Monday, March 29, 2010

IS THERE A WAR ON WIKILEAKS?


FAS:

WikiLeaks.org, which publishes confidential documents online, says that it is being harassed by U.S. military and intelligence agencies because of its disclosures of restricted information, including the forthcoming release of a classified U.S. military video of an air strike in Afghanistan that produced civilian casualties. But those claims are disputed and can hardly be taken at face value.

"That WikiLeaks is being targeted by the U.S. Government for surveillance and disruption is beyond doubt," declared Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Space shuttle Discovery set for launch April 5

Space Shuttle Discovery will launch April 5 on one of the last remaining shuttle flights to the International Space Station, mission managers said Sunday.

NASA managers said concerns over potential valve leaks had been settled and the shuttle was considered ready for the mission.

Discovery will blast off at 6:21 a.m. ET, according to NASA. The 13-day mission will provide the international space station with eight tons of science equipment and cargo, NASA said.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tensions rise over S Korea ship sinks near N Korea


About 40 sailors are missing after a South Korean navy ship sank near the border with North Korea, Yonhap news agency said citing military officials.
The patrol vessel, with 104 people aboard, sank after an unexplained explosion tore through its hull.

Several sailors also died, officials are quoted saying as divers prepared to return to the scene after daybreak.
South Korean officials played down earlier reports that it may have been the result of an attack by North Korea.
There was no sign of the North's military in the area where the ship sank, Yonhap said citing officials.

The military earlier said 58 sailors were rescued from near Baengnyeong island by several navy and coastguard vessels.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who had convened an emergency meeting of security officials, had ordered the military to focus on rescuing the sailors, Yonhap news agency reported.
The police force was put on heightened alert in the capital, Seoul.
The Cheonan, a 1,200-tonne corvette, began sinking about 2130 local time (1230 GMT) on Friday, after an explosion, the South Korean Navy said.

A South Korean presidential spokeswoman said it was premature to say what caused the Cheonan to sink.
Strained ties

There were reports that another South Korean ship had fired shots toward an unidentified ship in the North following the alleged torpedo attack.
One report, quoting the joint chiefs of staff, said the target turned out to be a flock of birds.

PREVIOUS CLASHES

2009: One North Korean sailor killed in a naval battle
2002: Four South Korean sailors and an estimated 30 North Koreans killed in a naval battle
1999: At least 17 North Korean sailors believed killed in naval fire fight
1998: South Korea captures a North Korean mini-submarine in its waters
1996: A North Korean submarine runs aground in South Korean waters

The apparent clash comes at a time of tension between the two Koreas. International talks aimed at ending the communist nation's nuclear ambitions have been stalled for months.

Read the rest of the story here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8589507.stmE

Russian Bomber Incursions Causing Concern Over UK


According to the Ministry of Defence RAF (Royal Air Force) jets scrambled to intercept two Russian nuke bombers after illegaly entering British airspace on the 10th March. The alleged violation of airspace is the 20th such incident since the beginning of 2009.

The Russian Blackjack bombers flew over the west coast of Scotland in the early hours of March 10, said the MoD. Two RAF Tornado F3 fighters were sent to intercept the Russian bombers.

“This is not an unusual incident and people may be surprised to know that our crews have successfully scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on more than 20 occasions since the start of 2009, said Wing Commander Mark Gorringe.
Moscow has denied the allegations made by the British Ministry of Defence, nevertheless admitting that “The Tu-160 strategic bombers did indeed do an overflight over the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic on March 10″.

“All flights of Air Force aircraft were and are fulfilled in strict compliance with the international rules on the use of airspace over neutral waters, without violation of other states’ borders,” the Russian Air Force spokesman added.

The Tupolev TU-160 is a heavy bomber which was first deployed during the last years of the Soviet Union. Pilots of the Tu-160 call it the “White Swan”, due to its maneuverability and anti-flash white finish. The aircraft is capable of holding 40,000 kg of free-fall weapons or a rotary launcher for nuclear missiles.

