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Archive for September, 2008

Iraq’s Slippery Slope…to Peace?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

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The Pentagon just released the latest Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq report. Here are some pull-outs from the Executive Summary. You can read the entire document HERE.

My question is how will the MSM portray this report and what negatives will they focus on? It will also be interesting to see if the major papers and networks ignore the update. We’ll see…

…The overall security situation in Iraq has greatly improved this reporting period. Security incidents have remained at levels last seen in early 2004 for nearly three consecutive months, while civilian deaths across Iraq have declined to a level 77% lower than the same period in 2007. The surge in Coalition forces, the growth of more capable Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the contributions of the Sons of Iraq (SoI), the ability of forces to secure the population, operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other extremist elements, and the increased willingness of the people and the Government of Iraq (GoI) to confront extremists are important factors that have contributed to the improved security environment. Periodic high-profile car and suicide vest bombings have occurred, but the number of these attacks and the resulting casualties have decreased dramatically. Moreover, these attacks have not rekindled the self-perpetuating cycle of ethno-sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in late 2006 and the first half of 2007.

…The emergence of the SoI remains one of the major developments of the past 18 months; however, the integration and employment of SoI remain a significant challenge. The SoI provide significant security benefits to their local communities by protecting September 26, 2008 neighborhoods, securing key infrastructure and roads, and identifying malign activity.

…The slow pace of transition is a concern. Continued GoI commitment is required to ensure SoI are fully transitioned to permanent employment. Recent allegations of GoI targeting SoI leaders in Diyala Province are of concern if they are indicators of GoI reluctance to integrate SoI into the ISF or, more broadly, to reconcile a diverse province. Prime Minister Maliki has recently signed an order reflecting his commitment that stipulates the GoI will assume responsibility for SoI in Baghdad and its environs (over 50,000) beginning in October 2008, but Coalition forces continue to pay the salaries of SoI personnel. Prime Minister Malikis order would move more than half of the SoIs to the GoI payroll.

(more…)

Find the Cyberweapons Complex

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

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Many countries have now assessed their vulnerability and overall risk of being the target of a cyber attack. Inside sources have leaked information to the media stating the heightened state of concern they now have after being briefed on the results of the vulnerability and risk assessments. These results have put pressure on the military and intelligence leaders to address the growing threat. Military and intelligence leaders around the world are struggling with the new reality of cyber warfare. While there are a few hot spots where conventional conflict might erupt, there is growing concern among this group about the new reality of cyber war.

One foreign Intelligence analyst told me that “we face only a remote chance of major conventional military threat involving his country through 2025.” She went on to say “Asymmetric capabilities like cyber warfare might threaten the security we have gained over the past two decades.“

The cyber intelligence challenge for Intel agencies manifests themselves in the fundamental characteristics of cyber weapons. A cruise missile costs between $1 and $2 million and requires a large manufacturing facility and a substantial amount of infrastructure. A cyber weapon on the other hand costs between a few hundred dollars up to $50,000 and next to no infrastructure. The only infrastructure is a computer and an Internet connection. A cyber weapons manufacturing facility can be located in a single family home.

(more…)

Potential Russian Launch Base in Cuba

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

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Even as a Russian naval task force enters the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuelan forces, and a pair of Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers fly from a base in the Kola Peninsula to Venezuela, the Russian government is discussing the possibility of a satellite launch facility in Cuba.

Revelation of the interest in Cuba came from Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in a September statement. This may be the latest move by Russian prime minister (and former president) Vladimir Putin to reestablish Russia as a key “player” on the world political-military scene.

The Russian interest in the Caribbean-South America region is reflected in the high-level Russian delegation visiting the area, led by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. Perminov is part of the Sechin delegation.

(Sechin had visited Cuba on 30–31 July of this year for talks with Raul Castro and, possibly, the ailing Fidel Castro.Putin followed up Sechin’s visit with a 5 August announcement that Russia should “restore [its] position in Cuba and other countries.”)

The Soviet Union-Russia was the principal political and economic supporter of Cuba from the early 1960s through the demise of the USSR in December 1991. Indeed, Soviet attempts to establish Cuba as a strategic missile and military base led to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 when the United States and Soviet union came closer to a nuclear exchange than at any other time during the 45-year Cold War. After the demise of the USSR support for Cuba ended, causing considerable economic hardship in Cuba.

A major satellite launch facility in Cuba would permit placing satellites in certain orbits that cannot be done from Russian launch sites: Easterly launches close to the equator are the most efficient because of the earth’s rotation, maximizing the payload that a launch vehicle can boost into orbit. Such a launch facility and its support infrastructure would be a major source of employment and foreign investment for the Cuban economy.

(more…)

Developing: Hydraulic Failure Caused Nov. Osprey Fire

Monday, September 29th, 2008

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I’ve gotten my hands on an investigation report into the fire that nearly destroyed an MV-22 back in November during an NVG training flight near New River, N.C.

