Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

US Navy DASH (Remote controlled helicopter)

The DASH itself isn’t very significant to being in the museum. Perhaps to show that ‘drones’ (unmanned air vehicles) are not new to the military arsenal.

But what is significant is that the DASH is being displayed with the training version of a B57 Nuclear Depth bomb.

You would have thought that the Smithsonian would have been more sensitive to this after all of the issues they had putting the ‘Enola Gay’ on display.

(the museum isn’t being shy about the DASH being shown with a Nuke. It is described on the info placard for the aircraft)

 

Not recycled into Soda Cans yet

Caught during a bus tour of the AMARC disposal yard in late August.

What appears to be four Grumman F-14 Tomcat’s still intact and waiting to be recycled to prevent their parts from making it to the Iranians (to help them maintain their fleet)

 

Iranian nuclear ambitions delayed?

Sunday’s New York Times will have an article on the Front Page that strongly suggests that the Stuxnet worm was an Infowar attack by the Israeli’s against the Iranian Nuclear program. It goes on to suggest that the US assisted and supported the development of this worm as a way to slow down the Iranian attempt to create a nuclear bomb.

This program has seemed to work – and Israeli and US intelligence seem to think this has added 3 years to the timetable for the Iranian’s to have a usable nuclear device.

Time will tell – if this has had the desired effect – or shown others a new way to attack their enemies.

 

Incursions 2

The BBC has posted a short photo survey of the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting incident.

 

It is well worth the quick view.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8345831.stm

 

Watcher One

 

Incursions 1

It has not been a very good day for Muslims.

 

In Somalia, the BBC reported, a 33-year-old man was stoned to death for adultery.  Witnesses reported seeing blood spouting from his head during approximately seven continuous minutes of stoning, before the man finally died. While this may not raise too many eyebrows, try this one on:  the girl – presumably younger – who is pregnant with the man’s child, has been sentenced to death as well, as soon as she gives birth.  Still not strong enough for you? Last year they stoned to death another girl for the same thing.  She was 13.

 

On the other side of the world, a U.S. Army Major reportedly started shooting at a military base, killing 13 and injuring 28 others in a spree apparently prompted by his upcoming orders to go to Afghanistan.  See it coming? That’s right, the Major was Muslim.  Not only that, but he was a devout, practicing Muslim, born in America to Palestinian parents. He was reportedly wearing full religious clothing at the time of the shooting, and was heard screaming the Arabic phrase "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great] before he started shooting.

 

Not a good day for Muslims at all.

 

Islam is not, of course, the only religion to suffer from prejudice caused by a few bad apples… or even the only group. Intermountain west Mormons are all branded as closet polygamists thanks to the FLDS matter last year.  Catholic leaders are all suspected of being closet molesters, thanks to the failures of a few.  Even your regular law enforcement officer is disliked by most, even though most people don’t even know any officers personally.

 

However, you won’t find a police department that has a published goal of killing everyone who isn’t an officer like them.

 

The incidents in Somalia prove that religious fervor trumps law and morality with almost no contest. The incident at Fort Hood shows that religious belief trumps loyalty to country, patriotism, and military order – again with almost no contest.  And while there are many religious groups that could be called "fervent", none of them link that fervor with global killings as easily as radical Muslims apparently do.

 

Of course, the Major’s family is claiming that he was "being harassed" because of his religion. But it’s quickly becoming clear that the shooting wasn’t about harassment. The Major didn’t kill the people who were harassing him. He opened fire in a public area of Fort Hood – just down the hall from a graduation ceremony for new soldiers! Make no mistake – this was no victim of harassment. This was a man who wanted to punish others for daring to try to send him to Afghanistan. And he accomplished this punishment using indirect yet highly effective means: killing innocents.  Which is, if I’m not mistaken, a rather common thread in the world of radical Islam.

 

One soldier at Fort Hood pointed out that this was going to make everyone look at Muslims – and especially Muslim soldiers – in a more negative light.  Indeed it will, and should. Because nobody ever thought that the Muslim Major could kill at least 13 people in cold blood… until after he actually did it.  This is not a case of prejudice. Judgement wasn’t passed until after the act occurred.  As long as people choose to associate with a group noted for their willingness and eagerness to enforce their religious views with violence, those people will be subject to deeper scrutiny.  Because it is from that group of people that the threats clearly and consistently seem to emerge.

