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Monday, September 24, 2018

What's going on in the World Today 180924



U.S. Hypersonics Face Uphill Struggle To Match China, Russia

ORLANDO—While the U.S. may have woken to the emerging threat of Chinese and Russian hyper velocity weapons, the nation still faces an uphill battle for hypersonic supremacy, warns Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

Citing technical hurdles, infrastructure neglect and the legacy of “taking a decade-long holiday from the exigencies of great power competition”, Griffin says the tally of critical challenges confronting U.S. hypersonic developers is “a surprisingly longer list than you might think.”

A staunch advocate of hypersonics, Griffin says the issues go well beyond the traditional technical challenges of aerodynamics and propulsion normally associated with high-speed flight. His broad line-up ranges from concerns over the robustness of the supply chain for key technologies like thermal protection systems (TPS) to the poor state of the underfunded U.S. national test infrastructure.

Having “ceded ground” to potential adversaries Griffin says the U.S. also “needs an overarching national strategy, which I cannot honestly say is in place yet. We need to know what the time phasing is, what we are going to deploy early, what we are going to be working on mid-term and to have in place by 2030...”




Japanese Rovers Touch Down on Asteroid Ryugu

Two Japanese mini-rovers touched down on the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu early Sept. 22 and are in motion and transmitting imagery, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) confirms.

The Hayabusa 2 mothership descended from its 20 km. reconnaissance orbit to release the Minerva lander capsule with the two rover/hoppers, Minerva 1a and 1b, on Sept. 21 at 12:06 a.m., EDT.

On Sept. 22, shortly after 8 a.m., EDT, JAXA broke the suspense over the rovers' fate via Twitter. "Both rovers are confirmed to have landed on the surface of Ryugu,” the tweet said. “They are in good condition and have transmitted photos & data. We also confirmed they are moving on the surface."

The Japanese space agency also announced that the mothership, Hayabusa 2, had successfully returned to its 20 km high observation altitude...


Poland: Warsaw's Push for a U.S. Base Faces an Uphill Climb

U.S. President Donald Trump has confirmed that the White House is considering opening a permanent U.S. military base in Poland. Warsaw, which had requested the base, also sought to sweeten the pot: During his visit to the White House on Sept. 18, Polish President Andrzej Duda said his country would like to contribute up to $2 billion for its construction. The proposal is part of a Polish strategy to develop closer political, economic and military ties with the United States to head off potential Russian aggression. Poland's push happens at a bumpy time for its relations with the European Union as the European Commission and Warsaw wrangle over the question of the rule of law in the country. Warsaw, accordingly, wants to show it has friends in high places...








U.S.: Diplomat Floats the Idea of a Treaty With Iran

Speaking at New York's Hudson Institute think tank ahead of next week's key U.N. General Assembly meetings, Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said Washington was seeking to negotiate a treaty with Tehran that would cover Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Is the U.S. Shifting Its Demands?

Hook's statement opens the possibility that the White House may be willing to alter its stance on what it demands from Iran. A narrow agreement over ballistic missiles and the nuclear program would mark a shift from the 12 conditions that the United States set out for Iran before removing the crippling economic sanctions that Washington reinstated after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal is commonly known, in May. That list of conditions is tantamount to expecting a full change in Iran's regional behavior and is a non-starter as far as Tehran is concerned. If the United States is scaling back its demands to include only Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear program, then the prospect that Iran would return to the negotiating table becomes more realistic. Including the ballistic missile program would also address a key Republican criticism of the JCPOA...

Iran’s president blames US after attack on military parade

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president on Sunday accused an unnamed U.S.-allied country in the Persian Gulf of being behind a terror attack on a military parade that killed 25 people and wounded 60, further raising regional tensions.

Hassan Rouhani’s comments came as Iran’s Foreign Ministry also summoned Western diplomats over them allegedly providing havens for the Arab separatists who claimed Saturday’s attacks in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

The Iranian moves, as well as promises of revenge by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, come as the country already faces turmoil in the wake of the American withdraw from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. The attack in Ahvaz, which saw women and children flee with uniformed soldiers bloodied, has further shaken the country.