[NOTE: Picture is a scan from one provided in the investigation report]

Turns out, the fire sparked after the #3 hydraulic system ruptured due to pressure spikes from the engine air particle separator which filters inlet air before it is ingested by the engine. The hydraulic fluid spilled all over the IR suppression system, igniting the left nacelle into a ball of flame. The pilots and crew landed safely but the nacelle was a melted, twisted hulk. It caused $16 million in damages.

The crazy part is that this is a known problem. Our friend Bob Cox of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram has reported this same rupture before and his sources in the maintenance community indicate to him the problem is much worse than the Corps admits. In fact, the report shows a Airframe Change notice (#88) that calls for the installation of thicker hydraulic tubing in the EAPS system because of known pressure spikes that can cause a “catastrophic failure.” That notice came out in August, three months before the November incident.

The Corps (an Navy) told us not to worry, this was a problem on the Block A aircraft and the retrofits would go on those. Problem is, the November fire happened on a Block B Osprey [CORRECTION: Corps PA says the mishap aircraft was indeed a Block A bird].

I’m working more sources on this and giving the Corps a chance to respond, so you won’t see the final version of the story for another 36 hours. But I’ll scan some of the docs and try to post them when I push this one live so you can determine for yourselves what’s going on…

– Christian

The Next Generation of Drone Pilots

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I just couldn’t resist…

– Christian

Bring in the CPP

Monday, September 29th, 2008

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Multiple countries are now discussing the need to establish a comprehensive cyber protection program given the continued increase in the threat of cyber attacks and cyber warfare. The attack on Estonia and the more recent attack on Georgia are being viewed as the harbinger of what is to come. I was recently asked what might a comprehensive Cyber Protection Program (CPP) look like. So I thought I would put down my top ten areas that I think would be critical to include in a CPP.

1. Mandatory requirement to have up-to-date protection software on any device connecting to the Internet that includes:

  • a. Anti-Virus
  • b. Anti-Spyware
  • c. Anti-Malwared.
  • d. Anti-Adware

This software will automatically upload attack data to a central reporting center.

2. Mandatory isolating capability on every system with high processing capabilities and a firewall on every device connecting to the Internet with the following functionality.

  • a. Cannot be disabled other than for a few seconds
  • b. Has pre-configuration for mandatory protection
  • c. Automatically uploads attack data to a central reporting center
  • d. Automatic disconnection when massive outbound DDoS traffic from compromised computer systems is detected

3. Legislation mandating software vendors comply with the following:

a. Report to authorities within 24 hours of discovery malware software vulnerabilities
b. Minimum security testing requirements that must be met prior to release of any software program.

4. Criminal laws specifically addressing the unique characteristics of cyber attacks, malicious code and system compromise including language that addresses the threat of DDos attacks.

5. Criminal laws specifically addressing the development and sale of cyber weapons.

6. Criminal and civil laws that address organizations who fail to immediately report cyber attacks or data breaches that include those who destroy evidence of cyber attacks, systems compromise and data theft.

7. Establishment of a quasi government/business entity that coordinates defensive and protective capabilities of the information infrastructure. This would also include a cyber attack and threat alerting system.

8. Establishing an Intelligence Center that is charged with cyber intelligence collection, analysis, trend reporting as well as collaboration across the other intelligence agencies.

(more…)

Starship Troopers Meets G.I. Joe

Friday, September 26th, 2008

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For once it seems the Army is actually turning fiction into science.

After nearly a decade in the shadows — with billions spent on earlier versions long since abandoned — the Army is moving quickly to field a revolutionary new weapon to Joes a lot sooner than anyone had ever imagined.

It’s a weapon that can take out a bad guy behind a wall, beyond a hill or below a trench, and do it more accurately and with less collateral damage than anything on the battlefield today, officials say. It’s called the XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon, and by next month the service will have three prototypes of the precision-guided 25mm rifle ready for testing.

“We’ve done a lot of testing with this, and what we’re seeing is the estimated increase in effectiveness is six times what we’d be getting with a 5.56mm carbine or a grenade launcher,” said Rich Audette, Army Deputy Project Manager for Soldier weapons.

“What we’re talking about is a true ‘leap ahead’ in lethality, here. This is a huge step,” Audette added during a phone interview with Military​.com from his office at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.

Born of the much-maligned and highly-controversial Objective Individual Combat Weapon — a 1990s program that sought a “leap ahead” battle rifle that combined a counter-defilade weapon with a carbine — the XM25 only recently gained new momentum after the Army formalized a requirement and released a contract in June for a series of test weapons.

Current infantry weapons can shoot at or through an obstacle concealing enemy threats, but the Army has been trying for years to come up with a weapon for engaging targets behind barriers without resorting to mortars, rockets or grenades — all of which risk greater collateral damage. After fits and starts using a 20mm rifle housed in a bulky, overweight, complicated shell, technology finally caught up to shave the XM25 from 21 pounds to a little more than 12 pounds.

