Monday, March 31, 2014

Navy's Most Advanced Command and Control Aircraft Joins the Fleet

Navy's Most Advanced Command and Control Aircraft Joins the Fleet

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye officially became ready for tasking with Airborne Early Warning Squadron 125 (VAW-125) during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field, March 27.

"This is a revolutionary jump in capabilities," said Capt. Todd Watkins, commander, Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing. "The E-2D serves as the eyes of the fleet. If it's out there, we will see it."

The "Tigertails" of VAW-125 are the first Navy squadron to become fully operational with the Advanced Hawkeye, the newest, most technologically capable variant of the venerable E-2 airborne early warning command and control platform.

The E-2D is expected to be instrumental to how the Navy will conduct battle management command and control. Able to sweep ahead of the strike, the E-2D can manage the mission and keep carrier battle groups out of harm's way.

"We were very excited to be the first squadron to receive the [Advanced] Hawkeye," said Lt. James Beaty, a naval flight officer who has worked extensively with the E-2D. "It's been a challenge, but I've enjoyed learning everything this aircraft is capable of."

The E-2D's advanced technology makes it a multi-mission platform through its ability to coordinate concurrent missions which may arise during a single flight. These missions can include airborne strike, ground force support, rescue operations and managing a reliable communications network capable of supporting drug interdiction operations.

"I laid down the challenge to learn this new platform and defend the fleet," said Capt. William Ewald, commander, Carrier Air Wing 1. "Today, the "Tigertails" are ready for tasking and I can assure you, they will succeed."

ICEX 2014: Navigating the World's Last Frontier

ICEX 2014: Navigating the World's Last Frontier

The Navy's top admiral, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, spent time last weekend at the Navy's Arctic Ice Camp and embarked aboard the USS New Mexico (SSN 779) as it participated in Ice Exercise 2014 (ICEX) with USS Hampton (SSN 767) beneath the Arctic Ocean.

"It's necessary to continue to ensure our systems, our sensors, our weapons and our platforms as we move to the Virginia-class submarine are proficient to operate correctly in the Arctic," said Greenert. "And it's also to build the next generation of submarine folks who will operate in the Arctic."

The mission of the ICEX is to train in the Arctic environment to refine and validate procedures and required equipment, as the Arctic Ocean serves as a route for submarines to transit in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

CNO has touted undersea dominance and the Arctic maritime domain as essential areas of focus for the Navy. Understandably, this exercise created a great opportunity to merge these two focus areas and learn within the environment and build a knowledge base for operations there.

The Arctic has been and will be a focus area for the Navy in years to come, said Greenert.

The President released the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for the Arctic Region in January. The Department of Defense is preparing for possible changes in the Arctic's operating conditions due to the discussion of climate change and receding ice.

ICEX will continue to expand to a more comprehensive exercise in the future, said Greenert.

"We'll leverage what we've learned in this and future ICEX assessments to work with our partners in industry to develop technologies for our other platforms and personnel who will operate in this environment," he said.

The CNO's visit began in the nation's northernmost point, Prudhoe Bay, Ala. From there, CNO like other scientists and international partners, flew 150 miles north to Ice Camp Nautilus. The ice camp, adrift on the Arctic sea ice, supports the overall ice exercise conducted by the Submarine Force and the Arctic Submarine Laboratory.

Of his first impressions of the camp, "Isn't it astounding that here is one of our pieces of sovereignty out in the middle of the ice, surfacing, and then its crew waiting as if we were walking down a pier in Connecticut, San Diego, Norfolk, or Bremerton [to board]," said Greenert.

Despite the frigid conditions the submarine people were acting as though it was business as normal, said Greenert.

"Once we got onboard, the camaraderie the awareness of the crew that they were doing something special was impressive," said Greenert. "The crew was very proud, and the ownership the crew had for their ship and systems was extraordinary."

Operating in the undersea domain can be problematic, but the added challenge of operating beneath the ice requires a special kind of precision, said Greenert.

"In the back of your mind if trouble ever emerges - if you have flooding or a serious fire you head to the surface," said Greenert, who is also a former submariner. "You can't do that in the Arctic, with ice all around and above you."

