Pentagon Seeks a Way to Shoot Down Putin’s ‘Invincible’ Hypersonic Missiles
Vladimir Putin calls Russia’s Avangard hypersonic missile “invincible.” The U.S. military is looking to prove him wrong.
On Tuesday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that it had awarded $13 million to defense contractor Northrop Grumman for its Glide Breaker program, an experimental effort to develop interceptors to take out highly advanced and highly maneuverable hypersonic missiles.
The U.S. military regards the burgeoning class manueverable hypersonic missiles as a strategic challenge. Shooting down even a conventional missile traveling at five times the speed of sound is hardly easy. “If you’re going Mach 13 at the very northern edge of Hudson Bay, you have enough residual velocity to hit all 48 of the continental United States and all of Alaska. You can choose [to] point it left or right, and hit Maine or Alaska, or you can hit San Diego or Key West. That’s a monstrous problem,” Paul Selva, the former Vice Chief of Staff, said last year...
Scramjet-Powered Cruise Missile Emerges As New U.S. Priority
Fielding an operational scramjet-powered cruise missile has emerged as a new priority for the U.S. Defense Department’s proliferating portfolio of maneuvering hypersonic weapons.
Senior defense officials are putting together a program to develop an operational follow-on to DARPA’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), which currently supports competing scramjet-powered missile demonstrators designed by Lockheed Martin/Aerojet Rocketdyne and Raytheon/Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems teams.
Pentagon officials seek hypersonic air-breathing weapon follow-on
Awareness of boost-glide challenges sinks in
“We are in the process of trying to figure out what [an operational program] would look like,” says Mike White, assistant director for hypersonics in the office of the under secretary of defense for research and engineering.
As the U.S. military rushed after 2017 to respond to Russian and Chinese hypersonic advances, air-breathing hypersonic cruise missiles fell to the bottom of the priority list. Funding for operational programs favored boost-glide technology over the seemingly less mature field of weapons powered by scramjets (supersonic combustion ramjets).
But that assumption is being challenged. Along with the flight-test experience accumulated a decade ago by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) X-51 scramjet vehicle, recent ground tests and simulations indicate scramjet technology is more advanced than previously understood. In September, the AFRL announced it had achieved thrust levels over 13,000 lb. with a Northrop-designed engine at speeds “above Mach 4” in a hypersonic wind tunnel. In June, Raytheon reported the maturity of its scramjet-powered HAWC demonstrator had exceeded that of its boost-glide design...
Trump will seek 20% budget boost for nukes, says Inhofe
WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Donald Trump has settled an internal battle over whether to seek $20 billion for the federal agency that maintains America’s weapons, or less money, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., confirmed Tuesday.
The president will ask for the $20 billion.
The decision came after the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, agitated internally in favor of boosting the budget for nuclear weapons modernization in fiscal 2021 ― a position later backed by Inhofe and other congressional Republicans.
In internal deliberations, Gordon-Hagerty’s initial request for nearly $20 billion (a 20 percent hike from $16.7 billion for FY20) was reportedly scaled back to $17.5 billion amid opposition by White House budget officials and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, whose department oversees NNSA...
Deployment of new US nuclear warhead on submarine a dangerous step, critics say
First submarine to go on patrol armed with the W76-2 warhead makes a nuclear launch more likely, arm control advocates warn
Julian BorgerLast modified on Wed 29 Jan 2020 13.24 EST
The US has deployed its first low-yield Trident nuclear warhead on a submarine that is currently patrolling the Atlantic Ocean, it has been reported, in what arms control advocates warn is a dangerous step towards making a nuclear launch more likely.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, the USS Tennessee – which left port in Georgia at the end of last year – is the first submarine to go on patrol armed with the W76-2 warhead, commissioned by Donald Trump two years ago.
It has an explosive yield of five kilotons, a third of the power of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima and considerably lower than the 90- and 455-kiloton warheads on other US submarine-launched ballistic missiles...
