo - at least until the Feds confirm it by knocking on my door. I'm not holding my breath.

That said - since I don't know without a doubt it is real - I post it here for public review.

A full frame image - as I received it is available HERE to those who'd like to analyze it further.

Post your opinion in the comments please.

-Steve Douglass


UPDATE: As Steve Jobs would say, "One more thing.":

All photos submitted to me without attribution are in themselves suspect and thus probably not real.

Whistle blowers - such as Wikileaks and Edward Snowden have the tendency to crow about their leaks.

But this photo - no one is claiming it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breaking: B-1b bomber crashes in Montana - crew ejects.

EKALAKA - A United State Air Force B-1 bomber crashed on Monday morning in a remote area of southeast Montana but the crew of four escaped with minor injuries.

According a spokesperson with Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota, the crash happened near Broadus in Carter County.

Residents of Ekalaka tell is that the emergency sirens in that town were activated between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. to alert the volunteer fire department of the crash.

The Carter County Sheriff's Office has also confirmed that it is responding to the crash as well.

Ekalaka residents say many neighboring ranchers reported seeing several parachutes deploy from the plane and an explosion before the plane crashed.

Ranchers have told the residents there has been a plume of smoke rising into the sky.

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Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said "We are actively working to ensure the safety of the crew members and have sent first responders to secure the scene and work closely with local authorities at the crash site. "Right now all of our thoughts and prayers are with the crews and their families."

Ellsworth AFB is the home of the 28th Bomb Wing. They maintain and fly 28 B-1 bombers and are home to two of the Air Forces's three B-1 combat squadrons. There are roughly 60 B-1's in the U.S. Air Force fleet.

A Federal Aviation Administration map of temporary flight restrictions (TFR) shows a very large restricted area encompassing corners of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. The closed air space is 240 miles in diameter and extends to an altitude of 23,000 feet. The site says the TFR is in effect until further notice.


The B-1 entered service in 1986 as a successor to the B-52 bomber and is designed to fly at high speeds and low levels in order to avoid radar detection. It is a variable-sweep wing strategic bomber. Only 100 were produced, with 67 still in service.

The bomber is 146 feet long and has a wingspan of 137 feet with the wings extended or 79 feet swept back.

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Aerial photos of the crash show a massive charred area of prairie land void of recognizable aircraft parts.

"No one likes to lose an aircraft. It's bittersweet that we did," Kennedy said during a news conference Monday afternoon. "Luckily, all four air crew are safely recovered."

Ellsworth has 28 of the planes, including the one that crashed, the Air Force said.

Kennedy said Ellsworth has temporarily shut down flights until his maintenance and operations group commanders can ensure that they can safely resume.

Only one part is recognizable as belonging to a B-1B

Thursday, August 15, 2013

North Korean missiles are all show and no go ...

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- Missiles paraded through the streets of Pyongyang in recent displays of North Korean military might --  said to be capable of hitting targets throughout Asia and even in the U.S. -- are incapable of flight and are almost certainly nothing more than fakes, according to U.S. government experts and independent analysts. 
"My opinion is that it's a big hoax," Markus Schiller, an aerospace engineer in Munich and former RAND Corp. military analyst, said of the intercontinental and medium-range missiles displayed in the North Korean capital in April 2012 and again two weeks ago. 
U.S. government experts, having reviewed unclassified images from the most recent parade on July 27, including high-resolution photos provided by NBC News, agreed. “Our assessment is that what we are looking at is most likely simulators used for training purposes,” according to a statement to NBC News.
The experts, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not discuss the methods used to make their determination. 
U.S. and other Western officials have recently expressed concerns over North Korea’s advances in building nuclear weaponry, but many are doubtful that its secretive missile program is capable of delivering such weapons outside a limited area in east Asia. 
“That the guy in charge seems to have been purged is the clearest indication we’ve seen so far that they’re having some problems,” said Alexandre Mansourov, a Korea expert and visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University. 
There also are signs that the missile program may be in disarray, including a failed attempt to launch a satellite in April 2012 and the recent disappearance from public view of Pak To-Ch’un, the Politburo member who managed North Korea's weapons production, including its missiles. 
A spokesman for North Korea's U.N. Mission in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NBC News asked U.S. government experts and independent military analysts, in the U.S. and overseas, to examine high-resolution images of the Musudan medium-range missile and the ICBM, known as the Hwasong-13, taken at the July 27 military parade. 