 

AWACS – key to the modern Air War

Every modern airforce has Airborne Radar and Command & Control aircraft to not only direct offensive operations – but to also control their air defenses. But these aircraft are not cheap. Up until recently – only the major powers (US, NATO & Russia) could afford a fleet of these highly specialized aircraft.

The Western powers have standardized on the US Boeing E-3 Sentry (based on the Boeing 707 airliner), while the Russian’s based their AWACS on the Ilyusin IL-76 transport, refered to as the Beriev A-50 ‘Mainstay’.

RAAF 737 Wedgetail

[As technology has advanced and electronics have shrunk – Air Forces have no longer needed the size and capacity of a four engined aircraft. Newer AWACS-type aircraft are based on smaller aircraft – like the Boeing 737 pictured above undergoing shakedown tests before being delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force.]

One of the side affects of the Gulf War (I and II) was that the world saw the effect of a quality command and control system (and what happens when you don’t have one), so many countries have tried to add this capability to their own armed forces.

One of the most watched countries in the world – Iran – had recently upgraded its sole large AWACS aircraft. It was a hand me down IL-76 that originally came from Iraq (before the first Gulf War kicked off several Iraqi Air Force aircraft were ‘evacuated’ to Iran, rather than being shot down by Coalition forces), and was upgraded by the Russian’s last year.

Il-76/A-50 Mainstay

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Not a (war)ship




09531003

Originally uploaded by sirakwftvnews

The USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg was sunk today to become an artificial reef off of Key West.

Contrary to some reports she was NOT a WARSHIP. She was a former Liberty troop transport during World War 2, and was saved from the scrapyard in the 60’s to become a range support ship for the DOD and then supported NASA.

If you want to dive on a real ‘warship’ – go farther north from Key West towards Pensacola. The World War 2 Essex-class aircraft carrier, the Oriskany, was sunk 20 odd miles off shore – and its island is accessible to recreation certified divers.

 

Stress Pandemic

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Of course we are all now familiar with the latest media-consumption craze: the global swine flu pandemic. 

 

Concerning this, I cannot help but notice that, since this has started capturing the media’s attention, I myself have been feeling sick.

 

Every day, and every night, we are bombarded with media frenzy over this news.  We’re told to wait.  We’re told to worry.  The media pumps this up into a huge disaster, using words like “pandemic” and “no resistance” and “deaths”.

 

Don’t get me wrong:  sickness and death are tragic.  But as the fine print in every media report points out:  The regular flu kills tens of thousands each year.  And this current version of swine flu is turning out to be less fatal, per infected person, than the regular flu is.

 

Hmm.

 

I realize the media has a job to do, but I can’t help wondering if the media itself isn’t contributing to this problem.  By constantly parading this story in front of everyone, they’re making everyone worry.  Raising everyone’s stress levels. And, as a result, lowering everyone’s resistance.  The “dirty laundry” is probably more virulent than the flu itself.

 

Other things are more important: Dealing with the outbreak itself, fixing the economy, fixing credit, putting ethics back into credit card companies, and fixing taxes.

 

But, maybe, someday, someone ought to take thought to “fixing” mainstream media.

 

“Kick ’em when they’re up!  Kick ’em when they’re down!” certainly does seem to fit!  And I’m certainly being kicked, and I’m certainly being brought down by it. 

 

Enough, please. I’m going to die someday, and there’s nothing I can do about this flu outbreak that I wasn’t already doing anyway.  Please, big media, let me get back to my life – regardless of how much of it I have left!

 

Soldier Suicides

A very disturbing trend is emerging pertaining to the mental health and well-being of our military personnel. It is the rate of military and soldier suicides. 

In 2008, there were 138 confirmed suicides – an average of 11 per month. In the first two months of 2009, there were 42 – more than double the average rate.  Although the data space for this trend is fortunately small, the thinking seems to be that one of the chief driving factors in these suicides is shortened leaves coupled with multiple redeployments to Iraq.  This factor has been present in the bulk of the recent suicides investigated thus far.

