Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Hypersonics and the B-1 - talk at Dyess AFB gives clues to deployment.

Two officials from Boeing, including former Dyess Air Force Base commander Robert  Gass, detailed efforts to speed hypersonic weapons capabilities for U.S. at the quarterly meeting Tuesday of the Military Affairs Committee of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.

Specifically, each spoke to how that would affect the B-1B bomber. Until the full use of the B-21, which is due at Dyess no earlier than the mid-2020s, it's essential, they said, that the B-1 continue to be a first-choice bomber option. The durable B-52 also is up for modernization, again meaning the B-1 mission is vital in the interim.

Gass, who left Dyess in 2010 and retired as vice commander of the 8th Air Force, now is strategic development and investment manager for Boeing's bombers program. Both Gass and Dan Ruder, B-1 advanced programs manager, work in Oklahoma City.

The plan basically is to reactivate the capabilities of the B-1 to accommodate these kinds of weapons that are fired externally. He called hypersonic weapons "the next big thing in bombers."

Asked if that also meant the B-21, currently in development, Ruder only could speak to outfitting the B-1 for this capability.

DefenseNews reported recently that five test B-21 Raiders are in production in Palmdale, Calif. A first test flight could come in 2022.

Gass said hypersonic weapons "go real fast," which drew chuckles for its simplicity. They found out later from Ruder that fast means Mach 20, or more than 14,000 mph.

"That's extremely fast," Ruder said.

There are six "hard points" on the aircraft, however, that, with work and "sustainment dollars," the B-1 again can be made ready.

"It's not going to be cheap," Ruder said. The project will have to navigate tighter defense budgeting - "headwinds," Gass called it.

Gass said only the B-1s still active will be fitted for hypersonic missiles. The 17 Lancers sent to the "boneyard" for storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, to his knowledge, will not be part of this program.

To outfit the bomber, Ruder said a "load adaptive modular," or LAM, pylon concept has been developed that will allow two missiles to be attached to the bomber at the six points.

The target goal for development is September 2022, when testing could begin.

The biggest missiles, he said, weigh 5,000 pounds and are more than 20 feet in length. A bomber is needed as opposed to a lighter weight fighter to house more missiles.

"Numbers are important," Ruder said.

There are several hypersonic programs in development, Gass said, so as "not to put all of our eggs in one basket."


Monday, September 27, 2021

YAHOO: Trump and CIA considered kidnapping or killing Julian Assange


A report from Yahoo News published Sunday says that the Trump administration and CIA considered kidnapping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2017 and even raised the prospect of assassinating him amid concerns he may be planning an escape of his own.

Citing conversations with more than 30 former U.S. intelligence and security officials, Yahoo reported that "sketches" and "options" for how an assassination operation could be carried out were requested. One former official told the site that these conversations were taking place “at the highest levels.”

Though the CIA had been monitoring Assange for many years, the U.S. government reportedly ramped up its campaign against him following the "Vault 7" data leak of CIA hacking tools and Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential race.

Assange is currently imprisoned in London after being arrested in April 2019.

According to the Yahoo report, former CIA director Mike Pompeo wanted revenge on Assange and was described by one Trump national security official as being "completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7."

“There was an inappropriate level of attention to Assange given the embarrassment, not the threat he posed in context,” one official said. "We should never act out of a desire for revenge.”

U.S. intelligence officials were supposedly provoked by rumors that Assange was planning an escape attempt from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had taken asylum. Russian intelligence was supposedly present around the embassy to help facilitate an escape. Yahoo noted that WikiLeaks had helped to facilitate U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden's escape to Russia from Hong Kong.

If Russian officials were able to get Assange onto a plane, one official told Yahoo that agents were prepared to block the plane with a car on the runway, shoot out the tires or even crash into a car carrying Assange.

Responding to Yahoo, Trump denied ever having considered ordering the assassination of Assange, saying, “It’s totally false, it never happened."

“In fact, I think he’s been treated very badly,” added Trump.

Following the leak of the Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential race, Trump proclaimed, "I love WikiLeaks," and he reportedly offered Assange a pardon if he would say that Russia was not involved in the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange in the U.S., told Yahoo, “As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information."

“My hope and expectation is that the U.K. courts will consider this information and it will further bolster its decision not to extradite to the U.S.,” said Pollack.

