Flight 370 Story is the New Anti-Journalism


All Data, No Real Facts, Endless Theories

Free conspiracies are for sale, with cautious restraint that propels the absence of truth.
But you’re still obsessed, aren’t you?

Well, the plane is somewhere. Although there exists the eerie possibility that it will remain as if nowhere – forever lost.

And that’s just about the best situation that exists for journalism: “missing” stories trump all others for their intensity and stickiness, fueling the imagination of journalists and audiences alike.

Journalism exists to provide information. But what’s really compelling is a lack of information – or what is more particularly being called “an absence of empirical data”.

“It doesn’t mean anything; all it is a theory.” That was the key quote, from an appropriately unnamed “senior American official,” in the New York Times’ front-page story Sunday about the Malaysian government’s sudden conversion to the idea that their plane was snatched. “Find the plane, find the black boxes and then we can figure out what happened. It has to be based on something, and until they have something more to go on it’s all just theories.”


And everyone is entitled to his or her own their own theory – it’s more democratization of journalism – including, but not limited to:

a) Terrorism; b) mechanical failure; c) hijacking; d) mad or rogue pilot; e) meteor; d) aliens; e) reality show promotion (in this, the 239 passengers and crew would have been in on it – each paid for their performance).

The Tweetdeck column flutters like a deranged stock ticker, as furious as it did for the Woody Allen imbroglio, that other recent spike of obsessive interest in the unknowable.

In a way, it’s anti-journalism.

I am hardly the only stick-in-the-mud to observe that the impending takeover of Crimea, a precise piece of geopolitical logistics and confrontation with a full menu of international implications – journalistic red meat – has been blown away by a story with no evident meaning, other than the likely bleak fate of most onboard.

It is, of course, an ideal story for the current journalism era because it costs nothing. Nobody has to go anywhere. Nobody has to cover the wreckage and the recovery. Not only is the story pretty much all just theories – but theories are cheap.

There is, too, a gotcha element.

Mainstream journalism has tried to be cautious about its claims. It has tried to deny or at least hold the line against the unproven – even when the unproven is obvious.

“…as investigators have examined the flight manifest and looked into the two Iranian men who were on the plane traveling with stolen passports, they have become convinced that there is no clear connection to terrorism,” said the Times on Friday night, even as it became more clear by the end of the weekend that somebody had disabled the plane’s identifying signal mechanisms and diverted it from its route and had flown it somewhere!

Such cautious – or absurd – restraint actually propels the story. That the mainstream media is trying not to deviate from mainstream sources (the recalcitrant, in-denial, shell-shock Malaysian government, and the in-the-dark US authorities) maintains something illogical, which in turn agitates or inspires the counter-media (the conspiracists), which was once marginal, but which is now mainstream itself. After 10 days and counting, mainstream outlets along with the Malaysian government catch up with the story that everybody else was onto anyway.

The plane’s been taken! Grabbed. Stolen. Commandeered.

It was only yesterday that the Times acknowledged the “increasing likelihood that Flight 370 was purposefully diverted and flown possibly thousands of miles from its planned route”.

Part of the problem in the story is language itself. “Terrorism” is implicitly connected to al-Qaida and suggests clear cause and effect and tends to trigger a spasm of maximum responses. So don’t go there until you are sure about going there. Hijacking suggests precise demands and an evident aircraft. Mechanical failure needs a crash site.

What words are left, then? Just: diverted. And vanished.

This may be the first wholly data-driven story. There are no first-hand facts. There are only secondary data implications. And so far it has demonstrated not the strength of data – that new religion – but its weakness.

“What investigators are left with is an hourly electronic ‘handshake’ or digital communication, between the airplane and a satellite orbiting 22,250 miles above the Indian Ocean,” says the Times with some poetry. “But the handshake is mostly devoid of data, and cannot be used to pinpoint the plane’s last known location. It is the electronic equivalent of catching someone’s eye in the crowd.”

The data, in other words, merely reinforces the existential.

Indeed, the most telling data point may be that the plane so artfully slipped through the data filters leaving so few data points.

But the plane is somewhere – that’s the only certain data point.

It is at the bottom of the ocean, sunk without a trace, or in a jungle or rainforest with remarkable discrete pattern or wreckage. Or, it is on the ground somewhere – indeed, may have been on the ground somewhere, re-fueled, and gone somewhere else to land again, whereabouts of 239 passengers and crew unknown. It is a new kind of hijacking in which the plane can’t be stormed or hijackers targeted by sharpshooters because plane and hijackers are invisible. Or, a new kind of terrorism, wherein we wait for the plan to be inserted, undetected, back into the air lanes for what terrible purpose we can only guess.

Just when we start to believe that we know all, that systems track us mercilessly, we find we know nothing, and the plot thickens.


Michael Wolff is a columnist and author. He wrote the Man Who Owns the News, a biography of Rupert Murdoch.