This is a clear danger, on numerous levels. First, and most obviously, it shows that we are stretching our military too thinly.  We forget the all-too-important truth that our military personnel are in fact people, and subject to the same limitations as anyone, especially in the area of traumatic stress. We cannot expect these people to function properly if they are pushed beyond reasonable limits.  Of course, war could be agreed to itself be beyond reasonable limits, but there is a significant different between serving a tour in Iraq followed by a tour at home, and serving a tour in Iraq, having intertour leave cut short, and being immediately redeployed to Iraq. Repeatedly. If Congress finds it necessary to continue our presence there, it should find the funding to hire additional personnel to cover the force requirements in a healthy, safe, sane way – one which does not jeopardize the safety of our personnel.  Congress’ failure to do so is itself a significant threat.

Second, it highlights the problems we still face in Iraq. The situation there is obviously dangerous, and unhealthy. It is also significant, since we have forces deployed there in a state of war. This only increases the burden placed on soldiers already stretched to the limits.  It is imperative that we protect the situation in Iraq, yes. But is is more imperative that we protect our own people, especially our military.

Third, and perhaps the most frightening, such a situation is not one that is conducive to military participation numbers.  Requiring such extreme duty of our personnel is bound to increase attrition rates dramatically. Not only will re-up/re-enlistment rates drop, but new recruitment rates are bound to drop as well. 20 years ago, the Army ran 3-minute television sports with graphics and music entitled "Be all that you can be." In contrast, today’s "Army Strong" spots are short, subdued, and quiet. Indeed, there is very little to be said.

The increase in suicide rates is troubling and disturbing on its own.  But there is much more to it.  The rate increase is an indicator of a systemic problem in the maintenance of a military force. Failure to treat and maintain our force properly could ultimately result in its self-destruction.  These things must be prevented at all costs, and must be addressed at the highest levels with top priority. 

If we fail, we fall.

 

JSF data breach – what will the impact be?

Earlier this week – it came to light that design specifications (computer files) for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)/F-35 Lightning II stored on a Pentagon contractor computer system – had been accessed and downloaded by hackers.

One story says that the contractor’s computers were compromised as early as 2007 – and the hackers continued to access these systems.

The thing about this story – is that it isn’t new. The original allegations that the program’s computers had been compromised was first run almost a year ago in May 2008. The contractor disputed the initial IG’s report with enough vigor that the IG withdrew the report last October.

It seems that Lockheed-Martin and BAE are downplaying the incident by saying that no “classified” data was compromised But if the attackers encrypted the data streams that were being removed – how can anyone be sure what exactly was or was not accessed.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Now, Big Brother IS Watching

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The news of the day was at once innocuous, and stunning:  The BBC reported that Internet Service Providers in the European Union were now under government mandate to log their users’ email messages and internet telephone calls.  Although the mandate does not require ISPs to store the contents of the email, or a recording of the call, it certainly doesn’t forbid it either… and whether such additional records exist ot not, the law on its face it does allow for the monitoring of communications between individuals, and the establishment of "connections" and/or relationships therefrom.

The ways in which this data could be used are many, and the ways in which it could be misused are there as well.  And there are inconsistencies in the announcement that beg for clarification.  For example, the UK Home Office said that "effective safeguards are in place and … the data can only be accessed when it is necessary and proportionate to do so", which implies that the data would only be used to solve crimes as an investigative tool.

But in almost the same breath, they justify this law by saying that "Communications data … plays a vital part in … prevention of terrorist attacks, as well as contributing to public safety more generally."  Prevention?  Contributing to safety generally?  This is a broad mandate that tells the true story: The EU government intends to engage in data-based profiling.  Who you call, or who calls you – even accidentally – now determines who you are.  You might become flagged as a terrorist without ever knowing it, until it’s too late.

