Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Cannon AFB receives its first AC-130J Ghostrider gunship

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – The 27th Special Operations Wing received its first AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, the successor to the AC-130W Stinger II, July 19, 2021.

The arrival of Cannon’s first AC-130J represents a significant expansion of AC-130 capacity as Air Force Special Operations Command structures for the great power competition through global operations. This delivery continues the Air Commando legacy of “Any place, Any Time, Anywhere” and will become part of the 17th Special Operations Squadron which reactivates in October.

The reemergence of great power competition, tightening fiscal constraints, and the accelerating rate of technological change demand significant adjustments to transform AFSOC to ensure Air Commandos are ready to successfully operate in this new environment.

“As we accelerate change in AFSOC to refocus on strategic partners, the 17 SOS is able to leverage the extended range and expanded capability of the AC-130J to be more effective in the Pacific and across great distances,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Drew Saylor, 27th Special Operations Group Detachment 2 commander.

As the premier Air Force Close Air Support platform, the AC-130J is perfectly suited for missions ranging from supporting troops-in-contact, to convoy escort all the way to long range armed interdiction. The AC-130J provides Special Operations Forces and conventional forces an expeditionary, direct-fire platform that is persistent, suited for a wide variety of environments and capable of delivering precision low-yield munitions against ground targets.

“Flying this plane is awesome. It represents a significant increase in performance and capability that makes us more effective and lethal on the battlefield,” said Maj. Ryan Whitehead, the AC-130J aircraft commander.

Photos and videos of the event will be available at: https://www.dvidshub.net/image/6741874/built-backs-giants-cannons-first-ac-130j-ghostrider

The AC-130J Ghostrider fact sheet is available at: https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/467756/ac-130j-ghostrider/.

For more information on Cannon AFB visit: https://www.cannon.af.mil

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CannonAirForceBase/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cannonafb

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CannonAFB_

Russia's new fighter "CHECKMATE" code named "Screamer" by US unveiled at MAKS.


On Jul. 20, 2021 at its annual MAKS, air show held in Moscow with an eye on export markets, Russia officially unveiled the new Sukhoi “Checkmate” fifth-generation fighter jet.

The head of the Aviaport analytical agency, Oleg Panteleyev, said that the new aircraft is likely to be touted as a rival to the US F-35 stealth fighter, hence its name Checkmate.

The head of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), Yury Slyusar, told reporters that the Checkmate will perform its maiden flight in 2023 with the first samples due to be delivered in 2026. As reported by Reuters, he added that Russia aims to build 300 of the aircraft over 15 years once serial production begins.

Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace and defense conglomerate, said the plane was hard to detect and would have low operating costs.

The RIA news agency reported that Rostec’s chief, Sergei Chemezov, said that it will cost between $25 million and $30 million. Russia expect to sell the aircraft to nations in the Middle East, Asia Pacific region and Latin America.

“Our aim is to make the cost per flight hour as low as possible, to make it economical not only to buy but also to operate,” explained Slyusar.

‘RUMINT has it that the US-Codename should be ‘Screamer’ – which in turn would indicate a SAM. So, don’t hold your breath,’ says world famous aviation author and The Aviation Geek Club Contributor Tom Cooper. ‘Anyway… aerodynamically, I would like to see the total wing surface. Think it’s very big for this ‘small’ design – and that because something is telling me it’s actually optimized to operate very high.’

The new Russian single-engine fighter in the F-35 class recalls designs dating back to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition of the 1990s; borrowing most from the two concepts that lost that contest, Air Force Magazine highlighted.

The aircraft features a large angular chin inlet reminiscent of Boeing’s X-32 contender in the JSF contest ultimately won by Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and also on China’s J-10B.

The Checkmate also inherited another feature of the X-32: a short, clipped delta wing, which does not extend to the tail. The Screamer also has two canted elevons rather than a standard empennage of stabilizers and elevators, harkening to both the X-32 and McDonnell Douglas’s JSF entrant, as well as to the YF-23 on which McDonnell Douglas was partnered with Northrop. The YF-23 lost out to the Lockheed Martin F-22 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition, and McDonnell Douglas’s loss in the must-win JSF contest was a major factor in the company’s 1996 merger with Boeing.