Rouhani’s remarks could refer to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Bahrain — close U.S. military allies that view Iran as a regional menace over its support for militant groups across the Middle East.

“All of those small mercenary countries that we see in this region are backed by America. It is Americans who instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes,” Rouhani said before leaving for the U.N. General Assembly in New York...






North Korea, South Korea: A New Joint Statement Signals Stronger Ties

For South Korea, good news came early out of President Moon Jae In's landmark visit to Pyongyang. On Sept. 18, Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, along with their respective defense ministers, signed the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration.

The statement included two North Korean pledges related to denuclearization. The country pledged to permanently shut down the missile-engine testing facility and missile launchpad at Tongchang-ri with the presence of experts from "related countries." North Korea also said it would take further steps, including the permanent closure of the Yongbyon nuclear facility if the United States takes corresponding steps...

...Seoul is also hoping to break the impasse between Washington and Pyongyang over denuclearization. North Korea has been insisting on a phased approach and requiring progress toward a Korean War peace treaty before it moves forward with denuclearization. But the United States has been pushing for tangible concessions and disclosure of the full program upfront...”


Ukraine and Russia Take Their Conflict to the Sea


- As the standoff between Ukraine and Russia intensifies in eastern Ukraine, the Sea of Azov will become a new area of contention.

- Both Ukraine and Russia will increase their military presence in the sea, and Kiev has already announced plans for a new naval base there before the end of the year.

- The military buildup could lead to growing economic disruption of shipping in and out of the sea.
Russia is stronger than Ukraine on the sea, but robust U.S. support for Kiev could alter the situation in the area.

Technically, both Ukraine and Russia enjoy free use of the Sea of Azov under a 2003 agreement, but Moscow has subjected Ukrainian vessels to its own authorization procedures to traverse the strait since construction began on the bridge in April 2015. The Russian Transport Ministry has periodically closed access to all Ukrainian ships after a July 2017 order that enabled Russia to deny access to the Sea of Azov to any vessels except Russian warships during certain timespans. Russia duly shut off access during Aug. 27-29 and Oct. 11-13 last year. (Compounding Ukraine's problem is the design of the bridge, which is too low for Panamax vessels, which accounted for about 23 percent of all ship traffic in the area in 2016, to pass through.)

As a result, cargo flows from Mariupol have dropped 27 percent, from more than 8.9 million tons in 2015 to 6.5 million tons in 2017; from Berdyansk, they have fallen 47 percent, from 4.5 million tons in 2015 to just 2.4 million tons in 2017. Before the Ukraine conflict, freight traffic was much higher, with 15 million tons of cargo passing through Mariupol in 2013 alone...


Russia to upgrade Syrian air defences

The Il-20 aircraft was returning to a Russian base on the north-western coast of Syria (file photo)
Russia is to send new anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, a week after Syrian forces accidentally shot down a Russian aircraft during an Israeli air strike.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the S-300 surface-to-air missile defence system would be delivered within two weeks.

Fifteen Russian military personnel were killed when the reconnaissance aeroplane was downed on 17 September.

Syria and Russia say Israel was to blame, but it denies responsibility.

In remarks quoted by Russian news agency Interfax, Mr Shoigu said the delivery of the system had been suspended in 2013 following a request from Israel, but added: "Now, the situation has changed. And it's not our fault."

Russian plane downed in Syria: What may happen next?

Why is there a war in Syria?

"In parts of the Mediterranean adjacent to Syria, there will be radio-electronic jamming of satellite navigation, onboard radars and communications systems used by military aircraft attacking targets in Syrian territory," he said.

The systems will also be able to track and identify Russian aircraft.

Russia is supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

What happened last week?

The incident is reported to have occurred about 35km (22 miles) from the Syrian coast as the Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft was returning to Russia's Hmeimim airbase near the north-western city of Latakia.

Russia's Tass news agency said at the time that the plane "disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province"...


Trump Has a New Weapon to Cause ‘the Cyber’ Mayhem

The U.S. president and his advisor John Bolton want to take the gloves off in cyberspace—but experts worry offensive attacks could backfire.

