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Archive for November, 2007

“Hey, Rocko, Help the President Find His Checkbook!”

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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Our friend Amy Butler over at Aviation Week reports the following:

U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne says his push to garner an extra $20 billion per year to boost the service’s procurement plans is “beginning to get some traction” with the White House.
Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley have consistently told Congress that the extra funding is required to pay for aircraft — including the F-22, Joint Strike Fighter, future refueling tanker and next-generation combat search and rescue helicopter — in higher quantities and at lower per unit costs.
“We are actually starting to hear a little bit of melody,” on this initiative, Wynne told an audience Nov. 28 at the Aerospace & Defense Finance conference …

Read the rest at Military​.com.

– Ward

Secret Service Whoop Ass

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Mount a mini-gun on a hard SUV and what do you get? I’m not sure but it sure does have a high rate of fire. Heads up, Code Pink bad people who could be viewed as a threat to state officials …

– Ward

BREAKING!!! F-15s Grounded Again

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

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We just got this breaking news at Military​.com in a few minutes ago and I wanted to get the word out to DT readers…

An informed DT reader told me this afternoon the Air Force had re-grounded its fleet of F-15s after they were returned to flight last week.

Military​.com reporter Bryant Jordan got the details…

Barely more than a week after returning the F-15 Eagle fleet to flight the Air Force is once again grounding most of the planes, Military​.com has learned.

F-15 models A through D — a total of 442 planes — were ordered grounded by Air Combat Command,Langley Air Force Base, Va., late on Nov. 27, ACC spokesman Maj. Thomas Crosson said in an interview.

The latest problem is with cracks in the planes’ metal support beams, called longerons, that run the length of the aircraft, and make up the sill on which the canopy sits, Crosson told Military​.com.

The entire F-15 fleet was ordered grounded in early November after the break up and crash of a Missouri Air National Guard Eagle. The Air Force began lifting the restrictions on the fleet Nov. 19 — starting with F-15E Strike Eagles — following aggressive inspections of the planes.

ACC called for the new groundings after metallurgical analysis of the planes suggested there could be possible cracking problems with the longerons.

Officials now are working at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga., to develop an inspection list that will be sent out to F-15 maintainers across the Air Force.

Crosson said the list should be completed in a day or two, and will include a timeframe for how long the actual inspections should take.

He could not say how long it would before the latest restrictions would be lifted from the entire fleet.

– Christian

Iraqi Spooks Come in from the Cold

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

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From Today’s Front Page at Military​.com:

The top American official responsible for training the new Iraqi intelligence services said Tuesday that country’s spies could be ready to go it alone by the end of next year.

After years of fits and starts, the Iraqi military and ministry of defense intel services are up and running, and, with coalition help, scoring some significant wins against insurgent groups, bombers and cross-border infiltrators.

“I would say by this time next year they would be likely self-sufficient to the extent that within the capability they have, both technical and human, that they can, in fact, collect, analyze and disseminate information to provide support to the Iraqi ground forces,” said Dan Maguire, the senior American trainer for Iraqi intelligence services, in an interview with military bloggers Nov. 27.

Read the entire transcript of the interview with Dan Maguire.

Maguire said in and around Baghdad the number of targets Iraqi intelligence personnel develop has jumped from less than a dozen per week before this year’s troop buildup to an average of 50 to 60 targets per week.

Moreover, Iraqi intel services are now able to go after about 90 percent of the bad guys they finger, where before the surge few targets had hard enough intelligence to nab.

Check out more intel news at Norman Polmar’s Spy Corner.

The new intel services have been able to develop their own information, analyze it and grab insurgents using Iraqi military and police forces about 30 percent of the time, “so they are right now on par in terms of going after targets and having success on that with the rest of the coalition forces,” Maguire said.

But that doesn’t mean Iraqi intelligence services don’t have some work to do before the U.S. can cut the cord.

Maguire said his pupils are short on basic signals intelligence technology that can help them intercept enemy communications, there are too few Arabic-language intelligence analysis software options — which hampers the exploitation of the information gained from sources — and there’s a lasting suspicion among military commanders that their intelligence personnel are simply spying on them.

“Many commanders view the tactical intelligence organizations in a division as being there to spy on the commanders, because that’s their experience or their knowledgeability from the Saddam era days,” Maguire explained. “We are working very hard to rectify that by direct interface with division commanders, by recruiting and putting in place G-2s at each of those division levels and working closely with them so that the commander and the G-2 build a bond and a trust so that they can, in fact, utilizes the resources effectively.“

At the higher levels, however, Maguire likes what he sees.

“Their joint staff [intelligence officer], and his staff are a very, very competent group of individuals,” Maguire said. “We have a new [chief intelligence officer] that’s only been in place now for about a month and a half, who is a former officer in the Saddam era, was an instructor at their National War College equivalent institution, a very, very balanced individual, very knowledgeable, very, very good at leading and mentoring his staff. And they are really starting to get it and put it together.”