Moscow already fields heavy-class fifth generation fighter jet, the Su-57, besides the “legacy” heavy-class Sukhoi Su-27 and light-class Mikoyan MiG-29. However, the stealth Su-57 has no light-class equivalent, Panteleyev pointed out.

“Light-class fighter jets are more in demand in the world than heavy-class ones – they are cheaper and more suitable for states that don’t have large territories,” he told Reuters.

In 2011, Russia used the MAKS air show to unveil the Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter.

Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi developed the new fighter under the LTS program, a Russian acronym for the Light Tactical Aircraft.

Its makers said the prototype is set to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026. They said the new design could be converted to an unpiloted version and a two-seat model.

The prospective warplane, marketed under the project name Checkmate, has one engine and is designed to be smaller and cheaper than Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter, also built by Sukhoi. It can fly at a speed of 1.8-2 times the speed of sound, has a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) and a payload of 7,400 kilograms (16,300 pounds), the jet's makers said.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov voiced hope that the new fighter could be sold to India, Vietnam and African nations, adding that foreign customers are expected to order at least 300 such aircraft. Borisov noted that one foreign customer he didn't name has already expressed a strong interest in the new jet.

The sales of warplanes have accounted for the bulk of Russian weapons exports, but the two-engine Su-30 and Su-35 fighters have faced growing competition in global markets.

Industries and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that the prospective fighter was being developed to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter that entered service in 2015, a new Chinese fighter, and other designs. “We must join other nations that sell such aircraft,” he said.

Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec state corporation that includes Sukhoi and other aircraft makers, said the new plane is expected to cost $25-30 million. He said that the Russian air force is also expected to place an order for the new fighter.

Russia's Sukhoi and MiG aircraft makers only have produced two-engine fighters since the 1980s. Some experts observed that it has placed Russia at disadvantage in some foreign markets where customers preferred cheaper one-engine aircraft.

Rostec said the new warplane belongs to the so-called fifth generation of fighter jets, a definition that assumes stealth characteristics and a capability to cruise at supersonic speed, among other advanced features.

The corporation noted that the new design includes artificial intelligence features to assist the pilot and other innovative technologies. It said the jet was designed to reduce service costs and to be easily adapted to varying customer needs.

Manturov noted that the new design would incorporate some components from the previous fighters to help reduce price.
Rostec ran an aggressive advertising campaign in the days before the air show, publishing a picture of the new fighter hidden under a black tarpaulin with “Wanna see me naked?” written under it. It also posted a video featuring adulatory customers from India, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Vietnam and other countries, reflecting export hopes.

Plane spotters flocked to Zhukovsky last week to take pictures of the new plane as it was being taxied to a parking spot across the giant airfield which has served as the country’s top military aircraft test facility since Cold War times.

The Kremlin has made modernization of the country’s arsenals a key priority amid tensions with the West that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

It also has strongly encouraged the development of new passenger jets to compete with planes built by American aircraft maker Boeing and Europe's Airbus that currently account for the bulk of Russian carriers' fleets.

Russia's airliner programs have encountered delays amid Western sanctions that hampered imports of Western engines and other key components. But the country managed to produce a new engine for the new MS-21 passenger plane, which also was displayed at the show in Zhukovsky.

“What we saw in Zhukovsky today demonstrates that the Russian aviation has a big potential for development and our aircraft making industries continue to create new competitive aircraft designs,” Putin said in a speech at the show's opening.

President Vladimir Putin inspected a prototype of a new Sukhoi fifth-generation fighter jet on Tuesday that Russia unveiled at its annual MAKS air show with an eye on export markets.

The warplane, given the project name "Checkmate", is likely to be touted as a rival to the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter, said Oleg Panteleyev, head of the Aviaport analytical agency.