U.S. Officials Worry Looming Military Cuts in Africa Are ‘About Politics’
Pentagon eyes reducing its footprint in the region as terrorist groups expand in the Sahel.
As Defense Secretary Mark Esper weighs proposals for a major reduction of U.S. forces in Africa, some Pentagon and State Department officials as well as top Republican lawmakers are concerned that the potential drawdown is more motivated by the president’s reelection campaign than sound military strategy.
Possible cuts to the U.S. military’s footprint in Africa, where the United States has roughly 5,000 troops, are part of the Defense Department’s recent review of deployments worldwide. Esper has said he is asking all of his military commanders to look for areas where they can free up resources in order to either bring troops home or reposition them to the Pacific to counter what the Pentagon sees as its long-term strategic threat: China.
But some senior Pentagon and State Department officials are concerned that political pressure could tilt the scales toward a full or partial withdrawal, effectively ceding the continent to Chinese influence, four current and former officials tell Foreign Policy...
Macron pleads with Trump not to cut off U.S. support for French forces in Africa
The White House may stop helping France fight African jihadis with drones and refueling planes. Experts say that could open the door to more terrorism.
Jan. 25, 2020, 5:11 AM CST
By Dan De Luce
WASHINGTON — France is appealing to President Donald Trump not to cut off U.S. military support to French forces fighting Islamist militants in Africa, warning that it could undermine efforts to counter a growing terrorist threat in the Sahel region.
Trump administration officials, however, are skeptical of the French counterterrorism mission's value and have refused so far to promise continued logistical and intelligence support that French forces rely on in their fight against al Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups, according to one current and one former U.S. official.
"We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a French force that has not been able to turn the tide," said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
"It's not even a case of whack a mole. For all that we're spending, we're not getting much out of it," the official told NBC News.
The U.S. provides French forces with plane refueling and intelligence from drones at a relatively modest cost out of the Pentagon's vast budget. The administration has been reviewing its options, including possibly requiring France to reimburse the U.S. for the drone flights and refueling services, the official said...
The Geopolitical Cost of Australia's Wildfires
9 MINS READ
- The expected record-breaking damage of Australia’s 2020 fire season is already set to surpass previous levels of damage, sapping economic growth and forcing the government to abandon promises of a budget surplus.
- In the long term, increasingly intense and lengthy fire seasons could disadvantage Australian agricultural producers in the global competition for hungry Asian markets.
- By swinging climate change back to the forefront of Australian politics, the fires also pose a threat to the ruling Liberal-National coalition's fragile hold on power.
Despite the political risks, however, Canberra is unlikely to make any sweeping changes to its energy-friendly policies due to the country's economic reliance on oil and gas exports.
Australia is at the start of what's shaping up to be a record fire season with potentially drastic economic and political repercussions. As of mid-January, wildfires in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and elsewhere have resulted in insured property damage estimated at over $1.34 billion (1.95 billion AU$), burning nearly 12 million hectares (29.7 million acres) and resulting in 28 deaths. In addition to the areas already engulfed in flames, broad swaths of the country are at higher-than-usual risk of coming into the line of fire. And the damage to date could be just the tip of the iceberg, given that the country's annual fire seasons stretch from December to around April...
As the U.S. Squeezes Iran, Europe Is Stuck in the Middle
Matthew Bey Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor, Emily Hawthorne Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor Jan 30, 2020
- The United States has shown little willingness to relent on its pressure campaign against Iran, but Iran has shown little sign it is prepared to bend to the pressure.
- European powers have little interest in moving quickly with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action's dispute resolution process they triggered in early January, which they hope will limit Iranian nuclear activities.
- The United States will continue to expand sanctions pressure on Iran, but is nearing the limits of the strategy's efficacy, and so will turn to even harsher measures, including trying to force European countries into a more aggressive stance against Iran or seeking to snap back U.N. sanctions on its own.
