Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Secret Air Force Space Plane Nears Milestone

The US Air Force's classified Boeing X-37B spacecraft will reach a major milestone later this month.Launched on an Atlas V rocket in 2012,the third mission of the X-37B,called OTV-3,will mark 500 days in orbit on 25 April.It has already surpassed its former record for length of a continuous space plane mission of 479 days.
The Air Force has two of the heavily cloaked Boeing spacecraft,which resemble a small version of the space shuttle,although lacking a central tailfin.It has two smaller tailfins instead-one on each side.*
The first of the unannounced space plane missions occurred in 2010.The spacecraft land at Vandenburg Air Force Base,California.There are rumours that a larger,manned version,the X-37C,is to follow.The Air Force formerly launched classified military missions from Vandenburg as part of the space shuttle program.*
The X-37B is 8.8 meters long,with a payload bay of 2.1 by 1.2 meters.It weighs in at 4990 kilograms at liftoff.Once it space,it unfolds a solar panel to power operations.The space plane reportedly makes multiple passes over China and North Korea daily.On at least one occasion,it drew near to a Chinese satellite.*
The X-37B is visible to the naked eye,reaching a magnitude in excess of +1.Check the website Heavens-Above to find its course through the night sky.*
Given the X designation,it is probably a testbed for such things as reconnaissance technology or space warfare projects.Satellite tracking and anti-satellite weapons are possible areas of interest the program is furthering.China has intercepted and destroyed one of its own aging weather satellites with an intercontinental ballistic missile,demonstrating a capability the Air Force may be eager to respond to.*

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Royal Navy Submarine Joins MH-370 Search

Perhaps the last,best hope of the MH-370 search is the Royal Navy nuclear submarine HMS Tireless(S88).The Tireless brings to bear the most advanced sonar technology to scan the depths of the Indian Ocean for wreckage of the near-hopelessly lost airliner.Launched in 1984,she is one of five Trafalgar class subs still in Service.She was the third of her class and was built by Vickers at Barrow,according to the Royal Navy.
HMS Tireless underwent an extensive overhaul of her propulsion,weapons systems and sensors.She was deployed to the Middle East in 2010 for 11 months in support of British interests in the region.With 130 personnel,the refurbished Cold War era attack sub will use advanced sonar to add a new dimension to the search,and is already at work in the search area.
With 130 personnel,Tireless is 85.4 meters in length,and has a beam of 9.8 meters.She has a top speed of 32 knots.Her commanding officer is Commander Hywel Griffiths.Educated by the monks of Belmont Abbey,Hereford and in Sixth Form College,Winchester,he joined the RN in 1992 and had initial training appointments in HMS Brilliant,HMS Walney and HMS Avenger.CDR Griffiths volunteered for Service in submarines in 1994 and previously served in HMS Vengeance and HMS Talent,as well as in the Directorate of Navy Resources and Plans in the UK Ministry of Defence.He is a fan of the Welsh rugby team,as well as a surfer and a skier when he has the time.*
On the way to the Indian Ocean from Europe to aid in the search for the aircraft's black boxes and debris is the Royal Navy warship HMS Echo(H87),a multirole hydrographic survey ship that can collect an array of military hydrographic and oceanographic data,but is also equipped for mine warfare and amphibious operations.She carries a small detachment of Royal Marines,the RN says.The Echo packs an impressive array of force protection weapons while improving seafarers' charts for the UK Hydrographic Office.*
The search could drag on for a long time,warned retired Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston,head of the Joint Interagency Coordination Centre in Perth,Australia.It's not something that's going to be resolved in the next few weeks.Still,CNN Perth correspondent Kyung Lah described the search crews as being cheery and seeming to be on task.They are very determined.This is special to them as they all have families and can relate to the mission.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

US Pacific Command:Strategy and Assets

China is trying to change the balance of power in the Pacific,Admiral Samuel Locklear agreed,appearing before the Senate Armed Serrvices Committee on Tuesday.Their maritime strategy is pretty clear.It is an incremental strategy.They look at their strategy and the current situation in the South China Sea,and I believe they think they are on their strategy,said the admiral,who is Commander,US Pacific Command.
They watch very carefully the US;our alliances,the status of those alliances;our forces,the capability of our forces.I believe there is more defence spending than they report annually.I would agree that their actions have been provocative.*
The littoral combat ship has a shallow draft,has speed,has a small crew.It only meets a portion of what my requirements are.I'm still a supporter of the LCS and what it can do.If you talk about having a 320-325 ship navy,having 50-55 littoral combat ships makes sense;if you're talking about a smaller navy with budget constraints,the LCS doesn't make a lot of sense,and I can understand why it would be reduced.*
We are seeing a Chinese navy with a more global reach;more forward-deployed,longer deployments;out of area deployments by their submarines.As their economic interests grow,they need to protect those interests.Certainly they have a credible submarine force today.In the next decade or so,they'll have a modernised force of 50-60 submarines.That's a lot of submarines for a regional power.They also have sophisticated surface ships.Their missile technology is among the best in the world.*
We have had a good return of our Marines back to the Asia-Pacific.I have five Amphibious Ready Groups:four in San Diego;one in Sasebo,Japan.I have asked that additional amphibious lift be put into the Pacific.We wouldn't be able to do an opposed amphibious assault without it.*
My assessmet across the joint force is,we are where we need to be in detecting submarines.China's advances in nuclear technology will enable their acquiring a submarine-based nuclear deterrant by 2017.We still maintain a significant advantage in undersea warfare,and we need to maintain that.Submarines figure heavily into scenarios all the way from peace into contingency.They have a wide range of missions.These have been figured into the design of the future Virginia class attack submarine.*
I believe our industrial base is under pressure.We have to continually update that workforce.It has to be figured into the calculation of our national security strategy for the long term.*
Our first priority is to support General Scaparrotti in Korea and make sure Kim Jong Un is contained,then to support our alliances,maintain our parterships,maintain peace and stability.US military pressure has maintained the stability.We have a strategic partnership with Singapore-also partnerships with Malaysia,Indonesia and Brunei.
The Asia-Pacific has 50% of the world:17% of the land;83% of the water.Six out of ten people live on that 17%.Most of the global economy is generated there.We're a Pacific nation.Our economy is Pacific-centric.It's important that a peaceful,stable Pacific be maintained,according to Admiral Samuel J Locklear III of US Pacific Command.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

