Archive for December, 2013


December 30, 2013

The Iraqi government wants drones — American drones.

The Washington Times on December 26, 2013, reported that Iraq has requested 10 reconnaissance drones and Hellfire missiles from the U.S. to help with waves of attacks perpetrated by al Qaeda and its affiliates. There is also debate within the Iraqi government about having American-operated and armed Predator or Reaper drones, the New York Times reported. Excerpts below:

In 2011, American officials failed to secure a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, which now complicates matters as the nation’s officials request U.S. assistance. The Baghdad government of Nouri al-Malaki is struggling to control an influx of Islamic fighters from Syria, many of whom have contributed to the death of 8,000 civilians in 2013, according to the United Nations.

Iraq’s latest requests comes only months after the U.S. completed more than $4 billion in foreign military sales to Iraq, the Military Times reported. The package included infantry carriers, ground-to-air rockets, 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, and three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles.

The U.S. also plans to supply Iraq in 2014 with F-16s, helicopters and logistical support, according to the Military Times.


December 21, 2013

Japan Washington Times on December 19, 2013, reported Japanese plans to beef up its military with a wide-range of new arsenal to deal with Chinese national security threats. Excerpts below:

The island nation plans to spend roughly $232 billion over the next five years on hardware it believes is capable of securing disputed islands in the South China Sea. The list of purchases includes “anti-missile destroyers, submarines, 52 amphibious vehicles, surveillance drones, U.S. fighter planes and 17 Boeing Osprey aircraft, capable of vertical take-off,” the BBC reported.

“China’s stance toward other countries and military moves, coupled with a lack of transparency regarding its military and national security policies, represent a concern to Japan and the wider international community and require close watch,” stated a national security document released by the Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already established a National Security Council to address defense threats, the BBC reported.

Japan’s strategy for a bolstered national defense, approved by its cabinet, will result in a 2.6 percent increase in defense spending.


December 19, 2013

Fox News on December 17, 2013, reported that new stealth technology makes airplanes invisible not only to radar, it renders them hidden to the human eye as well…Excerpts below:

News reports from China last week touted the country’s work on a “cloaking” technology that uses a hexagonal array of glass-like panels to bend light around an object, obscuring it from view as though hidden by an invisibility cloak. Experts say the technology is legit – and not unlike American and European projects from the past few years.

“The general public … might not hear about how far the U.S. has really come, because it is and should remain classified,” firearms expert Chris Sajnog, a former Navy SEAL, told “Other countries are still playing catch-up — but they’re closing the gap.

China is hardly alone in seeking a way to evade radar systems and the naked eye. Here’s a few recent examples:

March 2013: The University of Texas used “mantle cloaking” to cancel out light waves that bounce off a shielded object.

Nov. 2012: Duke University disappeared a cylinder by guiding light around it before putting those photons back on their path.

Nov. 2012: Fractal Antenna Systems has a microwave invisibility cloak that can reportedly make an entire person disappear.
Oct. 2011: University of Texas tech uses the mirage effect, in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky.

But while classified work progresses, several public projects from universities and military supply companies show just how real this futuristic technology is.

– Chris Sajnog, former Navy Seal and firearms expert

“A few years ago we had a demonstration of these technologies here in San Diego,” Sanjog said in an email. “The mirrors currently being used are large and easily detectable, while the use of wavelengths is limited to a very narrow spectrum, i.e. visible light, but not radar or thermal. Also, both of these technologies only work well when viewed from one angle, and in warfare your security is nothing if it’s not 360.”

Major arms developers such as BAE Systems readily acknowledge work on this kind of technology, such as the Adaptiv program, which aims to hide armored vehicles.

“The U.S. military is among many who have expressed interest in Adaptiv, which could be transferred to other platforms, such as ships and helicopters,” said Mike Sweeney, a spokesman for BAE.

BAE’s technology, similar to what the Chinese are now touting, deploys sheets of hexagonal “pixels” that can change temperature very rapidly. On-board cameras pick up the scenery and display it on the vehicle, which can allow a moving tank to match its surroundings.

Research is concentrated mainly on the infrared spectrum, a pressing concern for the Swedish government group funding the work. But BAE has combined its pixels with technologies that camouflage other parts of the electro-magnetic spectrum to provide all-round stealth.

But most camouflage used by the military is not as high-tech as these tools. Take for example the “ghilie suit,” a garment designed to resemble heavy foliage and popular with the military and hunters.

“As a former lead instructor for the Navy SEAL sniper program, I’ve taught many of our current warriors the art of passive camouflage. For example, wearing a well-made ghillie suit in the proper environment can render its user virtually invisible, and this is a cloaking device that works 360, with no batteries needed,” Sajnog said.


December 16, 2013

Washington Times on December 13, 2013, reported that he U.S. Army said its latest defense technology — a vehicle-mounted laser — has passed a recent test with flying colors, successfully shooting a drone from the sky and intercepting and destroying several mortar rounds. Excerpts below:

The laser, dubbed the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD, and placed atop a military vehicle, hit more than 90 mortar bombs, as well as several drones, during a six-week test period conducted in New Mexico at the White Sands Missile Range, Agency France-Presse reported.
The technology probably won’t be completely operational and ready for mission until 2022, because developers are going to be working on increasing the power and range of the lasers.