For those who might roll their eyes at such a prediction, one need only look back at the lessons of history. The advances of technology are increasing rapidly – even exponentially.  The assumptions about the fabric of our world, which we have grown up with, which we have indoctrinated ourselves with, are turning out to be, if not false, certainly flimsy, and falling away rapidly. Consider the concept of identity theft.  Try explaining identity theft to a "you" of 20 years ago.  Even 10 years ago, this was relatively unheard-of.  Now, an entire industry exists to "serve" the "victims" of identity theft.  And now, a new portion of your identity – your political and ideological affiliations – are up for grabs… or at least interpretation.

What the EU government is doing with communications data is clearly akin to what the US government did in the 1970s with credit reporting.  Called the "Fair Credit Reporting Act", this set of laws codified how credit data could be gathered and used. When words like "Fair" and "Consumer Protection" are used, we automatically assume safety and "goodness" – it becomes a blind spot – the existence of which is proven by the sheer vastness of the identity theft and credit management industry.

Now, what will we have? Clearly there will be a log showing everyone I email, and everyone who emails me.  There will be a log showing everyone I call, even over the Internet, and everyone who calls me.  And since it’s all data, and is person-to-person data (as opposed to person-to-company data reported to credit bureaus), there will be the automatic existence of person-to-person-to-person data.  For example, if terrorist Jim calls the local pub to order a pizza, and I order a pizza from that pub, I will be linked to terrorist Jim. 

And how will I even know this has happened?  Will there be a "terrorist bureau" that I can order my "terrorist report" from?  Will I get a free report each year, from each of the top three "terror reporting agencies?"  What about my "terror score"?  Anything above a 340 and you can be imprisoned for 7 days without cause, you know.

This codification of data gathering, and its stated purposes, are, in this author’s opinion, one of the biggest threats to freedom we have ever seen.  The BBC report quotes a citizen as saying this only got passed by "stretching the law". 

It’s easy to see why.

 

U.S. Agency Readies Controversial Shift of Nuclear Component Work




Titan – 9 MT RV

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

[posted for Global Watcher]

From NTI’s Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — The U.S. agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons complex is shifting design work on a key warhead component — the tritium gas system — from one government laboratory to another, a move that is generating some controversy (see GSN, Nov. 10, 2008).

Robert Smolen — until last month a top National Nuclear Security Administration official — announced the decision in a Jan. 5 internal memo. The agency, he said, would soon consolidate responsibility for designing tritium “gas transfer systems” from the two organizations currently performing the work — the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories — down to a single site, Sandia’s facility in Livermore, Calif.

Congress in 2000 established the National Nuclear Security Administration as a semiautonomous arm of the Energy Department. The agency oversees the national laboratories as part of its mandate to maintain the stockpile.

The component at the center of debate, called the “gas transfer system,” moves tritium from container bottles into the core of the nuclear warhead as the weapon explodes. It “enables tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, to boost the yield of a nuclear weapon,” according to an NNSA statement issued a day after Smolen’s internal memo.

The news release heralded the decision without identifying New Mexico-based Los Alamos as the facility expected to lose the work.

The NNSA announcement went largely unnoticed and a number of issue experts contacted for this article said they could not comment before learning more about the move. One U.S. nuclear weapons official opined that the arcane bureaucratic machinations amount to little more than “inside baseball.”

However, new revelations about the initiative raise broad questions about how competing interests might affect the future safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Read the rest of the story on NTI’s webpage.

 

What were the Chinese touchy about?

USNS Able (T-AGOS-20) on acceptance trials

USNS Able (similiar to Impeccable) on trials

Earlier this week – a story came out that several Chinese vessels had been harassing a US Naval Support ship – USNS Impeccable while it was in international waters.

Now let’s be perfectly clear – USNS Impeccable is not a replenishment ship.  It is SURTASS ship.  SURTASS ships were designed to supplement fixed SOSUS sites to provide sound surveillance of large stretches of the ocean.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

[UPDATED] Who hid the recipe?


Poseidon – C3

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Every organization has had it happen. For whatever reason – the one person who “knows” how things works leaves the organization and there were certain things that only that person knew how to do.

That’s fine when you are dealing with a store or consulting business – but how about the assembly of a nuclear warhead?