According to Yahoo, there was no indication that the most extreme measures meant to target Assange were ever approved, largely due to objections from White House lawyers.

“While people think the Trump administration didn’t believe in the rule of law, they had good lawyers who were paying attention to it,” one former official told the news organization.

When reached for comment by The Hill, the CIA declined to comment on the matter.

Raytheon's hypersonic HAWC has first successful test flight says DARPA

WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters)
- The United States has tested an air-breathing hypersonic weapon capable of speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, marking the first successful test of the class of weapon since 2013, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The test took place as the United States and its global rivals quicken their pace to build hypersonic weapons - the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.

In July, Russia said it had successfully tested a Tsirkon(Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has touted as part of a new generation of missile systems without equal in the world. read more

The free flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) occurred last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said in a statement.

Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kilometers (3,853 miles) per hour.

"The missile, built by Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N), was released from an aircraft seconds before its Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine kicked on," DARPA said.

"The DoD (Department of Defense) has identified hypersonic weapons and counter-hypersonic capabilities as the highest technical priorities for our nation's security," said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon's Missiles & Defense business unit.

"The United States, and our allies, must have the ability to deter the use of these weapons and the capabilities to defeat them," he said.

In 2019, Raytheon teamed up with Northrop Grumman to develop and produce engines for hypersonic weapons. Northrop's scramjet engine technology uses the vehicle's high speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds.

"The HAWC vehicle operates best in oxygen-rich atmosphere, where speed and maneuverability make it difficult to detect in a timely way. It could strike targets much more quickly than subsonic missiles and has significant kinetic energy even without high explosives," DARPA said in the release.
Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington Editing by Dan Grebler and Mark Potter

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ohio man sentenced after 'top secret' Air Force documents found in home

WHO TV 7 DAYTON — A Fairborn man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of illegally taking thousands of pages of classified documents from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, was sentenced to prison Tuesday, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

>>PREVIOUS REPORT: Over 1,000 top secret Air Force documents found at Fairborn home; FBI investigating

Izaak Kemp, 36, pleaded guilty in February to federal charges. He was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for illegally taking about 2,500 pages of classified documents he got while working as a contractor at WPAFB, a DOJ spokesperson said in a media release.

Kemp worked as a contractor for the Air Force Research Laboratory between 2016 and 2019 and later worked for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and had “Top Secret” security clearance.

“Despite having training on various occasions on how to safeguard classified material, Kemp took 112 classified documents and retained them at his home,” the DOJ spokesperson said.

During a May 2019 search warrant at Kemp’s Fairborn home, those documents containing thousands of pages of material classified on the “secret” level were found, the spokesperson said.

Kemp was initially under investigation by Fairborn police for allegedly growing marijuana at the home, which resulted in several plants being seized during the 2019 search as well.

The case escalated to the FBI when investigators discovered the documents, which they say were “related to Top Secret Special Access Programs” and were “clearly marked as classified.”

Such files are deemed so sensitive they require additional security beyond what’s normally provided for classified files and should only be stored in segregated, highly protected environments.

It has not been revealed in previous reports what was contained in the files.

Previously, Wright-Patt representatives said Kemp was never authorized to take the documents from NASIC and that he would have to bypass security checkpoints to get them out of the office.

Mystery stealthy aircraft shape captured on video at Lockheed's Helendale facility

Could this be the next secret stealth aircraft? Video of what possibly looks like an advanced stealthy flying body has been circulating on social media platforms today. 

The video (possibly taken by a construction worker) has black-project sleuth tongues wagging as it looks very much like artist rendering of the NGAD concept.

The video was discovered on TikTok by OSINT researcher Ruben Hofs and you can see it HERE. 

video frame grab 


The Air Force’s secretive Next-Generation Air Dominance program is progressing according to plan, a top acquisition official said Sept. 21. 

The NGAD program is expected to yield a family of systems — to potentially include a sixth-generation fighter jet and drones — that would give the U.S. military an edge against advanced adversaries.

During the Air Force Association’s Air-Space-Cyber conference in 2020, then-Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Will Roper made headlines when he revealed that the service had already started flying a full-scale flight demonstrator for the effort. However, the service has remained tight-lipped about the project.

“NGAD is not one [of the Air Force’s programs] where I'm able to share a lot of details,” Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, military deputy in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for AT&L, said during a meeting with reporters at this year’s Air-Space-Cyber confab in National Harbor, Maryland. “I will just tell you that it is progressing per plan. … There’s just so much of it that’s not able to be discussed in an open forum.”

