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Drones aren’t the problem. The stalemate is the problem.

Washington Post (blog)
By Adam Serwer
April 22, 2011

Yesterday Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that in Libya, the U.S. is sending in the drones. David Ignatius thinks this is a huge mistake:

My quick reaction, as a journalist who has chronicled the growing use of drones, is that this extension to the Libyan theater is a mistake. It brings a weapon that has become for many Muslims a symbol of the arrogance of U.S. power into a theater next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the most promising events in a generation. It projects American power in the most negative possible way.

The problem with drones in Afghanistan in Pakistan is not that they’re “a symbol of arrogance.” It’s that they’re flying robots that vaporize people from the sky, up to a third of whom have been civilians, according to an analysis by the New America Foundation. In Pakistan, the drone strikes take place with the official disapproval (and tacit approval) of the Pakistani government, where for ordinary Pakistanis, they amount to an incessant breach of sovereignty. The drones in Libya, on the other hand, are being deployed on behalf of a group that has come to think of the U.S. and its allies as their de-facto air force. I’m not a big fan of drones as a tool, and I’m skeptical that getting into Libya was a good idea to begin with. But I don’t see why a missile fired from a ship or a plane that kills innocent people would be seen as less “arrogant” than one fired from a drone.

Read on: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/drones-arent-the-problem-the-stalemate-is-the-problem/2011/03/04/AFfJ3yOE_blog.html

USAF Prepares For First Sbirs GEO Launch

Aviation Weekly
By Amy Butler
April 13, 2011

After nearly 15 years of development work, more than eight years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the first of the U.S. Defense Department’s new early missile warning satellites is finally poised for launch.

The Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) geosynchronous (GEO) satellites will provide a new generation of IR sensors designed to detect ballistic missile launches—including “dim,” short-range boosts—faster than today’s Defense Support Program (DSP) constellation.

A launch success will be a step to help move forward from more than a decade of dismal performance in space programs by the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin.

A Sbirs failure would be a stunning turn for the worse for military space programs, which have struggled through quality-control problems, management mishaps and multibillion-dollar overruns. In short, the Air Force’s credibility in delivering precious spaceborne capabilities for the nation is on the line.

Less than a month remains for an 11th-hour snag to arise for Sbirs GEO-1, which is poised to lift off from Cape Canaveral. The flight date is set for May 5 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V, but Col. Roger Teague, the U.S. Air Force’s Sbirs program manager, says May 4 is an option depending on when the space shuttle Endeavour returns from its latest mission.

The satellite must also undergo the launch, outgas, shed its protective sensor cover, and point and focus its highly sophisticated infrared payload before military commanders will be at ease.

Read on: www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/awst/2011/04/11/AW_04_11_2011_p48-304186.xml&channel=defense

Two SBIRS radomes were constructed at the American base in 1998 – and there they sit – not operational!

Predator drone may have killed US troops

Associated Press
April 12, 2011

The military is investigating what appears to be the first case of American troops killed by a missile fired from a U.S. drone.

The investigation is looking into the deaths of a Marine and a Navy medic killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator after they apparently were mistaken for insurgents in southern Afghanistan last week, two senior U.S. defense officials said Tuesday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Unmanned aircraft have proven to be powerful weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq and their use have expanded to new areas and operations each year of those conflicts. Some drones are used for surveillance and some, such as the drone in this case, are armed and have been used to hunt and kill militants.

Officials said this is the first case they know of in which a drone may have been involved in a friendly fire incident in which U.S. troops were killed, and they are trying to determine how it happened. …

Read on: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5guMfinZBAN37m9ioE9ubA4hlljqQ?docId=91916fa7c8ec4cbfb1177ab12856bc05

S. Korea to complete building own missile defense system by 2015

Trend News Agency
April 12, 2011

South Korea’s military will complete building its own missile defense system by 2015 that is designed to intercept ballistic missiles from North Korea, the defense ministry said Tuesday, amid high tensions following the North’s two deadly attacks last year, Yonhap reported.

South Korea, which has ruled out joining the U.S.-led global missile defense system, has gradually built the independent, low-tier missile defense shield since 2006 by acquiring Patriot missiles and long-range early warning radars.


UPDATE 2-U.S. gears for high-stakes missile defense test

By Jim Wolf
April 7, 2011

The United States is preparing for its first test of a sea-based defense against longer-range missiles of a type that U.S. officials say could soon threaten Europe from Iran.

Much is riding on the event, including confidence in the Obama administration’s tight timeline for defending European allies and deployed U.S. forces against the perceived Iranian threat.

The last two intercept tests of a separate U.S. ground-based missile defense, aimed at protecting U.S. soil, have failed.

The planned sea-based test this month will pit Lockheed Martin Co’s (LMT.N) Aegis shipboard combat system and a Raytheon Co (RTN.N) missile interceptor against their first intermediate-range ballistic missile target, said Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

Previous such sea-based drills have been against shorter-range targets. Intermediate range is defined as 3,000 to 5,500 kilometers (2,000-3,500 miles) — a distance that would put London, Paris and Berlin within range of Iran’s westernmost soil.

