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Sunday, March 25, 2018

What's going on in the World Today 180325



U.S. Naval Update Map: March 22, 2018

The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance over the world's oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier, which projects U.S. naval and air power and supports a Carrier Air Wing, or CVW. The CSG includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. An MEU is built around a heavily reinforced and mobile battalion of Marines.

Carrier Strike Groups

The USS Carl Vinson CSG is underway in the Pacific Ocean for a western Pacific deployment.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt CSG is underway in a deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR supporting maritime security operations and conducting theater security cooperation efforts.
The USS Abraham Lincoln is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications.
The USS John C. Stennis is underway in the Pacific Ocean conducting routine training.

Amphibious Ready Groups/Marine Expeditionary Units

The USS Wasp is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR on a scheduled patrol.
The USS Bonhomme Richard is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR on a scheduled patrol.
The USS Iwo Jima is on a scheduled port visit to Limassol, Cyprus, while underway in the U.S. 6th Fleet AOR.

U.S.: Some Countries Likely To Be Exempt From Steel, Aluminum Tariffs

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer listed the countries likely to be excluded from President Donald Trump's new steel and aluminum import tariffs as Canada, Mexico South Korea, the European Union, Argentina and Brazil, according to a CNBC reporter March 21. Notable exceptions include China, which Washington is targeting with trade measures, and Japan. (The Japanese trade minister recently said he expected Japan to be exempted from the tariffs.) A 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum will take effect March 23. The decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum was made following a U.S. Commerce Department report Feb. 16, which revealed that steel and aluminum imports threaten U.S. national security.

Boeing’s Next-Gen Super Hornet Will Be (Sort Of) Stealthy

President Donald Trump was ridiculed on Twitter after pronouncing during a visit to Boeing’s St. Louis facility that the company’s new F/A-18 Super Hornet will be equipped with the “latest and the greatest stealth, and a lot of things on that plane that people don’t even know about.”

But it turns out Trump was on to something. Boeing is about to kick off an exhaustive effort to transition the U.S. Navy’s carrier air wing to the “Block III” Super Hornet, a next-generation version of the strike fighter complete with new sensors, extended range, a more powerful computer and, yes, enhanced stealth coating.

These changes will allow the Super Hornet to fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-35C carrier variant as the backbone of the Navy’s carrier air wing into the 2040s and beyond, says Dan Gillian, Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18 program manager.

Block III Super Hornet will get enhanced stealth coating

New aircraft will begin rolling off the production line in 2020

Trump previewed the new and improved fighter during a March 14 visit to the St. Louis facility, which has been building F/A-18s, first the A-D Hornet and later the E/F Super Hornet, since 1978.

Gillian confirms that an improved low-observable (LO) coating will be one of five key characteristics of the Block III Super Hornet. The fighter is already “a very stealth airplane today”—he says, declining to elaborate—but there are new coatings engineers can apply on different surfaces of the aircraft to make it even more survivable, he says.

The F/A-18 was not designed specifically to be stealthy and lacks many of the fundamental stealth characteristics baked into Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and F-22 airframes. But there are other ways to enhance stealth, such as adding LO coating and radar-absorbent material improvements in certain locations on the airframe. A few simple changes “can buy us just a little bit of performance that’s low-cost and easy to go do,” Gillian says.

The souped-up aircraft the Navy has agreed to buy looks very different from Boeing’s original 2013 proposal for an “Advanced Super Hornet,” which focused on stealth. Boeing engineers found they needed to make design compromises to significantly reduce the aircraft’s radar cross section—for instance, by restricting payload, Gillian told Aviation Week in 2017 (AW&ST Feb. 20-March 5, 2017, p. 17).

This drove Boeing to drop certain features of the 2013 proposal, such as an enclosed weapons pod and internal infrared search-and-track (IRST) sensor, from the newest package...

Prosecutor: Kansas militia members wanted to kill immigrants

Three militia members plotted for months to blow up an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants in western Kansas, saying that they wanted to “exterminate cockroaches,” a federal prosecutor said Thursday at the start of their trial.... [They] are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction to detonate truck bombs in the meatpacking town of Garden City, 220 miles (350 kilometers) west of Wichita....




India, the world’s cheapest space explorer, plans to build structures on the moon

India’s declaration – just ahead of a planned lunar mission – comes at a time when governments are looking at the moon for the first time in years
India, which sent an orbiter to Mars at about 1/10th the cost of Nasa’s Maven probe, is examining how to build habitations on the moon.

