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- 09/20/16--12:39: _DARPA sees future w...
- 09/20/16--14:53: _F-35 pilot disputes...
- 09/21/16--07:39: _US aircraft carrier...
- 09/21/16--07:50: _The Chelsea bomber ...
- 09/21/16--08:04: _Kerry to Syria, Rus...
- 09/22/16--06:51: _Syrian President As...
- 09/22/16--07:11: _China says it has a...
- 09/23/16--08:19: _Here's what it's li...
- 09/23/16--08:27: _The world in photos...
- 09/23/16--12:09: _China wants to buil...
- 09/24/16--14:11: _The reason why the ...
- 09/25/16--12:10: _Horrifying weapons ...
- 09/25/16--12:57: _Houthi official in ...
- 09/26/16--09:33: _Hospitals overwhelm...
- 09/26/16--12:07: _Cartels are using t...
- 09/27/16--20:17: _China is accusing t...
- 09/28/16--06:38: _Why a mysterious bl...
- 09/28/16--08:18: _The Apache helicopt...
- 09/28/16--10:10: _US accused of killi...
- 09/28/16--10:43: _Duterte: Next joint...
- 09/21/16--07:39: US aircraft carrier operations are already changing
- 09/21/16--07:50: The Chelsea bomber thought he was fighting against ‘oppression'
- 09/23/16--08:19: Here's what it's like to be a Black Hawk helicopter pilot
- 09/23/16--08:27: The world in photos this week
- 09/23/16--12:09: China wants to build a US-style aircraft carrier
- 09/25/16--12:10: Horrifying weapons people try to bring on planes
- 09/25/16--12:57: Houthi official in Yemen offers border truce, amnesty
- 09/28/16--06:38: Why a mysterious black briefcase follows the US president everywhere
- a 75-page black book of retaliatory nuclear-strike options printed in black and red ink
- another black book with a list of classified sites to shelter the president
- a manila folder containing 10 pages of instructions on how to operate the Emergency Broadcast System
- an index card with authentication codes
- 09/28/16--10:10: US accused of killing 22 Somali soldiers in misdirected air strike
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md — In comments that conjure up dystopian images of a future dominated by robot soldiers controlled by Skynet, researchers with the Pentagon’s futuristic think tank said they are working on better ways to merge the rapid decision making of computers with the analytical capabilities of humans.
In fact, scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects agency, or DARPA, are even looking into advanced neuroscience in hopes of one day merging computerized artificial intelligence with the human brain.
“I think the future [of] warfighting is going to look a lot more like less incredibly smart people working with more incredibly smart machines,” said DARPA Deputy Director Steve Walker during a briefing with reporters at the 2016 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference here. “And how those two things come together is going to define how we move forward.”
Walker said researchers are already finding ways to help machines better collaborate with human operators. Computers do a good job of spitting out answers, he explained, but people want to know how that machine arrived at its answer.
The so-called “Explainable AI” research program is geared toward helping a human operator have confidence in the answer the machine gives him.
“Machine, don’t just give me how correct you think the answer is, tell me how you got to that answer — explain to me the reasoning, the decision making you went through to get to that answer,” Walker described the thinking behind the project. “We’re creating more of a trust between the human and the machine and we’ve given them the ability to use machines where they make sense.”
While Walker sees more machines working with fewer troops on future battlefields, he doesn’t see a world where artificial intelligence takes over.
Beyond advances in artificial intelligence, Walker said DARPA is investing a lot of research into so-called “hypersonic” technology, which describes vehicles that can fly between Mach 5 and Mach 10.
The Pentagon has tried various hypersonic technologies over the years, some with limited success. But DARPA is working with the Air Force to develop two weapon prototypes that Walker hopes will prove that “hypersonics will give you a much more capable, much more survivable much more effective system than we have today at some surprising ranges.”
Three weeks ago, a memo dated Aug. 9 (one week after the Air Force declared the IOC – Initial Operational Capability – of the F-35A) by Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, obtained by Bloomberg News,highlighted several deficiencies.
“The program is actually not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver the full Block 3F capabilities for which the Department is paying almost $400 billion by the scheduled end of System Development and Demonstration (SDD) in 2018.”
According to chief of the Pentagon’s top testing office, at least 15 capabilities in the F-35’s current software version, known as Block 3i, are either still in need of a fix or aren’t ready for testing.
“Unresolved Block 3i deficiencies in fusion, electronic warfare, and weapons employment continue to result in ambiguous threat displays, limited ability to effectively respond to threats, and, in some cases, a requirement for off-board sources to provide accurate coordinates for precision attack. Although the program recently addressed some of the Block 3i deficiencies, many significant deficiencies remain and more are being identified by operational test and fielded units, many of which must be corrected if the program is going to provide the expected “full warfighting capability” described in the Operational
Requirements Document (ORD).”
The memo provides details about all the hundred deficiencies in Block 3i.
“Because Block 3i is an interim capability based on Block 2B, it has numerous inherent limitations that will reduce operational effectiveness and require workarounds if the F-35A in the Block 3i configuration is used in combat.”
There are limitations in the capability to perform Close Air Support missions (in a permissive or low-threat environment); limited weapon load; no gun capability; limited night vision capability; greater reliance on tankers due to limited on-station time; unacceptable sensor fusion; etc. You can read them all here.
A subsequent POGO article provided an in-depth analysis of the above mentioned memo with the following conclusion: “This DOT&E memo clearly exposes the Air Force’s F-35 IOC announcement as nothing more than a publicity stunt.”
On Sept. 16, a new story written by Major Morten “Dolby” Hanche, the famous Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35 pilot who provided first-hand accounts of what dogfighting in the controversial F-35 looks like to a pilot with a significant experience with the F-16, has been published by Kampflybloggen (The Combat Aircraft Blog), the official blog of the Norwegian F-35 Program Office within the Norwegian Ministry of Defence.
In the new post (reposted below under permission) Maj. Hanche, a U.S. Navy Test Pilot School graduate with more than 2,200 hours in the F-16, currently flying as Assistant Weapons Officer with the U.S. Air Force’s 62nd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, provides his take on the DOT&E memo.
Once again: “Dolby” is an F-35 instructor pilot from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, one of the Joint Strike Fighter customers. Needless to say, he may have a bias for his plane. Still, he’s a respected test pilot, making public claims and providing tons of interesting details about the aircraft that will help you making your own opinion on such a hotly debated topic.
Lack of perfection does not mean disaster – how I read test reports as a pilot
by Morten Hanche
Yet again, information from the «Director Operational Test & Evaluation» (DOT&E) has stirred critics into a frenzy over the F-35. The fact that the information was leaked seems to have agitated people even more. (We have our hands on classified documents! Now we know it all!) Yet again, the leaked memo described aspects of the F-35 which need improvement. Yet again, the report resulted in press articles which painted a pretty sinister picture of the F-35. The article featured in POGO («F-35 May Never Be Ready for Combat») serves as one such example.
I finished up writing this article before getting ready to fly another sortie in the F-35. Based on my own experiences flying the F-35A, I feel that the media´s interpretation of the previous DOT&E report is influenced heavily by unrealistic expectations – something which seems to be a trend. I don´t see the point in countering every claim that´s being brought up. First off, it´d make for a very long article. Secondly, I would not be dealing with the bigger problem, which in my mind is a lack of understanding.
I fully expect the F-35’s most hardened critics to discount this article, regardless of what I write. However, some may choose to believe my story, based on the fact that I know the airplane and its capabilities as a pilot. I don’t make my claims based on bits and pieces of information, derived from potentially unreliable sources. They are based on experience actually flying and training with the jet for nearly a year
My goal is to shed some light on airplane development and testing; why we test, what we discover in testing and what a test report may result in. I write this based on my own experience, both through education at the US Naval Test Pilot School, but more importantly through working with the F-16 and the F-35, both operationally and in test settings.