The coming test, dubbed FTM-15, is “to demonstrate a capability against a class of ballistic missiles, and is not country-specific,” Lehner said in an emailed reply to queries from Reuters.

The layered, multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile effort also focuses on North Korea’s growing arsenal of missiles, which, like Iran’s, could perhaps be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. …

Read on: www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/07/missile-usa-idUSN0711126920110407

US Nuke Technology to Make British Trident Missile More Accurate

Global Security Newswire
April 7, 2011

A U.S.-manufactured nuclear weapon’s improved firing mechanism is expected to increase the targeting accuracy and effectiveness of the United Kingdom’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the London Guardian reported on Wednesday.

The apparent planned incorporation of the W-76-1 warhead into the British nuclear deterrent was revealed in a March report by the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. Testing of the warhead technology has been successful, the report said. Production of the enhanced warhead is under way at the Pantex Plant in Texas.

Defense insiders acknowledged the firing device for the W-76-1 would give the British nuclear-armed submarine fleet enhanced capabilities.

The British Defense Ministry has been cagey in the past about publicly discussing moves to incorporate U.S. nuclear-weapon technology into the nation’s strategic deterrent, which is comprised of four Vanguard-class submarines that carry Trident missiles.

The ministry said the U.S.-developed arming device is a “non-nuclear part” within the re-entry vehicle that carries the warhead while the weapons themselves were designed and manufactured entirely by the United Kingdom. The Vanguard vessels are developed in-country while the Trident missiles are on loan from the United States.

Sources with the U.S. Navy say the enhanced W-76-1 firing system would increase the Trident missiles’ precision targeting capabilities. That assertion is quietly accepted by British defense insiders, according to the Guardian.

These views indicate “a significant improvement of the military capability of the weapon,” Federation of American Scientists nuclear weapons expert Hans Kristensen said. “The fuse upgrade appears to be modernization through the back door.” …

Read on: www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20110407_1331.php

MDA Suspends Deliveries of Raytheon’s GMD Kill Vehicles

Space News
By Turner Brinton
April 1, 2011

Following the second consecutive flight test failure of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in December, the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) suspended deliveries of a new kill vehicle that flew on both test flights, a government watchdog agency said March 24.

Overall, the MDA made good progress in delivering missile defense assets in 2010 and improved its transparency and accountability, but the agency’s cost and schedule baselines are often incomplete and sometimes contain conflicting information, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office report, “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability.”

The failed January 2010 intercept test of the GMD system was the first to use the CE-2 variant of the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle developed by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz. The interceptor failed to hit the target missile, and a failure investigation board faulted both the kill vehicle and the Sea-Based X-band radar. …

Read on: www.spacenews.com/military/110401-mda-suspends-deliveries-gmd-kill-vehicles.html

US Prepares to Intercept Ballistic Missiles from N. Korea

April 2, 2011

The United States has confirmed that it has been conducting tests on a system to intercept ballistic missiles from North Korea.
The director of the US Missile Defense Agency, Patrick O’Reilly, said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday that it has been conducting interceptor missile tests in Alaska and California.
O’Reilly said “this roughly equates to the geometry of a launch out of North Korea and an intercept coming out of Fort Greely, Alaska.”
Meanwhile, the US deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, Bradley Roberts, said at the hearing that the US has been improving its ground-based midcourse defense system against threats that could emerge from countries such as North Korea and Iran.


US to pull out warplanes, missiles from Libya mission

Associated Press
By Dan De Luce
April 2, 2011

The US military is poised to withdraw its combat jets and Tomahawk missiles from the air campaign against Libya’s regime, as NATO allies take the lead in bombing Moamer Kadhafi’s forces.

With NATO taking charge of the coalition effort on Thursday, US officials confirmed Friday that American fighters, ground-attack aircraft and cruise missiles would be pulled out of the operation starting this weekend.

The move follows pledges by President Barack Obama to quickly shift the lead to allies in the NATO-led coalition, with the US military playing a supporting role — providing planes for mid-air refueling, jamming and surveillance.

“As we transition to a support role, our focus will be on providing enabling capabilities and not on strike capabilities,” a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Some lawmakers heavily criticized Obama over the decision at hearings on Thursday, saying NATO allies lacked ground-attack aircraft that were crucial against the Libyan regime’s tanks and artillery.

In keeping with the handover, US sorties aimed at striking targets in Libya had also been scaled back in recent days.

American pilots flew only 10 out of 74 strike sorties in the past 24 hours up to 0800GMT Friday, the US defense official said. …

Read on: www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hJs2nfL5q5ZB2nqbzWqcCX9k0-rw?docId=CNG.3bf4105ffa63410f8b0d2165e00d15f5.721