A Japanese legend bids farewell with a subtle, meditative epic about war, guilt and art

Miyazaki’s haunting farewell:

A dreamer who made warplanes

Miyazaki's haunting farewell: A dreamer who made warplanes
THE WIND RISES. © 2013 Nibariki – GNDHDDTK (Credit: Studio Ghibli)

Human beings have always dreamed of flight, the legendary Italian aeronautical engineer Gianni Caproni tells his young Japanese protégé in Hayao Miyazaki’s elegiac and subtle farewell to filmmaking, “The Wind Rises.” But the dream is cursed: Flying machines will inevitably be used, Caproni says, to wage war and slaughter the innocent. Still, he says, he’d rather live in a world with pyramids. The metaphor is not explained, but like so much else in “The Wind Rises,” its meaning lies just below the surface: Every human endeavor on a large scale is compromised, and no one’s hands are clean. The greatest wonders of the ancient world were built by slaves, to honor tyrants.

Caproni’s soliloquy on the nature of dreams itself occurs in one of several haunting dream sequences in the film, one that finds Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci in the English-language version) and young Jiro Horikoshi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) surveying the world from the uppermost wing of a huge and fanciful triplane. Some people may wish to describe “The Wind Rises” as a restrained or realistic work because it takes place in a recognizable facsimile of 20th-century Japan, rather than a fairy tale landscape or the mythological past, as in “Spirited Away” or “Princess Mononoke” or “My Neighbor Totoro.” But not me. This Oscar-nominated animated film, which Miyazaki has said will be his last as a director, is a work of immense mystery and strangeness, loaded with unforgettable images, spectacular sweeps of color and nested, hidden meanings. It feels to me like a meditative epic about Japan’s traumatic journey into modernity, and a complicated allegory about the innocence, arrogance and culpability of artists. It’s one of the most beautiful animated films ever made, and something close to a masterpiece.

There’s a certain amount of controversy surrounding “The Wind Rises,” which is based in large part on the life story of the real Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the notorious but magnificent Mitsubishi Zero, the lightweight and highly maneuverable fighter plane that enabled many Japanese victories early in World War II (including, of course, the attack on Pearl Harbor). Honestly, though, most of the controversy has come from right-wingers in Japan, who have accused Miyazaki of being insufficiently patriotic for depicting Horikoshi as a man plagued by doubts and apocalyptic premonitions. I’m not quite sure how anyone in the West could see this movie and believe that Miyazaki (a well-known pacifist) is trying to whitewash Japanese war crimes or duck the question of individual guilt. Arguably the question of individual guilt is the movie’s primary subject, or one of them. While Caproni — who also built planes for a fascist government — assures Horikoshi in one of their dream-meetings that airplanes are not instruments of war or ways of making money but “beautiful dreams,” the film’s constant thrum of death-haunted subtext suggests that Miyazaki does not find this sufficient.

While the phantasmagorical encounters between Caproni and Horikoshi (as far as I know they never met in life) are central to understanding this film, and feature its most breathtaking animated landscapes, they aren’t the only aspects of the story that feel like dreams. Miyazaki takes us back and forth between the bucolic, agrarian Japan into which young Jiro is born and the more urbanized and modern landscape his work gradually makes possible, or at least symbolizes. When Jiro goes to work at Mitsubishi in the late 1920s, teams of oxen are still required to haul aircraft prototypes to the airfield, and Japanese engineers have a reputation as second-rate copycats. When Jiro is sent to Germany in the ’30s to study at the Junkers factory, he doesn’t understand the nature of the society he sees there, or the character of the partnership between his own country and that one. He prefers to focus on the strains of Schubert’s “Winterreise” coming from an open window, and not on the boy being chased through the streets for unclear reasons.

While Miyazaki is the most famous of all Japanese animators, and his art and craft are on full display here, he may not get enough credit as an ingenious storyteller, who builds a narrative through hints and inferences and echoes. Jiro’s dreamlike voyage to Germany is echoed later by an encounter with a German tourist in Japan (voiced perfectly by Werner Herzog in the English version), who politely makes clear that Jiro is ignoring the consequences of his work — a brutal invasion of China, a puppet regime in Manchuria — and predicts that both their nations will be destroyed. As a young man, Jiro performs a life-altering act of kindness during the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, one of history’s worst natural disasters, which is unmistakably presented here as a premonitory vision of the destruction that will be visited upon Japan in 1945. Indeed, a deeper parallel may be at work, in that Jiro’s willful naiveté resembles that of the physicists who split the atom — they knew what that discovery would lead to, but also believed it was important in its own terms.

Indeed, I suspect there’s a note of covert artistic autobiography in “The Wind Rises,” whose title refers to a famous line by French poet Paul Valéry, contemplating a graveyard by the sea: “Le vent se lève! … il faut tenter de vivre!” (“The wind is rising! We must try to live!”) I don’t mean that Miyazaki fears his art has been perverted to evil purposes, or anything as blunt as that. It’s more that Miyazaki too has pursued his dreams without thought of consequence, himself fueling a change in the world around him that he doesn’t quite understand. He gives us Jiro as a pure-hearted genius by day, full of love and innocence, and a dark dreamer at night, sending his airplanes out by the thousands to destroy and be destroyed. On the one hand: “Isn’t this lovely?” On the other: “Watch out for what lies below.” Those are the messages Miyazaki has sent us all along, and this tender, ambiguous fable makes the perfect farewell.