Witnessing the alertness, awareness and teamwork the New Mexico crew displayed while surfacing through the ice elicited applause from the ICEX visitors aboard, said Greenert.

The vastness and beauty of the arctic combined with the unforgiving environment is something that is a highlight of his 38-year naval career, said the admiral. "The extraordinary nature of being able to go to the North Pole, I'm still trying to internalize it," said Greenert.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Approval given for Griffin missile launch system

Approval given for Griffin missile launch system

The U.S. Navy and Raytheon report that the Navy's MK-60 missile system for use in littoral waters has gained initial operating capability status.

The Patrol Coastal Griffin Missile System features a laser targeting system and a Navy-designed launcher and battle management system combined with Raytheon's combat-proven Griffin missile.The missile, used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is 43 inches long, weighs 33 pounds, and has a 13-pound warhead. Its operational range is about 12.5 miles."The Griffin missile and MK-60 system assure the accuracy and lethality our sailors need to combat growing regional threats," said Capt. Mike Ladner, the major program manager of Surface Ship Weapons, U.S. Navy Integrated Warfare Systems 3.0 program office. "IOC (initial operating capability) signals the beginning of improved ship self-defense on the patrol coastal fleet and provides an immediate response to potential maritime threats, especially small craft on the move."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Obama, Rasmussen eye stronger NATO presence in EEurope

Obama, Rasmussen eye stronger NATO presence in EEurope: US President Barack Obama and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday spoke out in favour of strengthening the alliance's role in eastern Europe following Moscow's takeover of Crimea.

"We do not seek confrontation but we will not waiver if challenged," Rasmussen said after a brief meeting with Obama in Brussels, the Belgian capital that also hosts EU and NATO headquarters.

The US president, who kicked off a daylong visit to Belgium with an emotional stop in the sole Belgian World War I cemetery to hold US graves, said later that "NATO nations never stand alone."

Recalling that the alliance now was patrolling the skies over the Baltics, and had reinforced its presence in Poland, he said: "and we're prepared to do more."

Pressed to bolster its presence on the eastern fringes of Europe, the alliance has dispatched AWACS radar surveillance planes while Washington has sent 12 F-16 fighters to Poland as well as transport planes and 300 troops.

"NATO is a force for peace but also unmatched militarily," Rasmussen said.

"Our commitment to the defence of our Allies is unbreakable and at the same time we are firm in our support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the NATO chief said.

"We will intensify our military cooperation with Ukraine including helping the Ukrainians to modernise their armed forces."

Obama Renewing U.S. Commitment to NATO Alliance -

Obama Renewing U.S. Commitment to NATO Alliance -

President Obama has spent much of his presidency mired in the challenges of a world well outside the borders of Europe — the turmoil of the Middle East, the power struggles in Asia and the terrorist threats percolating in northern Africa, Pakistan and elsewhere.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its stunningly fast annexation of Crimea have demanded a renewed focus on the part of the world that dominated American attention in the 20th century. Often accused of neglecting Europe in his first five years in office, Mr. Obama is using his trip here to recommit to the NATO alliance, rally the Continent against Russian “brute force” and cast the showdown as a test of common values.
To show resolve, Mr. Obama decided on Wednesday to modestly increase military deployments in Eastern Europe, and aides said he would intensify efforts to broaden energy security, negotiate a trade agreement with Europe and upgrade military capabilities.
Yet it will be hard to back up words with resources. The United States has only a small fraction of the force it once had in Europe, expanded energy ties will take years, and his own party leaders oppose quick action on a new trade pact.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Obama in Europe with Ukraine high on agenda; Kiev orders Crimea withdrawal - The Washington Post

Obama in Europe with Ukraine high on agenda; Kiev orders Crimea withdrawal - The Washington Post: President Obama this evening will urge leaders of major industrial nations to indefinitely suspend Russia from the Group of Eight, and push members to more explicitly spell out what additional economic sanctions President Putin will face for his military intervention in Ukraine.

“As long as flagrantly violating international law, and the order the G7 has help built since the end of the Cold War, there is no reason to engage with Russia,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “What Russia has done has been a violation of that entire international order built up over many decades.”

The meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit here is the first of several sessions Obama plans to attend in the coming days with European allies and others over how to persuade Putin, once interested in further integrating Russia in the global economy, to pull forces back from eastern Ukraine and begin a dialogue with the government to resolve the crisis in Crimea.

Putin, though, has shown little interest in doing so. On Monday, Ukrainian leaders ordered their forces to leave Crimea under threat from Russian troops.

- The Washington Post

- The Washington Post: President Obama has ordered a sharp increase in U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to Uganda and sent U.S. military aircraft there for the first time in the ongoing effort to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony across a broad swath of central Africa.

The CV-22 Osprey aircraft will arrive in Uganda by midweek, along with refueling aircraft and about 150 Air Force Special Operations forces and other airmen to fly and maintain the planes, according to Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs. At least four Ospreys will be deployed.

The White House began to notify Congress, under the War Powers Act, of the new deployments as they began Sunday night. Dory and other officials emphasized that the Ospreys will be used for troop transport and that the rules of engagement for U.S. forces remain the same as for about 100 Special Operations troops that Obama first sent to help find Kony in October 2011.

U.S. personnel are authorized to “provide information, advice and assistance” to an African Union military task force tracking Kony and his organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), across Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo. While combat-equipped, they are prohibited from engaging LRA forces unless in self-defense.

The new War Powers Act notification sets the approximate total for all U.S. forces in Uganda at 300.

Russia slams Germany for halting arms deal over Crimea

Russia slams Germany for halting arms deal over Crimea: Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov on Sunday said Germany's decision to halt a major arms deal over Moscow's takeover of Crimea was "unconstructive" and taken under pressure from the United States.

Berlin on Wednesday blocked German defence group Rheinmetall from proceeding with a 100-million-euro ($140-million) contract to build a training camp for Russian forces, saying any military deals in the current context would be "indefensible".

New infrared technique aims to remotely detect dangerous materials

New infrared technique aims to remotely detect dangerous materials: For most people, infrared technology calls to mind soldiers with night-vision goggles or energy audits that identify where heat escapes from homes during the winter season. But for two Brigham Young University professors, infrared holds the potential to spot from afar whether a site is being used to make nuclear weapons.

Statistics professor Candace Berrett developed a model that precisely characterizes the material in each pixel of an image taken from a long-wave infrared camera. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration funded the project through a grant awarded to BYU engineering professor Gustavious Williams.

The government's long-term goal for infrared technology is to remotely detect the exact materials, chemicals and gases coming and going from factories or other sites suspected of illegal nuclear production. Berrett and Williams tested their new method of analyzing infrared images with more basic materials using data taken by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The results appear in a report published by the journal Technometrics.

Infrared cameras capture wavelengths of light that are not visible to the human eye. Hyper-spectral infrared cameras capture this light in hundreds of narrow bands. Since different materials reflect or absorb different bands of light, scientists can characterize the materials by analyzing the picture.

Confronting Putin’s Russia -

Confronting Putin’s Russia - The decision by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to annex Crimea ended the post-Cold War era in Europe. Since the late Gorbachev-Reagan years, the era was defined by zigzags of cooperation and disputes between Russia and the West, but always with an underlying sense that Russia was gradually joining the international order. No more.

Our new era is one defined by ideological clashes, nationalistic resurgence and territorial occupation — an era in some ways similar to the tragic periods of confrontation in 20th-century Europe. And yet there are important differences, and understanding the distinction will be critical to a successful American foreign policy in the coming decades.

We did not seek this confrontation. This new era crept up on us, because we did not fully win the Cold War. Communism faded, the Soviet Union disappeared and Russian power diminished. But the collapse of the Soviet order did not lead smoothly to a transition to democracy and markets inside Russia, or Russia’s integration into the West.
Some Russians pushed forward on this enormous agenda of revolutionary change. And they produced results: the relatively peaceful (so far) collapse of the Soviet empire, a Russian society richer than ever before, greater protection of individual rights and episodically functioning democratic institutions.
But the simultaneity of democracy’s introduction, economic depression and imperial loss generated a counterrevolutionary backlash — a yearning for the old order and a resentment of the terms of the Cold War’s end.