Richardson declined to discuss recent test flights, identify the contractors involved in the project, or say when the service plans to begin fielding NGAD platforms.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

CIA officer may have been microwaved in "Havana Syndrome" type skullduggery


A CIA officer who was travelling to India this month with the agency's director has reported symptoms consistent with so-called Havana syndrome, US media report.
Three unnamed sources told US media that the officer has received medical attention for the mystery illness.

The CIA has not responded to requests for comment by the BBC.
It's the second reported case in less than a month, as US authorities continue to investigate its cause.

In August, Vice President Kamala Harris' flight from Singapore to Vietnamese capital Hanoi was briefly delayed after an American official reported symptoms similar to Havana syndrome.
The syndrome first affected people at the US and Canadian embassies in Havana, Cuba, in 2016 and 2017. Dozens of other episodes have since been reported by American officials in the US, China, Russia, Germany and Austria.

Those affected say they have experienced a sudden onset of pressure sensations inside their heads, and of hearing strange buzzing sounds coming from a particular direction. Others have complained of dizziness, nausea and fatigue, among other symptoms.

‘Havana syndrome’ and the mystery of the microwaves
Is Russia targeting CIA spies with secret weapons?

A scientific study of those affected in Cuba, published in 2018, found that the diplomats had experienced a form of brain injury. The cause was not conclusively determined, but researchers said it was most likely the result of directed microwave radiation.

Other studies have suggested that ultrasound, pesticides or other harmful substances may be to blame.
Sources told CNN and the New York Times that CIA Director William J. Burns was angered by the latest incident in India.

Some officials at the CIA believe the incident was carried out by an adversarial power, sending a message to Mr Burns that no-one is safe, CNN reported.

Officials are also concerned about how the potential perpetrator knew in advance about the director's visit, which was a closely guarded secret, the broadcaster added.
In June, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a review into the causes of the illness.

A US government source told Reuters news agency that a dedicated task force is being led by a CIA official once involved in the search for Osama Bin Laden.

The investigation is expected to be finished before the end of this year, but it may continue for longer, and no public report is planned, CNN reported.

Friday, September 17, 2021

US admits done strike killed children


The US now admits that a drone strike in Kabul days before its military pullout killed 10 innocent people.

A US Central Command investigation found the 29 August strike killed an aid worker along with nine members of his family, including seven children. The youngest child, Sumaya, was just two years old.

US intelligence had tracked the man's car for eight hours, believing it was linked to terrorist group IS-K, the Pentagon said.

The deadly strike was one of the US military's final acts in Afghanistan, before ending its 20-year military operation in the country.

The inquiry found the aid worker's car had been seen at a compound associated with IS-K, and its movements aligned with other intelligence about the terror group's plans for an attack on Kabul airport.

At one point, a surveillance drone saw men loading what appeared to be explosives into the trunk of the car, but it turned out to be containers of water.

General Kenneth McKenzie described the strike as a tragic mistake and that it was "unlikely" the family was associated with IS-K or was a threat to US forces.

"It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apologies", he said.

The strike happened as the aid worker - named as Zamairi Akmadhi - pulled into the driveway of his home, 3km (1.8 miles) from the airport.

The explosion set off a large secondary blast, which US officials initially said was proof that the car was indeed carrying explosives. However the investigation has found it was most likely caused by a propane tank in the driveway.

Relatives of the victims told the BBC that they had applied to be evacuated to the US, and had been waiting for a phone call telling them to go to the airport.

One of those killed, Ahmad Naser, had been a translator with US forces. Other victims had previously worked for international organisations and held visas allowing them entry to the US.

"It's wrong, it's a brutal attack, and it's happened based on wrong information," Ramin Yousufi, one of the relatives said.

He added, tearfully: "Why have they killed our family? Our children? They are so burned out we cannot identify their bodies, their faces."

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Phoenix Air mystery flight flies from Florida to Guatanamo to D.C.

click to enlarge 

Sharp eyed monitors on flight tracking sites noticed something unusual on Monday, a Gulfstream IV (N48GL) operated by Phoenix Air Group Inc (a company that often does contract work for the U.S. government, C.I.A and the U.S. military) was noted taking off from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with it's ultimate destination Washington D.C. 

