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Archive for January, 2008

Navy Railgun Goes For Record (Updated)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


Update: They did it! Check the article and video here.

If you are near Dahlgren, Virginia tomorrow and you hear a big “WHOOOOOMP”, no need for concern. The Navy is just firing its electromagnetic railgun at a power level untested before:

U.S. Navy Set to Break Electromagnetic Railgun Record
The Office of Naval Research will test fire an electromagnetic railgun (EMRG) at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va. on Jan. 31, 2008, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST. The gun will be fired at over 10 megajoules of energy a power level never before achieved by an EMRG.

This weapon is pretty cool — we’ve talked about it before on Defense Tech here and here (among other articles) and with a great article here at Military​.com. Using a pulsed power system utilizing electromagnetic energy — the same energy that powers many rollercoasters these days and will power the launching systems of future carriers (at some point) — it will be a powerful system, with a projected range of 250 nautical miles and a speed at launch of mach 7.5 and an impact speed of mach 5 with no explosives or powder or propellant used in the system. The Navy continues to increase its capability to “reach out and touch” someone from its domain in the littorals. Imagine what this thing would do to a pirate boat off HOA?
Ouch.
–Pinch Paisley

New Stryker Sucking

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

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BAQUBAH, Iraq — The newest version of the Armys popular Stryker combat vehicle is garnering poor reviews here from Soldiers assigned to man its tank-like hull.

The General Dynamics Corp.-built Mobile Gun System looks like a typical eight-wheeled Stryker, except for a massive 105mm gun mounted on its roof. The gun fires three different types of projectiles, including explosive rounds, tank-busters and a “canister round” that ejects hundreds of steel pellets similar to a shotgun shell.

But while the system looks good on paper and the Armys all for it, Soldiers with the 4th Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment — one of the first units to receive the new vehicle for their deployment to Iraq — dont have a lot of good things to say about it.

“I wish [the enemy] would just blow mine up so I could be done with it,” said Spec. Kyle Handrahan, 22, of Anaheim, Calif., a tanker assigned to Alpha Company, 4/9s MGS platoon.

“Its a piece,” another MGS platoon member chimed in. “Nothing works on it.”

Read the rest here.

– Christian

First MRAP Fatality

Monday, January 28th, 2008

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Hey, folks, greetings from O’Hare airport. My connecting flight to Kansas City is delayed a couple of hours (I discovered after running from one terminal to the other like OJ back in the old Hertz commercials), so I have a little time on my hands here.

Here’s an item Military​.com reported on a few days back that I thought would be worthy of a discussion among the DT clan. Our man Eric Daniel relays that it’s important to note that the Soldier killed was seated in the most vulnerable position in the MRAP and that an IED that size would’ve taken out everyone in a Humvee. Also, it’s unclear if the gunner died from the blast or the MRAP’s subsequent roll. But, still, this casualty is a surprise since most considered the MRAP to be IED-proof altogether.

Here’s a bit of the report:

A Soldier killed over the weekend south of Baghdad was the first American casualty in a roadside bomb attack on a newly introduced, heavily armored vehicle, a military spokeswoman said Jan. 22.

The V-shaped hull of the huge MRAP — Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected — truck is designed to deflect blasts from roadside bombs, a weapon that has killed more American Soldiers than any other tactic used by Sunni insurgents and militia fighters in Iraq.

The Soldier who died Jan. 19 was the gunner who sits atop the MRAP vehicle. Three crew members tucked inside the cabin were wounded. The vehicle rolled over after the blast and it was not clear how the gunner died — from wounds in the explosion or in the subsequent roll-over.

Maj. Alayne P. Conway, deputy spokeswoman for the 3rd Infantry Division, said the attack and the death were under investigation.

There now are more than 1,500 of the costly vehicles in service in Iraq and the Pentagon is working to get at least 12,000 more, using $21 billion provided by Congress. MRAPs cost between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on their size and how they are equipped.