More U.S. Troops to Aid Uganda Search for Kony -

More U.S. Troops to Aid Uganda Search for Kony -

President Obama is sending more troops and military aircraft to Uganda as part of a long-running effort to hunt down Joseph Kony, the fugitive rebel commander who is believed to have been hiding in the jungles of central Africa for years, a Defense Department official said on Sunday.

The president is sending several CV-22 Osprey aircraft, along with 150 Air Force Special Operations forces and other airmen, to join the American troops already in the region to help the Ugandan government find Mr. Kony.
The escalation, first reported on Sunday by The Washington Post, does not change the nature of the United States’ military presence on the ground in central Africa. American forces will continue to advise and assist their counterparts in the African Union’s military task force tracking Mr. Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army across Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Americans are forbidden to fight the L.R.A. themselves except in self-defense.
The hunt for Mr. Kony and his fighters has generated a huge amount of publicity around the world, in large part because of a video on his elusiveness and brutality, “Kony 2012,” that has been viewed nearly 100 million times on YouTube.
The rebel leader started out in northern Uganda more than 25 years ago as a Catholic altar boy who spoke in tongues. He went on to form the L.R.A., bent on overthrowing Uganda’s government and ruling the country with the Ten Commandments.
“For more than two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.) has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa,” Mr. Obama wrote in a letter to Congress when he first announced, in 2011, that he would send military personnel to the region as advisers. “The L.R.A. continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

UAVs Reach New Heights With Warsaw Polytechnic and LockMart Partnership

UAVs Reach New Heights With Warsaw Polytechnic and LockMart Partnership: Lockheed Martin and Politechnika Warszawska (Warsaw Polytechnic) will jointly conduct an advanced applied research program in the field of integration between manned and unmanned airborne platform systems.

The program adds to Lockheed Martin's already strong industrial and academic partnerships in Poland to motivate young Polish engineers to address tomorrow's defense and industrial needs.

The program, principally staffed by university research students, focuses upon advancing development, optimization of multiple systems within aircraft and ground station networks, and enhancing capabilities.

This joint effort cultivates recent advancements in aircraft technologies that automate flight planning and coordinate search, locate, and track missions across a variety of manned and unmanned aerial platforms. Lockheed Martin will assist in the enhanced development of Warsaw Polytechnic's unmanned airborne platform assets and simulation systems to support university software development.

"The project of enhancing technical capabilities in the field of modeling a force structure and optimization of a network of systems, implemented by a team of students from Warsaw Polytechnic, is an excellent example of a research collaboration and technology transfer between Lockheed Martin and a higher education institution in Poland," said Professor Janusz Narkiewicz, the leader and scientific manager of the project from Warsaw Polytechnic.

US gains additional protection against ballistic missiles

US gains additional protection against ballistic missiles

The U.S. will soon have another system to defend against ballistic missiles. Raytheon delivered its ninth AN/TPY-2 ballistic missile defense radar to the Missile Defense Agency, six months ahead of schedule.

AN/TPY-2 is an integral element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. It is a mobile X-band radar that helps protect civilians and infrastructure in the U.S., deployed warfighters, and allied nations and security partners, from the growing ballistic missile threat. U.S. public intelligence estimates indicate there are more than 6,300 ballistic missiles not controlled by the U.S., NATO, China or Russia, with that number expected to reach almost 8,000 by 2020."Delivering this ninth radar is crucial because our nation's enemies continue to improve and proliferate their ballistic missile technology and tactics," said Raytheon's Dave Gulla, vice president of Integrated Defense Systems' Global Integrated Sensors business area. "The AN/TPY-2 consistently demonstrates its ability to pace the evolving threat, and test after test has proven it effectively defends against every category of ballistic missile."The radar will be integrated into the U.S. Army's fourth Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense battery, serving as the "eyes and ears" of the system by searching, detecting, tracking and discriminating threats, and guiding the intercepting missile. Raytheon serves as one of MDA's prime contractors for THAAD.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

VTOL X-Plane Program Takes Off

VTOL X-Plane Program Takes Off

For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work. DARPA's VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities.