On 12 October 2008 a number of Tu-160 bombers were involved in the largest Russian strategic bomber exercise since 1984. A total of 12 bombers including Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear conducted a series of launches of their cruise missiles. Some bombers launched a full complement of their missiles. It was the first time that a Tu-160 had ever fired a full complement of missiles. Russia has at least 16 TU-160 currently in service.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

U.S. intelligence: Al Qaeda may target ships off Yemen

[Updated at 1:53 p.m.] A U.S. official told CNN that the warning was issued due to information that al Qaeda individuals in Yemen were attempting to acquire a small boat and launch an attack on a commercial vessel.

[Posted at 8:51 a.m.] Military and commercial maritime traffic sailing off the coast of Yemen are being warned by U.S. intelligence they may be targeted by al Qaeda.

The U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence has posted a warning to mariners and military ships that "information suggests that al-Qaeda remains interested in maritime attacks."

The notice covers the waters of the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait, Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden along the coast of Yemen.

The notice issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation and posted by the ONI says "although it is unclear how they would proceed, it may be similar in nature to the attacks against the USS COLE in October 2000, and the M/V LIMBURG in October 2002 where a small to mid-size boat laden with explosives was detonated."

The warning dated March 10 also says "other more sophisticated methods of attack could include missiles or projectiles. Although the time and location of such an attack are unknown, ships in the Red Sea, Bab-al-Mandeb Strait, and the Gulf of Aden along the coast of Yemen are at the greatest risk of becoming targets of such an attack."

The U.S. Navy urges all vessels in the region to "operate at a heightened state of readiness, maintain strict 24-hour visual and radar watches, and regularly report their position, course and speed" to maritime authorities in the region.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meet "Jihad Jane"


A Pennsylvania woman has been charged with plotting to kill a Swedish man and trying to recruit fighters via the Internet to commit violent attacks overseas, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Colleen LaRose, who also went by the pseudonym of "Fatima LaRose" and "JihadJane," was charged with conspiracy to commit murder overseas, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, making false statements and attempted identity theft.

LaRose posted a comment on YouTube in June 2008 that she wanted to help "the suffering Muslim people." She sent emails to unnamed co-conspirators offering to become a martyr as well as to use her American background to avoid detection, according to the indictment filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania.

The indictment accused LaRose of agreeing in March 2009 to marry a co-conspirator from a South Asian country and try to obtain residency in Europe. He urged her to go to Sweden, find the unnamed Swedish man "and kill him."

Also on Tuesday, Irish police said seven people had been arrested there in connection with a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist, Lars Vilk, over a 2007 drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammed with the body of a dog.

The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on whether the cases were connected.

"Today's indictment, which alleges that a woman from suburban America agreed to carry out murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," David Kris, head of the department's national security division, said in a statement.

The Obama administration has grown increasingly worried about Americans and foreigners living in the United States taking up the cause of anti-American militants and launching attacks here or abroad.

Two recent cases have fueled those concerns: the arrest of a Chicago man accused of helping plot the 2008 Mumbai attacks and an Afghan immigrant living in Colorado who pleaded guilty to plotting a bomb attack on the New York subway system.

In the Pennsylvania case, LaRose was accused of traveling to Europe in August 2009 and tracking online her intended murder target in Sweden, according to the indictment. It also said she tried to raise money over the Internet, lure others to her cause and lied to FBI investigators.

"This case also demonstrates that terrorists are looking for Americans to join them in their cause, and it shatters any lingering thought that we can spot a terrorist based on appearance," Michael Levy, the U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania, said in a statement.

After returning to the United States, LaRose was arrested in October 2009 on a charge related to the theft of a U.S. passport, court documents showed.

If convicted on the four counts in the indictment, which was dated March 4, 2010, LaRose could face a sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.

(Editing by Chris Wilson)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stealth transport sought for special forces.

By the 2020s, U.S. special-forces troops will need a stealthy new airlifter to sneak past ever-improving radar and missile systems into "denied areas," says the Pentagon's top civilian special operations official.