“ISRO, along with academic institutions, is doing experimentation on potential structures for lunar habitation,” Jitendra Singh, the junior minister for space, told lawmakers on Wednesday, referring to the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“Various options are being studied about the requirements and complexities of habitats.”

India’s declaration – just ahead of a planned lunar mission – comes at a time when governments are looking at the moon for the first time in years...

China provides tracking system for Pakistan’s missile programme

China has sold Pakistan a powerful tracking system in an unprecedented deal that could speed up the Pakistani military’s development of multi-warhead missiles.

News of the sale – and evidence that China is supporting Pakistan’s rapidly developing missile programme – comes two months after India tested its most advanced nuclear-ready intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range long enough to hit Beijing or Shanghai.

Chinese authorities declassified information about the deal on Wednesday.

A statement on the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) website said China was the first country to export such sensitive equipment to Pakistan.

Zheng Mengwei, a researcher with the CAS Institute of Optics and Electronics in Chengdu, Sichuan province, confirmed to the South China Morning Post that Pakistan had bought a highly sophisticated, large-scale optical tracking and measurement system from China.

The Pakistani military recently deployed the Chinese-made system “at a firing range” for use in testing and developing its new missiles, he said...


Police call for 'counter-terrorism citizens' [UK]

Police are asking the public for more help in thwarting terror attacks after more than a fifth of calls to them yielded useful intelligence last year. The Metropolitan Police's Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: "If you feel nervous about it, you should report it".... The campaign - encouraging people to report suspicious behaviour - comes as figures reveal 30,984 reports were made to counter-terror officers in 2017.






China and Russia are 'aggressively pursuing' hypersonic weapons, and the US can't defend against them, top nuclear commander says

America's top nuclear commander described a grim scenario for U.S. forces facing off against a new breed of high-speed weapons that Russia and China are developing.

"We don't have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us," Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. This means that, as of now, the U.S. has to rely on deterrence against these so-called hypersonic weapons, he said.

U.S. Air Force General John Hyten, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testifies in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., then asked the general to explain what a hypersonic weapon is and what it does.

"A hypersonic threat is a system that starts out ballistic, so you'll see it like a ballistic missile, but then it depresses the trajectory and flies more like a cruise missile or airplane," Hyten said. "It goes up into the lower reaches of space and turns immediately back down and then levels out."

At that point, Hyten said, the weapon will fly at very high speed, which is where the term hypersonic comes from...

China threatens to respond with 'military pressure' after Trump supports official visits to Taiwan

China's could respond to a law that encourages relations between the US and Taiwan with "military pressure", the country’s state-run media said on Sunday.... "China will and should take timely countermeasures against the US and all "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces through diplomatic and military means if US legislation that encourages high-level contact between the US and the island of Taiwan is implemented," ....




Iraq holding more than 19,000 because of IS, militant ties

Iraq has detained or imprisoned at least 19,000 people accused of connections to the Islamic State group or other terror-related offenses, and sentenced more than 3,000 of them to death, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The mass incarceration and speed of guilty verdicts raise concerns over potential miscarriages of justice — and worries that jailed militants are recruiting within the general prison population to build new extremist networks. The AP count is based partially on an analysis of a spreadsheet listing all 27,849 people imprisoned in Iraq as of late January.... Thousands more also are believed to be held in detention by other bodies, including the Federal Police, military intelligence and Kurdish forces. Those exact figures could not be immediately obtained.


Israel arrests French Consulate driver for gun smuggling

A French employee of France's Consulate in Jerusalem is under arrest for allegedly smuggling dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, Israel's domestic security agency said Monday. The Shin Bet said the man... was part of a broader Palestinian smuggling ring. It said he used his consular vehicle, which is subjected to more lenient security checks, to transport the weapons through Israel's tightly secured border with the Gaza Strip. It said he took part in the ring for financial gain and that his employer was unaware of his actions.



Russia’s ‘Seabed Warfare’ Could Hit Vast Networks of Underwater Communications Cables

A report issued this month echoes concerns voiced across the pond recently about the potential of Russia striking at the West by damaging a vast network of undersea cables that carry nearly all online international data.

“Contested Seas: Maritime Domain Awareness in Northern Europe,” released by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, notes that “while some constructive work has been done to address the evolving Russian threat, NATO and its partners must make changes to their current MDA capabilities to evolve alongside with it.”

