Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Russian Plane in Jakarta Disappears Fom Radar Screen

Superjet Crashed into Mountainside - Indonesian TV

Topic: Sukhoi Superjet 100 crash in Indonesia

The Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 that went down in Indonesia on Wednesday slammed into a steep mountainside outside the capital Jakarta
08:45 10/05/2012
JAKARTA, May 10 (RIA Novosti)
Tags: Sukhoi Superjet 100plane crashJakarta, Indonesia
The Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 that went down in Indonesia on Wednesday slammed into a steep mountainside outside the capital Jakarta, Indonesian television reported.

Pictures broadcast on television showed what is believed to be debris from the Superjet at the crash site on a very steep slope near Mount Salak. Other debris from the plane tumbled down the mountain.
Only small pieces of debris were visible in pictures from the Indonesian aviation authorities shown to journalists.
The plane apparently almost made it over the mountain. The crash site, located at an estimated altitute of 5,200 feet, is just a few dozen meters below the top of the ridgeline at that spot.
The Indonesian aviation authorities have established a field headquarters near the crash site and a search for the flight recorders and debris from the plane is underway.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has established a commission to investigate the incident, the government press service reported earlier on Thursday.
Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Yury Slyusar will head the commission, which includes officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry and United Aircraft Corporation.
The jet disappeared from radar screens during a demonstration flight near Jakarta on Wednesday. There were 48 people on board, including eight Russian crewmembers and 40 passengers, mainly Indonesians.

In this picture released by Indonesian Air Force,  the wreckage of a missing Sukhoi Superjet-100 are scattered on the mountainside in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, May 10, 2012. The new Russi

In this picture released by Indonesian Air Force, the wreckage of a missing Sukhoi Superjet-100 are scattered on the mountainside in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, May 10, 2012. The new Russian-made passenger plane disappeared Wednesday during a demonstration flight with 47 people on board. (AP Photo/Indonesian Air Force)

Indonesian soldiers read maps at Taman Nasional Halimun Salak in Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday morning, May 10, 2012. Search and rescue teams were scouring the slopes of a dormant volcano iAn

Indonesian soldiers read maps at Taman Nasional Halimun Salak in Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday morning, May 10, 2012. Search and rescue teams were scouring the slopes of a dormant volcano in western Indonesia early Thursday for signs of a new Russian-made passenger plane that dropped off the radar while on a demonstration flight Wednesday. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Indonesian soldiers mobilized for search of a missing Russian plane cook food at Taman Nasional Halimun Salak in Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday morning, May 10, 2012. Search and rescue teams

Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet-100 Missing in Indonesia

Russian Chief test pilot Alexander Yablontsev (L) in the cockpit of his Sukhoi Superjet 100 in Indonesia on May 8

Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet-100 airplane, on a demonstration flight in Jakarta, went off radar screens on Wednesday, Indonesian aviation authorities saiThere are 44 people on board, including eight Russians and 36 foreign natioplane has failed to return to the airport after a demonstration flight.

Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet-100 airplane, on a demonstration flight in Jakarta, went off radar screens on Wednesday, Indonesian aviation authorities said.

There are 44 people on board, including eight Russians and 36 foreign nationals.

Indonesian authorities suggested the airplane may have been hijacked or crashed into a mountain in poor visibility.

The plane has failed to return to the airport after a demonstration flight.

Shortly before radio contact was lost the pilots had requested permission to descend from 10,000 feet to 6,000 feet, air traffic controllers said.

After it was cleared for descent the plane started turning right and descending but then disappeared from the radar screens at an altitude of 6,200 feet in a mountainous area.
By the time the plane was due to return it should have burned up its fuel.
Earlier in the day the SSJ-100 carried out two demonstration flights in the Indonesian capital as the manufacturer said Pakistan’s Air Indus has shown an interest in purchasing eight SSJ-100s.
The SSJ-100 arrived in Jakarta as part of a demonstration tour of six Asian countries. It had been to Myanmar, Pakistan and Kazakhstan, and after Indonesia was due to visit Laos and Vietnam..

Russian passenger jet reported missing in Indonesia

Breaking news

A Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane with at least 44 people aboard has gone missing on a demonstration flight in Indonesia, reports say.

The plane disappeared from radar screens during a flight meant to last 30 minutes, a blogger with the Sukhoi delegation said.

Helicopters were dispatched to look for the jet, thought to have been flying near a mountain, Sergey Dolya said.
Emergency services confirmed a Sukhoi plane was missing.
Gagah Prakoso, spokesman for Indonesia's national search and rescue agency, said 46 people had been aboard the plane, which vanished from radar near Bogor, a city in West Java province.
"We are still looking for it and we are uncertain whether it crashed," he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency in the capital, Jakarta.
Dolya tweeted that there were 44 people aboard, eight of them Russians.