NOT STEALTHY ENOUGH: The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides global, day, night and adverse weather capability to deliver personnel and equipment in support of U.S. and allied special ops forces. (U.S. AIR FORCE)

"At some point, serious consideration will need to be given to the development and fielding of a more survivable, long-range SOF [special operations forces] air mobility platform that exploits advances in signature reduction and electronic attack," Michael Vickers, assistant U.S. defense secretary for special operations, low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities, said during a March 4 interview at the Pentagon. "We don't have to decide today" what to buy, but the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review probably "will have to look at this pretty hard."

Currently, U.S. special operators use a mix of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, like modified C-130 transports, to move by air.

While it's too early to determine what a new stealth transporter might look like or how much it would cost, Vickers said "it will be expensive" and look less like a modified C-130 and more like a traditional stealth aircraft. He also said the need for range would force it to operate from land bases, not ships.

The Pentagon flies stealthy F-22 fighters and B-2 bombers, but the development of a radar-avoiding airlifter could require a radically different design.

"This is a tough one," said Ronald Epstein, an analyst at Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch. "You have to carry a lot of weight."

The most likely choice, Epstein said, is a blended-wing aircraft. A NASA fact sheet shows a concept for a blended-wing airliner that resembles a flying wing with a thick airfoil-shaped fuselage section.

But Epstein said a flying wing design "wouldn't give you the volume you need, especially to get all the gear in with them."

Another option might be a swing wing that would look like a B-2 bomber in flight, and then could "swing to look more like a C-130 for the insertion part," Epstein said.

Several Pentagon veterans and defense analysts said they agree about the need for a stealthy insertion plane in an era of improving air defenses.

"The issue for the SOF community, however, has been, and remains, cost," said Barry Watts, a former director of the Pentagon's Program Evaluation and Analysis directorate who now is an analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "I am skeptical that the SOF community will find the funding to procure the kind of insertion platform they need."

But Pentagon leaders appear determined to stay ahead of potential adversaries who are improving their ability to keep U.S. forces at bay.

READ THE RESTB ++By the 2020s, U.S. special-forces troops will need a stealthy new airlifter to sneak past ever-improving radar and missile systems into "denied areas," says the Pentagon's top civilian special operations official.

NOT STEALTHY ENOUGH: The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides global, day, night and adverse weather capability to deliver personnel and equipment in support of U.S. and allied special ops forces. (U.S. AIR FORCE)
"At some point, serious consideration will need to be given to the development and fielding of a more survivable, long-range SOF [special operations forces] air mobility platform that exploits advances in signature reduction and electronic attack," Michael Vickers, assistant U.S. defense secretary for special operations, low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities, said during a March 4 interview at the Pentagon. "We don't have to decide today" what to buy, but the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review probably "will have to look at this pretty hard."

Currently, U.S. special operators use a mix of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, like modified C-130 transports, to move by air.

While it's too early to determine what a new stealth transporter might look like or how much it would cost, Vickers said "it will be expensive" and look less like a modified C-130 and more like a traditional stealth aircraft. He also said the need for range would force it to operate from land bases, not ships.

The Pentagon flies stealthy F-22 fighters and B-2 bombers, but the development of a radar-avoiding airlifter could require a radically different design.

"This is a tough one," said Ronald Epstein, an analyst at Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch. "You have to carry a lot of weight."

The most likely choice, Epstein said, is a blended-wing aircraft. A NASA fact sheet shows a concept for a blended-wing airliner that resembles a flying wing with a thick airfoil-shaped fuselage section.

But Epstein said a flying wing design "wouldn't give you the volume you need, especially to get all the gear in with them."

Another option might be a swing wing that would look like a B-2 bomber in flight, and then could "swing to look more like a C-130 for the insertion part," Epstein said.

Several Pentagon veterans and defense analysts said they agree about the need for a stealthy insertion plane in an era of improving air defenses.

"The issue for the SOF community, however, has been, and remains, cost," said Barry Watts, a former director of the Pentagon's Program Evaluation and Analysis directorate who now is an analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "I am skeptical that the SOF community will find the funding to procure the kind of insertion platform they need."

But Pentagon leaders appear determined to stay ahead of potential adversaries who are improving their ability to keep U.S. forces at bay.