“The Wind Rises” is now playing nationwide.


Father of Drone Victim Kidnapped by Pakistani Police

Snatching Kareem Khan



In October 2012, I was with a CODEPINK delegation in Pakistan meeting families impacted by US drone strikes. Kareem Khan, a journalist from the tribal area of Waziristan, told us the heartbreaking story of a drone strike that killed his son and brother. Since then, Khan has been seeking justice through the Pakistani courts and organizing other drone strike victims. On February 10, he planned to fly to Europe for meetings with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians to discuss the negative impact drones are having on Pakistan. But days before his trip, in the early hours of the morning on February 5, he was kidnapped from his home in Rawalpindi by 15-20 men in police uniform and plain clothes. He has not been seen since.

Terrified, Khan’s wife said the men did not disclose their identities and refused to say why her husband was being taken away.

Khan’s tragic story began on December 31, 2009. He had been working as a journalist in the capital, Islamabad, leaving his family back home in Waziristan. On New Year’s Eve, he got an urgent call from his family: their home had just been struck by a US drone, and three people were dead; Kahn’s 18 year-old son Zahinullah,  his brother Asif Iqbal and a visiting stonemason who was working on the village mosque.

The news reports alleged that the target of the strike had been a Taliban commander, Haji Omar, but Khan insisted that Haji Omar was nowhere near the village that night. Khan also told us that the same Taliban commander had been reported dead several times by the media. “How many times could the same man be killed?,” Khan asked.

Khan’s son had just graduated from high school, and his brother was a teacher at the local school. Khan’s brother taught his students that education was far more powerful than weapons. The drone strike that killed their teacher taught the students a very different lesson.

Khan was the first family member of a drone victim to take the issue into the Pakistani courts. With the help of human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, he sent a legal notice to the American Embassy in Islamabad, detailing the wrongful deaths and accusing the CIA of grossly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speaking outside a police station after he had lodged a legal complaint, Khan asked that Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Islamabad, be forbidden from leaving Pakistan until he answered to the charges against him. (While CIA agents’ identities are secret, Banks’ name had been revealed in the local press.) While the accusation against Banks made headlines in Pakistan, the CIA chief was allowed to flee the country. But in the ensuing months, Khan organized other families of victims and jointly, they have been pressing their cases in several lawsuits now pending in Pakistani courts.

Khan has obviously been an embarrassment to the US government, which is responsible for the drone strikes. And it has put the Pakistani government in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand the Pakistani government—from Prime Minister Zardari to the legislature—has come out publicly against the US use of drones. But Pakistan is heavily dependent on US aid and the government has been unwilling to bring charges against the US in international bodies or send an irrefutable rebuke by shooting down a US drone.

Given the political backroom deals that have obviously been going on between the US and Pakistan, Khan took great risks by speaking out.  “Kareem Khan is not only a victim, but an important voice for all other civilians killed and injured by US drone strikes,” said Khan’s lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is also Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. “Why are Pakistani officials so scared of Kareem and his work that they felt the need to abduct him in an effort to silence his efforts?”

How tragically ironic that someone whose loved ones have been killed by a CIA drone program condemned by the Pakistani government has now been abducted by that very government. Pakistanis we have talked to say this could only happen on orders from the United States, which did not want Khan speaking out in Europe against US policy.

“We are extremely worried about Kareem Khan, a gentle, warm man who opened up his heart to us when we were in Pakistan,” said Alli McCracken, who was on the CODEPINK delegation. “We have launched a campaign to free him, flooding the Pakistani Embassy and State Department with calls.” You can add your voice to the call to free Kareem Kahn by signing this petition, which will be hand-delivered to Pakistani and US government officials.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of www.codepink.org and author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control 


Making Iowa Into a War Zone

Wednesday, 05 February 2014 08:07

National Guard Poised to Attack From Des Moines Airport

A Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) drone prepares for takeoff. (Photo: <a href=" http://www.flickr.com/photos/48399297@N04/5755016315/in/photolist-9LxXRe-7APiyN-azu8mD-87jUeB-87jUhz-b7X5An-8F25tR-8F5fm7-b4SWDg-bb29fM-aExFGJ-7eNbLz-aCvEBB-dGdTbh-as3NDH-as3Pdv-5MGcXi-azu9te-azu8Nk-dU6DNm-bRjGTX-gRycHh-86MWcr-64Vt3w-8hpF4g-74zcfD-4UKEX5-earFrZ-65vwW6"target="_blank"> UK Ministry of Defence / Flickr</a>)

A Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) drone prepares for takeoff. (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence / Flickr)


The F-16 jets of the Iowa Air National Guard that formerly buzzed the city of Des Moines have disappeared and we are told that their base at the Des Moines International Airport is in the process of refitting into a command center for unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly called drones. The MQ-9 Reaper drones themselves will not be coming to Iowa but will be based in and launched overseas. When airborne, these unmanned planes will be flown by remote control via satellite link from Des Moines. Classified by the military as a “Hunter-Killer platform,” the MQ-9 Reaper is armed with Hellfire missiles and 500 pound bombs that according to plan will be launched by airmen sitting at computer terminals in Des Moines.