The warplane is expected to take to the skies in 2023 with a first batch due to be produced in 2026, Yury Slyusar, head of the United Aircraft Corporation told reporters.

Russia plans to produce 300 of the aircraft over 15 years once serial production begins, he said.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Looking back at "Aurora" and a new clue that it may really have existed.

 Way back in the 1990s there was a lot of speculation about a possible high-speed aircraft built secretly to replace the SR-71 Blackbird. There was even some evidence to support this, a series of "skyquakes" (in actuality sonic booms) over the western U.S. along with even stranger sightings of "donuts-on-a-rope" contrails (some I actually photographed) and sightings (some from trained aircraft identification spotters such as Chris Gibson ) of a highly swept-winged hypersonic aircraft seen flying in formation with other military aircraft.

This unicorn was dubbed "Aurora" after a mysterious line item that inadvertently was included in the 1985 U.S. budget, as an allocation of $455 million for "black aircraft production" in FY 1987.
"Funding of the project allegedly reached $2.3 billion in fiscal 1987, according to a 1986 procurement document obtained by Aviation Week. In the 1994 book Skunk Works, Ben Rich, the former head of Lockheed's Skunk Works division, wrote that the Aurora was the budgetary code name for the stealth bomber fly-off that resulted in the B-2 Spirit."
But the name Aurora stuck and although no official successor to the SR-71 was ever acknowledged, in 2017 according to Lockheed Martin they were developing the SR-72, colloquially referred to as "Son of Blackbird" as a hypersonic UAV concept intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform as a successor to the retired Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The company said the SR-72 test vehicle could fly by 2023. Coincidentally the "skyquakes" are back and the California coast is rattling again.
That said -was there ever an Aurora?
While doing my own research after my own sighting (and after a sighting of "Aurora" causes considerable stir in the media, a HF phone patch was intercepted by a military radio hobbyist that was particularly telling. See attached. This comes from my book "The Comprehensive Guide to Military Monitoring" published in 1994.
At the time (early 90s) no one really knew who (sic) "McMann" was mentioned in the radio intercept was but it was a short walk to surmise he is a person of note who was charged keeping the aviation press at bay when it came to the subject of "Aurora."
Decades later a friend pointed out they now know who "McMann" could very well be, His bio was found on the website of
Modern Technology Solutions.
It reads:
About Jesse T. (Tom) McMahan
Jesse T. (Tom) McMahan is Co-President and Founder of Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI) of Alexandria, Virginia. MTSI operates in several locations around the country with core capabilities in modeling and simulation of advanced aerospace systems, flight and ground test support, systems engineering, acquisition planning, operational concept development, and business and financial management.
He has been with MTSI since its founding in 1993 and has seen the company grow to over 200 employees. His specialty is in advanced technologies supporting aircraft survivability and weapons as well as in modeling and simulation of air defense systems.
Tom left UMR with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1966 and worked for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak, Maryland until 1968 when he entered the Air Force. His 25 year Air Force career was devoted to science and technology programs and weapon systems acquisition. The Air Force sent him back to UMR in 1972 for a Masters Degree in Engineering Management. He was fortunate to become involved in the early days of the stealth and counter stealth technology programs and spent the last 15 years of his career in that area. His final Air Force job was as Director of Electronic and Special Programs in the Pentagon.
Tom is now working about half time with MTSI. He is a past member and current ad hoc advisor to the Air Force Scientific Advisory board and sits on Boards of Directors and Strategy Boards of several small companies involved in advanced aircraft survivability technologies.
So does this mean that Aurora existed? Well, maybe not under that name but this finding (although decades late) does shed some light in a very dark corner of 90s conceptual military technology.
Maybe the SR-72 is the great grandson of Blackbird?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Air Force releases new B-21 Raider rendering


The Air Force released a new B-21 Raider artist rendering graphic with an accompanying fact sheet today. As with past renderings, this rendering is an artist’s interpretation of the B-21 design.

The new rendering highlights the future stealth bomber with Edwards Air Force Base, California, as the backdrop. The 420th Flight Test Squadron based at Edwards AFB will plan, test, analyze and report on all flight and ground testing of the B-21 Raider.