READ THE FULL STORY AT DEFENSE NEWS BY CLICKING HERE

Monday, March 8, 2010

USAF publishes 30 year plan.




By BRUCE ROLFSEN
Published: 6 Mar 2010 16:07

A U.S. AIR Force B-2 Spirit bomber is towed to a parking spot Feb. 12 at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The 30-year Air Force plan calls for development of a new long-range strike aircraft by 2020. (TECH. SGT. SHANE A. CUOMO / U.S. AIR FORCE)
Mandated by Congress, the "Aircraft Investment Plan" maps out how many planes the Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy plan to buy through 2020 and sets goals for 2021-2040. It does not include helicopters.

The report calls for a joint approach to long-range strike and electronic warfare but does not drastically alter the Air Force's announced plans for its two main acquisitions this decade - the F-35 Lightning II and KC-X tanker

By aircraft, what the report foresees for the Air Force:

COMBAT
■ Bomber: The Air Force could spend $2 billion to $4 billion a year to develop a new long-range strike aircraft by 2020.

Whether the plane will have a pilot onboard or will fly at supersonic speeds is undecided. The report says: "A study is underway to identify the right mix of manned and unmanned technologies … and to determine the right balance between range, payload, speed, stealth, and onboard sensors."

Until the new bomber arrives, the Air Force will keep about 160 B-52 Stratofortresses, B-1B Lancers and B-2 Spirit bombers.

■ F-22 Raptor: The service will spend $1.9 billion to upgrade its 180 fighter jets with improved communications and avionics gear. Retirement of the Raptors could begin in 2025.

■ F-35: The Air Force is in line to buy 602 F-35s through 2020 at a cost of about $70 billion. Two-thirds arrive in 2016 or later. The Air Force fleet will eventually total 1,763 jets.

■ MQ-9 Reapers: Forecasts call for the service to buy 372 of the attack and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles from 2011 through 2018. The price tag: about $820 million. Later models will have an electronic warfare capability.

■ RQ-4 Global Hawks: Four to five remote-controlled jets will arrive each year through 2017. There is no projection for later years.

The report did not offer an overall cost for the RQ-4s; for 2011, the Air Force wants $737 million for four Global Hawks, their payloads and logistics support.

MOBILITY
■ KC-X: The service is set to spend about $30 billion through 2020 to develop and buy 109 new tankers.

■ Intra-theater airlift: The Air Force should continue to buy C-130J Hercules to replace older C-130 E and H models. The study projects buying 63 C-130Js through 2020 for about $6 billion.

■ Strategic airlift: The service wants to maintain an fleet of 314 large cargo planes, a mix of 223 C-17s and 91 C-5s. The report recommends the Air Force begin development of a new cargo jet starting in 2015.

E-mail: brolfsen@militarytimes.com

Iranian President Mahmoud "Amanutjob" says 9/11 attacks are a lie.



CNN) -- Two days before his official trip to Afghanistan, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a "big lie" intended to pave the way for the invasion of a war-torn nation, according to Iranian state media.
Ahmadinejad, known for his harsh rhetoric toward the West and Israel, said the attack on U.S. soil was a "scenario and a sophisticated intelligence measure," Iran's state-run Press TV reported Saturday.

The assault was a "big lie intended to serve as a pretext for fighting terrorism and setting the grounds for sending troops to Afghanistan," Press TV reported Ahmadinejad as saying.
It's not the first time Ahmadinejad has denied a historical tragedy. In the past, he has denied the existence of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of some 6 million Jews during World War II, and suggested Israel should be "wiped off the map."

"Today," he said Saturday, "with blessings from the Almighty, the capitalist system, founded by the Zionists, has also reached an end," Press TV quoted Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad's comments Saturday came just two days before his visit to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan President Hamid

Karzai, according to the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
Ahmadinejad has blamed the "problems in its eastern neighbor" on foreign troops there, ILNA reported Sunday.
The one-day trip is the first for both leaders since their re-election, ILNA reported. Ahmadinejad's re-election last summer prompted thousands to take to the streets of Tehran in protest.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pentagon shooter was calm and collected ...