President Obama, in an address from the National Defense University last May, described this new technology as more precise and by implication more humane than other weaponry: “By narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.” There is an understandable appeal to the idea of a weapon that can discriminate between the good and the bad people and limit regrettable “collateral damage.” It is understandable too, that a nation weary of sending its sons and daughters to fight on battlefields far away, risking injury, death or the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress, might look to embrace a new method of war whereby the warriors fights battles from the safe distances. Thousands of miles beyond the reach of the enemy, drone combatants often do not even have to leave their hometowns and are able to return to homes and families at the end of a shift.

All the promises of a new era of better war through technology, however, are proving false. Rather than limiting the scope of war, drones are expanding and proliferating it, killing more civilians both on battlefields and far from them, endangering our soldiers and the safety of our communities. Instead of keeping the horrors of war at a safe distance, drones bring the war home in unprecedented ways. The plan to fly drones out of the Iowa Air Guard Base in Des Moines threatens to make a literal war zone in Central Iowa.

In his National Defense University speech, the president contended that “conventional airpower and missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.” A few weeks later a study published by the same National Defense University refuted his claim. Drone strikes in Afghanistan, the study found, were “an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement.” Despite the president’s assurances to the contrary, drone strikes cause immense “local outrage” in the countries where they happen, turning America’s allies into enemies. “What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” said former commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates also warns of the seductive power and precision of armed drones that leads many to perceive war as a “bloodless, painless and odorless” affair. “Remarkable advances in precision munitions, sensors, information and satellite technology and more can make us overly enamored with the ability of technology to transform the traditional laws and limits of war. A button is pushed in Nevada and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Kandahar.” Defense experts and policy makers, Gates warns, have come to view drone warfare as a “kind of video game or action movie. . . . In reality, war is inevitably tragic, inefficient and uncertain.” General Mike Hostage, chief of the US Air Combat Command, claims that while weaponized drones are useful in assassinations of terror suspects, they are impractical in combat. “Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment,” Hostage said.

Some enlisted personnel are also questioning the use of drones. Heather Linebaugh, a drone operator for the US Air Force for three years says: “Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?’ Or even more pointedly: ‘How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?’”

The transformation from fighter planes to drones will be marked by changing the name of the Air Guard unit in Des Moines from the “132nd Fighter Wing” to the “132nd Attack Wing.” This change is more than symbolic- a “fight” by definition has two sides. There is such a thing as a fair fight and a fight has some kind of resolution. An attack, however, is by nature one-sided, something that a perpetrator inflicts on a victim. A fighter might sometimes be justified, an attacker, never. Drone strikes rarely catch a “terrorist” in an act of aggression against the US and often occur in counties where the US is not at war. Their victims are targeted on the basis of questionable intelligence or “patterns of behavior” that look suspicious from a computer screen thousands of miles way. More than once, drone victims have been US citizens living abroad, executed without charges or trial.

Distance from the battlefield does not isolate soldiers from post-traumatic stress or the moral injury of war. Heather Linebaugh speaks of two friends and colleagues who committed suicide and another former drone operator, Brandon Bryant, said that his work had made him into a “heartless sociopath.” While drone pilots are at a greater distance from their victims than other soldiers, he says, the video feed they watch brings them closer: “Artillery doesn’t see the results of their actions. It’s really more intimate for us, because we see everything.”

When the 132nd Attack Wing is up and running, Iowa’s “citizen soldiers” will be engaged in combat in real time from the Des Moines International Airport. “In an F-16, your whole mission was to train to go to war,” said a pilot of an Ohio Air Guard wing that made a similar conversion from fighters to drones. “In this mission, we go to war every day.” Previous foreign postings of the 132nd were always made public, but where in the world the wing will be fighting from now on will be shrouded in secrecy. Reason and the rules of war both suggest that assassinations and acts of war on sovereign nations carried on by the 132nd from its base in Des Moines will make the airport there a military target, putting Iowans at peril.

Drone warfare is based on the lie that war can be made more exact, limited and humane through technology. Our civilian and military authorities, by bringing drones to Des Moines, are acting recklessly and in defiance of domestic and international law. They are acting without regard for the safety and well-being of our troops, of the people of Iowa or of people in faraway places who otherwise would mean us no harm. Rather than being an answer, drones perpetuate and multiply the horrors of war and bring them home into our communities.

Brian Terrell lives in Maloy, Iowa, and is a co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence.


Only Apollo camera to make return trip to the Moon to be auctioned



February 3, 2014



The Hasselblad Data Camera from Apollo 15 is the only one to make the return trip to Earth...