In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of VTOL X-Plane to four companies: Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation; The Boeing Company; Karem Aircraft, Inc; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation."We were looking for different approaches to solve this extremely challenging problem, and we got them," said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager."The proposals we've chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in developing. We're eager to see if the performers can integrate their ideas into designs that could potentially achieve the performance goals we've set."VTOL X-Plane seeks to develop a technology demonstrator that could:+ Achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt-400 kt+ Raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60 percent to at least 75 percent+ Present a more favorable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6+ Carry a useful load of at least 40 percent of the vehicle's projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 pounds

Army at 'tipping point' of unmanned aircraft system capabilities | Article | The United States Army

Army at 'tipping point' of unmanned aircraft system capabilities | Article | The United States Army

"We're on the tipping point of unmanned aerial systems' ability to deliver capability to the Soldier," said Col. Thomas von Eschenbach.

The unmanned aerial/aircraft system, or UAS, is no longer seen by Soldiers as a new system and as the months and years pass, it will "not just be used by a few, but will become integral to the Army fabric and how it fights and is used and understood," said Eschenbach, who is the UAS capability manager for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Eschenbach and others spoke today at a media roundtable at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., where a celebration was held marking the Army's milestone of 2 million UAS flight hours.

Col. Timothy Baxter, project manager, UAS, noted that it took 20 years for Army unmanned aircraft systems to reach 1 million flight hours. That milestone came in 2010. With increased use of those systems, it took just a few more years to reach the 2 million flight-hours milestone.

He said what is most impressive is that 90 percent of total UAS flight hours were logged in direct support of combat operations.

"Every one of those hours has meant something to a commander on the ground overseas engaged in combat," Baxter said.

Baxter noted that of the total two million flight hours, Shadow UAS logged 900,000 of those. However, as more Gray Eagles are fielded, he said he expects it to be the system with the most impressive mileage.

Rich Kretzschmar, deputy project manager, UAS, said that reaching three million flight hours may take longer than it did to get from one to two million because the operations tempo in theater has now leveled off.

And, as more UAS systems return to the U.S. from overseas, there could be fewer opportunities to fly them because of restricted airspace flight rules, Baxter added.

But, the UAS will play a crucial part of the Army's aviation restructure initiative, Eschenbach said.

As brigade combat teams, or BCTs, shrink from four to three per division and as maneuver battalions are reinvested back into other BCTs, three Shadow UAS platoons will be put inside of each attack reconnaissance squadron, he said. That would add a total of 30 platoons of Shadows into the combat aviation brigade structure. Those squadrons will also contain AH-64E Apache helicopters.


Don't expect to see a lot of new UAS models, Baxter cautioned.

"Our platforms are the platforms we're going to have for the foreseeable future in the Army," he explained.

Instead, he said future efforts will be in the area of new technologies for advanced payloads and improvements in man-to-unmanned teaming.

As to unmanned vs manned, Kretzschmar pointed out that UASs are not replacing pilots.

Rather, he said, they are the "extension of the commander's ability to do things, extend reach, reduce risk and get better situational awareness on the battlefield."

Also in the cards for UAS is something not too sexy, but important nonetheless to a budget-challenged Army: sustainment costs.

Baxter said the UAS community has moved away from contractor logistics support to "green-suiter" maintainers, as Soldiers get their own military occupational specialty and become more proficient. In the next war, the Army may not have the luxury of setting up forward operating bases teeming with contract support.

Another cost savings, he pointed out, is through applying "performance-based logistics" to contracts, so as to "incorporate better buying power."

Since Eschenbach is with TRADOC it's not surprising he sees doctrine as well as the operational environment dictating the vision of where UASs are headed.

Eschenbach thinks UASs have capabilities that go far beyond the current state of reconnaissance, surveillance, security and precision strikes.

His team of planners is already looking at UAS employment in "Force 2025," where UAS will vastly extend the network, meaning the reach that commanders have on the ground.

As this takes place over the coming years, he said Army leaders will need to better understand the capabilities of UASs and what they can do for them.

"We're asking warfighters in a smaller, leaner Army to be more expeditionary, lethal and survivable, focused on the next thing our nation asks us to do," Eschenbach concluded. In that environment, there's "plenty of future for UAS."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Crimea’s parliament votes to join Russia - The Washington Post

Crimea’s parliament votes to join Russia - The Washington Post: The Russian Foreign Ministry posted a statement Monday elaborating on proposals, presented over the last several days to the United States and other countries, that could keep Ukraine intact.