CNN) -- A man coolly walked up to the Pentagon's screening area Thursday evening and opened fire, slightly wounding two Pentagon police officers before they returned fire, critically wounding him, officials said.

The incident happened at 6:40 p.m., when the man -- with "no real emotion in his face" -- approached the officers outside the Pentagon Metro station, said Pentagon Police Chief Richard S. Keevill.

"As the officers started to ask him for his pass to get into the Pentagon, he drew a weapon from his pocket and started shooting" from a few feet away, Keevill told reporters.

The two Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers returned fire with their semi-automatic weapons and the suspect, thought to be a U.S. citizen, was critically wounded, Keevill said. "He did not say a word," Keevill added.

Pentagon entrances were locked briefly, but all were reopened with the exception of the Pentagon Metro entrance, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency is the Pentagon's police department.
Lisa McDonald, a spokeswoman for George Washington Hospital, told CNN three people were being treated there -- both officers and the suspect.

The U.S. Secret Service and the FBI were both involved in the investigation, Keevill said.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The International Space Station Program has won the 2009 Collier Trophy


Image:







The International Space Station is featured in this image photographed by an STS-130 crew member on space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation. Credit: NASA


The International Space Station Program has won the 2009 Collier Trophy, which is considered the top award in aviation. The National Aeronautic Association bestows the award annually to recognize the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate. “We're proud of our past achievements to build and operate the space station, and we're excited about the future- there's a new era ahead of potential groundbreaking scientific research aboard the station."

The International Space Station is a joint project of five space agencies and 15 countries that is nearing completion and will mark the 10th anniversary of a continuous human presence in orbit later this year. The largest and most complicated spacecraft ever built, the space station is an international, technological and political achievement that represents the latest step in humankind’s quest to explore and live in space.

Designated as a national laboratory by Congress in the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, the space station provides a research platform that takes advantage of the microgravity conditions 220 miles above the Earth’s surface across a wide variety of fields, including human life sciences, biological science, human physiology, physical and materials science, and Earth and space science.

Upon completion of assembly later this year, the station’s crew and its U.S., European, Japanese and Russian laboratory facilities will expand the pace of space-based research to unprecedented levels. Nearly 150 experiments are currently under way on the station, and more than 400 experiments have been conducted since research began nine years ago. These experiments already are leading to advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells and the development of more capable engines and materials for use on Earth and in space.

The international partner agencies – NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency – provide control centers and support teams that train and launch crews to the station, provide support for systems operations and coordinate the on-orbit research 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Now supporting a multicultural crew of six, the station has a mass of almost 800,000 pounds and a habitable volume of more than 12,000 cubic feet – approximately the size of a five-bedroom home, and uses state-of-the-art systems to generate solar electricity, recycle nearly 85 percent of its water and generate much of its own oxygen supply. Nearly 190 humans have visited the space station, which is now supporting its 22nd resident crew.

Boeing is the prime contractor, responsible for design, development, construction and integration of the ISS.

The award will be formally presented to the International Space Station Program team on May 13. The award is named for Robert J. Collier, a publisher who commissioned it in 1910 with the intent to encourage the U.S. aviation community to strive for excellence and achievement in aeronautic development. Past winners include the B-52 Program, the Surveyor Moon Landing Program, the Boeing 747 and the F-22. Other past honorees include the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 8, the Mercury 7.

UBL - Does anyone even care anymore?


Osama bin Laden -(UBL) remember him? Where is he, and is the U.S. getting closer to killing or capturing him?

Those are the questions hovering over several recent developments in the Afghanistan war: the capture of Afghan Taliban military leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the killing of two key Taliban commanders and an increase in drone attacks.


But several authorities on the eight-year Afghanistan war say no one should expect to see bin Laden in handcuffs anytime soon.

“No, I don’t think we’re getting any closer,” says Stephen Tanner, author of “Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban."

Tanner says the ISI, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, knows where bin Laden is hiding, but is not ready to say.

“We got to make a deal with Pakistan because I’m convinced that he’s [bin Laden] protected by the ISI,” Tanner says.

