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Sunday, January 28, 2018

What's Going On In The World Today-180128



USAF Spending Big On Technology Transition Projects

Jan 25, 2018 James Drew | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
U.S. Air Force science and technology projects heading toward the “valley of death” should fear no evil in fiscal 2019, particularly if they relate to autonomy, directed energy, hypersonics, or low-cost and long-endurance aircraft.

The technology transition program, an Air Force budget line that funds advanced component development and prototyping, has grown exponentially since being established in fiscal 2014 and that trend is set to continue.

Funding for these projects has risen from $48 million in fiscal 2014 to almost $937 million this 2018 fiscal year, with Congress adding another $95 million to the president’s request for additional hypersonics, directed energy and long-endurance aerial platform experiments.

When the Air Force releases its budget program for fiscal 2019 in February, sources say to expect more strong support for the technology transition budget element (0604858). The funding is meant to shepherd promising technologies through the so-called valley of death, where laboratory experiments typically die if they are not immediately paired with an acquisition program for full-scale development and fielding. It achieves this by funding live component and platform tests to mature designs.


Chad: Government Cuts Internet To Hamper Protests

The Chadian government cut internet service, closed schools and deployed security forces to the capital city of N'Djamena in preparation for planned civil society protests against new austerity measures, Bloomberg reported Jan. 25. On Jan. 5, the government announced a plan to cut between five and 45 percent of wages for some public sector workers in order to comply with the International Monetary Fund wage ceiling that Chad agreed to in exchange for help paying off its debt.


US to send aircraft carrier to Vietnam as ties between old foes deepen in response to rising threat of China

Decades after the US war in Vietnam, relations are increasingly anchored by shared concerns over China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea

The proposed visit is scheduled for March at the central port of Da Nang, Vietnam’s defence ministry said in a statement. Such a visit by a US aircraft carrier could bring the most US forces to Vietnam since the conflict ended in 1975.

Freedom of navigation and access in the South China Sea will be critical to [Vietnam] economicallyU.S. DEFENCE SECRETARY JIM MATTIS
The arrival of a US aircraft carrier in Vietnam will be welcomed by an emerging network of countries that are nervously monitoring China’s military rise, particularly its assertive stance and island-building activities in the South China Sea. The busy waterway is a vital global trade route linking Northeast Asia with the Middle East and Europe.

In particular, the militaries of US, Japan, India and Australia are working more closely together as a “quad” of liberal democracies across what they now term the “Indo-Pacific” – moves driven by mistrust of China.

US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris last week described China as a “disruptive transitional force in the Indo-Pacific” after meetings with Japanese and Indian military leaders in New Delhi.

India, Japan and Australia have all boosted military relations with Vietnam in recent years, with New Delhi providing advanced training for its emerging submarine forces and jet fighter pilots....

Preparing for a Rematch at the Top of the World

China and India faced off last year in a tense military standoff on the Doklam Plateau on the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) high in the Himalayas. Although the impasse was temporarily resolved in late August through a negotiated drawdown, it has been clear all along that the LAC will remain a contentious border because both countries will continue to seek an advantage in this difficult terrain.

Recent reporting, particularly in the Indian press, has highlighted how India and China are bolstering their infrastructure and forces along the LAC, including through the stationing of additional ground units near the plateau. Satellite imagery acquired by Stratfor working with its partners at AllSource Analysis helps illuminate the scope of these developments by looking at the air and air defense aspects of this strengthening of forces. Specifically, the analysis looks at four critical air bases, two Chinese and two Indian, that are within range of the Doklam Plateau. The imagery confirms that both China and India are pursuing a wide-ranging strategic buildup that has only accelerated in the wake of the Aug. 27 agreement...

Japan deploys first F-35A stealth fighter, with mission to keep tabs on North Korea

Japan on Friday has deployed its first F-35A stealth fighter, sending it to Misawa Air Base in the northeastern prefecture of Aomori to respond to airspace incursions and engage in surveillance of North Korea.

The Air Self-Defence Force plans to deploy nine more F-35As at the base in the next financial year from April to form a squadron of 10 fighter jets.

Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters: “The deployment of the high-performance F-35 aircraft is significant for Japan’s security at a time when neighbouring countries have been quickly building up their air force capabilities in recent years.”

Why America’s stealth jet forces should fear China’s new unarmed eye in the sky [1] An F-35 stealth fighter at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd plant in Toyoyama, Nagoya Prefecture. Photo: Kyodo

The ASDF aims to eventually acquire a total of 42 F-35As, which are known for their ability to evade detection by radar. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp, F-35A jet is Japan’s successor to the ageing F-4 fighter.

Japan has earmarked funds for purchasing long-range JSM missiles, capable of striking enemy bases, to be mounted on the F-35A air fleet.

But Onodera said: “The introduction of the missiles is not aimed at targeting enemy military bases. We rely on US strike capabilities for attacking enemy bases and this will remain unchanged.”