The Hasselblad Data Camera from Apollo 15 is the only one to make the return trip to Earth (Image: Westlicht)


Sometimes history is preserved by accident rather than design. Thanks to a malfunction during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971 that prevented it from being abandoned with its fellows, the only camera used on the surface of the Moon and brought back to Earth will be auctioned by Westlicht Photographica Auction in Vienna. The motor-driven camera is a Hasselblad 500 “EL DATA CAMERA HEDC,” also known as a Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC), that was specially designed for use on the Moon. It’s currently in the hands of a private collector and goes on the block in March.


We like to think of space gear as being far more complicated than its terrestrial counterparts, but that isn’t always the case. Based on the the commercial electric Hasselblad camera, 500EL, the Apollo 15 HDC was heavily modified, though this was more a matter of radically simplifying it so it could be operated by a man in a space suit complete with helmet and thick, pressurized gloves.


The most visible step taken to make the HDC suitable for the Moon was painting it silver to reflect sunlight and help keep it cool. Since the lubricants normally used on Earth would either boil away in the vacuum on the Moon or stop being lubricants, they had to be replaced. In addition, Carl Zeiss designed a new bespoke lens, and a new, thinner film was developed by Kodak with a special coating of transparent silver to prevent the buildup of static electricity inside the camera as the film wound.


Starting bid for the Hasselblad is €80,000 (US$108,000)  (Image: NASA/Westlicht)


Because the astronauts couldn’t use the viewfinder, the mirror and secondary shutter were taken out, the focusing screen for the reflex viewfinder was replaced with an opaque plate, and a reseau plate engraved with a precision grid of small crosses was added to aid photogrammetric analysis. In addition, the controls were greatly simplified to accommodate the clumsy gloves. It all worked, but it did mean that taking photos had a huge element of guesswork as far as aiming was concerned.


This particular camera, officially numbered no.1038, was carried by Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin during the Apollo 15 mission, which flew from July 26 to August 7, 1971. It spent three days on the Moon, where Westlicht says it took 299 pictures in the vicinity of Hadley Rille in the lunar highlands of Palus Putredinus in Mare Imbrium.


A Hasselblad Data Camera with telescopic lens (Image: NASA)

A Hasselblad Data Camera with telescopic lens (Image: NASA)


The mission was notable for its emphasis on science, the introduction of the Lunar Rover, and being the first mission to land away from the vast lunar plains, but it’s also distinctive because of camera number 1038. While 13 identical cameras landed on the Moon, only number 1038 came back. The normal procedure was to leave the cameras behind along with other equipment in order to save liftoff weight, which could be used for taking more rock samples back to Earth. Irwin’s camera was the exception because the film magazine jammed, so the camera had to return to remove it.


Westlicht says that number 1038 eventually ended up in the hands of private collector Alain Lazzarini, author of the book Hasselblad and the Moon. It comes with extensive documentation and is identified by the number 38 on the reseau plate, which can be seen on photographs taken with the camera, the NASA number P/N SEB 33100040- S/N 103 engraved on the body, and the number P/N SEB 33101018-301 S/N 1003 HASSELBLAD REFLEX CAMERA FILM MAGAZINE on the magazine.


The auction will be held on March 22, when the starting bid for the Moon camera will be €80,000 (US$108,000) with estimates of the final price set at €150,000 to €200,000 (US$203,000 to US$270,000).


Source: Westlicht via Moon Daily


“If we don’t keep F-22 Raptor viable, the F-35 fleet will be irrelevant” Air Combat Command says


Feb 04 2014


The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.


In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.


First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.


Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2″ and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.


Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35″ since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.


But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.


Something that seem to confirm what we have written some time ago….


Image credit: Lockheed Martin

The Human Body May Not Be Cut Out For Space



The human body did not evolve to live in space, and the longest any human has been off Earth is 437 days. Some problems, like the brittling of bone, may have been overcome already. Others have been identified — for example, astronauts have trouble eating and sleeping enough — and NASA is working to understand and solve them. But Kenneth Chang reports in the NY Times that there are some health problems that still elude doctors more than 50 years after the first spaceflight. The biggest hurdle remains radiation. Without the protective cocoon of Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, astronauts receive substantially higher doses of radiation, heightening the chances that they will die of cancer. Another problem identified just five years ago is that the eyeballs of at least some astronauts became somewhat squashed. ‘It is now a recognized occupational hazard of spaceflight,’ says Dr. Barratt. ‘We uncovered something that has been right under our noses forever.’ NASA officials often talk about the ‘unknown unknowns,’ the unforeseen problems that catch them by surprise. The eye issue caught them by surprise, and they are happy it did not happen in the middle of a mission to Mars. Another problem is the lack of gravity jumbles the body’s neurovestibular system (PDF) that tells people which way is up. When returning to the pull of gravity, astronauts can become dizzy, something that Mark Kelly took note of as he piloted the space shuttle to a landing. ‘If you tilt your head a little left or right, it feels like you’re going end over end.’ Beyond the body, there is also the mind. The first six months of Scott Kelly’s one-year mission are expected to be no different from his first trip to the space station. Dr. Gary E. Beven, a NASA psychiatrist, says he is interested in whether anything changes in the next six months. ‘We’re going to be looking for any significant changes in mood, in sleep, in irritability, in cognition.’ In a Russian experiment in 2010 and 2011, six men agreed to be sealed up in a mock spaceship simulating a 17-month Mars mission. Four of the six developed disorders, and the crew became less active as the experiment progressed. ‘I think that’s just an example of what could potentially happen during a Mars mission, but with much greater consequence,’ says Dr. Beven. ‘Those subtle changes in group cohesion could cause major problems.