Tanner says that rogue elements within the ISI - if not the Pakistani government – may be using bin Laden as a “trump card” to exert leverage over the United States. Tanner says that Pakistani leaders are concerned that the U.S. will draw closer to India, Pakistan’s chief rival.

Flashing the bin Laden trump card will insure that the U.S. will continue to send aid to Pakistan because it considers it a bulwark against radical Islam, Tanner says. Without the bin Laden trump card, though, Pakistan would be in danger of being abandoned by the U.S., Tanner says.

“I just think it’s impossible after all this time to not know where he is. The ISI knows what’s going on in its own country,” Tanner says. “We’re talking about a 6-foot-4-inch Arab with a coterie of bodyguards.”

Even if the U.S. draws a bead on bin Laden, he won’t be captured alive, says Thomas Mockatis, author of, “Osama bin Laden: A Biography.”

Mockatis says bin Laden has bodyguards who are tasked with shooting him if his capture seems imminent.

“Killing bin Laden would not be a good thing,” Mockatis says. “He’s already a hero. Killing bin Laden would just create one more martyr.”

Many in the Arab world wouldn’t even believe reports that bin Laden had been killed, Mockatis says. They would dismiss the news as CIA propaganda and any photographs of bin Laden’s body as fabrications.

Killing bin Laden is important, but what’s more vital is the ongoing U.S. campaign to “constrict” al Qaeda’s operation, Mockatis says. The U.S. has become more successful at taking away al Qaeda’s safe havens, their ability to move agents and finance operations around the globe.

“It’s a grinding down process, the way you deal with organized crime,” Mockatis says. “You constantly keep the pressure on.”

"Big Bird - you are cleared for runway two-niner."


NEW YORK—A child apparently directed pilots last month from the air-traffic control center at John F. Kennedy Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports, according to audio clips. The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it was investigating.

"Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic," the FAA said in a statement. "This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees." The agency declined to comment beyond the statement.

Recordings from mid-February—during a week-long winter break for many New York schoolchildren—were posted last month on a Web site for air-traffic control-listening aficionados.

The child can be heard on the tape making five transmissions to pilots preparing for takeoff.

In one exchange, the child can be heard saying, "JetBlue 171 contact departure." The pilot responds: "Over to departure JetBlue 171, awesome job."

The child appears to be under an adult's supervision, because a male voice then comes on and says with a laugh, "That's what you get, guys, when the kids are out of school."

In another exchange, the youngster clears another plane for takeoff, and says, "Adios, amigo." The pilot responds in kind.

The FAA said the control tower is a highly secure area for air-traffic controllers, supervisory staff and airport employees with a need to be there. FAA spokesman Jim Peters said children of the tower's employees are allowed to visit but would need to get approval from the FAA first.

The union representing air-traffic controllers condemned the workers' behavior.

"It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and everyday in the advancement of aviation safety," the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in a statement.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press

Cowardly terrorists strike at weak & hospitalized.

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- A suicide bomber ended a series of deadly attacks in central Iraq by detonating explosives in a hospital emergency ward where victims of two earlier blasts were being treated.

At least 29 people were killed and 42 wounded in the triple bombing attack in Baquba, northeast of the capital Baghdad.
The first car bomb attack targeted a government office near a police checkpoint. Two minutes later, a second suicide car bomb went off near the party headquarters of former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in central part of the city.
About an hour later, as the victims of the first two explosions were being rushed to Baquba general hospital, a third suicide bomber walked into the hospital's emergency room and detonated a bomb.

The blasts took place just four days before the country is set to hold parliamentary elections -- its second since the ouster of former President Saddam Hussein.
More than 6,000 candidates will compete for 325 seats in the Iraq parliament in the March 7 vote.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned of large-scale attacks in the run-up to the voting. And al Qaeda in Iraq's umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq, has promised to disrupt the elections.
Iraqi forces have been taking part in drills to improve their response to suicide attacks.
Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, is about 60 km (37 miles) north of Baghdad. Sunni insurgents continue to fight U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces there.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Boeing schedules flight tests of Phantom Ray


Aviation Week:

Boeing officials plan to begin taxi tests on the company’s Phantom Ray demonstrator in July, a slight delay from earlier plans, but first flight is still targeted for December 2010, according Darryl Davis, Boeing Phantom Works president.