The B-21 program continues to execute the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and is focused on scaling the manufacturing infrastructure and capacity across the industrial supply base to prepare for low rate initial production. A critical design review conducted in 2018 concluded the aircraft has a mature and stable design.

Designed to perform long range conventional and nuclear missions and to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment, the B-21 will be a visible and flexible component of the nuclear triad.

"Nuclear modernization is a top priority for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, and B-21 is key to that plan,” said Randall Walden, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director. “The built-in feature of open systems architecture on the B-21 makes the bomber effective as the threat environment evolves. This aircraft design approach sets the nation on the right path to ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability.”

The Air Force plans to incrementally replace the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit bombers to form a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and modified B-52s. The B-21 program is on track to deliver B-21s to the first operational base, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, in the mid-2020s.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Government releases UAP report - admit UAPs pose a threat to safety of flight but doesn't know what they can do about it.

As I read the un-classified executive summary one paragraph really jumped out at me: "UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. National Security.

As expected I really didn't expect any earth-shaking revelations from the report, but I didn't expect the admission (by the U.S. Government) that they really aren't in control of the airspace (that is on any given day) is filled with commuters, private pilots, civil pilots, military aviators and families flying to "Cabo" on vacation.

That said, what will the FAA and NTSB do if some day a UAP causes a disaster of epic proportions, knocking a jetliner filled with humans out of the sky?

That's what's sensational about this report. As always, the first step in solving a problem is admitting the problem exists. UAP s (or UFOs as they used to be called) do share our friendly skies and now that the report is out we have to deal with them. The authors of the report offer few solutions other than continuing to document the phenomena and collating data.

If tradition serves, this collection of data will be both classified and undertaken by agencies who do not have to report their findings to the public, such as the DIA, FBI,NRO,NSA, USAF, Us Navy/ONI National Counterintelligence and Security Center and the ODNI/National Intelligence Council as stated in the report. UAPs still carry the stink of UFOs and it's doubtful that solving the mystery of what they are won't be a top priority except if certain things happen (and have) such as sightings near nuclear ICBM sites, nuclear reactor sites, Air Defense Zones, nuclear powered aircraft carriers, restricted military air space (and in the worst case scenario) and coming close and endangering or causing havoc in commercial flight and trade lanes.

Maybe we can help .. 

If we (the public) really want to figure out what's going on in our skies it's time to get serious and educate ourselves. I suggest a civilian network similar to the ambitious but now dormant SETI AT HOME project. of trained investigators who can invest and use the proper high resolution and long lensed video equipment, who are more than familiar with flight tracking apps, aviation communications monitoring, aviation flight paths, military operation areas, military flight-test air space, air refueling tracks and becoming expert in identifying all civil and military aircraft types.

Armed with that knowledge the data should be logged, publicly shared, logically investigated, inviting critique critically analyzed, and most of all looking for patterns in the sightings.

It is only when we apply the techniques used by intelligence agencies and federal agencies will we begin to start to understand what these UAPS are.

So here's the methodology I use when there is a UAP sighting or report.
1. Rule out civil and military aviation flying in the area of the sighting by going to sites like FlightRadar 24 or ADS-B Exchange.

2. Take screen shots of anything flying in the sighting area at the time.
Log the time of the sighting and then look in the LiveATC archives for any communications recorded concerning the sighting from civil or military aircraft talking to air traffic control.
Download and archive the online recordings or (with a minimum investment) buy and learn to use a scanning receiver that can receive all the aviation bands including the military UHF military bands.
Set up your own around the clock recording system using a decent scanner, a good antenna and a program like Sound Studio or Audacity. You can find the frequencies) both for civil and military aviation) listed on Live ATC.

#3.Check to see if the sighting is near any military, government or nuclear facility by looking at aviation airspace maps. Familiarize yourself with your airspace, flight patterns and scheduled balloon launches including by your local weather service.