What smartphones tell us about technology development
I'll start with smartphones, as another example of technology development. Admittedly, phones are somewhat different from a fighter airplane, but there are similarities. A smartphone is a complex system of systems – just like a fighter jet. The phones keep evolving with both new hard- and software. It is not unheard of therefore that the manufacturers issue updates. Updates which provide new capabilities, but which also aim to correct previous errors.
According to Wikipedia, Apple released its iOS 9.0 operating system to their iPhones and iPads on 16 September 2015. The 9.0.1 update was issued already on 23 September, followed closely by the 9.0.2 update on 30 September. Then 9.1 on 21 October and 9.2 on 8 December 2015.
Such a frequent update rate might indicate that not everything worked perfectly from the start. Still, wouldn´t it be a bit harsh to claim that the phones didn´t work with the first four software versions? Might the truth be a little more nuanced? Can a smartphone be a good product, even if it doesn´t work 100% from day one? Does a smartphone ever work 100%? I have experienced various strange occurences with my phones over the years. Still, for me, having a phone with all its peculiarities has been more useful than the alternative – not having a phone.
This isn’t an article about phones. The point I´m trying to make is that technology development and testing is a series of compromises; compromises in reliability, in performance and in quality. Only rarely is the world black or white. A machine may work well, even if it doesn´t fulfill all specifications. I´ll go on with a brief intro to how we typically test.
…technology development and testing is a series of compromises; compromise in reliability, in performance and in quality. Only rarely is the world black or white. A machine may work well, even if it doesn´t fulfill all specifications.
How we test a fighter jet
Testing of combat aircraft typically sees a disctinction between Developmental Test (DT) and Operational Test (OT). In short we can say that DT seeks to answer whether the machine works according to the design specifications, whether the machine is safe to operate and what its safe operating limits end up being. OT on the other hand seeks to find out whether the machine can solve a particular task, like: «Is the X-YZ able to provide effective Close Air Support, in the presence of threat A, B and C?»
The test program for a machine like the F-35 is an enormous undertaking. The contours of the F-35´s test program are described top-level in the Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP), totaling 1400 pages. Each sub-test in the TEMP results in a detailed test plan for that event. Especially in DT, a test flight is literally planned down to the minute, in order to accomplish as many test points as quickly and safely as possible. Flight testing is an expensive undertaking.
A test program should discover most important errors and flaws. However, time and resources available make it unrealistic to uncover every single issue. Risk is mitigated by testing the most critical components, like the engine in a single-engined fighter, to stricter tolerances. The amount of testing is a statistically driven decision. We know that there are things we don´t know, even at the completion of testing. We also know that there are likely few gross or dangerous errors which haven´t been found.
Each error we find during testing is documented and characterized. The language and format used is to the point. The test engineer and test pilot type up their findings and typically describe the situation «in a vacuum» – without regard for how costly or difficult it might be to address the issue. Each issue is then related to the mission – how will this quality or problem affect the given task?
Such a test report might read something like: «The SuperToaster 3000 was evaluated for uniform heat distribution and time to crispy toast, at the National Toast Center of Excellence, with room temperatures varying between 65 and 75 deg F. The toasting temperature was selected by turning a dial on the front of the toaster. Even with full crispyness selected, the toaster´s maximum temperature was low, and toasting of even the thinnest slices of white bread took more than 10 minutes. During early morning breakfasts, the time consuming toasting process will result in cranky parents, the kids being dropped off late for school and correspondingly negative effects on their grades and later career opportunities.»
This mission relation was probably a little over-the-top – a little like how some media articles relate its tidbits of information to an imagined F-35 mission. In isolation, a system may not work as advertised, but could there be a workaround? (In the toaster-case, maybe cereal for breakfast?)
Anyway, after the issue is documented, the errors are then catalogued, debated over and prioritized. Test engineers, test pilots, design engineers and customer representatives are often involved in the dialogue that follows when something undesirable is discovered. Together, these will have to agree on a path forward. Completely understanding the issue is crucial.
Alternatives could be a re-design, accepting the flaw, mitigating the flaw procedurally or compensating by documenting the issue better. The team will have to compromise when prioritizing. Even when developing a new fighter jet, there are limits to what can be fixed, based on cost, time available, test resources available and also the complexity of the problem.
Altogether, development and testing is an iterative process, where adjustments may have to take place during DT, OT or after the system is put into operational service.
Where are we with the F-35?
What is then the current state of the F-35? Is it really as bad as the commentaries to the DOT&E report and DOT&E memo might indicate?
Personally, I am impressed by the the F-35. I was relieved to experience just how well the F-35 performs with regard to speed, ceiling, range and maneuverability. It would have been very problematic if the airplane´s performance didn´t hold up in these areas – there´s just no software update which is going to compensate a draggy airframe or a weak engine. (Read more about such a case in the Government Accountability Office, then the General Accounting Office´s report on the Super Hornet).
When asked about my first flight in the F-35, I compared it to flying a Hornet (F/A-18), but with a turbo charged engine. I now can quote a USMC F/A-18 Weapons School Graduate after his first flight in the F-35: «It was like flying a Hornet with four engines!» (His point being that the F-35 can afford to operate at high Angle-of-Attack and low airspeed, but that it will regain the airspeed quickly when needed).
Another unintended, but illustrating example on performance came a few weeks back, when a student pilot failed to recognize that he had climbed through our temporary altitude restriction at 40,000´. The F-35 will happily climb past that altitude.
Another critical aspect of the F-35 is its minimal radar signature. Just as with the aerodynamic performance, the «stealthiness» of the F-35 is an inherent quality of the airframe itself. There would be no quick-fix to a disappointing signature. So far, my impression is that the F-35 is very difficult to find. We see this every day when training with the F-35; we detect the F-16s flying in the local airspace at vast ranges, compared to when we detect another F-35.
Sensor stability, and specifically radar stability, has been an issue. I´m not trying to downplay that the radar´s stability needs to improve, but I am not worried. What would have worried me was if the radar had poor detection range, or if the stability issues were caused by «external» factors like limited electrical power supply or limited cooling available. Fortunately, our biggest issues are related to software, and not performance. I think it´s realistic to expect software issues like this to be resolved (just like iOS 9 eventually ended up working well).
Remember that we´re not trying to re-create another «Fourth Gen» fighter in the F-35. If we had set our aim lower, we´d likely have had an easier job of developing the airplane – it would have been easier to build the F-16 again today. But is that what we need? The F-35´s specifications are ambitious, and reflect a machine which will outperform the previous generation of fighters. Having or not having that kind of military advantage eventually becomes a political question. For now, our leaders think we need that military edge.
In this context, I would like to bring up another point. The F-35 is in its infancy as a weapons system. Yet, it is being compared to mature systems like the F-16. The F-16 has been developed and improved for more than 40 years. Correspondingly, certain aspects of the F-16 are more mature than the F-35 at this time. Having said that, I will caution readers against believing that other and «mature» fighters are without their issues. There has been an unprecedented openness about the F-35´s development.
The DOT&E report is one example on how media has gained insight into the F-35 Program. I still ask; do those who write critical articles about the program really have a realistic baseline, from which they can reasonably assess the F-35? Next, I´ll give some examples which have influenced at least my own baseline.
The sometimes messy world of fighter development
Many will agree that the F-16 has been a successful fighter design. The fact that it has been continuously produced since the 1970s should speak for itself. The fighter has come a long way from where it originally started; as a day-only «dogfighter», equipped with heat-seeking missiles.
(How would that mission set compare to a post System Development & Demonstration Block 3F F-35 and its mission sets?)
Modifications to the «fully developed» F-16 started right away One early and visible modification was the replacement of the horizontal stabilizers with larger «stabs», in order to reduce the F-16´s susceptibility to go out of control during aggressive maneuvering at high Angles-of-Attack (AOA).
Going out of control is a bad thing, and could lead to loss of both the jet and its pilot. Since then, the F-16 has kept evolving through many different programs, aimed at improving both structural life and combat capabilities.Other fighters also bear visible marks of error correction. The Hornet-family provides some good examples of aerodynamic «band aids».