That’s what has happened w/ the warhead for the US Trident submarine launched ballistic missile. The Sunday Herald recently reported that the UK Trident modernization plan is threatened with costly delays because no one in the US weapons plants knows how to make a hazardous material code named ‘Fogbank.’

I remember seeing articles over the last couple of years talk about how all of the bomb designers at Los Alamos were nearing retirement and there was concern over who would be left to build the bombs when they left. I guess we know the answer to that question now….

But you have to wonder – if this lack of knowledge was an unspoken reason why the previous Administration had been pushing a new warhead design (the Reliable Replacement Warhead) so strongly.

[Update, March 11] And talking about developing nuclear warheads – take a look at this ScientificAmerican article about ‘Advances in Monitoring Nuclear Weapons Testing‘ (the article’s authors claim that any test of at least 1 kt would be detectable, and in some parts of the world – even below 1 kt).

 

Will the Raptop production stop?


Raptor_Airshow-2

Originally uploaded by Lockheed Martin

The President has a decision to make by this weekend. Whether or not to start shutting down the production of the F-22 Raptor, or to buy some additional planes.

It is a decisive issue – not just for the military and the government, but also the economy;

  • It is the most expensive fighter plane ($191 million apiece) ever
  • It has no use in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan
  • Service Chiefs want more
  • DOD needs to cut new acquisition programs to fund on-going combat operations
  • Congress supports buying more
  • Allies (Australia and Japan) want to buy it
  • Suppliers or factories for the plane are in 44 of 50 states
  • Estimates are 40,000 people would be affected by shutdown of program

Read the entire story – on USAToday.com.

 

HMS Vanguard vs Le Triomphant


HMS Vanguard

Originally uploaded by forargyll

Earlier this month – and first reported this morning (since both sub’s are now back at base) – the British and French SSBN’s on deterrent patrol collided with each other.

Unlike the larger US SSBN fleet – the UK and France each have a small SSBN fleet, such that usually only ONE boat is at sea at a time.

The SSBN fleet are the only strategic nuclear force that either country still maintains. The French decommissioned their land based missiles (S-3’s) in 1996, and the British bomber force lost their nuclear role in 1970 (when the first British Polaris SSBN was commissioned).

Besides the general uproar when something happens to a nuclear asset – what else does this event tell us?

– The British and French SSBN’s have overlapping area’s of operation

Beyond that – everything else is a guess – and will probably never be known publically;

– Were both submarines trying to avoid detection by a 3rd submarine or other ship?
– Was either submarine trying to ‘hide’ behind the other?
– Was either submarine able to detect the other?
– Did they forget that they drive on different sides of the road?

 

[UPDATED] Red Bear Rising

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After years of living with the Cold War, many of us were surprised and chagrined to see Russia’s more relaxed, apparently friendly stance towards the world.  For a while, Russia almost dropped off the news map, as Russia became rather self-absorbed with their charismatic new leader, Vladimir Putin.  Clearly, however, that was not a time of narcissicsm; rather, it was a time of internal growth, stabilization, and unification. And it seems, now, that we may be starting to see the fruits of that growth.

Most of the world knows about the gas row in Ukraine last month, resulting in the cut off of Russian natural gas to the EU.   Not to mention the whole conflict with Georgia that was in the news last year. These incidents represent a much more aggressive stance than that which we’ve experienced from our global neighbor in past years.

Indeed, the indications seem to be that Russia is trying to return to what it perceives as its remembered time of greatness as a world leader.

Consider:

  • Last week, when the EU hinted about concerns over the murders of two Russians who were speaking out against the government, Russia responded not by trying to deny, feign ignorance, or cover up, but rather by accusing the EU of its own human rights abuses.
  • And today, Nikolai Bordyuzha, former KGB leader who is now the general secretary of the ODKB (or, in western alphabet, CSTO – think: Russian version of NATO), announced that Russia and its allies will be creating a joint-air defense system of its own, running the entire breadth of Russia, and encompassing Belarus, and most likely the other member countries of the ODKB.

