Daily Archives: April 25, 2014

Money for nothing? Boeing says F-35 isn’t so stealth after all

As the price of the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons endeavor ever soars even further, critics are calling into question the cost and capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

When all is said and done, the United States Department of Defense is expected to spend over $1 trillion on acquiring a fleet of the fancy stealth jets. But while concerns have been raised repeatedly regarding the program for years now, some new reports suggest that the military might soon sign-on to buy other state-of-the-art aircraft.

On Friday this week, Military.com reported that the US Navy has not only decided to drop the number of Lockheed Martin-made F-35s it plans on purchasing from 69 to 36, but that 22 new EA-18G Growlers built by Boeing have been added to a list of unfunded priorities.

Reporters Kris Osborn and Michael Hoffman wrote for the website that Boeing “has worked not so quietly this past year to offer the Navy an escape hatch from the costly Joint Strike Fighter program.”

According to their report, since at least last summer Boeing has been urging the Navy to buy more F/A-18 Super Hornets and Growlers as concerns continue to emerge about the F-35.

As RT reported extensively in the past, the F-35 program has been anything but a success for the DOD thus far — just last month, in fact, it was found out that ongoing software problems were going to push delivery of the Joint Fighter fleet even further behind schedule.

But now in addition to the continuously increasing costs, the F-35’s actual ability to stealthily soar through the sky is being called into question.

Mike Gibbons is the vice president for Boeing’s Super Hornet and Growler programs, and has good reason to talk down the F-35s—after all, less money to Lockheed Martin likely means more for his firm. Regardless, Gibbons told Osborn and Hoffman that the F-35 is no longer as advanced of a stealth craft as once claimed, and is not as effective as the Growler when it comes to countering a wide spectrum of air defense systems.

“The density of the threat is getting more complex and more difficult. The electromagnetic spectrum is getting more complex and more difficult and requires more of what the Growler provides in electronic attack and electronic awareness. Only the Growler has this capability,” Gibbons told the website.

Russia and China, Gibbons added, have developed air defense systems that put the F-35’s stealth technology to the test. And if those capabilities should improve, then the Pentagon’s widely-touted weapons program may be no match for the offensive capabilities of foreign militaries. Advocates for Growlers say that those aircraft can outsmart some of that stealth-defying technology, but the ability to actually stay hidden may soon be slipping away from the DOD altogether.

“[Stealth] is needed for what we have in the future for at least 10 years out there and there is nothing magic about that decade,” added Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert. “But I think we need to look beyond that. So to me, I think it’s a combination of having aircraft that have stealth but also aircraft that can suppress other forms of radio frequency electromagnetic emissions so that we can get in.”

But as developers continue to strive towards perfecting the F-35s, other problems aren’t exactly disappearing. RT reported last month that a study from the US Government Accountability Office had determined recently that the estimated acquisition cost of the F-35 fleet had dropped by around $11.5 billion during the last year. Just last week, however, the Pentagon published its latest Selected Acquisition Reports, and in it acknowledged that the price of the program had actually increased by about $7.4 billion.

On Friday, former Government Accountability Office employee Winslow Wheeler wrote for CounterPunch.org that the latest report is a “major embarrassment” to the GAO given that the group’s report from last month made claims quite to the contrary.

“In truth, the future of the F-35 program remains clouded, and most cloudy of all is the ultimate unit cost of the aircraft and the impact of that cost, as its reality unfolds, on existing and future buyers,” Wheeler wrote.

Others, however, have suggested that the number of future buyers may soon shrink as well: on Thursday this week, the Australian military was blasted in a harshly worded op-ed published in the Brisbane Times who condemned efforts to acquire F-35 for down under.

“Twelve billion dollars is a big wad of the folding stuff to drop on whizz bangs,” John Birmingham wrote for the paper, “And $12 billion probably won’t come close to the final cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters both mainstream political parties are committed to buying.”

“I got ten bucks says it’ll be more like twice that amount, but you’ll have wait 30 or 40 years to collect. That’s how long these things will be in the air. Assuming they shed their habit of shedding bits and pieces of equipment and airframe at inconvenient moments,” Birmingham added. “Like when they’re in the air.”

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BBC News – Ukraine : Pentagon says Russian jets violated airspace

Armed pro-Russia groups remain in control of seized buildings in eastern Ukraine

The US says Russian military aircraft have entered Ukrainian airspace several times in the past 24 hours, amid rising tension in the east of the country.

A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC on Friday that the incidents had happened mainly near the border with Russia, but gave no further details.

Earlier, pro-Russian separatists seized a bus carrying international military observers, Ukrainian officials said.

Talks were under way to secure their release near the town of Sloviansk.

