FRIDAY FOTO (September16, 2018)

Spy Plane Selfie.

FRIFO 9-16-2018 U@-Dragon Lady

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lieutenant Colonel Ross Franquemont)

We confess we’re a little confused as to what we’re seeing here in this photo. The official caption reads: An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady pilot flies the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location [on] August 13, 2018. The Dragon Lady is a single-seat, near space reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft that flies so high its pilots must wear a full pressure suit similar to those worn by astronauts.

Jammed with high tech sensors like infrared, and synthetic aperture radar, the Dragon Lady is the latest iteration of the Cold War-era U-2 Spy plane, which caused an international incident back in 1960 when one of the top secret, high-flying jets was shot down by a Russian missile.

U-2 New York Times, May 1960

For an easy-to-understand appreciation of that incident and the times it happened in, we recommend viewing the 2015 Steven Spielberg movie “Bridge of Spies,” starring Tom Hanks.

What confuses us at 4GWAR in this week’s FOTO is the American flag, which appears to be on display inside the U-2 cockpit, or else it is painted on the wing or fuselage and through some trick of light or photography, appears to be inside the plane.

Anybody with knowledge of the the real situation, please let us know.

At any rate, since U-2 photos from inside the super secret cockpit don’t come along very often, we decided to run this Air Force photo as this week’s Friday Foto.

Advertisements

September 16, 2018 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Presidential Knife Attack; Nicaraguan Political Violence; Venezuelan Migration Crisis.

Brazil: Far-Right Candidate Stabbed.

Just when it looks like Brazil’s wild presidential election campaign can’t get any wilder — a far-right candidate is stabbed and seriously injured.

Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed during a campaign rally in Minas Gerais Thursday (September 6). Several videos posted on social media showed Bolsonaro riding on the shoulder of a supporter during a rally when he was stabbed in his abdomen, the Voice of America website reported. Other videos show him being carried to car and his supporters hitting the apparent attacker, who was arrested at the scene.

MAP-Brazil

Brazil (CIA World Factbook)

Flavio Bolsonaro, the candidate’s son, wrote on Twitter that his father had been wounded in the liver, lung and intestine. “He lost a lot of blood, arrived at the hospital … almost dead. He appears to have stabilized now,” he said.

General Antonio Hamilton Mourao, Bolsonaro’s running mate, told Reuters by telephone that the candidate’s condition was stable but still worrying.

The attack on Bolsonaro is a dramatic twist in what is already Brazil’s most unpredictable election since the country’s return to democracy three decades ago. Corruption investigations have jailed scores of powerful businessmen and politicians, and alienated infuriated voters, according to Reuters.

Violence in Brazil is rampant – the country has more homicides than any other, according to the United Nations – and political violence is common at the local level.

Bolsonaro, who has spent nearly three decades in Congress, is a law-and-order candidate who routinely says that Brazilian police should kill suspected drug traffickers and other criminals at will. He has openly praised the military dictatorship that ran Brazil in the past said it should have killed more people.

The controversial politician, who has outraged many in Brazil with racist and homophobic comments, has performed strongly in recent polls, the BBC reported.

Polls suggest he would get the most votes in next month’s presidential elections if former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fails in his attempt to overturn a ban on him standing for election. Lula, who served as president from 2003-2010, is ineligible for office under Brazil’s “Clean Slate” law, which prohibits candidates from running if they have convictions that have been upheld on appeal.

Despite his conviction and several graft cases pending against him, Lula leads Bolsonaro  with 39 percent of voter support, according to pollster Datafolha. Lula has denied any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, thousands fleeing Venezuela’s  collapsing economy have flooded Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru with refugees. Things were so unsettled in northern Brazil that President Michel Temer signed a decree August 28 to send troops to the country’s northern state of Roraima, where Venezuelans fleeing food shortages have streamed across the border.

Temer said the armed forces were being sent to “guarantee law and order” as Venezuela’s migrant crisis was “threatening the harmony of the whole continent.” He said the move was for the safety of both Brazilian citizens and Venezuelan migrants, NPR reported.

*** *** ***

Defense Secretary Tours South America.

Brazil was the first stop on U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’s four-nation tour of  South America last month to shore up strong defense ties with the governments of  Argentina, Chile and Colombia — as well as Brazil.

Mattis met with Defense Minister Joaquim Silva e Luna, the chief of Brazil’s joint staff, Admiral Ademir Sobrinho, and the Brazilian service chiefs. Later he told military officers at Brazil’s war college that the United States wants a “stronger relationship” with a focus on using Brazil’s Alcantara space center, which is located near the equator, Agence France-Presse reported.

SECDEF Mattis in Brazil

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis (second from right) met with Brazilian defense leaders during his trip to Brazil, Aug. 13, 2018. (Defense Department photo)

China is developing its space infrastructure in Latin America, with a base in southern Argentina’s Patagonia region. It has also pushed deep into the continent’s economies as an investor and major client for agricultural, mineral and other commodities, AFP noted.

Mattis told reporters  in Brazil that Russian and Chinese involvement in South America has had “zero impact” on military-to-military relationships with America’s Latin partners.