Phantom Ray is a revived version of the defunct X-45C program. It is fully funded by Phantom Works and aimed to get Boeing designers and engineers working on unmanned combat system technology and aeronautical design elements that could be applicable to a number of future Pentagon acquisitions, including the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned MQ-X and Long-Range Strike program and the Navy’s F/A-XX future strike aircraft.

The goal is first to conduct flight worthiness tests for Phantom Ray and then enter a second phase to expand the flight envelope and, potentially, conduct automated aerial refueling trials, electronic warfare or other tests, Davis says.

The stealthy, flying wing design will be powered by a single modified General Electric F404-GE-102D engine and is designed to carry about 4,500 pounds of payload roughly 1,000 nautical miles round trip without refueling.

Availability of the stealthy exhaust system is what prompted a slight delay to the taxi tests, which were to occur in the spring. The exhaust system was needed elsewhere for a classified Defense Dept. test effort, Davis said. “That test overran its period of performance slightly and so we rewickered some things,” Davis said. “The test we were doing was not related to anything related to Long-Range Strike. It was a technology test for reliability, maintainability, durability kinds of things.”

Proprietary data on the design of the exhaust system is jointly owned by Boeing and General Electric. Davis says the exhaust system has been delivered back to St. Louis for integration onto Phantom Ray and the engine is expected in the next two months.

As the company moves forward with Phantom Ray, it appears a high-profile partnership with Lockheed Martin under a 2008 teaming agreement has stalled. The two opted to team up as a foil to Northrop Grumman, which has its stealthy B-2 and X-47 in hand.

At the time, it was widely thought that Lockheed Martin and Boeing were lagging far behind Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, maker of the Predator and Reaper families, in unmanned aircraft and in technologies that could be applied to a new bomber. Now, however, Lockheed’s work on the formerly classified RQ-170 has been exposed, revealing that the company has legs in this area. And Boeing has begun to pursue flight testing of Phantom Ray.

“Until we understand where the government is headed with the program, all the work that we had previously been doing to collaborate on [internal research and development] and technology, those things have gone into a pause mode ... and I’m not sure that the agreement will endure. And, at this point I’d say the jury is still out on what we will do,” Davis says. “I think the government in the day and age we are in probably wants more competition than less in the re-emergence of the program.”

Russia to build stealth bomber


Russia To Build New Strategic Bomber
By Nabi Abdullaev

MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia will start building a new strategic bomber.

"We should not confine ourselves to developing just one new model," Putin said of the Russian T-50 fifth-generation stealth fighter that had its maiden flight Jan. 29. He was speaking at the government meeting dedicated to the aviation industry and held at the Moscow premises of the Sukhoi Corp., where the T-50 was designed.

"We must think and get down to work on a next-generation, long-range aviation complex, our new strategic missile carrier," he said.

Russia has been trying to modernize its aging air forces by posting unprecedented domestic orders since the Soviet era and by offering generous financial help to the aviation makers during the ongoing financial crunch.

The government said in a press release distributed Sunday that the Russian military will commission 1,500 new military aircraft and helicopters so that the Air Force will have 80 percent modern aircraft by 2020.

In 2010, the military plans to commission 27 airplanes and more than 50 helicopters, the statement said.

Putin gave no details about the future strategic bomber other than saying that the top industry priorities will be designing engines, new materials and electronic equipment.

Earlier this year, the commander of long-range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, said that a new strategic bomber that will replace Tu-95s (NATO codename Bear) and Tu-160s (NATO codename Blackjack) will be built in Russia and commissioned in 2025-2030.

Putin said the Russian government had directed 3.1 billion rubles ($104 million) to support the Russian aviation industry since the global financial crisis began in late 2008. The United Aircraft Corp. (UAC), the government-controlled holding led by Sukhoi, received 1.15 billion rubles and the MiG Corp., which is still outside the UAC, received 1 billion rubles. The measures helped to increase output by 7 percent, Putin said.