Russia has tens of thousands of troops deployed along its side of the border with Ukraine as pro-Moscow separatists continue to occupy official buildings in a dozen eastern towns, defying the government in Kiev.

Also on Friday, US President Barack Obama and European leaders threatened to impose new sanctions on Russia, saying it has failed to implement an agreement to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

Russia has accused the West of wanting to “seize” Ukraine.

In a statement from the Pentagon, Col Steven Warren repeated US calls to take “immediate steps to de-escalate the situation”.

He said the US had told Russian officials that US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel wanted to speak to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, but there had been no response so far.

Mr Hagel described Russian activity along the Ukrainian border as “dangerously destabilising” and “very provocative”.

via BBC News – Ukraine crisis: Pentagon says Russian jets violated airspace.

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Russia urges to immediately stop combat operations in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Friday they were deeply concerned by the progressing crisis in Ukraine

MOSCOW, April 25, 20:43 UTC+4 ITAR-TASS

Russia urges to immediately stop any combat operations and violence in Ukraine, to pull troops back and to begin the implementation of the Geneva agreements, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Bearing in mind the genesis of the current crisis, we think it right to begin with measures stipulated in the agreements of February 21, 2014 that was signed by the leaders of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament] coalition and reaffirmed by foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France,” the ministry said. “It would make it possible to start practical de-escalation in line with the Geneva statement.”

Russia consistently supports its full realization, including the activities of the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),” the ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said on Friday they were deeply concerned by the progressing crisis in Ukraine.

Lavrov told Steinmeier that, to stabilize the situation, it was necessary to put an end all types of violence and to stop the use of the Army units and armed nationalistic radicals in the towns and cities of Eastern Ukraine.

The two ministers drew a conclusion on the importance of an active engagement of a mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the efforts to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.

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Ukrainian troops destroy check point of federalization supporters near Slavyansk

KIEV, April 25, 23:50 UTC+4 – ITAR-TASS.

Ukrainian troops, which are conducting a special operation in Ukraine’s southeast, have destroyed a check point organized by supporters of federalization at the approaches to the town of Slavyansk, Donetsk region, the Ukrainian Security Service said on Friday.

According to the Ukrainian Security Service, the Ukrainian troops are conducting reconnaissance operations to expose gun posts near Slavyansk. “Measures have been taken to prevent any movement” of self-defence groups and not to let “additional forces and means” reach Slavyansk, the service said.

“Apart from that, Ukrainian interior ministry’s troops installed a check point at the motorway linking Izyum and Slavyansk,” the service said.

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‘Mr. Kerry, let’s talk about Fox News, BBC and Al-Jazeera bullhorns’

This is information war, Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar told RT, commenting on John Kerry’s attack against RT. If you have an alternative script like RT you are banned, because they are afraid, he added.

US Secretary of State John Kerry criticized RT for its coverage of the Ukraine crisis on Thursday, calling it a “propaganda bullhorn,” adding that Russia was behind the unrest in Ukraine without providing any evidence.

RT: Quite strong words from the US Secretary of State regarding this channel. Why do you think he’s singled out RT when commenting on the Ukrainian crisis?

Pepe Escobar: Looks like RT is ruffling very important feathers in the US. So the strong words RT program – oh, network… maybe program – just like the Iraq war: “I’m a guest there and then I’m home.” This is the top US diplomat speaking. It’s ghost-written of course, he did not write these words himself. He didn’t even know what he was reading. Let me have some strong words as well. Let’s talk about bullhorns. Let’s talk about Fox News as a private US bullhorn for the most demented extreme right-wing factions in the US. Let’s talk about BBC as a state-owned British bullhorn for MI5, the Foreign Office and 10 Downing Street. Let’s talk about Al-Jazeera as a state-owned bullhorn for Qatari petro-dollar foreign policy. So, Mr. Secretary of State, I have a proposition for you. Maybe strong words [those are], I can use my soft side as well. Instead of bull-horns and RT program and whining like a kid, why don’t you visit one of RT’s offices, like in Washington, DC, your town for instance, and then we can discuss geopolitics and American foreign policy among adults, among grown-ups and not among the whining children, groupies and cheerleaders? You may be surprised, you may even learn something.

RT: Do you think viewers can get an unbiased view of the events in Ukraine solely from Western mainstream media?

PE: Of course not. And this is information war in fact. And the America’s absolutely terrified. Because now it’s not only CNN all over the world like during the war in Bosnia or during the first Iraq war. Now there is RT, Al-Jazeera, France 24, Deutche Welle, TVE, ССТV, and one day we are going to have Brazilian TV going global, not only in Portuguese. They are terrified of Press TV in Iran, which also broadcasts in English, so they ban Press TV all over the place. And I’m speaking not as an RT employee. I want to make this very clear.