The consensus: The displayed missiles were built for show, not for flight. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mobile laser breakthrough to be tested at White Sands

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
Boeing Co.’s Directed Energy Systems division in Albuquerque has developed a solid-state laser system that eventually could be used by the U.S. military to destroy IEDs, shoot down rockets and take out drones.
“Our team has shown that we have the necessary power, the beam quality and the efficiency to deliver such a system to the battlefield,” said Michael Rinn, the Directed Energy Systems division’s vice president and program director.
The company said a recent demonstration here of its “thin disk laser system” – which integrates a series of high-power industrial lasers to generate one concentrated, high-energy beam – exceeded the Defense Department’s technical requirements for potential use in weapons systems.
The new system was developed in part through a $6 million contract under the DOD’s Robust Electric Laser Initiative. That program aims to design new solid-state lasers to replace chemical-based ones, which can be more complicated to deploy.
“Chemical lasers involve hard-to-handle chemicals and require cumbersome procedures for soldiers, whereas the ones under development are closed-loop, all-electronic systems, making them more mobile and supportable on the battlefield,” Rinn said.
Boeing will now seek DOD funding to package the laser system into a design that can be mounted on weapons such as a conventional deck gun on a Navy warship.
“This is still lab technology for now, so we hope to get government funding to take it forward,” Rinn said. “It remains to be seen if the Army picks this over other solid-state lasers being developed.”
Rinn said the new system meets the test of achieving high brightness while simultaneously remaining efficient at higher power.
The technology basically combines individual, commercial lasers used by industry to create a much more powerful beam that can be applied for weapon use, Rinn said.
Boeing worked to retain the reliability and efficiency demonstrated in the original laser heads, which run continuously in industrial applications, while increasing the power and improving the beam. The company needed to reach 30 percent electricity-to-laser efficiency.
“We produced a 30 kilowatt laser with 90 kilowatts of electricity,” Rinn said. “Those are the military-utility-class numbers needed, and we achieved it.”

UPS jumbo jet crashes in Alabama

A UPS jumbo cargo plane with at least two people aboard crashed early Wednesday just outside the fence of the Birmingham, Ala., airport, and FAA official confirmed.

A UPS that the plane was a UPS A-300 Airbus, tail number N155UP, with two crew members aboard. The flight originated in Louisville, Ky., and crashed upon its approach in Birmingham. UPS said the crew has not been located.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew," the spokesman said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told The Associated Press that the plane crashed before dawn Wednesday. Debris was still smoldering and the nose of the plane was detached from the body.

Toni Bast, a spokeswoman for Birmingham's airport authority, said the cargo plane crashed near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Bast said the crash site is outside the airport's perimeter fence and has not affected airport operations.

Few other details were immediately available. The plane appears to have crashed in an isolated field and a plume of smoke was seen rising from the site. Teams of emergency crews responded to the crash.

Bergen says she had no information on injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying a Go-Team from Washington, D.C., to investigate the crash.

The scene is about a half-mile north of Runway 18. At 7 a.m. Wednesday, conditions in the area were rainy with low clouds.

Previously, a UPS cargo plane crashed on Sept. 3, 2010, in the United Arab Emirates, just outside Dubai. Both pilots were killed. Authorities there blamed the crash on its load of between 80,000 to 90,000 lithium batteries, which are sensitive to temperature. Investigators found that a fire on board likely began in the cargo containing the batteries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Whistler Blower: After Benghazi - 400 Anti-aircraft missiles end up in terrorists hands

DAILY MAIL: A former U.S. Attorney who represents whistle-blowers with knowledge of what happened when armed militants attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya last year says 400 surface-to-air missiles were 'taken from Libya' during the attack, and that the U.S. intelligence community is terrified they might be used to shoot down airliners.

Joe diGenova, whose wife Victoria Toensing – a former deputy assistant attorney general – also represents Benghazi witnesses and others with knowledge of the terror attack, told WMAL radio that the loss of those missiles is also one the reason the U.S. State Department shut down 19 embassies across the Middle East last week.

'A lot of people have come forward to share information with us,' he said during the radio station's 'Mornings On The Mall' program Monday morning.

'We have learned that one of the reasons the administration is so deeply concerned' is that 'there were 400 surface-to-air missiles stolen, and that they are ... in the hands of many people, and that the biggest fear in the U.S. intelligence community is that one of these missiles will be used to shoot down an airliner. 400 missiles, surface-to-air missiles, taken from Libya.'

Asked if the missiles are now 'in the hands of al-Qaeda operatives,' DiGenova replied, 'That is what these people are telling us.'


Editors note: This isn't exactly new "news." The Washington Post reported this in September of last year: 

BENGHAZI, Libya — The commander of a powerful Libyan militia said Monday that looters had stolen “a large number” of shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from the militia’s base when protesters who called for dismantling the country’s militias overran the compound.
Ismail Salabi, the commander of Rafallah al-Sahati, a powerful Islamist militia in Benghazi, said in an interview that the missiles, used by fighters to “hit airplanes” and known to the U.S. intelligence community as MANPADS (man-portable air-defense systems), were stolen along with 2,000 semiautomatic rifles and ammunition, as the militia withdrew from its base amid a firefight early Saturday.
Saleh Jouda, a member of Libya’s elected General National Congress and the deputy head of national security, said the government did not have any information about stolen weapons aside from “between 1,000 and 2,000 guns.” He said the government had set up new security checkpoints to track down the weapons. But there was no evidence of new checkpoints in Benghazi on Monday.


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