Turning to the T-50 stealth fighter, which is regarded as Russia's answer to the U.S.-made F-22 Raptor, Putin said that about 2,000 more test flights will be made before the aircraft could be commissioned by the military.

Earlier this year, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, chief of the Air Force. said that commissioning of the T-50 will begin in 2015.

Mikhail Pogosyan, general director of Sukhoi, said at the meeting that three more T-50 experimental fighters will be built before year's end.

"Why I spied for Israel" son of Hamas leader talks.

New York (CNN) -- The son of a founder of the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, Tuesday told CNN that he was a spy for Israel.
For 10 years, Mosab Yousef said he gathered information about Hamas terrorist plots and fed them to Israel's domestic security service Shin Bet.

Yousef, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, said he did it because he came to believe that Hamas was practicing "exceptional cruelty" against its members and "killed people for no reason."
His has now written a book, "Son of Hamas" detailing his exploits from his new base in the United States where he has lived since 2007. CNN could not independently confirmed his story and Israel has refused to comment.

In the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a former Israeli handler said of Yousef: "One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts."
Yousef told CNN: "They offered me to work for them. My goal was to be a double agent and attack them from the inside."

But then his views changed.
"After I was tortured by Shin Bet I was transferred to prison [where] Hamas tortured Hamas members and I became confused who was really my enemy ... I accepted to meet Shin Bet."

Yousef said he agreed to spy on Hamas and that his decision was partly a moral one. "My people did not understand this. Shin Bet is committed to a constitution but Hamas targets civilians. There's a difference between targeting a terrorist and civilians."
He said that in part his transformation was due to spiritual reasons. "Later on, I became a Christian, during that time, the first few months, and I was convinced by the principle of loving your enemies. And I saw that my enemy, who I thought that they were my enemies, they had morality, they had their responsibilities more than my own people."

He added: "As a Shin Bet agent, when I had information I helped arrest people, otherwise they hit randomly. When I specified a particular person I had a condition - not to kill that person ...


"In 10 years working for Shin Bet I am not responsible for killing one terrorist. I care about my people, my problem was their [Hamas'] ideology.


READ THE FULL STORY AT CNN

South Korea looses two jets


Two F-5 Tiger fighter jets crashed into a mountain in eastern South Korea during a routine training flight on Tuesday, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The accident took place near the coastal city of Gangneung, about 237 kilometers (147 miles) east of Seoul.

"We are currently searching for the missing pilots near the area," Yonhap quoted an Air Force official as saying.

The official said two HH-60 rescue helicopters have been dispatched to the crash cite.

South Korea reportedly has 174 F-5E/F Tiger II fighters in service with its Air Force.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Suspected CIA suicide bomber calls American team 'gift from God.


Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The man believed to be the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees and contractors last year appears in a newly released video, claiming to have tricked Jordanian intelligence officers as a double agent.

The 43-minute video, posted on various Islamic radical Web sites Saturday, shows Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, whom a former U.S. intelligence official identified as the suicide bomber.
Family members have said that the man in the video, who uses the alias Abu Dajana Al-Khorasani, is al-Balawi. A much shorter version of the video was posted online in January.

The December 30 bombing at a U.S. base in Khost, in southeastern Afghanistan, killed seven CIA operatives and a Jordanian army captain. The video posted Saturday is dated "Safar 1431" on the lunar calendar, which includes any day between January 16, 2010 and February 13, 2010.
In the video, al-Balawi says killing the CIA team wasn't part of the initial plan. "We planned for something but got a bigger gift -- a gift from God -- who brought us ... a valuable prey: Americans, and from the CIA."

The video opens with a montage of images -- including clips of torture and meetings of world leaders, such as former President George W. Bush with Jordan's King Abdullah and President Obama. A narrator criticizes the "infidel West," and talks of crimes against Muslims.

Al-Balawi then appears on the video, vowing to bring down the CIA and saying how he deceived Jordanian officials into believing he worked for them.

"Look, this is for you," he says to the camera, while sitting in a vehicle. "It's not a watch. It's a detonator to kill as many as I can, God willing."

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

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