US Air Force Augments Baltic Presence

Over March 14-15,12 US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons plus a C-130 transport and about 200 support troops arrived at Lask Air Base near Lodz,Poland.The planes and personnel are with the 555th Fighter Squadron,31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base,Italy.They will be conducting an off-site exercise with the Polish air force to demonstrate US commitment to the NATO collective defence pact,Air Force News reported.
Lt.Col.John Peterson,Squadron Commander,said one of their objectives is to develop bonds so that if something happens,and we have to take action in a real world environment,you want to have trained together in advance.You want to develop those tactics,techniques and procedures before you're in a combat environment.Unless you figure out how to work together at a tactical level,from the Squadron Commander to the Junior Airman turning wrenches-you lose out on the opportunity to know each other's strengths and develop your weaknesses.
There is a permanent detachment of about 10 USAF personnel in Poland to act as a coordinating element for joint training between the US and its NATO ally Poland.Its aim is to remain ready to operate across the range of military operations with precise,full-spectrum capability.It was activated in November 2012 and makes it possible to host multiple allied air force elements,and serves as a regional hub for air training and multinational exercrises.
The current augmentation by the USAF with common assets-Poland has 48 of its own F-16 fighters-is seen as a milestone in the rotational deployment of US military resources in Poland since 2012.*
At the same time,another augmentation has occurred in the Baltic state of Lithuania with the deployment of six USAF F-15C Eagles and a KC-135 tanker,plus more than 60 airmen,from RAF Lakenheath,England to Siauliai Air Base at the request of the Baltic allies Lithuania,Latvia and Estonia.These countries lack their own air force and NATO sends aircraft to patrol their airspace on a rotational basis.The six F-15s are an augmentation of the current routine USAF deployment to Lithuania,which runs from January through April,when Poland will assume the patrols.
The Lithuanian defence ministry said the augmentation was in response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine and its amplified miltary activity in the Kaliningrad
region,Baltic News Service reported.Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told journalists in Brussels that Russia was trying to redraw the boundaries,so first it's Ukraine;Moldova will be next;and,finally,it can reach the Baltic states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered live fire exercises in Kaliningrad without following the standard protocol of notifying the nearby Baltic states and Poland or inviting international observers,according to Polish General Marek Dukaczewski.Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave bordering Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.*
Another NATO ally,Turkey,which is across the Black Sea from Ukraine,has recently scrambled fighter jets to intercept Russian warplanes probing its air defences.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

US Forces Arriving in Eastern Europe

A constellation of US forces including the destroyer USS Truxtun(DDG 103),as well as US Air Force planes and troops,have begun arriving in Eastern Europe to conduct planned yet augmented exercises,as well as bolster NATO's presence in the face of the Russian invasion of Crimea,Ukraine.The Truxtun docked at Constanta,Romania on Saturday,March 8 prior to visiting the Bulgarian port of Varna.The US warship will be honing such interoperational skills as divisional tactics,passing and helicopter landings with the Romanian and Bulgarian navies.Black Sea exercises by the three NATO allies have been postponed by a day,however,because of poor weather in the western Black Sea.*
In 1988,two US Navy ships,the cruiser Yorktown and destroyer Caron,were slightly damaged when Russian warships sideswiped them in the Black Sea.The Russian navy is currently blockading Ukrainian navy warships in Crimea.*
Up to 30,000 Russian troops are in Crimea now.They have surrounded several Ukrainian military bases and demanded their surrender.As well,on Tuesday Russian troops seized the control tower of Crimea's main international airport,cancelling all flights except those to and from Russia.On Monday,Russian troops seized a Ukrainian missile base and military hospital.
The Ukrainian troops will not resist,acting Ukrainian President Oleksander Turchynov said,because Russia has massed tank divisions on Ukraine's eastern border,and would use resistance as an excuse to invade the Ukrainian mainland.*
Meanwhile,US Air Force assets began arriving in Lithuania last Thursday.Six F-15C Eagle fighters and a KC-135 tanker,along with more than 60 airmen from RAF Lakenheath,England have stepped up NATO's presence in the Baltic state,which is near Russia.NATO has also dispatched two AWACS reconnaisance aircraft to the area.*
The first of 12 US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons,two C-130s and more than 300 troops began arriving in Poland on Monday,the Polish Defence Ministry said.The rest will arrive later this week.There had already been an exercise planned before the Ukraine crisis,but not of this scope.
In April,three more C-130s and 100 airmen from Ramstein Air Base,Germany are scheduled to arrive for joint training with Polish forces,the US Air Force announced last week.