The threat from Russia is broken down into maritime hybrid warfare, including “deception through different types of vessels including civilian ships, deniable forces like the amphibious and light infantry that easily navigate the complex Baltic and Norwegian Seas, and the country’s well-developed and diverse force for seabed warfare,” electronic and cyber warfare capabilities that “have the potential to hinder information gathering and dissemination methods,” and long-range strike systems “now being mounted on new and existing Russian naval vessels,” giving these vessels “the option to stay in the Barents or White Seas and strike targets across Northern Europe..”




Stolen Equifax Data May be Saved for Nation-State Attack, Warn Concerned Experts

The lack of dark-web presence or illicit sales of the bulk of data stolen in the Equifax breach is worrying cybersecurity experts who keep waiting to see if the hacked info on millions of Americans will be used in a nation-state attack, a congressional panel heard last week.

Last year’s hack exposed personal information including Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers of some 148 million Americans. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), ranking member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, noted that was just one of 1,579 U.S. data breach incidents in 2017, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, and the 780,000 records hackers swipe each day.

“Last month, the Council of Economic Advisors released a report estimating that malicious cyber activity costs the U.S. economy between $57 and $109 billion in 2016. And this cost is expected to climb as more devices become Internet connected,” Chairman Steve Pearce (D-N.M.) said. “Unfortunately, this activity is only becoming more widespread as criminal organizations realize the low cost of entry, the ease of using hacking tools, and the difficulty law enforcement faces trying to apprehend the hackers.”

Lillian Ablon of RAND Corp. told lawmakers that cybercriminals, state-sponsored actors, cyberterrorists and hacktivists are prowling online, and “they tend to seek different types of data and use or monetize that data in different ways.”

“Essentially, all you need is an Internet connection and a device to become part of the cybercrime ecosystem,” she said of the first type. “Participants in these markets range across all skill levels. They are often hierarchies and specialized roles. Administrators at the top, followed by brokers, venders and middlemen. And finally, mules, the moneychangers who use multiple methods to turn the stolen data into money.”

'Slingshot' Campaign Outed by Kaspersky is U.S. Operation Targeting Terrorists: Report

The Slingshot cyber espionage campaign exposed recently by Kaspersky Lab is a U.S. government operation targeting members of terrorist organizations, according to a media report.

Earlier this month, Kaspersky published a report detailing the activities of a threat actor targeting entities in the Middle East and Africa — sometimes by hacking into their Mikrotik routers. The group is believed to have been active since at least 2012 and its members appear to speak English, the security firm said.

The main piece of malware used by the group has been dubbed Slingshot based on internal strings found by researchers. Kaspersky identified roughly 100 individuals and organizations targeted with the Slingshot malware, mainly in Kenya and Yemen, but also in Afghanistan, Libya, Congo, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania.

CyberScoop claims to have learned from unnamed current and former U.S. intelligence officials that Slingshot is actually an operation of the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a component of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), aimed at members of terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. SOCOM is well known for its counterterrorism operations, which can sometimes include a cyber component.

CyberScoop’s sources expressed concern that the exposure of the campaign may result in the U.S. losing a valuable surveillance program and it could even put the lives of soldiers at risk. The Slingshot infrastructure was likely already abandoned and “burned” following the disclosure, one former intelligence official told the publication.
Credit cards stolen from Target in 2013, Ablon noted, “appeared on the black markets within days....”

Chinese hackers launch cyberattacks on US maritime companies

Cybersecurity firm FireEye confirmed that Chinese hackers have launched cyberattacks on several US engineering and maritime companies involved in the South China Sea. The suspected hacker group behind the attacks, TEMP.Periscope, appeared to have staged the attacks in an attempt to steal information that would benefit the Chinese government, the firm said...

Half of Cyberattacks in the Middle East Target Oil & Gas Sector: Siemens

Nearly one-third of all cyberattacks worldwide are against operations technology (OT), or industrial networks, a new report by Siemens and The Ponemon Institute shows. Oil and gas sector networks in the Middle East have been the target of some of the most aggressive and significant cyberattacks known to the industrial sector to date. Now a new report from Siemens shows three-quarters of organizations there have been hit in the past 12 months by at least one attack that either disrupted operations technology (OT) or led to the theft of confidential data.





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