An example from the F/A-18 «Baby Hornet» is the vertical «fences» mounted on each side of the machine, just aft of the cockpit. These were eventually added to mitigate stress on the vertical tails, which caused their supporting structure to fail.
Another example from the Baby Hornet is how the stabs and rudders are driven to full deflection before takeoff. This modification was necessary to enable the Hornet to lift its nose during takeoff roll. The «band aid» added drag during the takeoff roll. Thus, the takeoff roll increased in distance, but no more than what was considered acceptable. The «band aid» was an easy workaround to what could have been a very costly re-design of the airplane – compromises…
The more modern Super Hornet has a porous fairing where the wing-fold mechanism is located. This was fitted in an attempt to alleviate a problem termed «wing drop». The wing drop in the Super Hornet was described as an abrupt and uncommanded roll, which hampered air combat maneuvering. The «band aid» partially fixed the wing drop issue, but at the same time introduced other problems related to reduced range and increased buffet levels. These were still deemed acceptable trade-offs – compromises…
Even today, our modern-day F-16s live with many issues; errors which were discovered in DT, OT or operational use, but which haven´t been corrected. Either because of prohibitive cost, complexity or because no one understands the failure mechanism – what is causing the problem. I´m not just talking about cosmetic or minor issues.
One example is that The Norwegian Armed Forces for a period of about 10 years could not operate its F-16s in single ship formations, in bad weather or at night. The restriction was put in place because the Main Mission Computer (MMC) broke down relatively often. The resulting operational limitations hampered both training and operations. It took more than 10 years to diagnose and correct the issue, mainly because the failure mechanism was illusive.
The most outspoken critics of the F-35 couldn't have known about our issues with the MMC in the F-16 at the time. If they did, and read that deficiency report, would they have concluded that our F-16s were non-operational, and incapable of fulfilling its mission? I´m tempted to think so, based on how isolated pieces of information about the F-35 often are misinterpreted and taken out of context.
Would they have been right in their conclusion? I don´t think anyone could have made that conclusion, based on just the fact that «the MMC sometimes crashes». The reality I know, working with fighters all my life, is not black or white. There are nuances. We work around and overcome problems.
Our F-16s still have issues today which will never be corrected. This is not dramatic or unexpected. The normal state of affairs for a fighter is that we operate in spite of issues with structure, sensors, software and logistics. We´re normally able to work around the major problems while we devise long-term solutions. Some issues are temporary. Some end up being permanent. Compromises… (I personally wouldn´t believe the salesperson claiming to offer a fighter jet which had zero issues).
I said I wouldn´t quibble over individual factual errors which the F-35´s critics present as truth. To me, a compelling argument for how well the F-35 works is evident by what we´re able to do in training. Three weeks back I was part of a four-ship of F-35s. Our mission was to overcome an advanced airborne threat, while locating and destroying an equally advanced surface based air defense system.
After neutralizing these threats, we were able to destroy four additional targets. All this prior to receiving the Block 3F capabilities.
Suffice to say that this mission would have been close to suicide with a four-ship of F-16s alone!
Between September 12 and 23rd, the USS Ronald Reagan, nine surface ships, and the Bonhomme Richard amphibious ready group, which includes three amphibious vessels, are taking part in the US-only naval exercise Valiant Shield.
Unlike multi-national drills that often focus on disaster relief, this exercise will focus on hard warfighting capabilities.
Ships will work together on anti-submarine warfare, amphibious assaults, defensive counter-air operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance with an important twist:
"Guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur will be assigned to the ESG [expeditionary strike group] to increase the strike group's capabilities to conduct a range of surface, subsurface and air defense missions, to include naval gunfire support," a Navy statement reads.
Basically, the US Navy will operate outside of its normal format of carrier strike groups, with surface combatants defending the valuable aircraft carrier and an amphibious ready group, with helicopter carriers and landing craft, being supported by destroyers.
On the other side of the world, the US Navy has already implemented this bold new strategy in its operations with the USS Wasp, a helicopter carrier currently taking the fight to ISIS in Libya.
Instead of the full suite of landing craft and support vessels, the Wasp is holding its own off the coast of Libya with the USS Carney.
"The USS Wasp with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, and the USS Carney, which replaced the USS The Sullivans, have been supporting US precision airstrikes at the request of [Libya’s Government of National Accord] since Aug. 1. As such, Harriers and Cobras assigned to the USS Wasp have been used to conduct strikes, with the USS Carney providing over watch support,” US Africa Command spokeswoman Robyn Mack told USNI News.
Not only does the destroyer protect the Wasp, an extremely valuable asset, it also assists in its mission by firing illumination rounds from its guns on deck, which light the way for US and allied forces. The other helicopter carriers in the region don't have these deck guns.
Meanwhile, the single destroyer protecting the Wasp frees up the other amphibious ready group's ships to sail in other regions with other fleets.
For the specific mission of carrying out airstrikes in Libya, the Wasp has no plans to stage a landing or take a beach. Therefore it's a careful allocation of resources that allows the US Navy to be more flexible.
The Chief of Naval Operations, John Richardson, recently testified to Congress that the demand for US aircraft carriers is way up. Smaller helicopter carriers doing the work of more massive Nimitz class carriers helps to free up those machines and crews, and as new technologies, like the F-35B and C hit the field, the US can maintain its advantage of having a floating, mobile air base anywhere in the world in a few days notice.
At a time when the US Navy has fewer ships than US naval planners would like, the clever and evolving deployment of assets makes all the difference.
He bought bomb ingredients on eBay and recorded a mirthful video of himself igniting a blast in a backyard. In a handwritten journal, he warned that bombs would resound in the streets and prayed he'd be martyred rather than caught, authorities say.
Ahmad Khan Rahami's jihad journal ended with a stark message, according to court papers:
"Death to your oppression."
Federal court complaints filed Tuesday gave a chilling glimpse into what authorities say motivated the Afghan-born US citizen to set off explosives last weekend in New York City and New Jersey, including a bomb that injured 31 people in Manhattan.
The blasts came two years after the FBI looked into him but came up with nothing tying him to terrorism.
Rahami remains hospitalized with gunshot wounds from a shootout with police that led to his capture Monday outside a bar in Linden, New Jersey. It wasn't immediately clear whether he had a lawyer who could comment on the charges against him, which include federal terror crimes and state charges of attempting to murder police officers.
Rahami ordered citric acid, ball bearings and electronic igniters on eBay and had them delivered to a Perth Amboy, New Jersey, business where he worked until Sept. 12, the court complaints said. San Jose, California-based eBay Inc. noted that the products are legal and widely available and said the company had worked with law enforcement on the investigation.
Just two days before Saturday's bombings, a relative's cell phone recorded Rahami igniting incendiary material in a cylinder buried in a backyard, the fuse being lighted, a loud noise and flames, "followed by billowing smoke and laughter," the complaints said.
And the complaints said in his bloodied journal — damaged by shots from his gun battle with police — he fumed that the US government was slaughtering Muslim holy warriors and alluded to plans for revenge.
One portion expressed concern at the prospect of being caught before being able to carry out a suicide attack and the desire to be a martyr. Another section included a reference to "pipe bombs" and a "pressure cooker bomb" and declared: "In the streets they plan to run a mile," an apparent reference to one of the blast sites, a charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey.
"The sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets," the journal declared.
There also were laudatory references to Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki — the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a 2011 drone strike and whose preaching has inspired other acts of violence — and Nidal Hasan, the former Army officer who went on a deadly shooting rampage in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas, the complaints said.
The FBI has said Rahami apparently was not on its radar at the time of the bombing. But he was in 2014, when the FBI opened up an "assessment"— its least intrusive form of inquiry — based on comments from his father after a domestic dispute, the bureau said in a statement.
"The FBI conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism," the bureau said.
A law enforcement official said the FBI spoke with Rahami's father in 2014 after agents learned of his concerns that the son could be a terrorist.