(more…)

NATO’s Helo Woes

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

NATO is desperately short of attack and transport helicopters that can support its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, senior sources in NATO Headquarters say. In recent weeks, the alliance has been examining multiple options to correct the shortfall.
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Proposals on the table range from improved training and logistic support for deployed helicopters, to a commonly funded modernization of 20-odd Russian-built, Czech-owned Mil Mi-8 Hip transport helos that could then be used to form a multinational transport pool for Afghanistan-type operations.

Representatives from several NATO nations will be discussing these options at a seminar in Brussels, a senior European diplomat in NATO Headquarters tells Aviation Week & Space Technology.

“I believe the U.S. will also shortly come forward with specific proposals to help solve this problem,” he adds.

The helicopter shortage is the “single biggest operational problem” that is hampering the day-to-day operations of ISAF, a 41,000-strong multinational mission led by NATO and comprising troops from 38 nations, including 14 that are not members of the alliance.

“Were beseeching, begging, doing everything we can to convince nations to contribute more rotary-wing aviation assets, both transport helicopters and attack helicopters,” a Canadian NATO official says.

“Its not that NATO nations dont have helicopters. The problem is that theyre very expensive to ship to Afghanistan and to operate and maintain them there. I think there are several nations that prefer to keep their helicopters at home for this reason.”

At the Shephard Heli-Power conference in The Hague, operational commanders stressed that ISAF is struggling with a “constant imbalance of demand versus availability of both attack and transport helicopters.”

“Without helicopters, operations in southern Afghanistan are not possible. Theres a lack of road infrastructure and a high threat of improvised explosive devices and ambushes by Taliban and other opposing militant forces,” says Maj. Gen. Ton van Loon of the Royal Netherlands Army. He returned from Kandahar earlier this year after having commanded ISAFs Regional Command (RC) South.

Read more about NATO’s helo woes from our Aviation Week partners at Military​.com.

Christian

Your Lunar Vacation Home

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

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Moderate temperatures, nearly perpetual sunshine, flat landing areas and subterranean resources make the rim of the Shackleton Crater — situated within the solar system’s largest impact crater — an ideal location for a lunar homestead, down near the moon’s south pole. NASA hopes to send the first pioneers there by 2020.

“Hardscrabble” was what future president Ulysses S. Grant named his ramshackle homestead on the pre-Civil War Missouri frontier. That might be an apt title for NASA’s planned lunar outpost, for its residents will find the moon a harsh place to settle. Survival will depend on their ability to evade micrometeoroids, extract oxygen from rocks and even, like Grant, grow wheat.

The space agency announced its strategy to return to the moon last December. Instead of emulating the series of six Apollo landings, it chose as its initial goal the establishment of a single lunar outpost. Using the new crew exploration vehicle, Orion, NASA plans to send four astronauts to the moon as early as 2020 (“Mission: Moon,” March ’07). Eventually, four-man crews will rotate home every six months. Their goal will be to live off the land, extend scientific exploration and practice for an eventual leap to Mars.

The moon, says NASA, is the place to get our space-suited hands dirty. “The lunar base is part of an overall plan that has legs, that makes sense,” says Wendell Mendell, chief of the Office of Lunar and Planetary Exploration at Johnson Space Center. “We’re moving the human species out into the solar system.”

Learn how NASA plans to build a Moon colony at Military​.com.

Christian

Brits See Longbow as Key to Apache Ops

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

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British army Apache attack helicopters in Afghanistan are the only Apaches in the country that fly with the mast-mounted Longbow radar installed — and that is giving them a distinctive edge in the NATO-led operations against Taliban and other opposing militant forces, the commander of the unit says.

Lt.Col. Jon Bryant, commanding officer of the Apache-equipped No. 3 Regiment (Army Air Corps) at Wattisham, Suffolk, says that the Longbow radar is “extremely useful in airspace deconfliction terms.”

“When on patrol, we are sharing the airspace with other Apaches, Chinooks, Lynxes, fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles,” says Col. Bryant, who recently returned from a tour as commanding officer of Britain’s Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) at Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan.

Especially at night, the radar helps pilots to build up situational awareness and to prevent getting dangerously close to other aircraft during tactical maneuvers.

See the rest of this article from our Aviation Week partners at Military​.com.

– Christian

PowerSwim May Make SEALs Superhuman

Monday, November 26th, 2007

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America’s underwater special forces ops might not like it at first, but this dolphinlike device, PowerSwim, will let them reach targets fast — and without having to catch their breath. The device is compatible with standard scuba gear, as well as the front-mounted rebreathers (artist sketch, above) used by special operations personnel to avoid telltale bubble trails.

Humans are terrible swimmers, converting roughly 3 percent of their kicks, strokes and general underwater exertions into forward motion. We can boost our efficiency to 10 percent by adding fins, but dolphins, by comparison, can turn 80 percent of their energy into thrust. Not to be outdone, the Pentagon’s research wing, DARPA, is developing a contraption that lets Navy SEALs and other combat divers swim faster, and with less effort.

Instead of kicking, PowerSwim calls for a kind of undulation as its hinged foils pivot up and down. Similar to the way a dolphin or tortoise pumps its fins, this motion generates both lift and thrust. And while artificial fins operate within the swimmer’s own wake (they form a kind of expanding cone, starting at a swimmer’s shoulders), the PowerSwim’s lead foil — or propulsor foil — sweeps through the water just outside that wake.