4. Photographers - invest in a good (at least 4k quality) camera with a good long lens. It doesn't have to be mega-expensive and can be entry level. I suggest a Nikon P1000 ( that has a permanently attached amazing 24mm to 3000mm zoom lens) which can be had for under $1,000 US or a Panasonic FZ-1000 that has a 24 to 600mm lens for under $700.

Invest in a tripod or learn how to use image stabilization while hand holding the camera. Don't expect to be a video professional straight out of the gate. Practice shooting by video taping aircraft flying by. Learn to use it and your image processing software.
5. Last but not least - eliminate the obvious before you publish your reports. Credibility is key. If you know how to shoot and how to document without prejudice "It has to be aliens" you've taken the first steps into establishing yourself as a serious UAP investigator. Share your data with the government AND the media. Last thing we need is a bunch of junk data muddying the waters.
6: Don't believe your own eyes or ears (until you've done a thorough investigation on your own) and have had other more critical and educated eyes look at the data.

7: Foremost - don't post anonymously. Video that is anonymous is usually fake video. If you shot it, researched it, vetted it then stand behind it and take credit for it.

In conclusion if there is a concerted effort, a shareable public (and vetted) public database that can be sifted through and mined to help define what UAPS are (and what they are doing up there) it will have to come from those of us who are really motivated to keep watching the skies.

- Steve Douglass

Government UAP un-classifed report is lacking ..



A highly anticipated government report on unidentified aerial phenomena in American airspace was released Friday afternoon – and it's not as illuminating as some may have hoped. 

The report failed to offer firm explanations for many of the questions that raised the report's profile in the first place, such as whether unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, pose a national security threat or whether they offer evidence of extraterrestrial life. 

"Today’s rather inconclusive report only marks the beginning of efforts to understand and illuminate what is causing these risks to aviation in many areas around the country and the world,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The report, compiled by top intelligence and military officials, was commissioned by Congress after the Pentagon released three short videos in April 2020 depicting unidentified aerial phenomena. It was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Congress has increasingly begun taking these sightings more seriously.

“For years, the men and women we trust to defend our country reported encounters with unidentified aircraft that had superior capabilities, and for years their concerns were often ignored and ridiculed,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vice chairman of the Senate committee. “This report is an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step.”

There have been 143 unexplainable reports of UFOs by U.S. government sources since 2004, and of those, 18 incidents – outlined in 21 reports – described unusual movement patterns or flight characteristics. 

"Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion," the report reads. "In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings."

The report also says that the sightings "tended to cluster" around U.S. training and testing sites, but they determined this is likely due to greater focus in those areas. 

2. Is national security threatened by their presence?

The report determined that the UFOs are a threat to flight safety, but their threat to national security is unknown. 

The task force has documentation of 11 instances in which pilots reported "near misses" with unidentified aerial phenomena, according to the report. Regarding national security, data is too sparse to indicate whether the UAPs belong to foreign adversaries. 

3. How many reports of UFO sightings didn't make the cut?

There was no standardized way to report the sighting of a UFO until March 2019, when the Navy established one, and the Air Force only adopted it in November 2020, according to the report. 

"The UAPTF (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force) regularly heard anecdotally during its research about other observations that occurred but which were never captured in formal or informal reporting by those observers," the report reads.

4. How have we studied these phenomena in the past?

According to the report, there are a number of obstacles that stand in the way of collecting information on UAPs, like social and cultural stigmas and sensor limitations. 

"Narratives from aviators in the operational community and analysts from the military and IC (Intelligence Community) describe disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues," the report reads.

Some of the sensor limitations include the fact that they're designed to fulfill specific duties and may not be positioned well enough to distinguish the unknown objects from the known ones. 

Because of the lack of cohesive data, it's unclear how the UFOs were studied in the past. 

5. What are the next steps to fill in these gaps?

The report goes into some detail regarding the type of changes that will need to take place to effectively explain the unexplained objects, but the specifics of what will change are still fuzzy. 

Three key buckets of change needed to better study UFOs are listed in the report: standardizing reporting, consolidating data and deepening analysis; expanding the collection of data; and increasing investment in research and development. 