During the inquiry, the father backed away from talk of terrorism and told investigators that he simply meant his son was hanging out with the wrong crowd, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Rahami's father, Mohammad, told reporters Tuesday he called the FBI at the time because Rahami "was doing real bad," having stabbed his brother and hit his mother. Rahami was not prosecuted in the stabbing; a grand jury declined to indict him.
"But they checked, almost two months, and they say, 'He's OK, he's clear, he's not terrorist.' Now they say he's a terrorist," the father said outside the family's fried-chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Asked whether he thought his son was a terrorist, he said: "No. And the FBI, they know that."
The FBI has faced questions before about whether it could have done more ahead of time to determine whether attackers had terrorist aspirations. The issue arose after the Orlando massacre in June, for instance, when FBI Director James Comey said agents a few years earlier had looked into the gunman, Omar Mateen, but did not find enough information to pursue charges or keep him under investigation.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama was confident the bureau would review Rahami's interactions with law enforcement "to determine if there's something different that could have been done or should have been done to prevent the violence."
Meanwhile, investigators are looking into Rahami's overseas travel, including a visit to Pakistan a few years ago, and want to know whether he received any money or training from extremist organizations.
Rahami's wife is thought to be a Pakistani national. On a trip to Pakistan in 2014, Rahami emailed his local congressman seeking help because his pregnant wife had an expired passport.
David Duerden, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, was unable to confirm or deny reports that Rahami's wife had been questioned in the United Arab Emirates, which is home to a large expatriate Pakistani population and has airports that offer daily flights to Pakistan.
"We're aware of the reports but don't have any comment at this time," he told the AP.
Emirati officials in Dubai and the federal capital Abu Dhabi said they had no information on her.
Federal agents would like to question Rahami. But Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who received a classified briefing from the FBI, said Rahami was not cooperating; that could also be a reflection of his injuries.
Rahami, who came to the US as a child, studied criminal justice for a time at a community college, and he worked as an unarmed night guard for two months in 2011 at an AP administrative technology office in Cranbury, New Jersey. At the time, he was employed by Summit Security, a private contractor.
AP global security chief Danny Spriggs said he learned this week that Rahami worked there and often engaged colleagues in long political discussions, expressing sympathy for the Taliban and disdain for US military action in Afghanistan. Rahami left that job in 2011 because he wanted to take a trip to Afghanistan, Spriggs said.
AP spokesman Paul Colford said the news cooperative told law enforcement officials about Rahami's work at the Cranbury facility.
Summit's vice president of security services, Daniel Sepulveda, said Rahami last worked for the company in 2011. Sepulveda said he was unaware of any complaints about Rahami's conduct.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants all aircraft over key humanitarian routes in northern Syria grounded in order to give peace a chance.
Kerry told the U.N. Security Council that such a step could restore credibility to efforts to end the five-year civil war and "give a chance for humanitarian assistance to flow unimpeded."
A U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement reached on Sept. 9 has all but collapsed. And the U.N. suspended aid deliveries after a strike on a humanitarian convoy this week that killed a dozen people.
President Bashar Assad rejected accusations that Syrian or Russian planes struck an aid convoy in Aleppo or that his troops were preventing food from entering the city's rebel-held eastern neighborhoods, blaming the for the collapse of a cease-fire many had hoped would bring relief to the war-ravaged country.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Damascus, Assad also said deadly airstrikes on Syrian troops last week were intentional, dismissing American officials' statements that they were an accident. Assad said the lacked "the will" to join forces with Russia in fighting extremists.
Assad, who inherited power from his father and is now in his 16th year in office, cut a confident figure during the interview — a sign of how his rule, which once seemed threatened by the rebellion, has been solidified by his forces' military advances and by the air campaign of his ally Russia, which turned the tables on the battlefield last year.
He said his enemies alone were to blame for nearly six years of devastation across Syria, and while acknowledging some mistakes, he repeatedly denied any excesses by his troops. He said the war was only likely to "drag on" because of continued external support for his opponents.
"When you have many external factors that you don't control, it's going to drag on and no one in this world can tell you when" the war will end, he said, insisting Syrians who fled the country could return within a few months if the , Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar stopped backing insurgents.
He spoke Wednesday in Damascus' Muhajireen palace, a white-stone building where he often receives guests, nestled among trees on the foothills of Qasioun Mountain. The Syrian capital, seat of Assad's power, has stayed relatively untouched throughout the conflict, spared the devastation inflicted on other, opposition-held areas of the country. In recent months, Assad's forces have taken rebel strongholds in suburbs of the capital, bolstering security and reducing the threat of mortar shells.
The attack on the aid convoy outside Aleppo took place Monday night, hitting a warehouse as aid workers unloaded cargo and triggering huge explosions. Footage filmed by rescuers showed torn flesh being picked from the wreckage. Witnesses described a sustained, two-hour barrage that included barrel bombs — crude, unguided explosives that the Syrian government drops from helicopters.
A senior administration official said the believes with a very high degree of confidence that a Russian-piloted aircraft carried out the strike. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and asked for anonymity.
Assad dismissed the claims, saying whatever American officials say "has no credibility" and is "just lies."
Like Syria, Russia has denied carrying out the convoy bombing.
Syria and the United States have been at loggerheads since the Sept. 17 airstrike last week that hit Syrian troops in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.
officials said the attack — its first direct hit on Syrian forces since the civil war began — was accidental and that the warplanes thought they were targeting Islamic State group positions.
Russia said the strikes killed more than 60 Syrian troops, and afterward, IS militants briefly overran government positions in the area until they were beaten back.
Assad said he did not believe the American account and said that attack targeted a "huge" area constituting of many hills.
"It wasn't an accident by one airplane... It was four airplanes that kept attacking the position of the Syrian troops for nearly one hour, or a little bit more than one hour," Assad said in the interview. "You don't commit a mistake for more than one hour."
"How could they (IS) know that the Americans are going to attack that position in order to gather their militants to attack right away and to capture it one hour after the strike?" Assad asked. "So it was definitely intentional, not unintentional as they claimed."
The strikes contributed to the collapse of the cease-fire, which had already been marred by numerous violations on both sides of the conflict. They also cast serious doubt on chances for implementing an unprecedented -Russian agreement to jointly target militants in the country.
Assad said the United States lacked the will to work with Russia against extremists in Syria. "I don't believe the United States will be ready to join Russia in fighting terrorists in Syria," he said.
Despite extensive evidence to the contrary, Assad repeatedly denied that his forces were besieging opposition-held eastern Aleppo, which has become a symbol both of resistance and also the high price civilians are paying in the war.
He flatly denied claims of malnutrition and a chronic lack of medical supplies.
"If there's really a siege around the city of Aleppo, people would have been dead by now," Assad said, asking how rebels were able to smuggle in arms but apparently not food or medicine.
The ancient city, now partly destroyed, has been carved out into rebel and government-controlled areas since 2012. Rebel reinforcements broke a hole in the blockade in August. But in heavy bombardment over the following weeks, more than 700 civilians were killed. Earlier this month, Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes retook the roads and the siege resumed.
Since then, the U.N. has accused Assad's government of obstructing aid access to the city, despite an agreement to allow aid in during the weeklong cease-fire. During the brief cease-fire, trucks carrying aid sat idle by the nearby Turkish border, awaiting permits and safety guarantees.
Throughout the conflict, Assad's forces have been accused of bombing hospitals and civilians and choking opposition cities. Millions have fled Syria, some of them drowning at sea in the Mediterranean.
The war has been defined by gruesome photos and video posted in the aftermath of bloody attacks or documenting the plight of children in particular. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and once thriving cities have been ravaged, with entire blocks reduced to rubble. The images have galvanized public opinion worldwide -- but Assad, while acknowledging that the war had been 'savage,' said eyewitness accounts should not be automatically believed.
"Those witnesses only appear when there's an accusation against the Syrian army or the Russian (army), but when the terrorists commit a crime or massacre or anything, you don't see any witnesses... So, what a coincidence," he said.