It calls for a “contact group” of nations that would be required to carry on a dialogue with Kiev and Moscow, as Ukraine draws up a new constitution. Russia wants Ukraine to become a federal republic, with each region enjoying a considerable amount of autonomy on language and finances. That is a notion that the current government in Kiev totally opposes. It fears that it would lead to the break-up of the country, with the eastern regions moving closer to Russia against the wishes of the western regions. It would also deny Kiev a large share of the taxes that it currently collects.

Russia also wants Ukrainian guarantees that it would remain a neutral nation — and a United Nations Security Council Resolution to enshrine that neutrality. But the plan now being circulated also involves the European Union more deeply in settling the crisis. As first presented, the Russian plan included no explicit role for the E.U.

Philippines says US defence deal close, amid China row

Philippines says US defence deal close, amid China row: The Philippines said Friday a deal to allow a greater US military presence on its territory could be signed next month, in a timely defence boost amid a worsening territorial row with China.

There was optimism the pact could be secured ahead of US President Barack Obama's April visit to Manila after the two sides agreed on a contentious issue that would see US forces build "structures" on their hosts military bases, Filipino officials said.

"Discussions in the sixth round were substantive and productive, and significant progress was made," Philippine Defence Undersecretary Pio Batino told reporters in Manila following the latest round of talks in Washington last week.

Fellow negotiators said: "If the negotiations are successfully concluded and that happens before the arrival of President Obama, then we will be happy of course".

However, the officials declined to set an April deadline, citing the need to ensure the language was in line with Philippine laws and yielded the maximum benefits for the hosts

Former Soviet satellites sign joint military pact

Former Soviet satellites sign joint military pact

Four former Soviet satellites in Central Europe signed a military pact Friday to coordinate defence planning and to create a joint combat unit to operate under NATO and EU auspices, in response to the Ukraine crisis.

"The current situation in Europe shows that unfortunately a military conflict, previously considered unthinkable, could happen," Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said at a meeting of the Visegrad 4 (V4) group of countries -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.Speaking in Visegrad, Hungary, he said the Ukraine crisis showed the importance of "more dynamic cooperation" between the V4 countries within NATO and the European Union.The "V4-EU" combat unit would only be ready to take part in NATO or EU operations by 2016, however, he said, adding that V4 military cooperation was "unique" within the NATO miliary alliance. Europe's defence capabilities can be "improved," he told a news conference.Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende said that the joint body would comprise 3,000 soldiers contributed by the four countries."It would operate as a regional unit within NATO or EU operations," he added.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

UPDATE 1-U.S. investigators suspect missing Malaysian plane flew for hours -WSJ | Reuters

UPDATE 1-U.S. investigators suspect missing Malaysian plane flew for hours -WSJ | Reuters: U.S. investigators suspect thatMalaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air forabout four hours past the time it reached its last confirmedlocation, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two peoplefamiliar with the details.

The report comes as authorities remain uncertain about whichocean to search for the jetliner that went missing on Saturdayafter taking off from Kuala Lumpur. The latest disclosure ledU.S. investigators to explore the possibility that someonedeliberately turned off the transponder and diverted the planeto another location, the newspaper reported.

It raises the possibility that the plane, and the 239 peopleon board, could have flown on for additional distance of about2,200 miles (3,500 km), potentially reaching the border ofPakistan or as far as destinations in the Indian Ocean orArabian Sea, the paper said.

Russia can't derail US exit from Afghanistan: general

Russia can't derail US exit from Afghanistan: general: Russia would be unable to disrupt the US military's withdrawal from Afghanistan even if it cut off access to supply routes across its territory, a top US commander said Wednesday.

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, the head of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan reassured lawmakers that Russia could not hold up a planned troop drawdown there.

"I'm absolutely confident we'll be able to" remove all US equipment on schedule, General Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Even if the Russians cut off one of the avenues?" Senator John McCain asked.

"Yes, senator," Dunford said.

The general said that "we've got resilience in the system and I'm not concerned at all about a loss of the Russian northern distribution network, the Russian piece of that."