Tensions between the United States and Iran will almost certainly escalate once again later this year as Iran's nuclear program continues to expand. In recent weeks, Iranian officials have threatened to leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and suspend its Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency if it faces renewed, or "snapped back," U.N. sanctions. Iran's threats come after Europe decided to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal (JCPOA). But the so-called E3 bloc consisting of France, Germany and the United Kingdom has little desire to trigger a U.N. sanctions snapback just now...
French President Makes Call on Sahel Deployment. French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with his security team on Jan. 29 to discuss the country's current strategy in the insecurity-plagued Sahel region of West Africa. Reports suggest Macron will approve or reject plans by Gen. Francois Lecointre, France's army chief of staff, to send reinforcements to the Sahel. As the security situation continues to degrade amid an uptick in militant attacks, and as the United States ponders a pullout from the region, France will be left to hold the situation together for the foreseeable future.
China Leaps Into Breach Between Myanmar and West
Keith JohnsonJanuary 29, 2020
A raft of new multibillion-dollar development deals announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Myanmar earlier this month show how Beijing is back in business in the country after being sidelined from one of its preferred geopolitical stomping grounds for several years as Naypyidaw turned toward the West.
The new China-Myanmar flirtation is more worrisome for policymakers in New Delhi, looking across the Bay of Bengal at Myanmar. China’s renewed economic offensive, especially the construction of a new deep-water port, threatens to further encircle India, already feeling the squeeze of an increasingly aggressive China across the breadth of the Indian Ocean.
In the first visit by a Chinese leader in nearly two decades, Xi announced more than a score of big investments in Myanmar, which is still trying to rebuild its infrastructure and jumpstart its economy after laboring under Western sanctions for about 20 years. The deals included, crucially, an announcement on the construction of the long-discussed deep-water port at Kyaukpyu.
The high-profile visit and big accords were seen as particularly significant because Myanmar (also known as Burma) had started to distance itself from Beijing’s longtime influence, beginning around 2011, and had until recently been increasingly open to more engagement with the West. That prompted concern in Beijing, which long supported the army in Myanmar and played an outsized role in the country’s economy, making it a virtual geopolitical appendage in Southeast Asia...
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Iran Has a Bitcoin Strategy to Beat Trump
As the United States expands its sanctions, Iran has been ramping up its use of cryptocurrencies to get around them.
BY TANVI RATNA | JANUARY 24, 2020, 6:06 AM
In narrow terms, the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran in the last two years have been effective, shrinking the Iranian economy by 10 to 20 percent. But they have also accelerated Iran’s use of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which are increasingly used by the Iranian government and public to evade legal barriers. This has led to an attempted crackdown on bitcoin by international regulators—but the cryptocurrency industry is proving more nimble than the enforcers of sanctions.
The Iranian government has long had an interest in using cryptocurrencies to support international trade outside of the traditional banking system. In July 2018, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration declared its intention of launching a national cryptocurrency; one month later, a news agency affiliated with the Central Bank of Iran outlined multiple features of the national cryptocurrency, stating that it would be backed by the rial—Iran’s national currency. Multiple blockchain projects—developing the underlying technology for cryptocurrencies—were revealed by the central bank at a digital payments conference last year, one of which is reportedly already being tested by four Iranian banks (three of which are under sanctions)...
U.S. says first shipments of medicine to Iran delivered via Swiss humanitarian channel
ZURICH/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A humanitarian channel to bring food and medicine to Iran has started trial operations, the Swiss and U.S. governments said on Thursday, helping supply Swiss goods to the struggling population without tripping over U.S. sanctions.
The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) seeks to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed, a government statement said.
Three shipments of cancer and transplant drugs have been sent to Iran through this channel and the transaction has been processed, U.S. Special Representative Brian Hook told a press briefing...