Assad scoffed at the idea that Syria's "White Helmets"— civil defense volunteers in opposition held areas seen by many as symbols of bravery and defiance — might be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize after a nomination earlier this year.
"What did they achieve in Syria?" he said. "I would only give a prize to whoever works for the peace in Syria."
The group shared this year's Right Livelihood Award, sometimes known as the "Alternative Nobel," with activists from Egypt and Russia and a Turkish newspaper, the prize foundation announced Thursday.
Asked about his methods, including the use of indiscriminate weapons, Assad said "when you have terrorists, you don't throw at them balloons, or you don't use rubber sticks for example. You have to use armaments."
A top Chinese military technology company shocked physicists around the world this week when it announced it had developed a new form of radar able to detect stealth planes 100km away.
The breakthrough relies on a ghostly phenomenon known as quantum entanglement, which Albert Einstein dubbed “spooky action at a distance”.
China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), one of the “Top 10” military industry groups controlled directly by the central government, said on Sunday that the new radar system’s entangled photons had detected targets 100km away in a recent field test.
That’s five times the “potential range” of a laboratory prototype jointly developed by researchers from Canada, Germany, Britain and the United States last year.
America’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has reportedly funded similar research and military suppliers such as Lockheed Martin are also developing quantum radar systems for combat purposes, according to media reports, but the progress of those military projects remains unknown.
In a statement posted on its website on Sunday, CETC said China’s first “single-photon quantum radar system” had “important military application values” because it used entangled photons to identify objects “invisible” to conventional radar systems.
Nanjing University physicist Professor Ma Xiaosong, who has studied quantum radar, said he had “not seen anything like this in an open report”.
“The effective range reported by the international research community falls far below 100km,” he said.
A military radar researcher at a university in northwestern China said the actual range of the new radar could be even greater than that announced by CETC.
“The figure in declassified documents is usually a tuned-down version of the real [performance],” he said. “The announcement has gone viral [in the radar research community].”
The scientists said they were shocked because, until recently, the idea of quantum radar had remained largely confined to science fiction.
Quantum physics says that if you create a pair of entangled photons by splitting the original photon with a crystal, a change to one entangled photon will immediately affect its twin, regardless of the distance between them.
A quantum radar, generating a large number of entangled photon pairs and shooting one twin into the air, would be capable of receiving critical information about a target, including its shape, location, speed, temperature and even the chemical composition of its paint, from returning photons.
That sounds similar to a normal radar, which uses radio waves, but quantum radar would be much better at detecting stealth planes, which use special coating materials and body designs to reduce the radio waves they deflect, making them indistinguishable from the background environment.
In theory, a quantum radar could detect a target’s composition, heading and speed even if managed to retrieve just one returning photon. It would be able to fish out the returning photon from the background noise because the link the photon shared with its twin would facilitate identification.
However, Ma, who was not involved with the CETC project, said serious technical challenges had long confined quantum radar technology to the laboratory.
The photons had to maintain certain conditions – known as quantum states – such as upward or downward spin to remain entangled. But Ma said the quantum states could be lost due to disturbances in the environment, a phenomenon known as “decoherence”, which increased the risk of entanglement loss as the photons travelled through the air, thus limiting the effective range of quantum radar.
The CETC breakthrough benefited largely from the recent rapid development of single-photon detectors, which allowed researchers to capture returning photons with a high degree of efficiency.
CETC said the quantum radar’s advantage was not limited to the detection of stealth planes.
The field test had opened a “completely new area of research”, it said, with potential for the development of highly mobile and sensitive radar systems able to survive the most challenging combat engagements.
Quantum radar systems could be small and would be able to evade enemy countermeasures such anti-radar missiles because the ghostly quantum entanglement could not be traced, it said.
The company said it had worked with quantum scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui province, where many quantum technology breakthroughs have been achieved, including the world’s longest quantum key distribution network for secured communication and the development of the world’s first quantum satellite.
NOW WATCH: Watch China launch its second space lab
There might be sexier flying jobs in the military, but there aren’t more rewarding ones.
When most people find out you’re a Black Hawk pilot, the first question you can anticipate is, “Have you seen Black Hawk Down?” Yep, read the books, too. I crack up when I see Jeremy Piven slamming levers around like he’s closing a truck trailer. It’s telling that the thing most people relate to this helicopter dates from the first half of the 90’s.
The Black Hawk was engineered and introduced into the force in the late 1970’s as a replacement for the UH-1 Huey fleet. It’s the aviation workhorse of the modern Army. There have been a host of upgrades since the early days, but the average Black Hawk on the line uses steam gauges and 20th century navigational equipment. There are exceptions, like the UH-60M model and the coming UH-60V upgrade but for the most part the majority of the fleet is the UH-60L or UH-60A+ variant, state of the art about 20+ years ago.
Even though we don’t have all-glass cockpits or other advanced avionics in most airframes, we still get the job done. The Army possesses a large fleet of rotary wing aircraft to serve and better enable the ground commander. It’s not about us, and that’s the way it should be in the Army.
Still, we do get a kick out of doing a lot of what every other branch does, only with less equipment and less assistance from automation. We land on ships at sea and fly over water at night without altitude hold like the Navy and Coast Guard have. (It’s like being in a black trash bag without outside references.)
We perform hoist missions in the mountains maintaining 100 feet above the surface and plus-or-minus-five-foot drift with a human dangling below, without a computer doing it for us (unlike many modern helicopters). And sometimes we get to switch from being a flying machine gun platform for gunnery practice to picking up a water bucket and putting out the fires our tracers started on the range with a 6000-pound load of water slung underneath.
Army aviation culture is oriented to the ground commander, and Army senior leadership typically doesn’t come from the aviation ranks. This has some consequences for our lifestyle compared to the other branches.
You won’t find us wearing flight suits like Tom Cruise. (Our uniform is tailored to resemble the standard soldier’s.) We don’t wear scarves like the Air Force. We don’t get different colored shoes like the Navy. We don’t have people to carry our stuff to the aircraft. We wipe our own windows and sometimes we’re lucky enough to be allowed to pitch in and help with some of the labor involved in maintaining these aircraft.
Still, some of the perks we have compared to others in the Army are nice. The worst you’ll usually encounter for sleeping conditions is a cot instead of a hole in the ground and we don’t get stuck on the FOB for months on end. We get to meet some really interesting people.
One of the missions you encounter in the Black Hawk world is VIP transport, which yours truly is currently performing. VIP sounds important, and it is. Your important passenger could be a general and their staff, a political leader, a foreign leader, etc. but it’s not fun or glamorous. Especially when cleaning up after cranky senior officers, or the staff members who tend to treat the helicopter like a prom night rented limo.
Our aircraft are meant for tactical transport, so we don’t have leather seats, air conditioning or carpet. We do our best to keep them clean but nature has other designs most of the time. Other services give their aircraft at least some shelter, but the Army often has to let ours bake in the sun and collect moon dust in the desert.
Senior military passengers fall into two categories: low maintenance and high maintenance. Some will stay quiet and enjoy the ride, others want to pump you for information to make sure they are getting as many perks and special considerations as their peers. It’s really hysterical to witness a general getting jealous of another general because they were dropped off or picked up in a certain way.
VIP transport can make you neurotic if you’re not careful. The passengers (PAX) are seldom on time and you’re frequently held accountable for factors way outside of your control. The best advice is to smile, not take it personally and remember that the best indicator that you’re doing your job well is not hearing complaints. Little do your passengers know how many hours went into prepping the aircraft, overcoming the myriad little technical issues and navigating the minefield of misinformation spread through multiple echelons of staff to show up early and deliver them safely.
There’s no glory, but at least there’s flight time.
Most people don’t grow up around helicopters. They learn whatever they know from TV shows or movies. For some reason, most cinematic depictions of helicopters feature the “wopwopwopwop” sound of a 2-bladed Huey. We don’t sound like that. Our engines don’t scream louder and louder when we pick up from the ground. We think it’s hysterical when people bend all the way over at the waist and run under the rotor system to get into the helicopter – for a UH-60 anyway, this is totally unnecessary.
It’s normal to see hydraulic fluid dripping. We sweat. We smell. We don’t enter the destination into a computer and sit back for hours on end listening to music. We control the bird with both hands and feet at all times, while talking on and listening to four different radios plus the crew plus the PAX. It’s a hell of a lot of fun, but it takes a lot more work than some would suspect.
Still, we know we have a more comfortable existence than the ground pounders and the most satisfying thing you can do is to give them a lift, or carry our MEDEVAC brethren, speeding them to recovery.
I.G. Reilly is veteran corporate recruiting professional and part-time Blackhawk pilot with multiple deployments overseas. I.G. Reilly is a pen name.
A selection of photos from some of the biggest news that you might have missed this week.
New York City police commissioner James O'Neill stands with Mayor Bill de Blasio as he holds up a picture of Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man believed to be responsible for the explosion in Manhattan on Saturday night and an earlier bombing in New Jersey, at a news conference in New York City on September 19, 2016.
A New York Police Department robot retrieves an unexploded pressure cooker bomb on 27th Street, hours after an explosion nearby in New York City, New York, September 18, 2016.
Police officers face off with protesters on the I-85 (Interstate 85) during protests in the early hours of September 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The protests followed the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer near UNC Charlotte. Scott, who was black, was shot and killed by police officers, who say they warned Scott to drop a gun he was allegedly holding.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that's designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.
Right now, China's aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can't carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.
Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.
But now photos surfaced in Yeo's piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here's a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).
Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.
Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.
Currently, China is building a second ski-jump style carrier, but it seems it may be planning a third flat top some time soon.
The group known as Islamic State (IS) reportedly used a sulpur-mustard gas against US troops in Iraq. It was detected in a black oily substance found on a rocket fired at an American airbase in Qayyarah, south of the city of Mosul.
None of the soldiers stationed at the airbase – deployed there to support a forthcoming Iraqi offensive to take back Mosul from IS– have suffered any symptoms of mustard gas poisoning. The base took decontamination measures after the rocket hit.
This is not the group’s first chemical strike. Reports are mounting up that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are now part of the organisation’s arsenal – and all thanks to US foreign policy.
The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the regional chaos that followed is a major reason why IS emerged in the first place; had the war never happened, the group might never have existed, and it certainly wouldn’t have been able to tear through and take control of huge swathes of the country.
So at last, the US has finally found WMD in Iraq, but only after its own actions allowed them to spring up there again.
Playing it down
In 2003, WMD were at the core of the US’s push to “disarm” Saddam Hussein. But times have changed, and the US is being very muted about WMD being made and deployed in Iraq. While you might expect the threat of a chemically armed terror organisation to be exactly the thing the US would want to shout about, the Pentagon has instead played down the incident and IS’s chemical capability.
Navy captain and Pentagon representative Jeff Davis struck a note of calm, saying IS had in the past used chemical arms only to “little effect”. He also said the agent used in this latest incident was “low-grade” and that the weapon itself was “imprecise and crude”.
The US military has also been very keen to highlight that this event “hasn’t impacted the mission in any way”. Spokespersons said the US doesn’t consider Islamic State’s chemical tactics a threat, and have not changed their security procedures as a result of what happened at the airbase.
There are lots of reasons not to make a song and dance about the strike. While it’s now been confirmed that sulphur-mustard was used, no-one was hurt – so why make a fuss? The US also probably doesn’t want to admit that IS is capable of carrying out any sort of attack against American troops, especially not with a weapon like this. And with a major push to take back Mosul in the offing, the US doesn’t need IS’s capacity and capabilities amplified any further.
Another explanation, however, is less practical: the US doesn’t want to talk about WMD in Iraq because it was an American-led war that created the situation in which these weapons have ended up in the country. It’s also a difficult reminder of the “threats” invoked as a pretext for that devastating conflict. In 2003, the US cried wolf – and despite the change of regime since then, it doesn’t want to remind everyone what a mess that turned out to be.
No WMD in Iraq
The Pentagon has very noticeably not called this chemical weapon a weapon of mass destruction. All reports have referred only to “mustard gas”, even though chemical arms are typically thought of as mass destructive – at least, they were when Hussein had them.
As former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s infamous smoking gun/mushroom cloud comment in 2002 made clear, WMD is a very emotive term. It not only sets a particular weapon apart as something especially destructive, but comes with the implication that everything should be done to get rid of it. The whole premise for the Iraq War was that WMD were so intolerable that the US (never mind the world’s reticence) had no choice but to intervene.
Today’s Pentagon clearly hopes that by staying away from that sort of language today, it can defuse any pressure to get more deeply involved on the ground in Iraq. If the presence of WMD demands intervention, the US should therefore be even more involved than it is now. But President Obama has long shown an aversion to intervention not only in Iraq, but also in Syria, where IS and Bashar al-Assad are also using chemical warfare. WMD proliferation in Iraq could force Obama to change his policy.
Ultimately, chemical weapons control is only a foreign policy priority when it suits the US. This is not a good basis for dealing with the situation in Iraq, Syria, or anywhere else where these weapons are used. There needs to be more consistency. Otherwise, the chemical threat is just another rhetorical tool used to justify (often controversial) US policies.
NOW WATCH: The world’s largest pyramid is not in Egypt
The TSA are trained to detect even the most cleverly hidden weapons that try to make their way onto airplanes. The agency has an intriguing Instagram account that displays some of their most bizarre findings.
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A top official in Yemen's armed Houthi movement on Sunday offered to stop attacks on Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for Yemeni fighters opposing the group if the kingdom stopped air strikes and lifted a near blockade on the country.
The move falls short of demands by Yemen's government and their backers in Saudi Arabia, but offers rare hope for a pause to 18 months of fighting which has killed at least 10,000 people and pushed impoverished Yemen toward famine.
"(In exchange for) stopping the aggression against our country by land, sea and air, stopping the air strikes and lifting the siege imposed on our country, in return (we will)stop combat operations on the border," Saleh al-Samad, the chief of a Houthi-backed political council, said in a speech.
Hailing from Yemen's Zaydi Shi'ite sect, the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and pushed the government out of its last stronghold in Aden in March 2015.
The advances by the Iran-allied group prompted an intervention by a Saudi-led coalition that has launched thousands of air strikes on the Houthis and their allies in Yemen's army but has failed to push them out of the capital.
A near-blockade on Yemen's ports, which the coalition says is aimed at arms bound to the Houthis, has also hobbled Yemen's already struggling economy and created a humanitarian crisis.
For months, the Houthis have retaliated with attacks on Saudi Arabia from its mountainous strongholds in northern Yemen and has launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at the kingdom, all of which were intercepted.
Fighting has also raged within the country between pro-Houthi and pro-government militiamen, soldiers and tribal gunmen - a tangle of armed groups so complex that any peace initiative would struggle to contain them.
Samad said the group was prepared to pardon its foes.
"(We call) all fighters on the side of the aggression on the various fronts to respond to a general amnesty and come back into the national fold," he said.
Two shaky truces accompanied previous efforts mediated by the United Nations to end the conflict, and the leader of the Houthi group warned last week that the conflict would last "God knows how long".
Yemen's internationally recognized government say that any move toward peace can begin only when the Houthis heed a 2015 U.N. Security Council Resolution mandating that they quit Yemen's main cities.
Saudi Arabia has said the conflict is an internal Yemeni matter and that it will not negotiate with the Houthis.
Medical supplies were running out in the besieged rebel-held sector of Aleppo, with victims pouring into barely functioning hospitals as an all-out Russian-backed assault entered its fourth day and Moscow ignored Western pleas to stop.
The Syrian government offensive to recapture all of Aleppo, with Russian air support and Iranian support on the ground, has been accompanied by bombing that residents describe as unprecedented in its ferocity.