The cycle of war continues …

– Ward

The Sniper Dance

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

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Here’s an early look at Military.com’s lede story tomorrow morning (barring breaking news, of course). Christian continues his reporting from Iraq, this time focusing on the enemy sniper threat in Tikrit:

They call it the sniper dance.

Youre out in the open. There are houses all around you — cover and concealment for enemy sharpshooters to plink off a U.S. Soldier.

Stand there, wait a few seconds, shift to the right — then do it all over again.

We dont want a sniper to get a good shot off on us, one Soldier says. So we keep moving all the time.

In this home region for the deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the security that has only recently descended here is tenuous at best. With the Iraqi army largely pushed out of the surrounding towns and villages to help U.S. forces root out the most tenacious holdouts in other areas, the focus here is on building a durable police force that can secure the population and at the same time keep the insurgency from sparking up again.

American Military Police units and the civilian advisors that help them recognize the mandate is a tall order. With corruption a part of everyday life here and a policing philosophy making the transition from being an instrument of oppression to a force that serves the community, putting the local police on the right track takes constant interaction and a deep reservoir of patience.

Our motto is no free chicken, said Staff Sgt. Joe Cline, a platoon sergeant with the 56th Military Police Company, who added their main mission is to cut the Iraqi polices dependence on the U.S. military.

Each of the platoons with the 56th Military Police Company — which is made of Army reservists from a Arizona, California and Nevada — is divided into smaller Police Transition Teams, called PiTTs. Paired with civilian contractors drawn from police departments from across the country, the PiTT teams patrol the towns outside the sprawling Camp Speicher base just to the north of Tikrit, visiting police stations, meeting with their leaders and assessing what needs they have to keep cops on the beat.

At the Tikrit patrol station, MPs wanted to see if a shooting incident that occurred the previous day showed up on the stations log books. After a furious series of mistranslations and fumbling through piles of papers, the Iraqi policeman said he didnt have the shooting — which occurred just a block away — on his books.

That was reported at another station, the Iraqi policeman told the MPs.

Frustrated, the MPs looked at each other with dismay.

Read the rest in the headlines at Military​.com, first thing Monday morning.

And I’m headed for Kansas University tomorrow to be part of a milblogging panel with Jack Holt from DoD’s New Media Directorate and Castle of Argghhh’s John Donovan. I’ll be posting when I can from the road. If any DT readers are in or around Jayhawk Country please stop by the campus and say hello after the panel on Tuesday night.

(Photo by Christian Lowe)

– Ward

The Sunday Paper (Chicken Little Edition)

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

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It’s officially time to freak out … or is it? The AP reports the following:

A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and could hit the Earth in late February or early March, government officials said Saturday.

The satellite, which no longer can be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. It was not clear how long ago the satellite lost power, or under what circumstances.

“Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation,” said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, when asked about the situation after it was disclosed by other officials. “Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause.”

He would not comment on whether it is possible for the satellite to perhaps be shot down by a missile. He said it would be inappropriate to discuss any specifics at this time.

A senior government official said that lawmakers and other nations are being kept apprised of the situation.

The spacecraft contains hydrazine — which is rocket fuel — according to a government official who was not authorized to speak publicly but spoke on condition of anonymity. Hydrazine, a colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor, is a toxic chemical and can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.

Such an uncontrolled re-entry could risk exposure of U.S. secrets, said John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert. Spy satellites typically are disposed of through a controlled re-entry into the ocean so that no one else can access the spacecraft, he said.

Pike also said it’s not likely the threat from the satellite could be eliminated by shooting it down with a missile, because that would create debris that would then re-enter the atmosphere and burn up or hit the ground.

Pike, director of the defense research group GlobalSecurity​.org, estimated that the spacecraft weighs about 20,000 pounds and is the size of a small bus. He said the satellite would create 10 times less debris than the Columbia space shuttle crash in 2003. Satellites have natural decay periods, and it’s possible this one died as long as a year ago and is just now getting ready to re-enter the atmosphere, he said.