The UAP Task Force is already developing interagency "analytical and processing workflows" to ensure informed, coordinated collection and analysis of the data, according to the report. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

US Government on UAPs: They aren't U.S. black projects but can't rule out E.T. or China?



by: NOMAAN MERCHANT and ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press

Posted:  Updated: 

Whatever or whoever they are, they’re still out there. U.S. intelligence is after them, but its upcoming report won’t deliver any full or final truth about UFOs.

The tantalizing prospect of top government intel finally weighing in — after decades of conspiracy theories, TV shows, movies and winking jokes by presidents — will instead yield a more mundane reality that’s not likely to change many minds on any side of the issue.

Investigators have found no evidence the sightings are linked to aliens — but can’t deny a link either. Two officials briefed on the report due to Congress later this month say the U.S. government cannot give a definitive explanation of aerial phenomena spotted by military pilots.

The report also doesn’t rule out that what pilots have seen may be new technologies developed by other countries. One of the officials said there is no indication the unexplained phenomena are from secret U.S. programs.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Findings of the report were first published by The New York Times.

The report examines multiple unexplained sightings from recent years that in some cases have been captured on video of pilots exclaiming about objects flying in front of them.

Congress in December required the Director of National Intelligence to summarize and report on the U.S. government’s knowledge of unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs — better known to the public as unidentified flying objects or UFOs. The effort has included a Defense Department UAP task force established last year. The expected public release of an unclassified version of the report this month will amount to a status report, not the final word, according to one official.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Sue Gough, declined Friday to comment on news stories about the intelligence report. She said the Pentagon’s UAP task force is “actively working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the report, and DNI will provide the findings to Congress.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, when asked about the report, said of the question at first, “It’s always a little wacky on Fridays.” But she added, “I will say that we take reports of incursions into our airspace by any aircraft — identified or unidentified — very seriously and investigate each one.”

The Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency have for decades looked into reports of aircraft or other objects in the sky flying at inexplicable speeds or trajectories.

The U.S. government takes unidentified aerial phenomena seriously given the potential national security risk of an adversary flying novel technology over a military base or another sensitive site, or the prospect of a Russian or Chinese development exceeding current U.S. capabilities. This also is seen by the U.S. military as a security and safety issue, given that in many cases the pilots who reported seeing unexplained aerial phenomena were conducting combat training flights.

The report’s lack of firm conclusions will likely disappoint people anticipating the report, given many Americans’ long-standing fascination with UFOs and the prospect of aliens having reached humankind. A recent story on CBS’ “60 Minutes” further bolstered interest in the government report.

Luis Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, said the one official’s claim that there was no indicated link to secret U.S. programs would be significant. But he called on the government to be fully transparent.

“I think that our tax dollars paid for information and data involving UFOs,” Elizondo said. “And I think it is the U.S. government’s obligation to provide those results to the American people.”

But skeptics caution that the videos and reported sightings have plausible Earth-bound explanations. Mick West, an author, investigator, and longtime skeptic of UFO sightings, said he supported the military looking into any possible incursion of U.S. airspace, especially by an adversary.

“People are conflating this issue with the idea that these UFOs demonstrate amazing physics and possibly even aliens,” West said. “The idea that this is some kind of secret warp drive or it’s defying physics as we know it, there really isn’t any good evidence for that.”

The Pentagon last year announced a task force to investigate the issue, and the Navy in recent years created a protocol for its pilots to report any possible sightings. And lawmakers in recent years have pushed for more public disclosure.

“There’s a stigma on Capitol Hill,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told “60 Minutes” in May. “I mean, some of my colleagues are very interested in this topic and some kind of, you know, giggle when you bring it up. But I don’t think we can allow the stigma to keep us from having an answer to a very fundamental question.”

Monday, May 10, 2021

Mystery "health incidents" could be a result of an attack

The mysterious health incidents that have affected dozens of U.S. personnel around the globe have also occurred within the United States, the White House confirmed for the first time on Friday.