Some 250,000 civilians remain trapped in the besieged, opposition-held sector of Syria's biggest city. Hundreds of people, including dozens of children, have been reported killed since Thursday night by an onslaught that has included massive bunker-busting bombs that bring down whole buildings on people huddled inside.
The United States has called Russia's actions in support of President Bashar al-Assad "barbarism". Moscow denies it is killing civilians said such rhetoric from the west could damage the chances of solving the conflict.
"Aleppo city's hospitals are overwhelmed with wounded people ... Things are starting to run out," said Aref al-Aref, an intensive care medical worker, who spoke from Aleppo.
"We are unable to bring anything in ... not equipment and not even medical staff. Some medical staff are in the countryside, unable to come in because of the siege," he said.
Western countries say Russia may be guilty of war crimes for targeting medics and aid supplies. Moscow and Damascus say they are bombing only militants. Video from Aleppo has repeatedly shown small children being dug out of the rubble of collapsed buildings.
Bebars Mishal, a civil defense worker in rebel-held Aleppo, said overnight bombardment continued until 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).
"It's the same situation. Especially at night, the bombardment intensifies, it becomes more violent, using all kinds of weapons, phosphorous and napalm and cluster bombs," Mishal told Reuters.
"Now, there's just the helicopter, and God only knows where it will bomb. God knows which building will collapse," he said. "Everybody is scared...unable to go out. They don't know what to do, or where to go."
Russia and Assad appear to have abandoned diplomacy last week, betting instead on delivering a decisive military blow against the president's enemies on the battlefield.
Capturing rebel districts of Aleppo would mark the biggest victory of the civil war for Assad, crushing the revolt in its last major urban stronghold.
Syrian government forces helped by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias have gradually been tightening their grip on eastern Aleppo this year. They launched the all-out assault on the city last week after abandoning a ceasefire announced earlier this month by Moscow and Washington.
Indicating there would be no respite soon, the Syrian army issued a statement reiterating its call for civilians to steer clear of rebel positions and bases in eastern Aleppo.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring body, says at least 237 people, including at least 38 children, have been killed in Aleppo and nearby countryside since the army declared the end of the ceasefire a week ago. Civil defense workers in opposition territory put the death toll at 400.
The rebel-held sector of Aleppo is completely encircled, making it impossible to receive supplies. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) charity group said this week in a statement that only 30 doctors remain inside.
"We have patients who will die in the dozens if they are not evacuated," Osama Abo Ezz, a general surgeon and Aleppo coordinator for SAMS, told Reuters, speaking from an area near Aleppo.
"The medical staff is insufficient and completely exhausted. The blood bank refrigerators are completely empty. Vital medicines have almost run out. The ICU beds are insufficient and always full. The CT scanner is out of order," he said.
A Syrian military source told Reuters on Saturday that weapons were being used that could destroy rebel tunnels and bunkers, dug in during years of opposition control.
A water pumping station serving eastern Aleppo has also been destroyed. A spokesman for the World Health Organization said a technical mission was visiting the station to assess damage.
"We don’t know how long it will take to restore the functionality," said the spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic.
Rescue efforts during the bombing have been hampered because damage has made roads impassable and because civil defense centers and rescue equipment have themselves been destroyed in raids.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the civil war between Assad's government and insurgents, and 11 million driven from their homes. Much of east of the country is now in the hands of Islamic State fighters, the enemies of all other sides.
Since Russia joined the war a year ago to support Assad's government, the administration of President Barack Obama has been engaged in intensive diplomacy with Moscow, trying to end the war between the government and most insurgent groups and turn the focus towards the common fight against Islamic State.
But the latest escalation has left U.S. Syria policy in tatters, all but destroying any hope of a breakthrough before Obama leaves office next year.
The collapse of diplomacy has led to dramatic stand-offs at the United Nations, where the United States called Russia's actions in Syria "barbarism" on Sunday. Moscow's U.N. envoy said ending the war "is almost an impossible task now".
The Kremlin said on Monday tough Western condemnation might hinder any resolution to the crisis. Moscow saw "absolutely no prospect" for holding a summit on Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Moscow blames Washington for the failure of the ceasefire, arguing that the United States failed to prevent rebels from using the truce to regroup.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel held Russia responsible for the violence in Aleppo, saying the Syrian regime's onslaught on civilians would not be possible without military backing from the Kremlin.
"Russia must immediately end the indiscriminate bombardments of civilian areas by the Syrian government," Steffen Seibert said.
The Syrian government meanwhile pressed its efforts to pacify rebellious areas on its own terms under local agreements with besieged fighters. In Homs, another group of rebels began to be evacuated from their last foothold in the city on Monday, state news agency SANA said.
The Observatory said around 100 fighters were in the group scheduled to leave al-Waer neighborhood for the northern Homs countryside.
Mexican and South American drug cartels and their broader networks are entirely dependent on an ability to get their product onto US soil. And if there's one thing that these organizations are good at, it's changing their operating methods in order to stay one step ahead of the game.
As the United States, Mexico, and Colombia intensified their war on drugs throughout the late 1990s and the 2000s, the cartels had to reimagine various ways that they could smuggle cocaine into the US. With billions of dollars in annual revenue at stake, no idea for getting drugs into the US buyers was considered too outlandish — Sinaloa cartel leader Chapo Guzman even pioneered the use of cross-border drug catapults.
But the ultimate in high-risk, high-reward smuggling is the "narco submarine," homemade subs that can bring thousands of pounds of product to the US at once.
According to a US Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) report on narco submarines citing Drug Enforcement Administration statistics, 80% of drugs smuggled into the US in 2012 came from maritime routes. And 30% of the drugs that arrived in the US by sea were conducted via narco submarines. Like narco tanks, narco submarines show how cartels have mastered do-it-yourself engineering. Even so, around one in four of the vessels are interdicted. US authorities have captured narco subs with as much as 7.5 tons of cocaine onboard.
There are four broad categories of vessel that fall under the narco submarine label: low-profile vessels, semi-submersibles, submersibles, and towed narco "torpedoes."
These vessels have shown a notable leap in quality since they first debuted over 20 years ago.
The first narco sub detected in 1993 was built from wood and fiberglass, could not submerge, and could only travel at 10 miles per hour. But the FMSO notes that the latest models of subs can mask their heat signature, evade sonar and radar, and use lead siding to help mask their infrared signature, making their detection and capture extremely difficult.
Here are some narco subs that the authorities have captured over the years — evidence of the tenacity and resourcefulness of drug trafficking organizations that have to get their product to the US at any cost.
Low profile vessels (LPVs) are one of the most common narco sub variants. These vessels sit just above the water line. They aren't entirely submerged, but they're still difficult to spot.
Their fiberglass and lead construction also render them difficult to detect through infrared. And because they sit almost below the water radar and sonar can have a difficult time spotting them.
Larger LPVs can carry upwards of 10 tons of drugs at at time.
The majority of narco submarines discovered have been LPVs, perhaps because cartels find them easier to construct and operate than fully submersible vessels.
Semi-submersible narco submarines are similar to LPVs. These vessels can completely lower themselves below the waterline — except for a snorkel-like tube to ensure the crew doesn't suffocate.
Fully submersible narco submarines are a rarity due to the cost and technical difficulties of building a working model.
But a few submersibles have been found over the years, and they're impressive.
The largest was a 100-foot long, GPS-equipped craft that could dive to 30 feet and transport upwards of 200 tons of drugs at a time, according to Colombian authorities.
Narco torpedoes are the least technologically advanced submersible. These empty canisters are designed to be dragged behind a camouflaged ship. In the event of detection, the tow-ship can drop the torpedo which then activates a homing signal for later pick-up.
China said on Tuesday it was opposed to any country using its own laws to carry out “long arm jurisdiction”, after the United States sanctioned a Chinese industrial machinery wholesaler tied to North Korea’s nuclear programme.
The US Treasury said it was sanctioning Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development along with its executives Zhou Jianshu, Hong Jinhua, Luo Chuanxu and its owner Ma Xiaohong under US regulations targeting proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
It accused the firm of acting on behalf of North Korea’s Korea Kwangson Banking Corp (KKBC), which has been under US and UN sanctions for supporting proliferation of such weapons.
Asked about the move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was committed to upholding United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korea, which mandate tough sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.
Any person or company found in breach of the rules would be punished and if necessary China would cooperate with other countries on this on the basis of mutual respect and equality, Geng told a daily news briefing.
“I want to stress that we oppose any country enacting so-called long arm jurisdiction, using its own domestic laws against a Chinese entity or individual,” he added.
“We have already communicated this position to the US side,” Geng said, without elaborating.
The firm has been at the centre of a scandal since last week over its suspected role in aiding North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s rapidly expanding nuclear weapons programme by selling materials for developing nuclear bombs. Pyongyang launched its fifth and largest atomic test explosion this month, its second this year.
The firm is also being investigated by Chinese authorities for unspecified “serious economic crimes” in the course of its trading activities, according to provincial police in Liaoning and the Foreign Ministry.
Hongxiang’s owner, Ma, was one of the Liaoning lawmakers who were dismissed over an unprecedented vote-buying fraud at the provincial legislature earlier this month.
Set up by Ma in 2000, the firm has since grown into one of the biggest cross-border trade companies in Dandong. Its total sale stood at 633 million yuan (HK$736 million) last year, according to its annual report.
The KKBC and Hongxiang were co-shareholders of another company Ma set up in 2010 – Dandong Hongxiang Industrial logistics. The KKBC invested 9.8 million yuan and Hongxiang 10.2 million, according to the government-run corporate registry.
The firm, whose sole business was warehousing, was deregistered at the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in April 2015.
The KKBC was one of the 12 entities listed as targets of sanctions under UN Security Council Resolution 2270, which was implemented unanimously in March following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test.
South Korean newspaper JoongAng Daily reported on Monday that Chinese authorities are also investigating the KKBC, which was ordered closed under the UN sanctions but kept operating in secret in the border city of Dandong, citing unidentified sources.
According to its official registry, Hongxiang trades a wide range of goods across the Yalu River, including coal, chemicals, metals, machinery equipment, textiles, agricultural products and other daily supplies.
A South Korean think tank, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said in a report last month that Hongxiang supplied aluminium oxide and other materials that could be used in processing nuclear bomb fuel. Hongxiang is one of the biggest traders with North Korea with imports and exports worth a total of US$532 million in 2011-’15, said the report, co-authored by the US-based research group, C4ADS.
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The so-called nuclear Football is a black leather briefcase that contains top-secret items capable of allowing the US president to authorize a nuclear strike while away from fixed command centers, such as the Situation Room.
Officially referred to as the "president's emergency satchel," the unsophisticated-looking portable Football is hand-carried by one of five military aides and is always within reach of the commander in chief, just in case.
According to Bill Gulley, a former director of the White House Military Office, the ubiquitous Football does not contain a doomsday red-button keypad but rather four items:
Sometimes an antenna can be seen poking out of the briefcase, which suggests that there may be communications equipment inside.
The nickname "Football" comes from "Dropkick," a code name given to a secret nuclear-war plan, according to former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Initiating a Dropkick would require one of these Footballs, Smithsonian Magazine explains.
The military aides selected to carry the briefcase are trained to administer the president for a nuclear attack in minutes.
"You're always kind of on edge," recalls then Air Force Major Robert Patterson, who toted the Football for President Bill Clinton. "I opened it up constantly just to refresh myself, to always be aware of what was in it, all the potential decisions the president could possibly make," Patterson told The Associated Press.
The ubiquitous Football is always in the same airplane, helicopter, car, and elevator alongside the president. When the president is at home, the Football is stored in a secure location inside the White House, The AP reports.
According to Patterson, some aides chased after Clinton while he jogged around the White House compound — all the while lugging the 45-pound briefcase.
The lethal luggage first appeared during the Kennedy administration, shortly after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
It became immediately clear to top national-security officers that the president needed unlimited access to nuclear war plans after he reportedly posed the following questions during a National Security Council meeting:
Fifty-three years later, the regularly updated Football represents the incredible military might and tremendous responsibility that follows the president everywhere.
The Apache is the big brother in the sky that grunts love to see, hear, and feel flying above them. Its racks of Hellfire missiles are designed to destroy heavy tanks and light bunkers with ease, its rockets can eviscerate enemy formations, and its chain gun is perfect for mopping up any “squirters.”
But the vaunted Apache is getting a lethality upgrade that will allow it to more easily carry the anti-air Stinger missile, reports IHS Janes.
The Stinger missile was originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. Operators aim the weapon, and it detects the infrared energy of the target. When the missile is fired, it homes in on that signature for the kill.
Apaches currently cannot carry a dedicated air-to-air weapon unless the operators buy an upgrade kit. Even then, the missiles have to be mounted on the outer wingtips instead of on actual weapons pylons.
But missile maker Raytheon and Apache maker Boeing reached an agreement in May to incorporate the attachments for the air-to-air Stinger missile into all new Apaches starting in 2018, Jane’s reports.
The new build will also move the mounting location for Stinger missiles from the outer wingtips to the dedicated weapons pylons.
It will then be much easier for Apaches to engage enemy air assets, something that attack helicopters are surprisingly good at. During the military’s Joint Countering Attack Helicopter exercises in 1978, helicopters with air-to-air weapons racked up a 5:1 kill ratio against jets.
Even if Boeing adds Stinger missile mounts to Apaches, that doesn’t guarantee the Army will buy them. The service is still fighting a long battle about whether it will keep any Apaches in the National Guard due to shortfalls of the aircraft for active duty missions.
So, there’s a very real chance that the Army would rather keep all of its Apaches supporting ground troops rather than re-tasking some to provide anti-air coverage — no matter how cool it would be to see an Apache shoot down an enemy jet.
Still, many of America’s allies like using the Apache to protect their ground units from enemy aircraft. For those who can’t afford many dedicated fighters, a more Stinger-capable Apache gives them the ability to quickly shift anti-air coverage during combat.
An air strike in northern Somalia left as many as 22 soldiers dead overnight, local officials said on Wednesday, and one region said the United States had been duped into attacking its troops.
Galmudug's Security Minister Osman Issa said 22 of his region's soldiers had been killed in the strike, adding that the rival neighboring region of Puntland had requested it on the pretext that the men were al Shabaab Islamist militants.
"Puntland misinformed the United States and thus our forces were bombed," he told Reuters.
A U.S. Defense Department official told Reuters Washington had conducted "a self-defense air strike" against al Shabaab.
"The air strike was called in after Somali troops faced fire from militants," the official said. No evidence had been seen that the attack killed civilians or anyone other than al Shabaab militants, the official added.
A Puntland police officer said the attack had killed "more than a dozen" members of al Shabaab, which is waging an insurgency against Somalia's Western-backed government and regional authorities.
Galmudug and Puntland regions have often clashed over territory.
The United States has launched many air strikes in Somalia, usually against al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab denied that it had any fighters in the area of the latest incident. "We neither have a base nor forces in Galkayo area," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
Protesters in Galmudug's capital Galkayo burned U.S. flags and images of President Barack Obama in protest, witnesses said. Shops closed because of the demonstrations.
Somalia is trying to rebuild after two decades of war. The conflict that began in 1991 left the Horn of Africa nation riven by clan rivalries and struggling with an Islamist insurgency. Rival regions still sometimes take up arms against each other.
HANOI (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said that an upcoming military joint exercise with the United States would be the last between them but he pledged to honor existing treaties.
Speaking in Hanoi to the Filipino community, Duterte said there would be no chance of joint navy patrols with Washington and that the notion that there was conflict between the Philippines and China was "more imaginary".
"I am serving notice to the United States that this will be the last military exercise," Duterte said referring to the next month's joint marine exercise with the U.S.
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