Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Al Qaeda decline hard to reverse after Bin Laden killing

Al Qaeda decline hard to reverse after Bin Laden killing Osama bin Laden's death sent al Qaeda into a decline that will be hard to reverse, the United States said on Tuesday in a report that found terrorist attacks last year fell to their lowest level since 2005. Describing 2011 as a "landmark year," the United States said other top al Qaeda members killed last year included Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, reportedly the militant organization's No. 2 figure after bin Laden's death, and Anwar al-Awlaki, who led its lethal affiliate in Yemen. "The loss of bin Laden and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse," the State Department said in its annual "Country Reports on Terrorism" document, which covers calendar year 2011.

F-22 Hypoxia: Some Questions Remain Unanswered

F-22 Hypoxia: Some Questions Remain Unanswered The Pentagon said this week that it has found the cause of health problems that are plaguing pilots of the F-22 stealth fighter jet and compromising their ability to fly. According to the Department of Defense, the mystery can be traced to malfunctions in the pilots’ air supply equipment. But how does that explain the fact that members of ground crews have exhibited similar symptoms? In response to questions from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Air Force spokesmen said that maintenance workers have gotten sick for an entirely different reason: exposure to the jet’s engine exhaust.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Navy Conducts Pax River's First Flight of X-47B Unmanned Aircraft

The Navy made Pax River history July 29 after it conducted the naval air station's historic first flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator.

At 11 a.m., the tailless, unmanned aircraft launched from Pax River and flew for a planned 35 minutes. The aircraft reached an altitude of 7,500 feet and an air speed of 180 knots during its flight over the Chesapeake Bay before successfully landing back at Pax River.

"This milestone event is the first of many flights at Pax River to demonstrate X-47B's compatibility with aircraft carrier flight procedures and launch/recovery equipment," said Matt Funk, UCAS lead test engineer. "The unique airspace and ship equipment at Pax River allow us to conduct the testing here before we land aboard the aircraft carrier next year."

The X-47B traveled from Edwards Air Force base, Calif., to Pax River in June to enter its next phase of testing. UCAS-D team members will utilize the specialized testing capabilities and facilities available at Pax River in the coming months to validate the X-47B's ability to perform in an aircraft carrier environment.

One of the testing facilities at Pax River is a simulated aircraft carrier environment, which will allow team members to ensure the aircraft is ready to operate in testing at sea. Land-based testing will establish X-47B has the ability to conduct precision approaches and to perform arrested landings and catapult launches prior to actual aircraft carrier operations.

"The X-47B's flight today is another important step closer to the Navy's vision of operating tailless, autonomous, unmanned systems from aircraft carriers," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Retiring Envoy to Afghanistan Exhorts U.S to Heed Its Past

Retiring Envoy to Afghanistan Exhorts U.S to Heed Its Past

The American diplomat most associated with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan says that American policy makers need to learn the lessons of the recent past as they weigh military options for the future, including for Syria and Iran:

¶ Remember the law of unintended consequences.

¶ Recognize the limits of the United States’ actual capabilities.

¶ Understand that getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict.

“You better do some cold calculating, you know, about how do you really think you are going to influence things for the better,” said Ryan C. Crocker, 63, the departing ambassador to Afghanistan and one of the pre-eminent American diplomats of the past 40 years. Even as he retires fighting an exhausting illness, Mr. Crocker cannot help keeping his mind at work on the crisis spots that have defined his career — in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Senators Force Weaker Safeguards Against Cyberattacks

Senators Force Weaker Safeguards Against Cyberattacks Despite warnings of a potentially crippling cyberattack, a group of lawmakers led by Senator John McCain has successfully weakened bipartisan legislation that the Obama administration said was crucial to protecting computer systems responsible for operating the nation’s critical infrastructure. Strong opposition from Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, and others on behalf of the business community forced Democratic and Republican supporters of the legislation to drop provisions that would have given the federal government the power to enforce minimum standards on systems that run power plants, air traffic control systems, dams and similar facilities. The Senate will debate the measure next week, even though the changes have raised new questions about its effectiveness. “The key to successfully fighting this threat is not adding more bureaucrats or forcing industries to comply with government red tape,” Mr. McCain said Friday in a statement that announced that he and seven other Republican senators had introduced their own bill that calls for more information sharing among companies. “Instead, we must leverage the ingenuity and innovation of the private sector in partnership with the most effective elements of the federal government to address this emerging threat.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saudis 'mull buying nukes from Pakistan'