Iran, photos suggest a US-criticized satellite launch looms
Iranian officials and satellite images suggest the Islamic Republic is preparing to a launch a satellite into space after three major failures last year…. Satellite images show work at a launchpad at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran's Semnan province. The photos also show more cars and activity at a facility at the spaceport, some 230 kilometers (145 miles) southeast of Iran's capital, Tehran. Such activity in the past has signaled a launch looms. The increased activity corresponds to an uptick in reports in state and semiofficial media in Iran about launches coming amid celebrations marking the days before the nation celebrates the 41st anniversary of
its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran routinely unveils technological achievements for its armed forces, its space program and its nuclear efforts during this time.
Iraqi security forces kill protester, rockets hit U.S. embassy Aziz El Yaakoubi, Nadine Awadalla
Iraqi security forces shot at anti-government protesters in Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least one person, and unidentified men set fire to sit-in tents in a southern Iraqi city, police and medics said, as months-long civil unrest escalated. Separately, at least one of five Katyusha rockets fired at Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone hit the U.S. embassy, wounding three people, in a rare direct targeting of the compound, security sources said. Reuters could not independently verify the rocket attacks. Anti-government protests erupted in Baghdad on Oct. 1 and quickly turned violent. Security forces and unidentified gunmen have shot protesters dead. Nearly 500 people have been killed in the unrest. The protests are an unprecedented leaderless challenge to Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim-dominated and largely Iran-backed ruling elite, which emerged after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003...
An image released by the Israeli military depicts a concept for a laser interceptor pod for rockets mounted on the nose of a generic UAV design.
Israel Enters Airborne-Laser Weapon Market
Steve Trimble January 08, 2020
Israel has started development of a self-defense laser weapon system for aircraft, sources in the Israeli defense sector say.
The country’s defense ministry also plans to perform field trials of a ground-based laser system in 2020 using technology developed by Rafael and Elbit Systems, according to Israeli media reports.
Elbit Systems, which produces laser countermeasures, rangefinders and pointers, is developing the airborne technology demonstrator for manned and unmanned aircraft under a defense ministry contract, sources say. The aim of the project to is provide air superiority and air defense, they say.
A self-defense laser system includes a beam-tracking system to illuminate the target and a high-power laser to intercept the incoming missile with a blast of thermal energy. A podded system includes separate subsystems for power generation and thermal management within the pod. A more advanced system integrated inside an aircraft would require a significant internal capacity for onboard power generation and cooling.
Self-defense lasers for aircraft tend to fall into a power class of 50-100 kW. Elbit Systems’ laser technology has transitioned from highly inefficient flashlamp-pumped to solid state, diode-pumped lasers. The change improves overall efficiency from about 1% to about 35%. But a diode-pump laser still requires a power-generation capacity of 150-300 kW to produce a 50-100-kW laser beam, with about 100-200 kW of waste energy, or heat, that must be cooled or vented overboard...
Israel: Country Thwarted 'Serious' Attempted Cyberattack, Energy Minister Says
Jan 29, 2020
What Happened: Israel reportedly thwarted a "very serious, sophisticated" cyberattack on one of the country's power plants several months ago, according to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, The Jerusalem Post reported Jan. 29.
Why It Matters: Although Steinitz wouldn't confirm the perpetrator of the attempted attack, Iran has the capabilities and motive to launch similar attacks either directly or through its regional proxies. Tehran also orchestrated similar incidents in the past, including an August 2019 intrusion targeting Bahraini infrastructure. Additional cyberattacks will remain a risk for Israel and continue to pose a threat to several targets, including critical infrastructure.
Background: Israeli-Iranian tensions have escalated over the past years, and have seen Israeli airstrikes against Iranian proxies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Previous cyberattacks have targeted Israel's government, private companies, public events and Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport
North Korea: Satellite Imagery Suggests Activity Near Missile Test Site
What Happened: Satellite imagery of North Korea's Sanumdong missile research facility outside of Pyongyang suggests vehicle movements consistent with early preparation for a weapons test, CNN reported Jan. 26. According to anonymous U.S. officials, the imagery could indicate potential preparations but said that no test was imminent.