The White House took a first step this week to fulfill President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to launch “crippling, crippling” cyberattacks on adversaries to protect U.S. computer systems, unveiling a new strategy that will allow the United States to take the offensive in cyberspace. But experts warn that the new cyber strategy risks exposing the United States to blowback and turning the internet into a Wild West of hacking operations.

In rolling out the administration’s new “National Cyber Strategy,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Trump had removed restrictions on the use of offensive cyber-operations and replaced them with a more permissive legal regime that gives the Defense Department and other agencies greater authority to penetrate foreign networks to deter hacks on U.S. systems.

“Our hands are not tied as they were in the Obama administration,” Bolton said.

Bolton described the new authority as part of an effort to “create powerful deterrence structures that persuade the adversary not to strike in the first place.” Decision-making for launching some attacks will be moved down the chain of command; previously, offensive cyber-operations generally required the approval of the president. Those envisioned in the new policy will include both offensive and defensive actions, only some of which may be made public, Bolton said..




Space: The Final Frontier for War?

The U.S. military will continue to debate the relative merits of creating a Space Force that is separate from the other branches of the U.S. armed forces.

In the absence of international standards regulating conduct in space, the risks will grow that the United States, China and Russia will accelerate their own efforts to militarize the theater.

Treaties stipulating a blanket ban on weapons in space are unlikely to succeed in the foreseeable future because of their significant limitations and concerns over the ability to verify compliance.

"Space is a war-fighting domain." It's a mantra that U.S. officials have been stating ever since the Chinese blew up their own weather satellite during an anti-satellite missile test in 2007. Eleven years on, it's a phrase that U.S. President Donald Trump repeated in March in making the case for the creation of a Space Force. Although there is a growing awareness of the militarization of space — and that the area around Earth is indeed a potential theater of war — the Space Force debate remains a predominantly bureaucratic and organizational one. But while enhanced defense in space is important, it alone will not solve the root danger of the growing risk of an extraterrestrial war among terrestrial powers..

Build Small Nuclear Reactors for Battlefield Power

There’s not much the U.S. military does that’s more dangerous than trucking fuel through a war zone. In 2009, the Army found that one soldier died for every 24 fuel convoys in Afghanistan. So if a better way could be found to generate electricity at remote bases — that’s what most of the fuel is used for — it could greatly reduce the risks to our military.

A solution could be a new micro-nuclear reactor being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Westinghouse power company. Built around heat-pipe technology, this inherently safe microreactor has no cooling water or pumps that can fail, uses passive regulation systems so that it cannot melt down, and can generate at least 1 megawatt of safe, reliable power for 10 years or more. A megawatt is enough electricity for roughly a military brigade, some 1,500 to 4,000 soldiers.

Most importantly, it’s small. The reactor core itself is about the size of the garbage can that you roll down to your curb each week. The entire microreactor system will fit on the back of a semi-truck or on a small ship. It’s small enough to bring to remote areas and islands, greatly reducing the need to send fuel convoys and troops into harm’s way...

U.S. Air Force Prepares For Future Of GPS III

GPS, the military satellite system that underlies $74 billion in business from banking to agriculture to taxi services is so easy to take for granted that it is viewed as a public utility.

“We consider to have GPS on our phones [and] our watches like turning on a light switch or a faucet and getting electricity or water,” says NASA’s Tim Dunn, a launch director at Kennedy Space Center. “It’s always there—it should be there.”

In order for that type of reliability to be maintained, 24 of the 31 satellites—four slots in six orbital planes—must be operational at any given time.

The second GPS III satellite is in storage, ready for launch

The Air Force has yet to award a contract for GPS III

The U.S. Air Force is poised to begin launching the first of 10 Lockheed Martin-made GPS spacecraft. After more than a year in storage, the first new GPS III satellite is scheduled to launch Dec. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral AFS in Florida. It arrived there last month, a decade after Lockheed Martin won an initial contract to develop and build two satellites for $1.5 billion. The Air Force is currently checking out the satellite to make sure it is fully operational before launch.

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