Report: F-35 Cracks in Tests, Isn’t Reliable

by Brendan McGarry on January 29, 2014


The U.S. Defense Department’s newest and most advanced fighter jet has cracked during testing and isn’t yet reliable for combat operations, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester said in new report.

The entire F-35 fleet was grounded last February after a crack was discovered in a turbine blade of an F-35A. While the order was subsequently lifted, more cracks have been discovered in other areas and variants of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made plane, according to the latest annual report by J. Michael Gilmore, director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

Durability testing of the F-35A, the Air Force’s version of the plane designed to take off and land on conventional runways, and the F-35B, the Marine Corps’ model that can take off like a plane and land like a helicopter, revealed “significant findings” of cracking in engine mounts, fuselage stiffeners, and bulkhead and wing flanges, according to the document. A bulkhead actually severed at one point, it states.

“All of these discoveries will require mitigation plans and may include redesigning parts and additional weight,” Gilmore wrote in the report.

The F-35C, the Navy’s version of the plane designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers, has also had cracks in the floor of the avionics bay and power distribution center and, like the F-35B, in the so-called jack point stiffener, according to the document.

The hardware problems, along with ongoing delays in software development, among other issues, led Gilmore to conclude that the fifth-generation fighter jet’s “overall suitability performance continues to be immature, and relies heavily on contractor support and workarounds unacceptable for combat operations.”

He added, “Aircraft availability and measures of reliability and maintainability are all below program target values for the current stage of development.”

The Joint Strike Fighter program is the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition effort, estimated last year to cost $391 billion to develop and build 2,457 F-35 Lightning IIs. The single-engine jet is designed to replace such aircraft as the F-16, A-10, F/A-18 and AV-8B.

The Pentagon this year plans to spend $8.4 billion to buy 29 F-35s, including 19 for the Air Force, six for the Marine Corps, and four for the Navy. The funding includes $6.4 billion in procurement, $1.9 billion in research and development, and $187 million in spare parts. The department in fiscal 2015 wants to purchase 42 of the planes.

The Marine Corps had expected to begin operational flights of the aircraft in 2015, followed by the Air Force in 2016 and the Navy in 2019.

The Corps’ schedule depends on using a more limited version of the software, known as Block 2B, designed for use with such precision-guided weapons as the AIM-120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, GBU-32/31 Joint Direct Attack Munition and GBU-12 Paveway II bomb.

The first operational flights, however, will probably be delayed because the aircraft’s software won’t be ready in time due to ongoing glitches, according to the report.

“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, EOTS [Electro-Optical Targeting System], Distributed Aperture System (DAS), Helmet-Mounted Display System (HMDS), and datalink,” it states. “These deficiencies block the ability of the test team to complete baseline Block 2B test points, including weapons integration.”

Lockheed has reassigned more engineers to improve the software, and the Pentagon has assembled an outside team of experts to study the issue.

Even so, the report touches on other problem areas.

The aircraft remains vulnerable to “ballistically-induced propellant fire from all combat threats,” such as missile strikes, according to the document; its computer-based logistics system, the Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, was fielded with “significant deficiencies;” and the program has a “significant risk” of failing to mature modeling and simulation technology, known as the Verification System, or VSim, according to the document.

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2014/01/29/report-f-35-cracks-in-tests-isnt-reliable/#ixzz2rv4RYfby

A Brief History of Pilots and Astronauts Wrist Watches


Dec 25 2013

By Jacek Siminski


The pilot wrist watch is an instrument which has been present in the cockpit since the very beginning of aviation.


The evolution of pilot watches shows aviation has always relied on cutting edge technology, setting trends for all other fields, including watchmaking.


The first ever timepiece for a pilot dates back to 1904.


It was created by Cartier and named Santos, after one of the first European aviation pioneers. It was nowhere near the aviation watches that came later, because in front of being reliable and easy to read-out (these criteria for pilot watches came later), it was stylish.


Image Credit: wristwatchreview.com


The story is, that Santos, after he made his first flight received a German Archdeacon Aviation Prize for the stunt. The legend says that in the course of celebration Santos complained to his friend, Louis Cartier, that it was hard for him to check what time it was using his pocket watch. This was how the first pilot watch was created. It also was one of the very first wrist watches ever created.


Cartier established the role of an aeronautical watch, as it served several functions. Watch could be used to calculate the fuel consumption, air speed, lift capacity, navigation and finally, it was useful for time keeping.