Why It Matters: An upcoming test would be consistent with North Korea's announcement that it no longer feels bound by its promise to halt testing due to alleged U.S. bad faith in negotiations. The recent imagery adds to previous reports of activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station.
Background: Outreach between the United States and North Korea has been stagnating over the past year, culminating in Pyongyang's announcement that it planned to exit the dialogue unless Washington changed its approach.
Putin Gives Russia a Glimpse of a Future Without Him
- With his proposed constitutional changes, Putin will seek to transform Russia from a personality-driven, super-presidential system to one based on consensus and institutional interdependence between different governmental bodies.
- With power to be divided between the president and the State Duma, stable rule in Russia will come to depend more on the unity of dominant factions in the Kremlin and the parliament than on a single leader.
- The division of powers, as well as potential competition between them, increases the chances of political discord as Putin exits the political stage.
"Without Putin" is how young people in Russia today often describe a concept that is unfamiliar, and well they might: For most of their lives, they have known no other leader than Vladimir Putin. Yet all of Russia, not least President Putin himself, knows he cannot remain leader indefinitely. That's why Putin, who has led Russia in one form or another since the turn of the century, is now smoothing the way for his gradual exit — as well as for major changes in Russia's system of governance...
MIDDLE EAST GENERAL
Trump's Pro-Israel Peace Plan Risks Pushing Jordan Away
Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor
- The U.S. Middle East peace plan has emboldened Israel's nationalist push to expand its control of the West Bank, which includes annexing the Jordan River Valley.
- Jordan will take symbolic acts of retaliation against Israeli annexations to appease the kingdom's own growing nationalist demands for an independent Palestinian state.
- Such provocations against Israel will tempt the United States to use its considerable economic and military leverage to force Jordan to support its peace plan.
- But in the long term, Jordan's increasingly divergent views on Washington's regional strategy will drive the kingdom to seek out new ties with other nations, such as the United Kingdom and Russia.
By placing Israel's strategic goals first, the United States has placed its other ally Jordan in a tight spot. Washington's newly unveiled Middle East peace plan strongly indicates that the Palestinian state envisioned by many Jordanians will not come to fruition. Fears of backlash at home will compel Jordan to rebuke Israeli annexations in the West Bank. Though in doing so, Jordan will have to tread lightly, given the United States' track record of strong-arming allies to support its foreign policy goals...
Washington Doesn’t Understand Shiite Clerics in Iran or Iraq
U.S. officials who praise Iraqi Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani while denouncing Iran’s supreme leader fail to grasp that the two clerical leaders have a shared interest in resisting outside threats.
Mohammad R. KalantariJanuary 30, 2020
Shiite Muslim pilgrims walk in front of posters of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of the Shiite community Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement Hasan Nasrallah during their procession from the holy Iraqi city of Najaf to the central shrine city of Karbala on Oct. 12, 2019. HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP via Getty Images
On Jan. 17, as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most prominent Shiite leader in Iraq, was discharged from the hospital, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted three tweets—in English, Arabic, and Farsi—wishing him a speedy recovery and calling the ayatollah “a source of guidance and inspiration.”
The friendly approach toward Sistani was regarded as an attempt by Pompeo to portray U.S. support for the ayatollah, who the administration believes is countering Iranian influence in Iraq. This comes only weeks after Pompeo himself encouraged President Donald Trump to assassinate the Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani in an airstrike while the general was visiting Iraq.
It is no secret that Pompeo is a champion of exerting a maximum pressure strategy on what he calls “Khamenei’s kleptocracy,” in reference to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But his different and conflicting attitudes toward the two ayatollahs are yet another miscalculation on the part of the U.S. government in the tumultuous Middle East...
Iraqi F-16s Could Be in Jeopardy Amid Iran Tensions
Sensitive U.S. technology feared vulnerable to Iranian-backed militias after contractors evacuate Balad air base.
