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From the monthly archives:

January 2011

The World Trade Organization has apparently issued a final ruling saying that Boeing did indeed recieve unfair — not illegal — subsidies that benefit the development of its aircraft fleet.

According to the New York Times, the WTO ruled, in a confidential report, that Boeing received about $5 billion in subsidies. The WTO focused on about $24 billion in R & D contracts Boeing receives from the military and NASA along with Washington state tax breaks that European governments say gave the Chicago-based company a technological and financial edge.

Last summer, the WTO found that EADS had received billions in unfair subsidies as well, something that was key in allowing EADS to eat up large amounts of Boeing’s market share around the globe, according to the U.S. trade representative.

This comes as the U.S. Senate is once again taking up the so called, “Level-Field” bill, that will require the Pentagon to factor in the impact of the subsidies in its evaluation of Boeing’s KC-767-based and EADS A330 MRTT-based offerings in the $35 billion KC-X contest.

Many who have watched KC-X closely didn’t think the proposed law would have a chance of getting passed before the Air Force choses its new tanker (something that may happen in the coming weeks).

A similar bill was first introduced in late Spring of last year when it appeared the service would award a contract sometime between September and mid-November.

Oh how things have changed. The Air Force has repeatedly delayed the contract award so that it can be as confident as possible that this round of the contest has been run by the book.

Remember, in 2008, Boeing successfully protested the service’s award of KC-X to EADS, claiming that the requirements laid out in the RfP for that contest weren’t clear enough. That came after the whole Darleen Druyun tanker leasing affair.

Hopefully this bill won’t delay the contest any longer. The KC-135 is great, but as we all know, the oldest are 50 years old and desperately need replacement.  So both sides received subsidies. Fine, lets just move on with the contest.

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By Kevin Coleman — Defense Tech Cyber Warfare Correspondent

As you may recall back in November 2010 President Ahmadinejad publicly admitted problems caused by the Stuxnet malware. Stuxnet is said to have impacted the Russian built nuclear enrichment equipment and is thought to have delayed their nuclear program between 1 and 3 years. Late last week Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, publicly called upon (more like demanded) NATO to conduct a thorough investigation into the Stuxnet computer worm that targeted the Iranian nuclear power plant, and stated that the incident could have triggered a “new Chernobyl.” He went on to describe how the systems control panels showed the uranium-enriching centrifuges were operating normally while in fact they were spinning out of control. In fact, there are some that have reported the centrifuges spun so fast they began to fly apart.

Experts who work in the nuclear industry say the only way Stuxnet could have triggered a “new Chernobyl” is if the control system used in the nuclear power generating process (that is not in operation yet) was susceptible to the Stuxnet malware. It is highly doubtful that the Siemens software and programmable logic controller is used in the nuclear power generating process is similar enough for the Stuxnet malware to work. Some believe this is Russia protecting one of its companies involved with Iran’s nuclear program whose lack of proper security in the design of the nuclear plant and equipment led to the compromise of the system. At the time of this posting, NATO has not publicly responded to Russia’s request/demand for a Stuxnet investigation.

What do you think about this? Let us know in the poll below.

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Here’s China’s latest in crowd, I mean, fire suppression tech. A massive, jet-powered water cannon that’s capable of shooting four tons of water per minute at a range of 400 feet. If this were ever used on protesters instead of fires, it might not fall under the less lethal category.

Via Gizmodo

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In case you haven’t seen this already, it’s footage that Chinese state TV officials may have tried to pass off as the results of a recent military exercise. Too bad it’s probably stolen from of one of the dog fight scenes in Top Gun.

Happy Friday!

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Here you have it, folks. A shot of yesterday’s first flight for the fifth and final F-35B short take-off and vertical landing Joint Strike Fighter test jet at Lockheed’s F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, TX.

The jet will be leaving for NAS Patuxent River in Maryland where it will join four other F-35Bs in flight testing later this year, according to Lockheed. Once there, it will be part of the effort to get the F-35B test program back on track in the next two years.

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In case you didn’t see it, yesterday a bipartisan group of senators signed on to a letter by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) calling for the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate the incident where the Air Force and sent rivals EADS and Boeing information on each others bids in the $35 billion KC-X contest.

Now, EADS is welcoming such an investigation, with EADS North America Chairman Ralph Crosby releasing the following statement this morning:

“We would welcome an investigation by the DoD Inspector General—if such an investigation does not delay the decision on acquisition of new tankers. Scandal and protest have kept this badly needed system out of the hands of our service men and women long enough.  We are interested in illuminating unambiguous facts, not in a tactic for delaying the decision process.”

The fact that EADS is so welcoming of an investigation, albeit one that doesn’t interfere with the contest, may suggest it feels the Air Force’s remedy was fair and that all involved in the incident played by the rules and want to move on with the competition.

We’ll see what happens. So far, the Air Force has maintained that it’s on track to award a contract soon-ish. Many expect this to come in February.

I asked Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia if he thinks an investigation could hold up the award.

Here’s his take:

[Continue reading…]

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Watch this video at the 1:35 mark and you’ll see a mysterious looking tank riding on the back of a CSX freight train that’s supposedly rolling through Ohio. Anyone have any idea what this beast is?

Some are speculating that it’s the new M1A3 Abrams tank prototype while others think it’s merely a movie prop.

The video was posted to YouTube on Sept. 30, 2010 followed by chatter on the TankNet forum. The pics below emerged on militaryphotos​.net in the last week.

Here are a couple of pics of the M1 Component Advanced Technology Test Bed (CATTB) built in the late 1980s to test out a smoothbore gun, heavier turret armor, an auto a mechanical loader and new engine for the tank. The CATTB, however, never made it past the test bed phase.

The tank in the video is similar looking to the CATTB, but the turret is much different.

More pics after the jump.

Thanks to reader Brody for passing us the tip.

[Continue reading…]

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