If the XM25 does what its developers hope, it will be able to fire an air-bursting round at a target from 16 meters away out to 600 meters with a highly accurate, 360-degree explosive radius.

(more…)

Read Ahead: Duck! It Won’t Do You Any Good…

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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I know you guys are probably noticing that we’ve had a good amount of weapons content on DT for the last few months.

Part of the reason is because after reporting one gun story, you tend to get tidbits of information on another, then another from that, then another from that.

When I spoke with Rich Audette on the Army’s search for a new carbine a couple weeks ago, he mentioned to me that the Army was ready to test shoot a new weapon that could revolutionize infantry combat as we know it (my words not his…but his were close).

I just wrapped up the story and put it to bed, and we’re going to post it tomorrow morning at Military​.com, but I wanted to give you all a head’s up here.

Army to Test Air Burst Weapon for Joes

For once it seems the Army is actually turning fiction into science.

After nearly a decade in the shadows — with billions spent on earlier versions long since abandoned — the Army is hurtling along to field a revolutionary new weapon to Joes a lot sooner than anyone had ever imagined.

It’s a weapon that can take out a bad guy behind a wall, beyond a hill or below a trench, more accurately and with less collateral damage than anything on the battlefield today, officials say. It’s called the XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapon, and by next month the service will have three prototypes of the precision-guided 25mm rifle ready for testing.

“We’ve done a lot of testing with this and what we’re seeing is the estimated increase in effectiveness is six times what we’d be getting with a 5.56mm carbine or a grenade launcher,” said Rich Audette, Army Deputy Project Manager for Soldier weapons.

“What we’re talking about is a true ‘leap ahead’ in lethality, here. This is a huge step,” Audette added during a phone interview with Military​.com from his office at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.

Born of the much-maligned and highly-controversial Objective Individual Combat Weapon — a 1990s program that sought a “leap ahead” battle rifle that combined a counter-defilade weapon with a carbine — the XM25 has only recently gained new momentum after the Army formalized a requirement and released a contract in June for a series of test weapons.

– Christian

Breaking: Names are Being Named

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel, the former commander of the Air Forces Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is one of the generals who has been punished in connection with the services nuclear lapses. Hamel was reprimanded, according to a source who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. He is retiring effective Oct. 1, according to the official Air Force web site. Hamel was responsible for managing the research, design, development, acquisition and sustainment of space and missile systems, launch, command and control, and operational satellite systems. The formal announcement of the punishments will be made at 3 p.m. today by Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.
[NOTE: Follow this minute-by-minute breaking scandal at DoD Buzz. We’ll be taking calls from sources and asking the hard questions at the Pentagon briefing in an hour.]

– Colin Clark

Tarnished Brass in Nuke Scandal Climbs

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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[Editor’s Note: Colin broke this story last week and has a follow up that we posted last evening on the continuing fallout from the Air Force (and DLA) nuke scandals.

A source tells me he’s upset by the double standard of this punishment versus the one handed out from the Minot incident. He wonders whether there’s more to the after action report on the mis-shipped fuses than meets the eye.

Obviously, our sources would not give us any names — but we did confirm this is going to be announced today at 4pm. The AP came out with a story on this issue about the same time we posted…but Colin got it first with his own sourcing…Great work…]

In further fallout from the nuclear scandals that have plagued a beleaguered Air Force, the Pentagon is set to announce Thursday afternoon that at least seven general officers — including at least one three-star general — and five to seven colonels have been disciplined in connection with nuclear lapses, according to two sources familiar with the issue.

The generals are expected to be named; the colonels will remain anonymous.

A congressional aide confirmed the timing of the announcement but did not know how many officers were to be disciplined or what their punishments might be.

“They are holding this extraordinarily close,” the aide said of Air Force and Pentagon officials.

Earlier sources — who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter — had indicated the number of general officers to be reprimanded stood at five, but that number has climbed since last week.

The Pentagon is expected to announce the names of the general officers and their punishments at 4 p.m. on Thursday, following a long meeting on Monday during which several of the punishments were reconsidered.

Sources declined to specify whether punishments were changed, nor would they name those to be disciplined. But there is clearly concern that the Air Force has rushed to judgment in an effort to put the nuclear mess behind it.

One source said he is not “convinced the Air Force did its own thorough investigation,” adding the service accepted the Schlesinger and Donald reports about the nuclear lapses at face value “so they could make the ‘sacrificial offering’ and move on quickly.”

A second source voiced similar concerns.

A report by Navy Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, director of naval nuclear propulsion, into the nuclear enterprise detailed a loss of oversight from senior Air Force leaders and lowered performance related to the nuclear mission.

Read the rest of this story and other kick-butt news breaks at DoD Buzz.

– Colin Clark