He cautioned against potentially damaging “inroads by other nations,” according to VoA. “There’s  more than one way to lose sovereignty in this world. It’s not just by bayonets. It can also be by countries that come bearing gifts and by large loans…piling massive debt on countries knowing they know will not be able to repay it,” Mattis added in an apparent poke at Chinese loans to countries like Venezuela.

On his trip to Colombia in August, Mattis said he was impressed by the progress Colombia has made in human rights, democracy and rule of law after more than 30 years battling terrorist attacks, a violent Marxist insurgency and corruption fueled by narcotics cartels. As a sign of the changed atmosphere, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced in May that his country will formally become NATO’s first Latin American “global partner.”

But Mattis added that he’s concerned about the unrest in neighboring Venezuela.

Hyperinflation in that country is expected to hit 1 million percent this year, and tens of thousands of people are fleeing the country to other neighbors. Neighboring nations are helping with these refugees and looking to ensure peace along a desperate border, according to the Defense Department.

The U.S. State Department is providing $56 million in aid to refugees and the Defense Department is sending the hospital ship USNS Comfort to the region to help.

***

Venezuela’s Woes.

The United Nations says that more than 1.6 million Venezuelans have left their country since the start of 2015, generating an international migrant crisis that has set off alarms in South America and recently led to violent confrontations between migrants and local populations.

Venezuelans are fleeing a severe economic crisis which has led to severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. Many of those fleeing the country say they are doing so because they cannot get the operations and medical care they need.

The Associated Press explains the situation here.

_103142757_venezuela_map_640-3x_v2-nc

Late last month, the United Nations refugee and migration agencies has called on Latin American countries to ease entry for Venezuelan nationals fleeing economic hardship and a deepening political crisis, Reuters reported.

The U.N. agencies said they were concerned about new passport and border entry requirements in Ecuador and Peru. At the same time they praised states for hosting more than 1.6 million Venezuelans who have fled economic and political upheaval since 2015.

*** *** ***

Nicaragua Violence.

Another refugee crisis is growing in Central America, where tens of thousands of Nicaraguans are fleeing to Costa Rica to escape political violence in the wake of a wave of anti-government protests.

For more than four months, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has responded forcefully to nationwide protests, which initially began in opposition to a hike in social security taxes and quickly erupted into a call for his resignation, NPR reports. More than 300 people have been killed, hundreds more disappeared and thousands have fled the country, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization in Managua.

MAP-Nicaragua

Nicaragua and neighbors (Map: CIA World Factbook)

 

At the United Nations, the United States warned the Security Council Wednesday (September 5) that Nicaragua is heading down the path that led to conflict in Syria and Venezuela’s mass migration that has spilled into the region. But Russia, China and Bolivia said Nicaragua doesn’t pose an international threat and the U.N. should butt out, the Associated Press reported.

The sharp exchanges took place at the first Security Council meeting called by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the current council president, to address what the U.N. says is Nicaragua’s violent repression of student and opposition protests.

September 7, 2018 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 31, 2018)

Prepare to Repel Boarders.

180815-N-SM577-0033

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey Scoular)

OK, this is not your standard Navy drill — anymore. But in the Age of Sail, these long, spear-like poles with sharpened points on the end were a good way to discourage enemy sailors (or pirates) from trying to force their way aboard your ship.

Boarding in the Age of Sail was more difficult and dangerous than in previous eras of open-decked sailing vessels. Defenders could seek cover in “closed quarters” in the ship’s roundhouse or foredeck, shooting through small loopholes at the exposed boarders.  If not in closed quarters, defenders sometimes resorted to the boarding pike, trying to kill or wound boarders while keeping them at a distance, and of course might use any of the weapons that the boarders themselves used, according to a Wikipedia article on naval boarding.

These sailors, assigned to the historic USS Constitution, are conducting War of 1812-era boarding pike drills during weekly heritage training in Boston, near Old Ironsides’ berth at the Charlestown, Massachusetts Navy Yard. Launched in 1797, the Constitution is the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world still afloat.

August 31, 2018 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 24, 2018)

Training Squeeze.

Firefighter Confined Space Training at CSTX 86-18-02

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist John Russell)

Army Specialist Alex Thompson crawls through a tunnel during confined space familiarization training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin on August 13, 2018.

Thompson is a reservist assigned to the 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment.

The photo below shows another soldier, Army Private Kenneth Collins, pulling himself from the tunnel. Confined space  indeed!

Firefighter Confined Space Training at CSTX 86-18-02

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist John Russell)

August 24, 2018 at 11:14 am 3 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (August 17, 2018)

Sub Swim Call.

USS Olympia Swim Call

(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Vien Nguyen)

Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, USS Olympia, participate in a swim call at sea in the Pacific Ocean, July 31, 2018. We’ve seen photos of swim calls before, but never one on a submarine.

Swim Call, as you might imagine, is a period when there is time for some of the crew to jump off the ship — or in this case boat — for a little exercise and recreation.  The tradition dates back as far as World War II, according to an article in the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, which includes a bunch of photos of sailors taking a dip from all sorts of U.S. Navy vessels. The Daily Mail piece also notes there is always a few folks keeping watch for sharks from a dinghy or rubber boat near the swimmers.