"At this point, at this moment, we don't know the cause of these incidents,which are both limited in nature and the vast majority of which have been reported overseas," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, acknowledging the newly reported cases in the U.S.

The Biden administration has launched a review of U.S. intelligence to determine if there are other previously unreported cases and if there is a "broader pattern," a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.

Last month, U.S. defense officials briefed lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees on several previously unreported incidents of U.S. personnel falling sick after alleged exposures, congressional sources confirmed to ABC News.

Dozens of Americans have been diagnosed with a range of symptoms, including traumatic brain injuries, with several describing bizarre experiences like strange noises and sensations. The U.S. government has acknowledged cases in Cuba, China, Uzbekistan and Russia -- but there are media reports of other countries now, too.

The issue has vexed U.S. officials since 2016, when the first cases were reported at the embassy in Havana. While there's still no definitive answer, the National Academies of Science in December issued a report, commissioned by the State Department, that concluded the most likely source is "directed, pulsed radio frequency energy."

Among the possible new cases are also reportedly at least two incidents in the Washington area, according to GQ magazine, CNN and others. ABC News has not independently verified those reports.

While Warner and Rubio praised President Joe Biden's CIA director, Bill Burns, for his "renewed focus on these attacks," other lawmakers have become publicly exasperated with the executive branch's response.

During a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., criticized the U.S. intelligence community's "clamp down on information that's available to Congress, that's available to the public."

That, in turn, has led to a growing number of reports of alleged incidents without clarity about whether or not they're related to what's happened to U.S. personnel in Cuba, Shaheen said.

"It's not clear whether the information we're getting is correct or incorrect," she told Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. "The horse is out of the barn on this. The information is already out there, and I think it behooves us all to try to make sure that the information that gets out is accurate and that people understand what's happening.

ABC NEWS: Beyond Cuba, the State Department has previously acknowledged incidents in China, Uzbekistan and one redacted country in an internal report that was declassified and released in February. That unknown country is likely Russia, where a former CIA official said he was attacked.

That official, Marc Polymeropoulos, told ABC News in March that he's now receiving treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center for a traumatic brain injury as well.

But after reports of possible incidents in Syria, the head of U.S. Central Command said he had no evidence that was true.

One law enforcement source dismissed speculation about one incident in the Washington area, telling ABC News, "There is no credible evidence to support this."

Biden's National Security Council is now conducting "a full review of intelligence reporting to ascertain whether there may be previously unreported incidents that fit a broader pattern," a spokesperson confirmed to ABC News Friday.

While the Trump administration initially said affected personnel had suffered "health attacks," the spokesperson added that whether the incidents are an attack and whether they're the work of a foreign actor are still under "active inquiry."

ABC News' Mike Levine, Trish Turner and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

China's rocket in bad orbit, could reenter soon

HELSINKI — China launched the first module for its space station into orbit late Wednesday, but the mission launcher also reached orbit and is slowly and unpredictably heading back to Earth.

The Long March 5B, a variant of China’s largest rocket, successfully launched the 22.5-metric-ton Tianhe module from Wenchang Thursday local time. Tianhe separated from the core stage of the launcher after 492 seconds of flight, directly entering its planned initial orbit.

Designed specifically to launch space station modules into low Earth orbit, the Long March 5B uniquely uses a core stage and four side boosters to place its payload directly into low Earth orbit.

However this core stage is now also in orbit and is likely to make an uncontrolled reentry over the next days or week as growing interaction with the atmosphere drags it to Earth. If so, it will be one of the largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area.

Most expendable rocket first stages do not reach orbital velocity and reenter the atmosphere and land in a pre-defined reentry zone. Some other larger, second stages perform deorbit burns to lower altitude to reduce time in orbit and lower chances of collisions with other spacecraft or to immediately reenter the atmosphere.

There had been speculation that the Long March 5B core would perform an active maneuver to deorbit itself, but that appears not to have happened. At a Wenchang press conference Thursday, Wang Jue, Commander-in-Chief of Long March 5B launch vehicle, stated (Chinese) that this second Long March 5B had seen improvements over the first launch, but a possible deorbit maneuver was not stated.