But the technology is proving top-notch and could go far in helping to protect troops from mortar, artillery or rocket fire, said one Boeing official.

“The system is capable of rapidly acquiring with the radar these very small targets and point a laser beam about the size of a quarter and destroy the targets while they’re flying,” said Mike Rim, a program manager at Boeing, in the AFP report.

Improvements to the system will enable it to take down objects that are moving at faster speeds than mortar rounds — like cruise missiles…


December 15, 2013

Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins By Gavin Francis Counterpoint, $28, 260 pages, illustrated

Washington Times on December 1, 2013, published a book review by Priscilla S. Taylor on a new book on Antarctica. Emperor penguins, and birds in general, fascinate Gavin Francis, the intrepid thirty-something Scottish physician who wrote this book some years after spending 14 months on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) station known as Halley, 12 miles from the penguins’ rookery in Antarctica. To learn whether he could survive — and even enjoy — such a long time amid ice and silence (he was getting paid for it, as the station’s only physician), Dr. Francis started making inquiries when he was still in medical school in Edinburgh. Excerpts below:

Before he embarked for Antarctica, Dr. Francis had six months of training — learning to give general anesthetics, analyze blood samples, trephine human skulls, and “drill out rotten teeth” — a period he calls idyllic. (One of the men among the 13 people who spent the Antarctic winter with Dr. Francis had four teeth filled by the doctor during their time together, but there were no medical emergencies.)

Although the base doctor at Halley had no official duties — he was there to be available in case of an accident — the doctor was expected to share in the heavy labor that all the rest of the group performed, from collecting and packaging waste for the next ship to call to shoveling vast amounts of snow into a “melt tank” that supplied drinking and washing water. Dr. Francis also made himself useful around the aircraft based at Halley for the two-month summer period, handling cargo and fuel. He was rewarded by occasionally being invited to act as co-pilot, including on a flight to Berkner Island to pick up some frozen core samples, drilled deep into the ice mantle there, which would eventually be taken back to Britain for analysis to determine previous fluctuations in global climate.

Soon after that flight, the author joined a group preparing for their first holiday from work, to visit the penguins, which are accessible for only two months of the year. “Accessible” is a relative term. The visitors first had to be pulled by sledge to the ice cliffs above the rookery; then each roped up individually and abseiled down to a snow bridge over a tide-crack before stumbling toward the colony over a mix of solid ice and what seemed to be open water.

Before the penguins again became inaccessible, he and a companion abseiled once more down to the sea ice where the penguins “made way for us as we moved through the rookery. They tolerated us, unafraid, and I thought of how those Hebraic prophets could be so wrong: ‘And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air.’”

As the group wintering at Halley faced 10 months on their own before the next ship or plane would be able to return, the author contrasted Halley with McMurdo, “the American super-station on the New Zealand side of the continent,” which hosted more than 1,000 residents in summer. The British team felt that their group, “living on Halley’s plains of ice, long winters, and no possible visitors were the only ones experiencing ‘the real Antarctic.’”

Just before the 114 days of total darkness began, the author spent the hours around noon skiing, “as if to charge myself for the long darkness ahead.” Then he did some “reading, sitting, studying, writing, walking, praying, sleeping. Not much talking. I found myself relaxing into a delicious mental freedom.”

From his easy references throughout this book to details of early polar expeditions — be it Scott, Cook, Byrd or Shackleton — as well as to literary favorites from Chaucer to Wordsworth and Thoreau, one suspects that Dr. Francis is probably the best-read person to land at Halley in recent memory. He is practical-minded, however, as when he muses about how, until recently, the British Antarctic stations were the only major national program that selected personnel by “gut feeling,” asking “could I winter with this man?”


December 13, 2013

Washington Times on December 11, 2013, reported that China’s military is planning to counter surveillance by the Pentagon’s long-range Global Hawk drone, which currently is deployed on Guam and flying reconnaissance missions aimed at China. Excerpts below:

According to a recent technical journal, China’s military now has countermeasures for thwarting Global Hawk flights, saying the stealth drone is flown near China’s southeast coast “continually” and thus “countermeasures against Global Hawk are considered.”

Global Hawk missions are classified. But defense officials say they are worried the aircraft could become targets of China’s military should its air forces try to enforce a newly established air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.

Defense officials told the Times Inside the Ring that one key reason for implementing the air zone was to stop U.S. military surveillance flights near China’s coasts.

The report provides a detailed technical description of China’s methods against Global Hawk flights, including electronic jamming of onboard spy equipment and aircraft-to-satellite signals used to remotely pilot the drones, electronic disruption of GPS signals used for navigation, and using airborne warning and control aircraft to detect the drone and guide warplanes to shoot them down.

Also, the report suggests using “smoke screens” to hide spying targets — a technique readily available in China, as dangerous levels of smog have blanketed many major cities in recent weeks.