August 17, 2018 at 1:20 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Light Show, Teaming with Air Force jets; Paris patrol; Assassination Weapon?

A new kind of Fireworks.

Drone Light Show entertains Team Travis

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

More than 500 drones illuminated the sky during a light show at California’s Travis Air Force Base on July 5, 2018. Intel’s new lightweight Shooting Star drone — it weighs just 330 grams — is designed to carry only a light that can change colors. Together, the 500 little quadcopters are capable of 4 billion color combinations, reported CBS Bay Area TV station KPIX.

Originally scheduled for the Fourth of July, the drone light show had to be postponed for a day because of high winds. Even so, a glitch required landing the fleet, early in the show, and resetting the drones before they could conduct five minute light show — controlled by one lap top and one operator, according to ABC TV station KGO.

The tiny drones, made of plastic and foam, swooped and swirled in the night sky forming images of the American flag, an airplane, the Golden Gate Bridge and the California Grizzly Bear.

Intel, the silicon chip maker, unveiled its drone light show capabilities in 2015 using just 100 little quadcopters. “The difference between 100 and 500 is mind blowing,” Natalie Cheung, who heads the Intel light show business unit, said in a company video. The drone display integrates computing, communication, sensor and cloud technology.

“All this drone can do is light up the sky, but it is something it can do really, really well,” the light show lead engineer, Daniel Gurdan said in the video.

Teaming Drones with Manned Aircraft

Intel’s flying light show is just one way scientists and engineers are working on ways to operate drones in large numbers. The military, in particular, has been looking at ways large numbers of fast-moving, evasive drones could overwhelm and enemy’s air defense systems.

The Army has looked into pairing its MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with attack helicopters, using the drone as a kind of hunting dog to seek out targets and threats out in front of the manned helicopter. Your 4GWAR editor first wrote about that for Smithsonian’s Air&Space magazine blog in 2011

Now Air Force thinkers are looking at teaming manned aircraft with unmanned drones. In a policy paper released late last month (July 2018), the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies says maximizing the attributes of human operators and aircraft autonomy could boost affordable, effective combat capacity.

The paper notes that as a result of advancements in autonomy, processing power, and collaborative information exchange, the U.S. Air Force may soon be able to fly traditionally manned combat aircraft in partnership with unmanned aircraft.

The paper’s authors urge the Air Force to explore the advantages that could come through collaborative teaming of manned and unmanned combat aircraft. They noted  that the “combination may provide increased numbers of affordable aircraft to complement a limited number of exquisite, expensive, but highly potent fifth-generation aircraft.”

In short, that could mean meeting the requirements of Air Force Combat Command in a sustainable way during a time when there is a shortage of pilots and funds for newer, more expensive aircraft.

In other unmanned aircraft news …

Protecting Paris.

During Bastille Day celebrations in France last month (July 15), two MQ-9 Reaper drones patrolled the skies over Paris and southwestern France.

According to the manufacturer of the unmanned aircraft — San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems — the French Air Force (Armee De L’Air) operated its drones over Paris and the city of Cognac, providing airborne surveillance over the national celebration.

Equipped with an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite of sensors, the Paris MQ-9 flew safely over a populated area of seven million people among numerous other military aircraft participating in the airborne parade.

SONY DSC

(Photo of French MQ-9 Reaper courtesy of Business Wire)

Two French MQ-9s are based in Cognac Châteaubernard Air Base, where they perform daily training or ISR support in French airspace. Another six Reapers are operated by the 1/33 Belfort Squadron, providing intelligence and support to Operation Barkhane, the ongoing French anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region along with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Assassination Attempt by Drone?

Two drones packed with explosives reportedly flew toward Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Saturday night (August 4) in what his government says was a failed assassination attempt. New York Times site has video here.

MAP-Venezuela_large_locator

Venezuela in South America (Source: CIA World Factbook)

The attack  occurred while Maduro was making a speech at a huge outdoor event in Caracas to celebrate the 81st anniversary of the country’s national guard, according to USA Today, which detailed what happened.

Maduro blamed the “far right”, Colombia’s outgoing president, Juan Manuel Santos, and shadowy forces in Miami for the attack, The Economist reported. He has denounced a score of plots since he took over from the late Hugo Chávez in 2013.

August 17, 2018 at 12:28 am

FRIDAY FOTOS (August 10, 2018)

Over Africa.

75 EAS C-130s deliver cargo in East Africa

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Larry E. Reid Jr.)

Pilots of an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules fly a mission over East Africa on July 24, 2018. These airmen are assigned to the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, which supports Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa with medical evacuations, disaster relief, humanitarian and airdrop operations.

Meanwhile, on the other side of what was once called the Dark Continent …

Under Africa.

U.S. Army Soldiers participate in Jungle Warfare School in Ghana

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Brandon Ames)

An Army staff sergeant slogs through muddy water during Jungle Warfare School training at Achiase Military Base in Akim Achiase, Ghana, on August 4, 2018. The exercises train participants in counter-insurgency and internal security operations.

August 9, 2018 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


Posts

September 2018
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Categories


%d bloggers like this: