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US Space Weapon Now Circling the Globe

Toward Freedom
By John Lasker
May 27, 2010

The US space weapon X-37 is now circling the globe in relative secrecy. It is an unmanned space plane that looks like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle and was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 22, 2010. This new weapon poses threats to global peace and risks sparking an arms race in space.

“At one time, [the X-37] was going to replace the Space Shuttle,” said Bruce Gagnon, director of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. The replacement plan was scrapped, however. In 2004 NASA handed over the X-37 to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the Phantom Works at Boeing, the major aerospace player racing to develop space weapons and missile defense systems with millions of taxpayer dollars.

The X-37 officially is a US Military Space Place or MSP, and like most US space weapons, spreading anxiety across the globe. The Pentagon also has an unknown number of “dual purpose” space planes in the works; the Pentagon has publicly stated in their budgets these prototypes have been tested in wind tunnels. They might be space bombers, but no one is completely sure. They’re so secret, no one can say what they’ll be used for or how far developed they are.

A space vehicle that can repair, deploy and even attack satellites, or insert reconnaissance drones back into the atmosphere – all within hours of orders – is also desired. As one NASA official put it, the space plane will “be the key to opening and conquering the space frontier.”

To those trying to keep weapons out of space, such as Gagnon and his Global Network, the orbiting X-37 is a set-back. “I would say it is one of the first (space weapons) to be deployed, so yes the X-37 is now operating in space and should be defined as a space-based weapon,” says Gagnon. “The Pentagon though will claim it is not permanently stationed in space and thus falls outside the Outer Space Treaty – which is why we are strong advocates for a new comprehensive treaty to ban all weapons in space.”

The fear of an American space bomber, say experts, has one significant and severe backlash: other nations will develop their own space bombers or space weapons to counter any US MSP. …

Read on … http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1980/1/

US Deploys Air and Missile Defence System Despite Russian Concerns

Defence Professionals
May 25, 2010
By Nicolas von Kospoth

First US Patriot Battery Arrives in Poland

In the midst of an increasingly improving political environment between the US and Russia comes a signal from the Polish-Russian border that may hamper the basis for dialogue between the two former antagonists. On Monday, the US Embassy in Warsaw confirmed that the first US surface-to-air Patriot missile battery arrived at a Polish military base in the town of Morag, some 57 kilometres south of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast on the Baltic shore. The first of these air and missile defence systems will initially be operated by some 100 to 150 US soldiers deployed to Morag. According to the Embassy, this is the first such deployment on Polish soil.

“An American Patriot Air and Missile Defense Battery arrived on Sunday at Morag, home of the 16th Mechanized Battalion of the Polish Land Forces, located in north-east Poland,” the Embassy announced on Monday in a written statement which further said: “The US 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, also known as the Rough Riders, will unload 37 train cars of equipment on Monday.” Within the framework of the US-Polish Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), ratified by Poland in February 2010, the US soldiers will service the battery and will train Polish troops to operate it. As of 2012, the Patriot systems are scheduled to be an integrated element of the Polish air defence forces.

Russian Concerns Remain Despite Western Affirmation of Defensive Purposes

Considered by many as a symbolic move, rather than a tactically relevant effort, the deployment of US air and missile defence systems in Eastern Europe, and in particular so close to Russian territory, has been the reason for many protests from Russian officials. If not as a threat, Russia perceives the basing decision as blatant interference by the West into their sphere of interest and as a sign of a lack of trust towards Russia by the US and NATO.

In Late April, the Russian Foreign Ministry again expressed its unchanged concern with plans for the US to deploy Patriot systems in Poland. According to RIA Novosti, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko, said: “We are concerned by the misguided anti-missile activities of the United States on the territory of Poland. We do not understand the aims for deployment of Patriot air defence missiles near the Russian border. Such unilateral steps on behalf of the United States cannot but raise our concerns.”

For its part, Warsaw has repeatedly insisted that Morag was not chosen for political or strategic reasons, but simply because it already has a superior infrastructure in place. Furthermore, Washington repeatedly emphasised that the sole purpose of the Patriot systems in Poland is to counter a potential ballistic missile threat from Iran.