The Chinese also are considering cyberattacks that would allow them to take over controls of Global Hawks and cause them to crash or forced to land.

To unmask the drone’s low-radar signature, the Chinese also plan to use wide-spectrum and passive radar to locate and then direct aircraft to shoot down the drones.

“Regardless of whether it is a Global Hawk or an RQ-170 stealth [drone], it is afraid of seven things: electronics jamming; camouflage deception, being dazed by smoke screens; mid-air intercepts; airborne early warning; attack platforms and mid-air ambushes,” the report said.

The Global Hawk is the Air Force’s premier long-range surveillance drone, with a range of 2,300 miles at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet. It is equipped with synthetic aperture radar, high-resolution cameras and signals intelligence equipment.

So far, an armed version has not been deployed, but the aircraft is capable of carrying up to 2,000 pounds.

The Navy version under development is called the MQ-4C Triton.

The report was published in February in the military journal “Aerospace Electronic Warfare,” a publication of the Institute 8511 of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp…



December 12, 2013

Washington Times on December 11, 2013, reported that the Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his military to make bolstering its presence in the Arctic a top priority.

Mr. Putin said the build-up was to protect its national interests in the region, especially Russia’s recently restored airfield, BBC reported. He made the announcement on the heels of Canada’s claim to the continental shelf near the North Pole.

…this is the first time he directly ordered the military to boost its presence there, the BBC said.

His direct order is seen as a sign of the growing tensions among nations to claim and exploit the resource-rich area, the BBC said. The Arctic is home to 30 percent of the world’s untapped gas and 15 percent of its untapped oil.

(Comment: It is high time that the United States enters the competition for the oil-rich Arctic).


December 11, 2013

Washington Times on December 10, 2013, reported that he U.S. “reset” with Russia just got a lot trickier: An Arctic-area Russian airfield that has been closed for 20 years is being reactivated.

Temp airfield on Kotelny Island went online in 1949…

It officially closed for business two decades ago, although its infrastructure was kept in place so that Russia’s Air Force could use it again. That time is now.

The airfield’s reactivation has been “fast,” according to The Aviationist. It stated that the status change ramped up in October when a transport plane landed there. Over the past year an expedition of 150 people with dozens of vehicles also arrived by sea, the Aviationist reported.

(Comment: there have been other signs of Russian strengthening the military forces especially in the Baltic Sea area in northern Europe).


December 10, 2013

Fox News on December 9, 2013, published an AP report on Canada intending to extend its seabed claims in the Arctic to include the North Pole in a bid to assert its sovereignty in the resource-rich region, the country’s foreign affairs minister said. Excerpts below:

John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of its continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.

Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but it wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.

Asserting Canada’s rights in the Arctic has been a popular domestic issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper…

“We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada’s far north,” Baird said.

Countries including the U.S. and Russia are increasingly looking to the Arctic as a source of natural resources and shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says the region contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil.

Countries must submit proposals to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to request an extension of their nautical borders. Currently, under international law, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. the five countries with territories near the Arctic Circle are allotted 200 nautical miles from their northern coasts.

Baird said Canada’s submission last week set out the potential outer limits of the country’s continental shelf in the Atlantic — a claim of about 1.2 million square kilometers. He said that’s roughly the size of Alberta and Saskatchewan combined.

Canada’s follow-up submission will include a claim to the Lomonosov Ridge, an undersea mountain range between Ellesmere Island, Canada’s most northern land mass, and Russia’s east Siberian coast. That claim would extend Canada’s claim 200 nautical miles beyond the North Pole.

Baird said it’s a mammoth task, and the government needs more time to complete the mapping in the Arctic and get its U.N. submission right.

“That’s why we have asked our officials and scientists to do additional and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the Continental Shelf in the Arctic includes Canada’s claim to the North Pole,” he said.

“(Harper) does not want to be the prime minister seen publicly as having surrendered the North Pole, even if the scientific facts don’t support a Canadian claim,” Byers said. “What he’s essentially doing here is holding this place, standing up for Canadian sovereignty, while in private he knows full well that position is untenable.”

The UN submissions do not lead to a binding decision, but lay the groundwork for future country-to-country negotiations over competing territorial claims in the Arctic that could take years to resolve. Just checking the science on a claim likely will take five years, said Rob Huebert, an Arctic expert at the University of Calgary.

“We’re talking about the center of a large, inhospitable ocean that is in total darkness for three months each year, thousands of miles from any port,” he said. “The water in the North Pole is 12,000 feet (3,650 meters) deep and will always be covered by sea ice in the winter. It’s not a place where anyone is going to be drilling for oil and gas.

“So it’s not about economic stakes, it’s about domestic politics.”


December 9, 2013

The Washington Times on December 8, 2013, reported that hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets to denounce the government’s move away from Europe and toward Russia, The Associated Press reported. Excerpts below:

“Glory to Ukraine!” some demonstrators shouted while others took turns beating the statue of the Russian communist revolutionary.

The 11-foot statue was erected in 1946 just after the end of World War II, NPR reported.

Opposition groups in the country are calling for a million people to rally against government plans to forge stronger ties with Russia.