Ground based radars used by the U.S. military to track spacecraft and other objects in space have detected an object and catalogued it as the Long March 5B rocket body. Now designated 2021-035B, the roughly 30-meter-long, five-meter-wide Long March 5 core stage is in a 170 by 372-kilometer altitude orbit traveling at more than seven kilometers per second.

A possible amateur ground observation of the rocket core showing regular flashes suggests that it is tumbling and thus not under control.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

US denies prisoners swap.

 DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United States on Sunday immediately denied a report by Irans state-run television broadcaster that deals had been reached between the Islamic Republic, Washington and the United Kingdom that would see prisoners swapped and Tehran receive billions of dollars.

The announcement by state television, relying on an unnamed source, comes amid a wider power struggle between hard-liners and the relatively moderate government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. That conflict only has grown sharper as Iran approaches its June 18 presidential election.

The broadcaster long controlled by hard-liners has aired similarly anonymously sourced reports contradicting diplomats in Vienna trying to negotiate a return to its nuclear deal with world powers. 

It wasnt immediately clear if Sundays report represented another means to disrupt negotiations by Rouhani officials or sabotage any potential negotiations with the West over frozen funds and prisoner exchanges. 

The official quoted by Iranian state TV said a deal made between the U.S. and Tehran involved a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds. 

“The Americans accepted to pay $7 billion and swap four Iranians who were active in bypassing sanctions for four American spies who have served part of their sentences,” state TV said, quoting the official in an on-screen crawl. It did not name the Iranians that Tehran sought to be freed.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price immediately denied the Iranian state TV report. 

“Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true, Price said. As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families.”

Price did not elaborate. But Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “unfortunately that report is untrue. There is no agreement to release these four Americans.”

“We’re working very hard to get them released,” Klain said. We raise this with Iran and our interlocutors all the time but so far there’s no agreement.”

Tehran holds four known Americans now in prison. They include Baquer and Siamak Namazi, environmentalist Morad Tahbaz and Iranian-American businessman Emad Shargi. 

State TV also quoted the official as saying a deal had been reached for the United Kingdom to pay 400 million pounds to see the release of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. 

British officials downplayed the report. The Foreign Office said that the country continues “to explore options to resolve this 40-year old case and we will not comment further as legal discussions are ongoing.’’

Last week, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to an additional year in prison, her lawyer said, on charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.

That came after she completed a five-year prison sentence in the Islamic Republic after being convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny. 

While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at the Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family.

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, told The Associated Press he was not aware of any swap in the works.

We haven’t heard anything, he said. “Of course we probably wouldn’t, but my instinct is to be skeptical at present.”

Earlier Sunday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that he believed Zaghari-Ratcliffe was being held “unlawfully” by Iran.

“I think she’s been treated in the most abusive, tortuous way,” Raab said. “I think it amounts to torture the way she’s been treated and there is a very clear, unequivocal obligation on the Iranians to release her and all of those who are being held as leverage immediately and without condition.”

Last week, Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei hinted that a prisoner swap between Iran and the U.S. may be in the works, saying the idea “has always been on the agenda” and noting the judiciary has confirmed its “readiness.” His remarks followed that of the Foreign Ministry spokesman who suggested Tehran hopes to swing a major prisoner swap as part of ongoing negotiations in Vienna. A similar swap accompanied the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers

Tehran is now negotiating with world powers over both it and the U.S. returning to its 2015 nuclear deal, which saw it limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. 

As the negotiations continue, Iranian negotiators there have offered encouraging comments, while state TV quoted anonymous sources striking maximalist positions. That even saw Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister leading the talks, offer a rebuke on Twitter last week to Iranian state televisions English-language arm, Press TV.

“I don’t know who the ‘informed source’ of Press TV in Vienna is, but s/he is certainly not ‘informed,” Araghchi wrote.


Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Danika Kirka in London and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


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