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February 13, 2010

Airborne laser successfully destroys ballistic missile

Airborne laser successfully destroys ballistic missile

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

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The ALTB in flight.
Image: Missile Defense Agency.

An infrared video of the Airborne Laser Testbed (right) disabling a threat-representative short-range ballistic missile (left) during the initial boost phase.
Image: Missile Defense Agency.

The United States Missile Defense Agency have announced that their airborne laser system has successfully shot down a ballistic missile for the first time. In a test on Thursday the “Airborne Laser Testbed” (ALTB), a modified Boeing 747-400F, detected a boosting short-range missile and tracked it using a low-energy laser. A second low-energy laser was used to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance, before the aircraft’s High Energy Laser was used to destroy the target.

The missile was liquid-fuelled and said to be “threat-representative”, possibly similar to a Scud. It was launched from sea, and shot down by the ALTB within two minutes. In a second test less than an hour later, a solid-fuel missile launched from a ground location was also successfully hit by the High Energy Laser, but deliberately not destroyed. A similar missile was destroyed on February 3.

In a press release announcing the successful tests the Missile Defense Agency said: “The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers, and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies.”

The ALTB is described as a “pathfinder” for the use of directed energy in missile defense. It is designed to operate at high altitudes above the clouds, and to detect and destroy ballistic missiles soon after launch whilst they are still in their boosting phase. The aircraft is provided by Boeing, the main laser by Northrop Grumman, and the control systems by Lockheed Martin.

“Through its hard work and technical ingenuity, the government-industry team has produced a breakthrough with incredible potential,” stated Greg Hyslop, vice president of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. He said that the experiment had “made history”.

The US has been working on the program since 1996, and has faced numerous problems in that time. The megawatt-class High Energy Laser is known as the chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), and consists of six modules, each as large as an SUV. The sheer weight of chemicals needed was almost too much for the 747 jet. The laser also had problems with accuracy due to atmospheric conditions.

February’s tests were originally scheduled to be carried out in 2002. The amount spent getting the project to this stage has also risen from a planned US$1 billion to $7.3 billion. Last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cut the program back to a single jet for research, suggesting it would not see actual deployment.

“The reality is that you would need a laser something like 20 to 30 times more powerful than the chemical laser in the plane right now to be able to get any distance from the launch site to fire,” Gates told Congress. “So, right now the [jet] would have to orbit inside the borders of Iran in order to be able to try and use its laser to shoot down that missile in the boost phase.”

Gates also raised concerns at the large number of planes that would be required, and the ensuing cost. However, he said that directed energy weapons still had potential for missile defense.



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July 13, 2008

Three hostages return home to Florida

Three hostages return home to Florida – Wikinews, the free news source

Three hostages return home to Florida

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three American hostages – Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell – that were being held in Colombia by FARC are now free. They are safely in Florida after their rescue by Colombian forces; 12 other hostages were rescued at the same time. They received care from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio before being sent home to their families. The men were taken captive when their drug surveillance plane went down in the jungles of Colombia in 2003 – more than 5 years ago. All three of the men were working for a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation at the time.

Keith Stansell emphasized that while he was grateful to be home, no one should “forget the people that are still there”. “Because of our rescue, there are fellow hostages that are still there,” Stansell said. He reminded those listening that some of the remaining hostages have already been in captivity for 10 years, in squalid conditions. “You wait for a day like yesterday and today, you know, for the end, you… you want it to end,” added Marc Gonsalves.

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July 2, 2008

Government Accountability Office requests rerun of US Air Force tanker bid

Government Accountability Office requests rerun of US Air Force tanker bid

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Government Accountability Office on June 18 called for a re-run of the bidding for the U.S. Air Force $40 billion tanker contract, citing major flaws in the procurement process. This imperils the Northrop Grumman and EADS North America plan to assemble the planes in Mobile, Alabama.

When the Air Force selected Los Angeles based Northrop Grumman on February 29 to build the aircraft, Boeing challenged the award in a formal protest before the GAO, claiming the evaluation was skewed towards Northrop.

The GAO upheld Boeing’s protest, though not all of their individual claims were upheld.

“Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman,” said Michael R. Golden, the GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law.

The GAO issued a non-binding recommendation that the Air Force re-open the competition, allow the competitors to submit revised bids, and completely re-evaluate the new bids. This process could take a year or more to complete.

The Air Force has 60 days to respond to the GAO.

Reaction

Northrop said that they needed time to consider the ruling, but their spokesman, Randy Belote, said “we continue to believe that Northrop Grumman offered the most modern and capable tanker for our men and women in uniform.”

Boeing supporters on Capital Hill urged the Air Force to scrap the contract and start a new competition as soon as possible.

“I believe the Air Force should set aside the agreement it improperly reached with EADS/Northrop Grumman and we should proceed expeditiously to build the best aircraft – the Boeing KC-767” said U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash, in whose state the Boeing aircraft would be built.

Alabama politicians were disappointed and surprised by the GAO’s ruling. Northop and EADS were to assemble their tankers in Alabama at a new assembly plant at Mobile’s Brookley Industrial Complex.

“I don’t believe this ruling signals the end of Alabama’s hopes for building tankers for the Air Force,” said U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile. “Like everyone else, I look forward to hearing from the GAO and meeting with the Air Force on how we move forward. For the sake of our airmen and women, we must find a way to do so quickly.”

Main Points of the GAO evaluation:

The 69 page GAO decision was not made public, due to sensitive information about the aircraft, but a 3 page press release stated the main points of the ruling:

  • The Air Force did not correctly apply its own criteria when assessing the aircraft.
  • They miscalculated the costs associated with the Boeing tanker, and incorrectly concluded that Northrop’s would be cheaper.
  • They wrongly gave Northrop’s tanker extra credit for exceeding key performance objectives.
  • They did not back up their claim that the Northrop tanker could refuel all current Air Force fixed-wing aircraft.
  • They told Boeing that its aircraft met a key performance objective, before deciding this was only partially true.
  • The Air Force “unreasonably” favored Northrop after the company refused to help set up maintenance depots within two years of the first airplane delivery.

Related news

  • “Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS defeat Boeing for $40 billion US airtanker contract” — Wikinews, March 1, 2008



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March 1, 2008

Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS defeat Boeing for $40 billion US airtanker contract

Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent EADS defeat Boeing for $40 billion US airtanker contract

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Boeing KC-135 refuels an F-22A Raptor. The KC-135 will be replaced by the Northrop Grumman KC-45.

Northrop Grumman and Airbus parent company European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company EADS N.V. (EADS) have unexpectedly defeated Boeing for a US$40 billion (GB£20.1 billion) contract to supply the United States Air Force (USAF) with 179 new aerial refueling tankers at a rate of 15 a year.

It is the biggest contract of its kind since the Joint Strike Fighter program. That contract was fought for between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Lockheed ultimately winning the contest.

JSA Research defence analysist Paul Nesbit said that Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) operations across the aircraft’s fifty-year service life could push the value of the contract as high as US$100 billion. Northrop Grumman CEO Ron Sugar said in an interview “Everyone told us we were crazy, that we had no chance. But we took a big swing and in this case, we hit a home run.”

USAF officials said that the contract had been awarded based on competence, track record and competitive pricing, with UBS analyst David Strauss saying “The key decision was the amount of fuel the bigger plane could carry. In the armed services, you can never have too much gas in the air.” USAF also denied that creating jobs in the US was a factor; job supply had been the reason Boeing were expected to win, with the airframer promising 44,000 new positions at 300 suppliers in 40 states.

The Northrop Grumman KC-45 tankers – more often known as KC-30s – are based on the Airbus A330 MRTT. The first four aircraft will be assembled at the main Airbus factory in Toulouse, France but by 2010-11 production of the remainder will be carried out at a facility in Mobile, Alabama. This is thought likely to create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs and support 25,000 others. 60% of the parts will be supplied by domestic manufacturers. EADS had previously announced plans to shift much production to the US due to the current weakness of the dollar.

General Arthur Lichte, head of USAF’s Mobility Command, said it is hoped the first aircraft can be tested in 2010 and in operation three years afterwards. USAF’s chief of staff General Duncan McNab stated “The tanker is the number-one procurement priority for us right now. It is the first step in our critical commitment to recapitalize our aging fleet to move, supply, and position assets anywhere.”