Ellen IoanesJanuary 30, 2020, 4:07 PM
It was supposed to be a gesture of goodwill and a good-faith effort to give Iraq the military it needed to defend itself against regional adversaries like Iran and the Islamic State. But some U.S. and Iraqi officials say they are increasingly concerned that Iraq’s F-16 fighter jet program—supplied by the United States and, until recently, secured and maintained by foreign contractors—is vulnerable to seizure by Iranian-backed militias.
Sallyport Global, part of the Caliburn contractor conglomerate based in Reston, Virginia, provided security for the roughly 34-aircraft F-16 squadron at Balad Air Base alongside contractors from Lockheed Martin, who provided maintenance, and Iraqi personnel. But in early January, Sallyport and Lockheed Martin contractors withdrew from the base after facing indirect rocket fire from Iran-backed militias, leaving sensitive U.S. technology potentially vulnerable, U.S. and Iraqi officials tell Foreign Policy...
Cyber-Attack on US Water Company Causes Network Outage
A South Carolina water company is recovering from a cyber-attack that took its phone and online payment systems offline for nearly a week. The cyber-attack on Greenville Water triggered a payment system outage that began on Wednesday, January 22. Company spokesperson Emerald Clark said 500,000 customers were affected by the incident. An investigation has been launched into the cyber-attack, the exact nature of which is yet to be
revealed by Greenville Water. It's not yet known who targeted the water company or from wherethe attack was launched.
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The Global Jihadist Movement in 2020: The Threat Lens Forecast
Scott Stewart, VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor & Thomas Abi-Hanna Global Security Analyst, Stratfor
Jan 28, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Editor's Note: With the arrival of the new year, Threat Lens presents its assessment of the state of the jihadist movement divided into its three main components: the Islamic State pole, the al Qaeda pole and the grassroots jihadist threat. This security-focused assessment is an excerpt from one of many such analyses found at Stratfor Threat Lens, a unique protective intelligence product designed with corporate security leaders in mind. Threat Lens enables industry professionals and organizations to anticipate, identify, measure and mitigate emerging threats to people, assets and intellectual property the world over. Threat Lens is the only unified solution that analyzes and forecasts security risk from a holistic perspective, bringing all the most relevant global insights into a single, interactive threat dashboard.
As 2020 begins, the world is firmly in the post-Islamic State "caliphate" phase of the jihadist struggle. In 2019, the Islamic State lost the last sliver of the vast territory it had seized during its rapid rise in 2014. The group also lost its "caliph," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a U.S.-led raid in October 2019. The conditions that fueled its growth and propelled it to the forefront of the jihadist movement have clearly changed. But the threat hasn't disappeared.
The movement continues to be split generally between the Islamic State and al Qaeda. However, in practice, the jihadist ecosystem is really far more complex. Though there are two major "brand names" of jihad, there can be quite a bit of variance in how closely particular groups and individuals adhere to the doctrine and tactical guidance of the central leadership of each pole. These poles can be broken down into three different sections: the core group, the associated franchise groups and the grassroots supporters. The core group is just that, the core organization that provides leadership and guidance to the rest of the movement...
Security Clearance Backlog Hits Long-Awaited ‘Steady State’
About 200,000 people are waiting for background investigations, which lawmakers called a welcome, "sustainable" level. The newly reconstituted background investigations agency based out of the Pentagon has achieved a years-long goal of reaching a “steady state” of pending security clearance requests, according to lawmakers briefed Wednesday. In October, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, or DCSA—formerly the Defense Security Service— officially absorbed the National Background Investigations Bureau, or NBIB. Formerly under the Office of Personnel Management, NBIB was created in 2016 in response to security concerns in the wake of the 2015 hack that exposed personal information on 21 million current, formerand prospective federal employees and contractors.