I am a foreign affairs journalist, and I’ve been a foreign correspondent for 30 years. I’ve reported from all over the world, everywhere that matters. I am a frequent guest at RT and I write op-eds for RT. I visited bureaux in London, New-York, DC and Moscow. I met a lot of very bright, very committed and hard-working people. There is no propaganda about this. This is an alternative media enterprise. It’s another point of view. It has a Russian point of view, but it has also a developing global south point of view that until recently was totally absent in the international media escape.

I talk from experience. When you work all over the world you see how the media work all over the world. I see BBC, CNN, Fox News in action in war theaters and interviewing prime ministers – it’s only scripted and it’s only their own script. And if you have an alternative script like RT you are banned, they don’t even talk to you, because they are afraid.

RT: You travel a lot covering events worldwide – how would you describe the level of trust viewers now have for the mainstream media and their take on the Ukrainian crisis in particular?

PE: The narrative of Ukrainian crisis is so complicated. You need tomes and tomes to decipher the nuances. TV is a very instantaneous medium. RT is trying to do something very complicated, which is not only to give the Russian point of view, but also other points of view in the region, including the developing world’s point of view, to counteract what is essentially American propaganda.

The Americans don’t listen to Russophones in Ukraine, they don’t listen to people who oppose the changes in Kiev. They do not listen to Russian public opinion about the referendum in Crimea. It’s always one-sided. I’ve seen this in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan. I’ve seen this during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when the only spin of American corporate media was that this bunch of irresponsible southern countries, where I am right now – one of them was Thailand – they brought their own demise. And they were not analyzing the deeper causes of the Asian financial crisis, which included a lot of Western interference and currency manipulations. It’s always one-sided.

Speaking as an independent journalist, why do I contribute to RT? Because I made a conscious decision that at least I could explain different points of view, especially the global South point of view, not what the Americans call the international community which is an absolute fiction. It’s what they think is the international community is, because the groupies, the cheerleaders and the shills behind the State Department or the CIA or the Pentagon say it is. It’s not, it’s the global South, and Russia is the part of the global South. Any of the BRICS countries and the emerging countries like Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines where Obama is going to be in the next few days, selling militarism against China and a trade deal that is going to be good for the US big business. Is America’s big corporate media telling the real story about the Obama’s trip to Asia? Of course not!

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Ukraine army launches next stage of military op ‘to isolate Slavyansk’

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard in front of an armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in the village of Malinivka, east of Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine April 24, 2014.

Kiev authorities say “the second stage” of the military operation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk has been launched, which will “completely isolate” the anti-government stronghold. Self-defense forces are preparing for an assault.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on military operation in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian troops were ordered to commence the next stage of the so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ around 12pm local time (10:00 GMT), according to coup-appointed acting head of presidential administration Sergey Pashinsky.

“The aim is to completely isolate Slavyansk to localize the problem. At the moment, the operation is ongoing,” the official told media as quoted by RIA Novosti.

Ukrainian armed forces have set up a military base some 20 kilometers from Slavayansk, RT’s stringer, Ukraine-based British journalist Graham Phillips reports. According to Phillips, there is an ongoing buildup of troops in the area and “snipers hiding in forests in position.” The city is being encircled, he tweets.

The military do not intend to storm Slavyansk, fearing civilian casualties, the Ukrainian Security Service has claimed.

“We will not go the length of [civilian] casualties, to storm the city. We understand that this may lead to many people coming to harm,” General Vasily Krutov, first deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Pashinsky meanwhile repeated earlier Kiev’s claims that “terrorists have placed their key strong points in kindergartens and hospitals,” branding the situation in Slavyansk as “classic terrorism.” The claims have been dismissed by Slavyansk activists as “ridiculous.”

Despite the promises of no storming of the city planned, Slavyansk self-defense activists have braced for an assault, which they fear may soon start under the guise of the city’s “blockade.”

Self-defense activists cited by ITAR-TASS have claimed that a convoy of military armored vehicles and troops bearing “no insignia” was spotted moving in the direction of Slavyansk and then “disappeared in the woods” surrounding the city.

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واشنطن تسارع إلى القاهرة بعد أنباء عن صفقة طائرات الميغ 35

بعد تردد أنباء عن قرب عقد صفقة طائرات “ميغ ـ 35” بين القاهرة وموسكو سارعت وزارة الدفاع الأمريكية إلى الإعلان عن قرب تسليم الجيش المصري 10 طائرات مروحية من طراز أباتشي، الأمر الذي يعكس تراجعا أمريكيا في الموقف من خريطة الطريق السياسية في مصر

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