Jeffrey Richelson, a senior fellow with the National Security Archive, said the spacecraft likely is a photo reconnaissance satellite. Such eyes in the sky are used to gather visual information from space about adversarial governments and terror groups, including construction at suspected nuclear sites or militant training camps. The satellites also can be used to survey damage from hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters.

The largest uncontrolled re-entry by a NASA spacecraft was Skylab, the 78-ton abandoned space station that fell from orbit in 1979. Its debris dropped harmlessly into the Indian Ocean and across a remote section of western Australia.

In 2000, NASA engineers successfully directed a safe de-orbit of the 17-ton Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, using rockets aboard the satellite to bring it down in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean.

In 2002, officials believe debris from a 7,000-pound science satellite smacked into the Earth’s atmosphere and rained down over the Persian Gulf, a few thousand miles from where they first predicted it would plummet.

Here’s how MSNBC is covering our imminent demise:

So what say we? Lottery time? Will it make it through the atmosphere intact? If so, when and where will it hit?

Big prizes await! You must be alive to win, however, so if you are hit and killed by the satellite you are ineligible for your prize. On the plus side, we will definitely honor you with a DT post.

And watch out for that hydrazine creamy filling, too.

(Chicken Little appears courtesy of Disney.)

– Ward

al Qaeda’s Top Cyber Terrorist

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

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The Internet has long been a critical domain of terrorist and extremist groups around the world. Perhaps the most notorious cyber terrorist was an individual know as “Irhabi 007.” He was later identified as Younes Tsouli is a 23-year-old son of a Moroccan diplomat.

For nearly two years, Younes Tsouli was sought by global intelligence sources. The online terrorist communities Tsouli created trained terrorists who congregated in those cyber communities. The training included hacking, programming, executing online attacks and mastering digital and media design. He suddenly went underground in September 2007 after Scotland Yard arrested a 23-year-old West Londoner believed to be tied to Younis Tsouli.

Scotland Yard believed that Tsouli participated in an alleged bomb plot they were investigating. British counter-terror agents and investigators stormed Tsouli’s top floor flat and discovered stolen credit card information which is believed to have funded much of his activities. They also found that the cards were used to pay American Internet providers on whose servers he had posted jihadi propaganda.

In addition, Tsouli Irhabi used countless other web sites as free hosts for material that the jihadists needed to upload and share. The true extent of his material distribution network is still not known. He is credited with the large scale distribution of a film produced by Zarqawi called “All Is for Allah’s Religion.”

His arrest struck a significant blow to al Qaedas cyber terrorism weaponry.

With cyber weaponry only requiring widely available knowledge and skills and the only equipment required a computer that can be purchased anywhere, cyber weapons proliferation cannot be controlled. These facts coupled with the recent cyber attacks on utilities that blackout cities and regions show this is a serious threat.
Spy-Ops profile on Irhabi 007:

Younes Tsouli is a 23-year-old male and studied computers at a London college. Tsouli is a computer nerd from Shepherd’s Bush, West London. He is the son of a Moroccan diplomat and arrived in London in 2001. He was recruited by al Qaeda in 2002 when he began his cyber campaign of propaganda and terrorist training. is online legend (cover name) was “Irhabi 007″ derived from combining the James Bond reference with the Arabic word for terrorist. He published a manual on computer hacking on one of the many al Qaeda’s web sites. He joined the closed message forum known as Muntada al-Ansar al-Islami that provided military instructions, propaganda and recruitment.

He became the web master for al-Ansat, a forum used by 4,500 extremists to communicate. He rose to become the top cyber jihadi expert and directed all Internet-related activities. He also posted a 20 page website hacking manual called “Seminar on Hacking Websites,” on the Ekhlas forum.

Tsouli used stolen credit card information on 37,000 cards to pay American Internet providers on whose servers he had posted jihadi propaganda. He was apprehended as he was in the process of building and deploying a new website called YouBombIt.

Captured in his London top floor flat was a PowerPoint-style presentation on how to build a car bomb. His capture led to the arrest of several Islamic terrorists around the world, including 17 men in Canada and two in the US.