How Central Asian Energy Complements the Southern Gas Corridor

By Robert M. Cutler for Euractiv

It took the EU several years to move in a Central Asian direction for energy security after the US-sponsored project for a Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) for natural gas fell apart in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, first through the 2004 Baku Initiative and then with the 2007 Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia, it began to take those steps.

The EU followed through with practical effect in 2011 when it initiated negotiations with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan on TCP construction. Last June the Council of the European Union, evaluating the first decade of the EU Strategy for Central Asia, concluded that "the EU will continue to seek to extend the Southern Gas Corridor to Central Asia, and to further promote the EU's multilateral and bilateral energy cooperation" with the countries involved.

Key in this policy are not only the TCP but also the White Stream pipeline, planned to transport Turkmenistan's gas from the South Caucasus directly to EU territory, from Georgia under the Black Sea to Romania. The gas would then flow through existing infrastructure in Ukraine, Slovakia and Czechia to Germany and neighbouring countries. It can also feed new infrastructure being created, such as the Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria pipeline (BRUA).




Why America’s stealth jet forces should fear China’s new unarmed eye in the sky

China is developing a surveillance plane designed to be launched from the country’s newest aircraft carrier and fitted with a radar system to spot enemy stealth jets, military observers say.

State media confirmed for the first time on Monday that China was building its first carrier-borne early-warning plane called the KJ-600.

The announcement comes as the United States has deployed F-35 stealth jets to bases in Japan and other parts of the Asia-Pacific over the last year, challenging China’s air defences in the region.

Chinese military observers said the KJ-600 would be fitted with an advanced active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar which could enable it to spot stealth aircraft such as US F-22s and F-35s.

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the new surveillance plane could also become a command centre in the air...


Hacking: Another Weapon in the Asymmetrical Arsenal

Scott Stewart

Iran's Islamic Revolution could play out, in part, online. On Jan. 4, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report describing the country as a "third-tier cyberthreat." The report's authors note that despite Iran's success with cyberattacks such as Shamoon and a spear-phishing campaign that hit Deloitte and several other companies, Iranian attacks generally feature poor tradecraft. As a result, investigators haven't had much trouble tracking cyber operations back to the Islamic republic, whether because the attack code contained Farsi terms or because its associated IP address traced to Iran. Iranian spear-phishing attacks, likewise, frequently suffer from their perpetrators' poor command of the English language.

But even if its capabilities pale in comparison with those of Russia or China, Iran is still a cyberthreat, albeit a third-tier one. The Carnegie Endowment's report about the country's adoption and use of an asymmetrical weapon such as hacking called to mind the way governments and their agents have come to embrace and employ terrorism. Looking at the manner in which state sponsors, proxies and non-state actors have practiced terrorism can offer a useful framework for understanding how countries could turn hacking into a more dangerous tool of asymmetrical warfare...






Limited Strikes on North Korea Would Be an Unlimited Disaster

There’s no clear upside — and plenty of potential downsides — to punching Pyongyang in the nose.

Luke O'BrienJanuary 22, 2018, 10:09 AM

Many commentators across the national security community, such as Edward Luttwak, Michael J. Green, Matthew Kroenig, Oriana Skylar Mastro, and others, have the same bright idea for how to get North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to swear off further ballistic missile and nuclear warhead testing: Punch him right in the metaphorical nose.

The idea is that by hitting the right — and largely symbolic — target inside North Korea, we can find a sweet spot of escalation that’s light enough not to goad the North into a major war but painful enough to make them think twice about further testing of weapons of mass destruction. To quote one proponent, “Limited strikes should be targeted carefully and focused on North Korea’s specific provocation. A good start would be to take out the next North Korean intercontinental test missile on its launch pad.” As for the risk of a response, “If Kim can be deterred, as [critics of a strike] suggest, he will react in a way that risks few lives and leave

The allure of a punitive strike on North Korea is its seeming simplicity. North Korea continues its missile testing, or opts to detonate another nuclear device in a test shaft, and the United States fires a few missiles and fixes the problem. But this conclusion comes from a series of bad assumptions. We assume that the North Korean regime can detect with any realistic degree of confidence that a limited strike is in fact limited. We assume that North Korea will only analyze the costs and benefits of retaliating based on the merits of a fleeting crisis. And we assume that Kim Jong Un’s power is limitless and that he has none of his own constituencies to placate in the hours and days after a strike.

These assumptions are shaky at best. North Korea’s early warning network, fragile enough that a clean strike seems somehow viable, is more likely apt to encourage Pyongyang to take more aggressive action. Kim doesn’t have to consider just the ensuing hours and days after a strike, but also many years (and presumably other crises) in the future. And Kim is riding a tiger, and opting to blink will likely lead to his being thrown and eaten....

PERSONAL NOTE: The article is long but worth the read. I'll also attach a post from earlier this year, a look in Military.com, of a potential -Day of Korean War II. Fugly is not the word.