Saudis 'mull buying nukes from Pakistan' King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia met Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in Jeddah a few days ago as Riyadh began sending its Special Forces to Pakistan for training. The Islamic countries, both dominated by the mainstream Sunni sect, have long had a particularly close relationship and these events heightened speculation Riyadh is trying to strike a secret deal with Islamabad to acquire nuclear weapons to counter Iran. Abdallah's surprise July 19 appointment of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the kingdom's ambassador in Washington in 1983-2005 and a veteran of its usually clandestine security policy, as his new intelligence chief may be part of murky mosaic linking Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

US 'confident' F-22 jet oxygen problems solved

US 'confident' F-22 jet oxygen problems solved The US Air Force is "confident" it has identified the problems that led some pilots to complain of dizzy spells and blackouts while flying its most advanced fighter jet, the Pentagon said Tuesday. The "root cause of the issue is the supply of oxygen" -- necessary for pilots flying at high altitudes -- "not the quality of oxygen delivered to pilots," Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters. To fix the problem, Little said the Air Force will replace a valve that was causing inflation in a vest pilots wear at high altitudes, impeding breathing for some. The Air Force will also increase the flow of oxygen to pilots by removing a filter that monitored whether the oxygen contained any contaminants, after determining there were none.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Small Diameter Bomb II finds, hits moving target

Raytheon Company's GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) program http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Small_Diameter_Bomb_II_finds_hits_moving_target_999.html">achieved a major milestone when it successfully engaged and hit a moving target during a flight test at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Currently in engineering and manufacturing development, SDB II is designed to engage moving targets in adverse weather and through battlefield obscurants. During the July 17 test, the crew of a U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter staging out of Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., released the GBU-53/B, which then acquired, tracked and guided to a moving target using its tri-mode seeker, scoring a direct hit. "SDB II is the first in the next generation of smart weapons that uses multi-mode seekers and fully networked enabled data links to engage moving targets in bad weather or battlefield obscurants in high threat environments," said Harry Schulte, vice president of Air Warfare Systems for Raytheon Missile Systems. "Raytheon is committed to this program's success because SDB II will give the warfighter a mission-flexible weapon capable of defeating threats such as swarming boats, mobile air defense systems or armored targets." SDB II was validated by the Department of Defense's Joint Requirements Oversight Council as a weapon that fills a critical capability gap for the military. In addition to its adverse weather, moving-target capability, SDB II can hit targets from stand-off ranges.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

U.S. Adds Forces in Persian Gulf, a Signal to Iran

The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates.

The deployments are part of a long-planned effort to bolster the American military presence in the gulf region, in part to reassure Israel that in dealing with Iran, as one senior administration official put it last week, “When the president says there are other options on the table beyond negotiations, he means it.”

But at a moment that the United States and its allies are beginning to enforce a much broader embargo on Iran’s oil exports, meant to force the country to take seriously the negotiations over sharply limiting its nuclear program, the buildup carries significant risks, including that Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps could decide to lash out against the increased presence.

The most visible elements of this buildup are Navy ships designed to vastly enhance the ability to patrol the Strait of Hormuz — and to reopen the narrow waterway should Iran attempt to mine it to prevent Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters from sending their tankers through the vital passage.

The Navy has doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region, to eight vessels, in what military officers describe as a purely defensive move.

Pakistan Opens NATO Supply Line as Clinton Apologizes

Pakistan told the United States it was reopening NATO’s supply routes into neighboring Afghanistan after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was sorry for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in American airstrikes in November, the State Department said Tuesday.

The agreement ends a bitter seven-month stalemate between the two countries that has threatened to jeopardize counterterrorism cooperation and complicated the American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a telephone call to Pakistan’s foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, Mrs. Clinton said the two officials agreed that mistakes were made on both sides that led to the fatal airstrike.

“We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement issued by the State Department. “We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.”

The November airstrikes, which killed 24 soldiers in Pakistani territory after reports of militant activity in the area, led Pakistan to immediately close the supply lines and plunged relations between the countries to a low point.

The agreement on Tuesday followed a flurry of recent contacts between top American and Pakistani officials. Gen. John R. Allen, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, met last week in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army chief of staff, to discuss counterterrorism strategy and the supply routes.