His hacking skills are categorized as moderate to advanced compared to todays standards. In December of 2007 his sentence was increased from 10 years to sixteen years in prison.

– Kevin Coleman

Air-to-Air Ain’t Dead (Video Fix)

Friday, January 25th, 2008

We’ve had some pretty good discussions lately around the F-15 grounding issue and the number of F-22s the Air Force needs. Some suggested that there is no air-to-air threat facing the U.S., therefore we need to focus on other, more vital, platforms.
Well, get ready for the weekend with a gander at this video:

That bad boy could mess a Hornet or Eagle up in a knife fight, I’m afraid.

(Gouge: NP)

– Ward

Lockheed, Boeing to Team Up on Bomber

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Our man Bob Cox at the Fort-Worth Star Telegram passes the following:

Lockheed Martin and Boeing will announce Friday that they will team up to “perform studies and system development” for a next generation long range bomber the Air Force wants to develop.

Bob also asks a fair question:

If the No. 1 and No. 2 defense contractors are teaming up, who is going to be the competition? Northrop Grumman perhaps?

– Ward

Black Program Exposed?

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

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Back in 1985, during my first airwing detachment to Fallon, Nevada, my squadron participated in an exercise called “Constant Peg.” C-Peg was super classified and involved American fighter crews flying 1v1 ACM mission against Soviet fighters like MiG-23s and MiG-21s. These fighters were based at Tonopah. (My pilot and I went up against a MiG-23.)

Now during the briefs before the exercise the guys flying the MiGs were very hyper about us NOT landing at Tonopah … ever, ever, ever … even though the exercise took place just north of the field. “If you have an emergency go back to Fallon,” was the refrain, which struck us as a bit excessive, even considering the fact these enemy airplanes were based there.

The squadron operations officer, who went on to be a corporate test pilot, said something that made sense years later: “They’re not worried about the MiGs. There’s something else going on there.” When we pushed him for details, he said he didn’t know. He just had a hunch that C-Peg was a cover for another program.

Well, we now know that other program was the F-117 developmental test program. And after seeing firsthand the V-22’s DT program for three years, I can tell you that it’s a miracle that nobody found out about the Stealth jet during that time. Incredible stories have emerged about long commutes and clueless families and night ops. They did have a couple of close calls. There were reports of UFOs by local civilians that were quashed by Air Force officials.

So, again, have the folks in Texas seen something the Air Force doesn’t want them to see?

Check out these eyewitnesses in this news report. They seem convinced that they saw something weird:

– Ward

Plot Thickens in Texas UFO Crisis

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

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Tonopah redux?

As we reported here a few days back folks in Texas are seeing UFOs and now the Air Force appears to be changing it’s story a bit. The plot thickens. This from a report running in Military.com’s headlines right now:

Fighter jets were training nearby the night dozens of Stephenville-area residents reported seeing a UFO this month, Air Force Reserve officials said Jan. 23, backtracking on earlier statements.

The announcement did little to satisfy residents of Texas dairy country who swear that what they saw in the sky Jan. 8 was no airplane. Some said it even bolstered their claims, because several people reported seeing at least two fighter jets chasing an object.

“This supports our story that there was UFO activity in that area,” said Kenneth Cherry, the Texas director of the Mutual UFO Network, which took more than 50 reports from locals at a meeting last weekend. “I find it curious that it took them two weeks to ‘fess up. I think they’re feeling the heat from the publicity.”

Officials at the Joint Reserve Base Naval Air Station in Fort Worth initially said none of their planes had been in the area, but on Wednesday they said 10 F-16s were there that day. The officials said they were mistaken and wanted to set the record straight “in the interest of public awareness.”

Public awareness, indeed. Something is rotten in Denmark … and Texas. Remember, this is the same organization that developed the F-117 in the Nevada desert for years and years without anybody knowing about it. Have the citizens of Texas been given an unintentional glimpse of a black program?

Read the entire report here.

(Image: Secret base at Tonopah, Nevada where the F-117 was developed.)

– Ward