Cquote1.svg At a time when our economy is hurting, this is a blow not only to our state, but more than 40 states across the country who would help build this national plane. Cquote2.svg

—Washington politicians

There is still a possibility of Boeing challenging the decision; Boeing themselves were successfuly challenged by Lockheed and Sikorsky in 2006 over a US$10 billion contract to supply search and rescue helicopters to the Pentagon. A statement by Boeing given by Boeing spokesman William Barksdale said “Obviously we are very disappointed… Once we have reviewed the details behind the award, we will make a decision concerning our possible options.”

Washington senator Patty Murray, who hails from the same state where Boeing bases their commercial airliner operations, said in a critical statement “We are shocked that the Air Force tapped a European company and its foreign workers to provide a tanker to our American military. At a time when our economy is hurting, this decision to outsource our tankers is a blow to the American aerospace industry, American workers and America’s military.”

Washington representative Norm Dicks said he too was “shocked”, releasing a statement saying “This decision is even more disappointing because the Air Force had previously favored the Boeing 767 tanker and we were prepared to move forward with the production of 100 tankers in 2003, before the process was halted due to the Boeing scandal. I regret that it has taken so long to respond to what was—and is—an urgent need to replace these older aircraft. And even more regrettable is the decision to award the contract to Airbus, which has consistently used unfair European government subsidies to take jobs away from American aircraft workers.”

Kansas senator Sam Brownback said “It’s stunning to me that we would outsource the production of these airplanes to Europe instead of building them in America. I’ll be calling upon the Secretary of Defense for a full debriefing and expect there will be a protest of the award by Boeing.” Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas representative, said “We should have an American tanker built by an American company with American workers. I cannot believe we would create French jobs in place of Kansas jobs.”

A group of Washington politicians released a joint statement saying “We will be asking tough questions about the decision to outsource this contract… At a time when our economy is hurting, this is a blow not only to our state, but more than 40 states across the country who would help build this national plane.”

Alabama Governor Bob Riley said “To say this is a great day for Alabama is a monumental understatement. This will go down in history as one of our greatest days.” Ralph Crosby, EADS’s North America CEO and ex Northrop executive commented the business has “committed our full resources to support this vital program for our prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, the Air Force, and the war fighters that this system will serve for decades to come. We already have begun the work necessary to expand our U.S. industrial footprint in support of this important program.”

EADS chief executive Louis Gallois commented “This major selection is a win-win for our customers, for allied industrial cooperation and for EADS. It signals a quantum-leap forward in our commitment to the US defence customer, reflects and supports our global strategy to increase EADS’s industrial presence in key markets and our goal to balance the company’s defence and commercial portfolios.” General Arthur Lichte said “This will be an American tanker, flown by American airmen with an American flag on its tail and, every day, it will be saving American lives.

Boeing had initially agreed to lease 100 tankers, but in 2003 a scandal erupted when it emerged that Boeing executive Michael M. Sears arranged a job for USAF official Darleen Druyun while negotiations were still underway. Both served jail sentences for corruption charges and a competition was opened up to award a new contract.



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February 20, 2008

Joop den Uyl biography reveals Northrop bribe of Prince Bernhard

Joop den Uyl biography reveals Northrop bribe of Prince Bernhard

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

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Prince Bernhard in 1999.
Image: Sander Lamme.

The late Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was in the 1970s not only bribed by U.S. aircraft company Lockheed, but also by Northrop. This is revealed in Volkskrant-journalist Anet Bleich’s biography of former Dutch Prime Minister Joop den Uyl. Den Uyl decided to keep the Northrop bribe quiet to save the Dutch Monarchy another scandal similar to the Lockheed scandal, Bleich states.

Den Uyl covered up the Northrop bribe in 1976 to prevent a law suit against the prince, which could have led to an abdication of Queen Juliana, and a denial of Princess Beatrix to succeed her mother on the throne. During the investigations on the bribe cases Minister of Finance Wim Duisenberg (who would later be the first president of the European Central Bank) visited Beatrix, and “found her quite desperate. Se had the idea that this opened a sewer of which the stench was unbearable. She was the future queen, but started to doubt whether she should do that, and that would have caused a major crisis in the Netherlands”.