The NATO-Russian Approach – The Better Solution?

While the US remains committed to their plans to establish its own missile defence shield in Europe, Russia is hoping for a different signal from Washington. As Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in mid-May, Russia is still waiting for a reaction from the US administration to Russia’s proposal of participating in the creation of a European missile defence system and is expecting an answer from Washington by the end of the year. Ivanov is seeking a comprehensive co-operation, saying: “We will assess the threats together, evaluate the risks together, and begin creating a defence system together.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in late April that Moscow is interested in co-operating with NATO on issues of missile defence. In contrast to the United States’ NATO-independent plans, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has repeatedly promoted the negotiation of a joint NATO-Russian missile defence shield for Europe. In April, NATO foreign ministers agreed, at an informal meeting in Estonia, to begin a dialogue with Russia on cooperation in this security-political field.

Indeed, Russia’s position is comprehensible when considering the possible threat of ballistic missiles launched by a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. The most effective way to counter such a threat is to place detection and anti-missile systems as close as possible to the launching area and to destroy missiles shortly after they have been launched, rather than after the re-entry phase. With regard to the Patriot systems based in Poland, which are officially meant to ward off short- to medium-range missiles, it does not seem to be the best solution to protect the entire eastern, central and south-eastern NATO territory from an Iranian threat. A combination of using Russian radar systems close to the Iranian border and missile defence systems based in south-eastern Europe, Turkey and Russia, as well as jointly operating naval assets from Russia and NATO members in the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf, would appear to be better suited to protect Europe and Russia from a mutually recognised threat.

The door towards such a joint solution has been opened wide by the Obama administration, which reached a hand towards Russia, the latter – under President Medvedev – readily seizing this opportunity. The recently negotiated treaty on the reduction of nuclear arms to replace the START treaty has proven the good will of both sides and the ability of constructive bilateral co-operation. The agreement could also be concluded due to Obama’s decision of September 2009 to scrap plans by the Bush administration on the deployment of missile defence systems to Eastern Europe after a reassessment of the threat from Iran.


Vandenberg Launch

June 6, 2010

The 30th Space Wing and Missile Defense Agency launched a ground-based interceptor at 3:25 p.m. June 6 from North Vandenberg. The launch was a flight test for a two-stage variant of the operationally-configured three-stage interceptor now deployed at Vandenberg AFB.

The test was solely for data collection purposes and system performance evaluation. There was no target launch or intercept attempt for this mission.

“Executing a successful launch like this requires a great deal of work from many people in various organizations and Team Vandenberg performed magnificently,” said Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander and Launch Decision Authority for today’s launch.

This launch was Col. Boltz’s first as wing commander; however, the 22-year career Air Force officer is no stranger to the spacelift mission, having previously served at Vandenberg as a mission flight control officer in the mid 1990’s.

“It’s great to be back in the launch business after being away from it for 15 years.”

This was the first missile defense program launch from Vandenberg AFB’s Launch Facility 24, which was recently upgraded to support missile defense testing.

Previous interceptor launches have been conducted at nearby Launch Facility 23.


Laser Plane Gets More Cash to Blow More Stuff Up

Wired News
By Olivia Koski
June 4, 2010

Once a half-billion-dollar a year operation, the Missile Defense Agency’s flagship laser weapon program got just $40 million this week to continue experiments. Boeing has to make due with a mere $330,000/day from June until September to keep the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) going. The money brings the ALTB’s total budget this year to $146 million.

In February, the modified 747 destroyed a missile in flight with nothing but coherent light, but by then the Obama administration had already decided to all-but-end the program.

According to a Defense Department announcement, the money will fund “additional missile engagement scenarios and flight testing to include all required support.” In other words: we’re gonna blow more stuff up!

There is $100 million set aside for the laser weapon in the 2011 defense budget. ALTB proponents hope to slip in at least another $50 million – a drop in the budget compared to the $10 billion or so that the Missile Defense Agency is supposed to get next year.