A second major step was made when an aviation watch was established marketing-wise, as a product. It was when Louis Bleriot made his first flight across the English Channel, or La Manche Channel. The name of the channel depends on your place of residence. The Channel crossing was yet again motivated with money. A thousand pounds prize was offered to anybody who did it first.


It was also the beginning for the media to doubt the technological advance, as the French newspaper Le Matin claimed, the contest was impossible to win, as  there was no chance whatsoever of crossing the Channel by a plane. As we all know, Louis Bleriot did it, with a Zenith on his wrist.


After crossing the Channel he said: I am very satisfied with the Zenith watch, which I usually use, and I cannot recommend it too highly to people who are looking for precision.


After all Bleriot was a hero. And this was one of the first examples of using brand endorsement in marketing. Again, on the cutting edge of aviation.


The greatest steps in development of the aviation wrist watches were yet to happen.


The first use of an airplane in war, as a weapon was a major step. The watches were also to evolve during that period, as they started to get used as navigation instruments. The main purpose of a watch here, was to make a coordinated attack possible at a precise moment. British pilots flew with the pocket watches Mark IV.A (1914) and Mark V (1916).


These watches were produced by Doxa and had a sign of being destined for aviation (Letter ‘A’ with an arrow) use on the back of the case. Needless to say – they were one of the first standard issues.


Image Credit: zenith.watchprosite.com


A peculiar feature of these watches was their long crown housing. The purpose of that was to make them fittable into the instrument panel, and in that way during the flight they were just another gauge there, hence the name – cockpit watch.


It was during the WWI when the first luminous hands appeared on a watch, as night flying required the watch to be still readable in the poor light conditions.


Some of the cockpit watches did have anonymous producers from all around Britain, nevertheless some of them were not anonymous, as the four known manufacturers of Mark V watches were Zenith, Omega, Doxa and Electa.


Longines was another manufacturer that is associated with the aviation timepieces even today. Longiness in the period between the World Wars was an official Olympics timekeeper, as Omega is today. It was also between the WWI a II when Charles Lindbergh made his non-stop solo Atlantic crossing.


Needless to say, he used a Longines watch.


During the Lindbergh’s Atlantic flight Longines was a navigation instrument, as time was the main way of telling where he was. Over the Ocean there are no landmarks, just water all around the horizon. The watches were not so accurate as they are now. Longines used an idea of a rotating inner dial that could be set in order to get rid of the lack of accuracy.


The pilot listened to a minute beeps over the radio and aligned the dial using the signals as a reference. Here is how a rotating bezel was invented. Lindbergh’s watch also allowed the pilot to determine an hour angle with a decent precision. This was a large navigational help.


Image Credit: timelyclassics.com


In 1939 WW2 started. Again the technology was on a quick development curve, as new inventions in the field of aviation were created. When Adolf Hitler reestablished the Luftwaffe back in 1935 the German industry started to prepare for a conflict. So did the watch industry as well.


RLM (Reichs-Luftfahrtministerium, or Reich’s Ministry of Air Transport) was seeking for a standard issue watch for the bomber crews. The design was similar to the Lindbergh’s watch with the hour angle indication, but the B-Uhr was ultimately looking different. And it is so iconic that it is a model for any aviation watch today.


Beobachtungs-uhren (Observation watches) were a standard issue, but they were owned by Luftwaffe, not the pilots. They had to return them after the flight. The watch during the flight was synchronized (manualy) with a radio beep from the base. It was a common method these days, and this is an early form of contemporary Radio Controlled watches.


Five companies manufactured the B-Uhr: A. Lange & Söhne, Wempe, Lacher & Company/Durowe (Laco), and Walter Storz (Stowa). Wempe and Stowa used Swiss movements.


Image Credit: eibnek110.blogspot.com


As the Jet Age arrived, with the rising speeds of the aircraft the watches had to be more and more accurate.


The Cold War watches were much larger in size. When it comes to that period aviation timepieces, they were modelled after British made Smith W10. Whole array of clones emerged, manufactured by companies such as Hamilton, CWC and MWC.


The CWC watch basically established the model for a contemporary aviation watch. Nevertheless there are still some features that are more common nowadays.


Image Credit: heirloom2.com


Another feature that was first introduced in military watches were the tritum-lit hands. Tritum, being a radioactive isotope is luminous in the darkness. Tritum tubes on hands of the watch provide 20 years of illumination.


One of them is a GMT hand. GMT hand, usually set according to the Greenwich timezone allowed the pilot to calculate the time in different timezones.


One of the most famous watches that featured the GMT hand was the Rolex GMT Master, including a two-toned blue-red bezel, which is called by watch specialists a pepsi bezel. The GMT hand on GMT master goes around the dial once every 24 hours, and was set for the London timezone. The bezel has 24 hours on the scale. If 24 was aligned with 12 on the main dial, then the watch indicated the Greenwich time. But in order to check what time it was in different timezones the pilot only had to rotate the bezel as a point of reference.


Image Credit: Rolex


Rolex GMT Master was a standard issue watch for Pan Am pilots for a long time.