Stealthy UAS Unveiled For USAF Target, Loyal Wingman Needs
Steve Trimble January 13, 2020
A small start-up company in California has unveiled a new proposal for a stealthy unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to offer the U.S. Air Force as a “fifth-generation” target drone or a low-cost attritable aircraft.
Tehachapi, California-based Sierra Technical Services, a company founded by previously retired Lockheed Martin Skunk Works engineers, unveiled the first photos of the completed Fifth Generation Aerial Target (5GAT) prototype after completing engine tests on the ground. A first flight of the 5GAT is scheduled in early 2020.
The name of the aircraft is derived from its origins as a prototype funded by the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), says Roger Hayes, president and CEO of Sierra Technical Services...
What Exactly is the Space Force?
Last Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted out the new logo for the United States Space Force, a new service branch of the U.S. military within the Department of the Air Force. President Trump first announced the new Space Force in 2018, and its creation was made official with Space Policy Directive-4 in February 2019. The Space Force officially came into existence on December 20, 2019, when the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) guaranteeing its funding was signed into law.
For some onlookers, the Space Force’s formation raises an important question: What exactly is the Space Force going to do?
Answering this question requires an understanding of the U.S. military’s role in space activities. Prior to the Space Force’s creation, U.S. military space operations were managed by the Air Force Space Command, a major command within the U.S. Air Force. Although some of the Space Command’s activities are classified, it is public knowledge that the Command’s personnel are engaged with the procurement and operation of military space technology, such as spaceplanes, satellites and the rockets used to launch them into orbit. Programs under the Space Command’s purview include the Global Positioning System (GPS), the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the Space-Based Infrared System Program. The Command also operates the Delta II, Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles.
In 2018, President Trump proposed the formation of a new military branch to take over the Space Command’s responsibilities, citing the country’s increasing need to both protect its military space technology from foreign threats and to preserve “American superiority in space.” The Trump administration proposed that this new military branch – the “Space Force” – sit within the Air Force, just as the Marine Corps sits within the Navy.
The Space Force is now the sixth branch of the U.S. military and the first U.S. military service unit to be created since the U.S. Air Force was born out of the Army Air Corps in 1947. Its first member, Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, was sworn into office on January 14, in a White House ceremony led by Vice President Mike Pence. As of January 26, Gen. Raymond is the branch’s only official employee. The Pentagon expects that he will be joined by up to 15,000 new officers, airmen and civilians from the former Air Force Space Command in the next few months.
Among industry experts and pundits, reception towards the creation of a new service branch has been mixed. In 2018, the Air Force Association staunchly opposed the creation of a Space Force, stating that the stand-up of a new service branch would drive unnecessary and burdensome administrative costs. (The total estimated budget for the Space Force is $2 billion USD over the next 5 years.) The professional association argued instead for the renaming of the Air Force as the U.S. Aerospace Force, and for a re-establishment of the military’s existing Space Command under this umbrella. Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow with The Brookings Institution, expressed similar misgivings towards the Space Force, calling it a “misguided idea” that might unintentionally lead to the weaponization of space...
Urban Air Mobility Faces Crucial First Trials In 2020
Graham Warwick December 19, 2019
The rubber hits the road for urban air mobility (UAM) in 2020, with demonstrations and challenges planned that will put the technology through its first realistic operational tests.
Uber Elevate plans test flights over three cities in 2020
NASA will bring developers together with regulators
Uber plans test flights for its Elevate aerial ride-sharing service in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, using experimental electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) vehicles. The company is maintaining its commitment to launch commercial service in 2023 with small fleets of certified vehicles flying a handful of routes in these pilot cities.
NASA plans an initial event in 2020 for its Grand Challenge to improve UAM safety and accelerate scalability through integrated demonstrations that bring together vehicle developers and providers of airspace operations-management services. An initial development test event is planned for July-November, paving the way for the first Grand Challenge in 2022.
Monday, February 3, 2020
What's going on in the World Today 200203
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