For a long time, Russia has directed anger at NATO, condeming it for both its actions and for being what Russia calls “a puppet of the U.S.”  Now it seems Russia wants to play the same game.  Given the growing desire of Russia to return to the world stage, combined with the continuning problems in the middle east, and the ongoing struggles in Europe, the ODKB (which indicated some time ago that they would welcome an application from Iran to join its ranks) may well be a much larger player in the coming months and years.

Not to mention Russia itself.

UPDATE – Threat Watcher here – and let’s not forget the sudden development that Kyrgyzstan is closing Manas Airbase to the US.  Don’t know where Kyrgyzstan is?  Or why this is important?  Manas is the primary US supply point for getting men and material (food, bullets, etc) in and out of Afghanistan.

According to the New York Times;

The United States has leased the Central Asian base since after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, but American officials said they believed that Russia was using an offer of more than $2 billion in loans and grants to Kyrgyzstan to force the United States out of the region, colloquially referred to as “the Stans.”

Now that the Russian economy is back on its feet (thanks to sales of gas & petroleum to the West), the Russians can reassert control over the former Soviet Republics via ‘soft’ power.  No longer does the Kremlin need to deploy a Guards Shock Army to maintain power – all they have to do is to keep the money flowing.

 

Iran’s Satellite launch – real or Photoshop?

By now – everyone should be aware that the Iranian’s launched a small Sputnik type of satellite into low Earth Orbit yesterday.  But what was suprising – was the time that it took for the it to be publicized by the mainstream press.

My daily newsletter from Spaceflightnow.com – had this launch as their lead item when I got up in the morning (6am MST).

The headline about the launch from the BBC showed up a couple of hours later – in my crawl bar across the browser.

And then pulling up the rear – was CNN late in the day finally decided they had enough info to publish.  I guess CNN wanted to make sure that they were reporting a real story – and weren’t about to be had by a Photoshop’d picture – like during the Iranian’s Missile test last October (picture below);

Iranian Missile test - enhanced by Photoshop

Iranian Missile test - enhanced by Photoshop

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Afghaniraq?

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As one ThreatAxis member makes last minute preparations tonight before departing to Afghanistan tomorrow, this correspondent has been given to wonder about the apparent attempts of the United States to focus more on Afghanistan… and less on Iraq.

Media and other groups around the world are just beginning to notice this trend.  Ever a leader, the BBC reported on this very issue, outlining several of the problems faced by the United States and its allies during the coming months.

The issue is twofold. First, Iraq. There can be no doubt that the war in Iraq was grim. Former President George W. Bush sacrificed his own political career and reputation being what he was supposed to be: a leader listening to his people. Americans have quickly and conveniently forgotten that they are all complicit in the Iraq war to some degree: On September 12th, 2001, everyone was calling for retribution, and crying out in favor of war.  Regardless of any political niggling that may have come later, regardless of perceptions about weapons of mass destruction, President Bush did not push America into war.  America pushed the President into war.

And into war they went.  Iraq is now ostensibly “free” – free of its tyrranical and genocidial dictator, at least – but the official analysis of the security situation there remains “fragile, reversible, and uneven” throughout Iraq.  This key phrase says it all. Right or wrong, the United States went in to Iraq, and this brings with it responsibility to do what is possible to rebuild the nation for its innocent civilians.  The dictator was evil, the terrorists were obviously there… but the civilians were still innocent.  The people who are yammering for their “troops to come home” are the same irresponsible yet ultimately responsible people who were screaming for war and retribution seven years ago.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Trident – last of the UK deterrent force?


HMS_Vanguard_DD06B

Originally uploaded by Frank Bennett.

In the next 10-15 years – the Trident D-5 SLBM deterrent force for both the US (Ohio-class) and the UK (Vanguard-class) will be approaching the end of their service lives.

In the UK, the government got approval from the House of Commons in March of 2007 to spend between 15 and 20 billion Pounds on a new class of submarines to continue to maintain a submarine launched deterrence.

Even though this program was approved, some former senior British military officers have recently come out and said the Trident replacement is ‘irrelevant’ and would prefer to see the money spent on conventional forces (which are more useful in today’s War on Terrorism).

Read the rest of this entry »