In a markup yesterday of the Fiscal Year 2011 defense authorization bill, a House Armed Services Committee panel proposed adding more funds to revive the program. “It was clear that the budget request was not sufficient to support further flight testing using the Airborne Laser Test Bed,” said Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/laser-plane-gets-more-cash-to-blow-up-more-stuff-up/

Futenma Base ‘Miscalculation’ Leads to Hatoyama’s Fall

World Politics Review
By David Axe
June 2, 2010

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan rode into power in the fall of last year on the promise of tax cuts and a fresh approach to foreign policy. After a spate of crises less than a year after taking office, Hatoyama’s approval rating plummeted. Last week, a small leftist party allied with the DPJ split from the ruling coalition. On Tuesday, Hatoyama announced he would step down as prime minister.

A financial scandal involving DPJ stalwarts partially explains Hatoyama’s fall from grace. Equally vexing for the 63-year-old from one of Japan’s leading political families was what one analyst calls Hatoyama’s “miscalculation” regarding the six-decade military alliance between the United States and Japan. In his election campaign, Hatoyama had vowed to revisit a 2006 deal allowing 4,000 U.S. Marines to remain on the crowded Japanese island of Okinawa, which in World War II was the site of a bloody battle between invading Marines and Japanese defenders.

After strongly hinting during the fall election that he would abandon the 2006 deal and evict the Marines, last week Hatoyama announced that he would in the end opt for the existing agreement. Under the terms agreed to four years ago, the Marines were to eventually relocate their airstrip to a less-populated part of the island prefecture. But many Okinawans oppose any Marine presence on the island.

The Futenma base has been unpopular among the now-largely pacifist Japanese public, particularly Okinawans. In 1995, three American servicemen from Futenma abducted and raped a local schoolgirl, further stoking opposition to the base. Aircraft crashes are also an ongoing public safety concern on the island, which hosts several Japanese and American military bases in addition to Futenma, along with some 20,000 U.S. personnel. …

“This is not a good moment to be taking large numbers of U.S. forces out of Japan,” Sheila Smith, an analyst from the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations, told World Politics Review. “The U.S., South Korea and Australia have been very vocal to Japan, saying, ‘Hey, be careful what you’re doing.'”

“The Japanese understand that,” Smith continued. “The fact is that the capability of the U.S. Marines — they being a deterrent and a first-response capability, flexible and fast — is the whole reason for basing them in Japan. I don’t think anybody at any moment questioned that the Marines ought not to be brought home. The question is which community in Japan will be comfortable hosting them.”

But that led to what Smith called a “not-in-my-backyard” paradox, where no Japanese community wanted to host a large U.S. base, even if most Japanese concur that American bases are, in principle, necessary. Hatoyama, it seems, underestimated the strength of that sentiment when he teased Okinawan voters with the prospect of removing the Marines from the island.


U.S. plans for Middle East missile shield take shape

Malaysia Star
By Adam Entous and Jim Wolf, Washington(Reuters)
May 28, 2010

The Obama administration is working toward a Middle East missile defense that envisions adding an advanced radar site in a Gulf state to one already in Israel to thwart any Iranian attack, U.S. officials said.

The Obama administration has been quietly helping Arab states boost their missile defenses with the goal of tying them into one system. The process could take two or three more years, officials said.

The emerging Middle East plan resembles the “phased adaptive approach” President Barack Obama rolled out with much fanfare last September to integrate sea- and land-based missile defenses in and around U.S. NATO allies in Europe.

The Middle East buildup has been played down because of Arab sensitivities about U.S. military involvement and skittishness about any military cooperation with Israel, where the United States based a high-powered X-Band radar in 2008 to bolster Israel’s missile defenses.

U.S. military strategists believe a second high-powered AN/TPY-2 transportable radar in a Gulf state would boost the capabilities of the proposed regional missile umbrella. A candidate country to host it has not yet stepped forward.

U.S. officials want the new radar in the Gulf to be positioned in a location that would allow it to work with the AN/TPY-2 radar in southern Israel, which is operated by U.S. personnel. Built by Raytheon Co, the system locks on to targets in their boost, midcourse and terminal phases.

“The idea (of a regional security umbrella) has been out there for a while but the specific pieces are now starting to fall into place,” a military official said. …