See how the PowerSwim works at Military​.com.

– Christian

Scan Eagle From a DDG

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Here’s an interesting story we’re running at Military​.com today. The use of UAVs on an increasing number of Naval platforms is remarkable in its own right. But it seems to me also that as this continues, the size of the platform from which UAVs operate could get smaller and smaller.
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Guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), completed a robust testing phase of the ScanEagle, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Nov. 17, en route to the Central Command area of operations as part of the ongoing rotation to support Maritime Security Operations.

“ScanEagle is an incredible asset not only for this ship, but the Navy too,” said Oscar Austin’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Eric Weilenman. “It gives me great [subject awareness] on what’s around the ship and allows me to keep my visit, board, search, and seizure teams aware of their environment because the UAV provides positive identification on vessels of interest, which allows me to pass accurate security information to my Sailors as they prepare to board.”

While in flight, ScanEagle provides live, high-quality video that helps develop and maintain a Recognized Maritime Picture and further enhances Maritime Domain Awareness.

It seems to me that you could walk down this logical path to the Army’s Future Combat Systems concept. As the launch and recovery methodologies get more deployable, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine tanks and APCs carrying their own UAVs to survey the road ahead and recover back to the tank.

Contractors operate the UAV while Navy intelligence specialists and flight deck crew work side-by-side with the civilians.

“ScanEagle is launched by a pneumatic wedge catapult launcher and flies off pre-programmed computerized files or operators (like myself) to initiate the mission,” said Hamann.

“When retrieved, we use what is called a ‘Skyhook’ system, where the UAV catches a rope that is hanging from a 50-foot high pole,” Hamann added.

The last ship that deployed with ScanEagle, USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), completed 19 missions and 933 flight hours.

The software and back-end technology are there, but maybe it’s the bandwidth and launch/recovery phase that are still the sticking points (and money and complexity, ya ya ya…).

(Gouge: ED)

Photo from Boeing

Christian

Israel’s Cyber Shot at Syria

Monday, November 26th, 2007

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Our friends at Av Week have this story so wired, I couldnt wait to post this update. And, as you well know, Im a bit obsessed with it.

It now seems that one of Israels first shots in its raid into Syria in September was a fusillade of 1s and 0s.

From Aviation Week:

The U.S. was monitoring the electronic emissions coming from Syria during Israels September attack; andalthough there was no direct American help in destroying a nuclear reactorthere was some advice provided beforehand, military and aerospace industry officials tell Aviation Week & Space Technology.

That surveillance is providing clues about how Israeli aircraft managed to slip past Syrian air defenses to bomb the site at Dayr az-Zawr. The main attack was preceded by an engagement with a single Syrian radar site at Tall al-Abuad near the Turkish border. It was assaulted with what appears to be a combination of electronic attack and precision bombs to enable the Israeli force to enter and exit Syrian airspace. Almost immediately, the entire Syrian radar system went off the air for a period of time that included the raid, say U.S. intelligence analysts.

There was no U.S. active engagement other than consulting on potential target vulnerabilities, says a U.S. electronic warfare specialist.

Elements of the attack included some brute-force jamming, which is still an important element of attacking air defenses, U.S. analysts say. Also, Syrian air defenses are still centralized and dependent on dedicated HF and VHF communications, which made them vulnerable. The analysts dont believe any part of Syrias electrical grid was shut down. They do contend that network penetration involved both remote air-to-ground electronic attack and penetration through computer-to-computer links.

There also were some higher-level, nontactical penetrations, either direct or as diversions and spoofs, of the Syrian command-and-control capability, done through network attack, says an intelligence specialist.

These observations provide evidence that a sophisticated network attack and electronic hacking capability is an operational part of the Israel Defense Forces arsenal of digital weapons.

Despite being hobbled by the restrictions of secrecy and diplomacy, Israeli military and government officials confirm that network invasion, information warfare and electronic attack are part of Israels defense capabilities.

And the cool thing was that it seems that Israel was able to do this cyber attack from the air.

That ability of nonstealthy Israeli aircraft to penetrate without interference rests in part on technology, carried on board modified aircraft, that allowed specialists to hack into Syrias networked air defense system, said U.S. military and industry officials in the attacks aftermath.

Network raiders can conduct their invasion from an aircraft into a network and then jump from network to network until they are into the targets communications loop. Whether the network is wireless or wired doesnt matter anymore, says a U.S. industry specialist.

And it seems the Syrian governments self-imposed secrecy was partly to blame for the shut-down.

The raid on Syria was a strategic signal, not a threat, says a retired senior military official who flew combat in the region for decades. This [raid] was about what we perceived are their capabilities [for developing weapons of mass destruction] and about deterrence more than creating damage.

He contends that Syrian procedures even contributed to the successful bombing raid.

Part of the vulnerability of the Syrian facility was that they kept it so secret that there werent enough air defenses assigned to it, the official contends.

Be sure to read the rest of this fascinating story and really kick ass reporting HERE.

(Gouge: NC)

Christian