The Lockheed scandal was never brought to court, although it had consequences for the Prince: he was forced to resign all his military functions. A second scandal would have resulted in official law suit, with all the consequences thereafter.

Rumours that Prince Bernhard not only received US$1.1 million from Lockheed, but also a considerable amount from another competitor for securing the purchase contract for fighter jets, are now confirmed. Northrop paid a total amount of US$750,000 to the Prince in the period until 1973. Bleich bases her conclusions on a secret document that was kept in Den Uyl’s personal archives until this day.

Northrop merged with Grumman in 1994 to form Northrop Grumman. Similarly, Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta in 1995, creating Lockheed Martin. On 30 April 1980 Beatrix succeeded her mother to the Dutch throne. Joop den Uyl died on December 24; 1987, Prince Bernhard on December 1, 2004.



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July 27, 2007

Blast kills three at Mojave Spaceport, California

Blast kills three at Mojave Spaceport, California

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Mojave Spaceport
Image: Californiacondor.

Three people were killed and another three seriously injured in a blast at Mojave Spaceport, located in California, United States. The blast occurred on Thursday at 2:34 p.m. PDT (UTC-7) while Scaled Composites was conducting cold flow test of a rocket engine.

According to Tony Diffenbaugh of the Kern County Fire Department, two of the victims died immediately in the blast, while the third succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

“Our units arrived on the scene at a remote test site in the northeast portion of the airport. What they found was six victims of an apparent explosion with various traumatic and burn injuries,” Diffenbaugh said.

Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites, said a press conference: “We just don’t know” why the explosion occurred, nitrous oxide usually is “not considered a hazardous material.”

Scaled Composites is in a partnership with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to build SpaceShipTwo, which hopes to become the first commercially available passenger spaceflight for space tourism.

The accident comes just days after Northrop Grumman announced it would increase its stake in Scaled Composites to 100%.

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May 11, 2007

Hubble Space Telescope successor unveiled by NASA

Hubble Space Telescope successor unveiled by NASA

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Friday, May 11, 2007

The model on display at The International Society for Optical Engineering’s (SPIE) Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentations conference, May 2006.

NASA has unveiled the new telescope that will replace the Hubble Space Telescope in Washington D.C. called the James Webb Space Telescope [JWST]. Currently, NASA has a life-sized model on display to the public which is as tall as a two story house and weighs several tons.

Researchers at NASA say that the Webb telescope will be able to see farther than Hubble “to the beginning of time.”

“It will find the first galaxies and will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System,” said a statement posted on NASA’s website. It will be sent into space where it will orbit nearly 2,000,000 miles from Earth.

JWST will have a large mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court.

Northrop Grumman is contracted to build the telescope and will be jointly operated by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. It is scheduled to launch in 2013 from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana.

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August 3, 2005

United States Homeland Security network monitors suspicious activity

United States Homeland Security network monitors suspicious activity

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Wednesday, August 3, 2005

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is deploying its new Homeland Security Information Network – Secret (HSIN-Secret) in all 50 state Emergency Operations Centers as well as 18 additional state and local law enforcement sites. “The secret network is a component of the HSIN, which is the primary conduit for DHS to share information on terrorist threats, suspicious activity and incident management with state, local, tribal and private-sector officials.” reports Government Computer News.

Development on this $350 million system by Northrop Grumman Corporation was begun in March of 2004 with basic operation achieved in just 4 months.

“The Homeland is more secure when each hometown is more secure,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge in DHS’s February 24, 2004 press release that launched the program. “Future program expansion will include the county level, communication at the classified SECRET level, and the involvement of the private sector.” it continues.

With the “Secret” component in place, classified information can now be disseminated to authorized individuals at all levels of government and business throughout the country almost instantly. HSIN lets most government agencies as well as many private companies doing business with the government share information on the whereabouts and suspicious activities of anyone that comes to their attention. Internal policies and the judgement of the system’s users provide privacy and civil rights protections, while who can access the system is determined by DHS.

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