In light of the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and the aircraft in question (N48GL possibly using a cover hex-code of A-17FBA) also having just returned from Afghanistan, one can't help but wonder what (or more to the point) who was on that aircraft (most likely) flown from Afghanistan to Guantanamo to DC? 

click to enlarge 

It's no secret that over the past 20 years, Guantánamo has held nearly 800 people, most suspected of plotting against the U.S. with some of them connected directly to the attack on 9-11.  

It's thought that now only 39 men are currently imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, while almost three-quarters of them have never been criminally charged, they are instead held as enemy combatants.  They're known as  the "forever prisoners" and they've  been detained (well) indefinitely with some of them  having been incarcerated there for just short of twenty years. 

So with the end of the war on terror in Afghanistan now over, what happens next? 

"We have been and remain at war with al-Qaida," said DOJ attorney Stephen M. Elliott at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in a case involving a former Afghan militia member who has been held at Guantánamo since 2007 but that was in May. 

Since President Biden took office, at least six Guantánamo detainees have been cleared for transfer to other countries with one being repatriated to Morocco in July of this year 

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that if additional Guantánamo prisoners are released, they could end up joining the militant group or engaging in anti-American activities overseas.

Afghanistan's Taliban has appointed former Guantanamo detainee mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir as acting defense minister, Qatari based Al Jazeera news channel reported, citing a source in the Islamist movement.

U.S. terrorism worries (fueled by photos of a Taliban leader, later identified as a former Guantánamo detainee) celebrating the capture of Kabul at the Afghan presidential palace and another Taliban leader who reportedly helped orchestrate the Taliban's comeback is a past Guantánamo inmate who was swapped in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, the captured U.S. Army soldier.

Could it be that the flight had to do with the trial of an  Indonesian man (held in Guantanamo for 18 years) who  was due to go on trial on Monday?  

Encep Nurjaman, also known as Hambali and Riduan bin Isomudin, was set to face a military commission on charges of war crimes, including murder, “terrorism” and conspiracy. after his arrest in connection with a series of attacks and the deadly nightclub and hotel bombings in Indonesia in the early 2000s, but it was thought that trial was to take place at Guantanamo. 

Two other Malaysian men accused of being accomplices will also stand trial alongside him, namely Mohammed Nazir bin Lep and Mohammed Farik bin Amin.

But common sense tells us since Guantanamo is a Navy base (and there are plenty of Navy aircraft to shuttle lawyers and such back and fourth) so why the expensive charter of a Phoenix Air Group Gulfstream who barely had time to cool it's engines from a run into Afghanistan before a quick trip to GITMO and then to D.C.? 

Speculation ranges from a prisoner exchange in the works or possibly a last minute grab of a Taliban leader to insure the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan (including protection for  some U.S. citizens still in country) can continue to proceed without interference.

A U.S. drone strike early last Saturday killed an "ISIS-K" militant in the group blamed for the deadly suicide bombing at the Kabul airport, U.S. officials said. 

ISIS-K formed in late 2014, recruiting founding members that included "disaffected" militants who left the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban, said Seth Jones, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an interview with NPR's All Things Considered.

ISIS-K, which counts the Taliban and al-Qaida as its competitors, has increasingly conducted brutal and high-profile attacks, Jones said, in pursuit of its end goal to establish "an Islamic Emirate."

"The United States is committed to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides."

It continues in the next paragraph with:  "The relevant sides have the goal of releasing all the remaining prisoners over the course of the subsequent three months. The United States commits to completing this goal. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban commits that its released prisoners will be committed to the responsibilities mentioned in this agreement so that they will not pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies." 

Furthermore: "In conjunction with the announcement of this agreement, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will take the following steps to prevent any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies: 1. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies. 2. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan, and will instruct members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies. 3. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement. 4. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban is committed to deal with those seeking asylum or residence in Afghanistan according to international migration law and the commitments of this agreement, so that such persons do not pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies. 5. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will not provide visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents to those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan."

In return:

"The United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban seek positive relations with each other and expect that the relations between the United States and the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations will be positive and The  United States will seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and will not intervene in its internal affairs."

Whether the Taliban will  honor this agreement (sanctioned by the U.N.) remains to be seen. 
Maybe whomever was on that flight is a bargaining chip. Stay tuned. 

-Steve Douglass


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