Saudi Arabia: The Crown Prince's Corruption Crackdown Is Over, for Now

When a Saudi public prosecution official announced the end of the anti-corruption campaign, it looked more like the end of a first phase than the end of an era. The splashy infographic posted on Twitter left big questions about the corruption campaign's future, as well as the status of Saudi billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal. Released in English, the announcement was almost certainly aimed at reassuring international investors. As the Saudi government gears up for an initial public offering of Saudi Aramco stock sometime this year or next, investors are looking for stability, transparency and certainty...


Stratolaunch's Gigantic, Rocket-Hauling Aircraft Could Fly in 2019
But by then, no one may care.

According to National Geographic, a full-grown male African elephant (Loxodonta africana) masses up to 7 tons. In contrast, Stratolaunch's "Roc" -- the massive rocket-hauling carrier aircraft that the space company unveiled at the end of May -- weighs in at 250 tons.

Despite the difference in size, I suspect we'll soon discover that Stratolaunch's Roc is just a gigantic white elephant, too. Here's why.

Stratolaunch is a creation of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Its new Roc is built by Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) subsidiary Scaled Composites. The plane, essentially designed as a scaled-up (pun intended) version of Orbital ATK's (NYSE:OA) Stargazer project, is intended to fly to high altitude and there release a rocket that will ignite in the sky and blast its payload the rest of the way into orbit.

Whereas Orbital ATK uses a modified Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) L-1011 aircraft as its carrier aircraft, though, Stratolaunch has designed an entirely new aircraft to fulfill this purpose. A beast of a machine with a 385-foot wingspan (wider than a football field is long) and sporting six Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines (the same engines that power a Boeing (NYSE:BA) 747), the Roc stands 50 feet tall and measures 238 feet from nose to tail. It's so big, it needs 28 wheels to support its weight as it trundles down the runway.

In flight, the Roc is designed to sling a rocket between its two fuselages, carry it to 35,000 feet, and there release it to blast off into space -- at which point the Roc would return to land and load up with another rocket for launch.

Regarding rockets

Speaking of that rocket, there is one small issue with Stratolaunch: There don't currently seem to be any rockets of the size it wants to carry that are suitable for air launch.

The Roc is designed to carry rockets weighing up to 275 tons, you see. (Thus, between the plane's 250-ton empty weight, 125 tons of aviation fuel for the plane itself, and a further 275 tons for the payload, the Roc would weigh 650 tons at takeoff -- about the same mass as an Airbus A380 fully loaded with passengers.) But Stratolaunch hasn't yet found a rocket of that size that can launch safely from midair.

Failing that, the latest plan is to have Stratolaunch instead carry "multiple" (three are depicted in Stratolaunch's artist depictions) Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets and deploy them in series.

Here's another problem with Stratolaunch: Using a huge airplane to help launch even "multiple" small rockets seems to defeat the purpose of building the huge airplane in the first place. After all, there are already at least two companies (Virgin Orbital and Orbital ATK itself) with aircraft that are suitable for air-launching small satellite rockets.

Plus, Orbital's Pegasus XL rockets only mass about 25 tons each. So even if Roc can carry and launch three Pegasus XL rockets at a time, in so doing, it would utilize only 75 out of its 275-ton lift capacity. Simply put, Roc is overkill for this purpose.

A solution in search of a problem

This, in turn, leads us to consider another problem with Stratolaunch. Namely, the company boasts that Roc has a "payload" capacity of 275 tons -- which sounds like a lot. After all, the biggest payload that SpaceX's famous Falcon 9 reusable rocket can carry to low earth orbit is 22.8 tons. The Lockheed Martin-designed Atlas V rocket operated by United Launch Alliance maxes out at 18.85 tons, while the Boeing-designed Delta IV tips the scales at 28.37 tons of capacity.

But this doesn't mean that Stratolaunch's Roc is 10 times more capable than its nearest ground-launched rocket competitor -- far from it. You see, the Roc's "275-ton payload" refers to the size of the rocket the Roc will carry. The ultimate payload -- the satellite that that rocket itself would put in orbit, is much smaller.

How much smaller? Multiply the Pegasus XL's 0.443-ton payload times the three Pegasi the Roc might be able to carry, and it looks like the most payload Roc can put in orbit is about 1.3 tons -- about 93% less than Lockheed's Atlas, 94% less than SpaceX's Falcon, and 95% less than Boeing's Delta.

Better never than late?

With stats like that, it's hard to see how Stratolaunch can hope to compete with any of these companies. And it gets worse. At the same time as Stratolaunch is trying to compete with SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed in the market for large satellite launches, space companies are gravitating toward launching more, smaller satellites instead -- and a new generation of small space-launch companies is springing up to serve this market.

So, what's the upshot for investors here? At last report, Stratolaunch was believed to have invested $300 million in getting the Roc ready for testing. As of last week, this investment has finally produced a plane, but Stratolaunch isn't expected to actually be ready to launch rockets before 2019 at the earliest.

By then, the Roc could already be obsolete -- and en route to extinction.

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