During the Cold War, besides aviation, space was a major research field. This field also required new watches, as lack of gravity was a factor that certainly had an influence on the accuracy of a timepiece.


NASA used Bulova electronic clock in their first space missions. Nonetheless the astronauts, as they were pilots at the same time, were stuck to wearing their own wristwatches. In this respect Yuri Gagarin worn a Sturmanskie watch, while Scott Carpenter used a Breitling Navitimer.


But it was the Omega Speedmaster that was an ultimate astronaut watch. NASA chose this very watch to go to the Moon after a long testing phase: the  Speedmaster was the only watch to fulfil all the agency’s requirements.


On one of the Apollo missions though, astronauts reported that due to the low, near vaccum pressure on the Moon,  one of the watch crystals popped out.


Image Credit: NASA


The 1970s were a boom time for electronic watches, and this kind of watch was mostly used on Skylab or Mir missions.


“Astronauts had the option of wearing two watches in space, and lots of digital watches began riding up in the early 1970s,” said Jim Lovell, an American astronaut. The introduction of quartz movements was a milestone which set the new standards as to the watch accuracy.


Nevertheless in July 1980 U.S. Navy requested a mechanical, manualy wound watch to be its standard timepiece at the time. It might seem odd, but even today most of the pilot watches feature an analog dial instead of digital display.


Contemporary pilot watches feature functionalities that are specifically suited for aviation.  Here we will describe just two watches that are used quite extensively and will enlist the features that make them good aviation watches. The are hundred more types around that have similar or better features and each pilot makes his choice based on his/her style and needs.


First one is Breitling Emergency.


This watch has a feature that might become lifesaving for a downed pilot. The watch contains two mechanisms. The first one has a standard quartz watch that features a digital chronograph and second timezone display along with an analogue dial. The second one is a distress beacon with an antenna, that can be used by a downed pilot to call for help.


Image Credit: Breitling


According to the Breitling website, the watch transmits a first digital signal on the 406 MHz frequency intended for satellites and lasting 0.44 seconds every 50 seconds; as well as a second analog signal on the 121.5 MHz homing and rescue frequency, lasting 0.75 seconds every 2.25 seconds.


Breitling Emergency can be often spotted on the wrists of the Western pilots. As the Breitling company claims, if the transmitter is used in a real emergency the watch will be replaced for free.


The second watch – Citizen Promaster Skyhawk AT JY0080-62E – is used by Polish Air Force F-16 pilots. It is a standard issue watch, which has several aviation related features.


It is radio controlled, so there is no need of setting the time manually and it can indicate time for all the timezones.


Complications (this is what a function of a watch is called) include a chronograph, a timer, two alarms, GMT time and a perpetual calendar. The Eco-Drive solar charging rids the watch of the battery maitenance.


The final feature of the Skyhawk that is so peculiar for aviation watches is the so called slide-rule bezel. This bezel allows the watch user to perform many kinds of calculations, including aviation related ones, such as fuel consumption, unit conversion, square root. Skillfuly used it is a great aid in navigation, as many of the calculations are still done in your memory, e.g. on intercept missions.


Here below is the Skyhawk on the wrist of the Polish Viper driver Lt. Michał ‘Poidog’ Kiczynski, flying the F-16 in the 32 AB in Łask.


Image Credit: Jerzy Siminski


So, if Santa’s brought you one of the above aviation wrist watches for Christmas, with this short and incomplete story about the most famous models, you know a bit more about its history now


Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

New US spy satellite features world-devouring octopus

“Nothing is beyond our reach,” new logo tells the world.

President Obama is out to put the public’s mind at ease about new revelations on intelligence-gathering, but the Office for the Director of National Intelligence can’t quite seem to get with the program of calming everyone down.

Over the weekend, the ODNI was pumping up the launch of a new surveillance satellite launched by the National Reconnaissance Office. The satellite was launched late Thursday night, and ODNI’s Twitter feed posted photos and video of the launch over the following days.

Unmistakable was the new NRO logo that goes with this satellite: “Nothing is Beyond Our Reach,” it says, featuring an octopus with its arms wrapped around the globe.It’s the kind of picture that you might think up if you were devising an emblem for a villain in a superhero movie.

“NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature,” an NRO spokeswoman told Forbes on Friday before launch. “Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide.”

While the NRO might be thinking that the octopus represents versatility and intelligence, the mysterious creature has often been used as a symbol for a scary, evil kind of intelligence in popular culture. In the James Bond movie series, the organization long serving as Bond’s archenemy was named SPECTRE, had a black octopus logo, and ran an underwater black market called The Octopus. In later movies, SPECTRE simply changed its name to OCTOPUS.

In any case, emphasizing that “nothing is beyond our reach” is not necessarily the image the government may want to be sending out right now, with many in Congress considering reeling in data-gathering. The octopus is, at best, an untimely selection. “You may want to downplay the massive spying dragnet thing right now,” tweeted privacy activist Chris Soghoian once it was published Friday. “This logo isn’t helping.”