Dunford was referring to a network of road and rail routes that pass through Central Asia, the Caucasus and, in some cases, Russia.

US official : arms control work with Russia to continue

US official : arms control work with Russia to continue: The White House's top arms control official on Wednesday said US cooperation with Russia on agreements limiting nuclear arsenals would survive the worst East-West tensions in years sparked by Ukraine.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said that US and Russian officials were even now working "effectively" together to prepare for a nuclear security summit in The Hague later this month which President Barack Obama will attend.

"We expect that the Russians will continue to abide by the arms control agreements that they have reached with us," said Sherwood-Randall, the White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control.

"These are in our mutual interest and we see no reason that tensions that exist over Ukraine should in any way obstruct the path towards fulfilling the commitments that we have made with the Russians to reduce nuclear weapons on both sides," she said at an event sponsored by National Journal in Washington.

As part of its earlier "reset" of relations with Russia, the Obama administration concluded a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that limits both sides to 1,550 warheads and puts caps on the numbers of deployed intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles and other launch vehicles.

The treaty includes verification mechanisms that include on-site inspections, data exchanges and other notifications so that each side can have confidence the other is complying with the terms of the pact.

NSA has 'industrial scale' malware for spying: report

NSA has 'industrial scale' malware for spying: report: The National Security Agency has developed malware that allows it to collect data automatically from millions of computers worldwide, a report based on leaked documents showed Wednesday.

The report co-authored by former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald for the online news site The Intercept said the program has dramatically expanded the US spy agency's ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale.

The report is based on classified documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

It said the surveillance technology allows the NSA to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware "implants" which can help the agency extract data from overseas Internet and phone networks.

The report by Greenwald and reporter Ryan Gallagher said these implants were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps but that the NSA has expanded this to "industrial scale," according to the documents.

The automated system codenamed TURBINE expands the ability to gather intelligence with less human oversight, according to the report.

US hits 'provocative' China move on Philippine ships

US hits 'provocative' China move on Philippine ships

The United States on Wednesday accused China of raising tensions by blocking two Philippines vessels as it urged freedom of navigation in the tense South China Sea.

The United States, a treaty-bound ally of Manila, said it was "troubled" by Sunday's incident in which China prevented movement of two ships contracted by the Philippine navy to deliver supplies and troops to the disputed Second Thomas Shoal."This is a provocative move that raises tensions. Pending resolution of competing claims in the South China Sea, there should be no interference with the efforts of claimants to maintain the status quo," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.The Philippines on Tuesday summoned China's charge d'affaires, accusing Beijing of a "clear and urgent threat" to Manila's interests. Beijing countered that the ships "infringed China's territorial sovereignty" and violated a 2002 declaration of conduct in the South China Sea.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Excalibur Prototype Extends Reach of High-Energy Lasers

Excalibur Prototype Extends Reach of High-Energy Lasers

High-energy lasers (HEL) have the potential to benefit a variety of military missions, particularly as weapons or as high-bandwidth communications devices. However, the massive size, weight and power requirements (SWaP) of legacy laser systems limit their use on many military platforms.

Even if SWaP limitations can be overcome, turbulence manifested as density fluctuations in the atmosphere increase laser beam size at the target, further limiting laser target irradiance and effectiveness over long distances.Recently, DARPA's Excalibur program successfully developed and employed a 21-element optical phased array (OPA) with each array element driven by fiber laser amplifiers. This low power array was used to precisely hit a target 7 kilometers-more than 4 miles away. The OPA used in these experiments consisted of three identical clusters of seven tightly packed fiber lasers, with each cluster only 10 centimeters across.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

After NSA scandal, US intelligence budget declines

After NSA scandal, US intelligence budget declines

US intelligence agencies will see a five percent drop in funding under a proposed 2015 budget, officials said Thursday, after a year marked by controversy over far-reaching electronic spying.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the requested budget for most of the country's 17 spy services came to $45.6 billion for fiscal year 2015, which begins October 1. The proposed budget, which must be approved by Congress, is lower than the 2014 national intelligence program budget, at $48.2 billion.The Pentagon is also planning for a slight drop in funding for intelligence activities that support the military, requesting $13.3 billion for next fiscal year, officials said.The 2014 budget had allocated $14 billion for the military intelligence program.In keeping with past practice, Clapper's office, or ODNI, did not divulge any further details or provide a breakdown of the budget.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Behind Clash Between C.I.A. and Congress, a Secret Report on Interrogations -

Behind Clash Between C.I.A. and Congress, a Secret Report on Interrogations -

It was early December when the Central Intelligence Agency began to suspect it had suffered what it regarded as an embarrassing computer breach.

Investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee, working in the basement of a C.I.A. facility in Northern Virginia, had obtained an internal agency review summarizing thousands of documents related to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Parts of the C.I.A. report cast a particularly harsh light on the program, the same program the agency was in the midst of defending in a prolonged dispute with the intelligence committee.
What the C.I.A. did next opened a new and even more rancorous chapter in the struggle over how the history of the interrogation program will be written. Agency officials began scouring the digital logs of the computer network used by the Senate staff members to try to learn how and where they got the report. Their search not only raised constitutional questions about the propriety of an intelligence agency investigating its congressional overseers, but has also resulted in two parallel inquiries by the Justice Department — one into the C.I.A. and one into the committee.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

As Prime Russian Trading Partner, Germany Appears Crucial to Ending Crisis -

As Prime Russian Trading Partner, Germany Appears Crucial to Ending Crisis -

In the face of the diplomatic maneuvering over how to confront a bellicose Russia in Ukraine, one country appears to hold the key to any long-lasting entente: Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse and one of Russia’s primary trading partners.
Whether it is importing fuel from Gazprom or selling Mercedes-Benz to billionaire oligarchs, trade with Russia has played an important role in Germany’s emergence as an economic superpower over the last decade. Germany is now heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs, importing more natural gas from Russia than any other country in Europe.
But Germany’s enhanced status on the world stage — combined with the end of the commodity boom and the onset of economic stagnation in Russia — has also shifted the balance of power. Some analysts argue that it is Russia that has the most to lose if economic sanctions are ever imposed.
This dynamic could offer insight into the role that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will play in any negotiations with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.
So far, German diplomats have tacked away from a plan, pushed by the United States, to impose sweeping sanctions and remove Russia from the Group of 8 developed economic nations. Instead, the German chancellor has called for a more diplomatic solution, preferring more limited actions like many of her European counterparts.
But Ms. Merkel, a champion of closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union, has also shown a willingness to take a hard line with Mr. Putin. In recent months, Ms. Merkel has been particularly forceful on human rights issues. For example, she played a crucial part in the release of the jailed oil executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
“The German attitude toward Russia has changed in a very substantial way,” said Anders Aslund, an economics expert on Russia, Ukraine and Europe at the Peterson Institute in Washington. “The tables have been turned.”

Top Russians Face Sanctions by U.S. for Crimea Crisis -

Top Russians Face Sanctions by U.S. for Crimea Crisis - The United States prepared Monday to impose sanctions on high-level Russian officials involved in the military occupation of Crimea, as the escalating crisis in Ukraine prompted turmoil in global markets, pounding the Russian ruble and driving up energy prices.

The Obama administration suspended military ties to Russia, including exercises, port visits and planning meetings, just a day after calling off trade talks. If Moscow does not reverse course, officials said they would ban visas and freeze assets of select Russian officials in the chain of command as well as target state-run financial institutions. Congressional leaders signaled that they would follow with sanctions of their own, and quickly approve economic aid for the fragile, new pro-Western government in Ukraine.

From Russia, ‘Tourists’ Stir the Protests -

From Russia, ‘Tourists’ Stir the Protests -

Around the south and east of Ukraine, in vital cities in the country’s industrial heartland, ethnic Russians have staged demonstrations and stormed buildings demanding a wider invasion of their country by Moscow.

But some of the people here calling for Russian intervention are themselves Russian — “protest tourists” from across the border.
They have included passport-carrying Russians, like Aleksey Khudyakov, a pro-Kremlin Muscovite who said he traveled here “to watch and maybe to give some advice.” In Kharkiv, another Russian scaled a government building to dramatically plant his country’s flag — offering at least the image that President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces were being invited in.