Sukhoi SuperJet-100

Monday, 7 May 2012

Why the U.S. Wants a New Bomber

The U.S. Air Force has struggled for years to develop a new long-range bomber. But with China’s growing anti-access capabilities, it may need one.
The U.S. Air Force has struggled for years to develop a new long-range bomber to complement its existing fleet of B-52, B-1 and B-2 bombers dating from the 1960s, ’80s and ’90s, respectively.
The rise of China as a regional power compelled the Air Force, in 2006, to begin design work on a radar-evading “stealth” bomber capable of striking heavily-defended targets within the Chinese heartland from secure American bases in the Pacific. But the basic design of the so-called “Next-Generation Bomber” grew increasingly complex and potentially expensive – reportedly billions of dollars per copy. In 2009, then-U.S. Secretary Robert Gates cancelled the Next-Generation Bomber.
But the Air Force revived its bomber effort under new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The new “Long-Range Strike Bomber” would be slightly less sophisticated and therefore cheaper than the Next-Generation Bomber: just $550 million per copy for up to 100 copies, with production beginning in the early 2020s. The U.S. Congress approved the first $300 million in development funding late last year. The Pentagon has vowed to cancel the Long-Range Strike Bomber if the total projected program cost exceeds $55 billion. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman will compete for the contract, details of which are a closely guarded secret.
One man has played a central role in building the case for the new bomber. David Deptula retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant general in 2010. In 36 years of service, he flew F-15 fighters, helped plan the air war over Afghanistan in 2001 – including long-range strikes by B-2 bombers – and later oversaw Pacific bomber operations. In a landmark 2004 exercise organized in part by Deptula, B-52s flying from the U.S. struck and sank a decommissioned U.S. Navy ship using “smart” guided weapons. In retirement, Deptula has continued advocating for bombers.
The Diplomat asked Deptula about the need for the bomber, the risks to the program and the technologies that could be included.

Why now? Why, during a period of defense cutbacks, is the Pentagon so determined to build a new bomber? What changed to make the bomber such a high priority?
Broadly speaking, nothing has changed; the need for a new bomber is not “new.” The 2001 [Quadrennial Defense Review] noted the challenges to American power projection that included: the potential for a surprise attack that would prevent U.S. forces from deploying to trouble spots in a timely manner; the dearth of viable U.S. bases within range of likely trouble spots in Asia; and the emergence of “anti-access” capabilities that could deny the U.S. access to overseas bases, airfields and ports.
Furthermore, some potential opponents have great strategic depth within which to hide mobile anti-access systems. To counter this, the 2001 QDR said we should develop and acquire “robust capabilities to conduct persistent surveillance, precision strike and maneuver at varying depths within denied areas” – what is this but a new stealth bomber?
The 2006 QDR restated these challenges to power projection and specifically called for the U.S. to “develop a new land-based, penetrating long-range strike capability to be fielded by 2018 while modernizing the current bomber force.” The 2010 QDR called for an expansion of the nation’s long-range strike capabilities, to include options for “fielding survivable, long-range surveillance and strike aircraft as part of a comprehensive, phased plan to modernize the bomber force.”
The January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance was consistent with [Department of Defense] logic going back 12 years, during which two presidents and three [secretaries of defense] have deemed a new bomber necessary. The guidance again noted the challenges that time, distance and anti-access threats represent to American power projection – certainly, the strategic environment has not become more benign since 2001. The guidance renewed the call for the development of a stealth bomber in order to overcome these challenges.
What changed in the guidance relative to the past QDRs is the acknowledgement that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. The realization that we actually achieved our national security objectives in Afghanistan by the end of 2001 is being realized. This creates a strategic opportunity to rebalance our military posture toward the Asia-Pacific region.
The economic and political importance of the Asia-Pacific region continues to increase. Obviously, in Asia distances are vast, secure U.S. bases are few and potential opponents have highly capable anti-access systems. Therefore, in order to have an effective military posture in this region, we need to rebalance our military portfolio as the guidance directs, towards long-range, survivable, highly responsive systems such as stealth bombers.
Arguably, the ongoing fiscal crisis and defense cutbacks make a new bomber more vital, not less so. The old ways of doing business – slowly building up overwhelming numbers of ground forces – wouldn’t work even in an unconstrained budget environment, as they can’t support the Pentagon’s new operational concepts like the Joint Operational Access Concept and AirSea Battle. If we simply reduce what we have while maintaining the relatively even balance between the [military] services, our ability to project power would be even less viable.
We can’t afford to sustain our power-projection capability in Asia using the “old” methods, so we must do so using new methods, such as the new stealth bomber.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget recently stated that existing bombers are adequate for projected missions over the long term. Did that change? Or did the Defense Department have to convince OMB that current bombers aren’t adequate?
The OMB statement was actually something of an anomaly: OMB has no military competence and shouldn’t be attributed any. [The Office of the Secretary of Defense] and the Air Force consistently indicated from 2006 to 2009 that the Air Force needed a new bomber, and then did so [again] from April 2009 through today.
DoD reasoning was that the B-1 and B-52 are aging and non-stealthy and the B-2, while stealthy, is only available in small numbers. Just a month after the April 2009 budget recommendation, Secretary Gates said he was considering making the next-generation bomber unmanned – and obviously he wouldn’t have mentioned a next-generation bomber if he thought existing bombers were adequate over the long term.
In 2010, both [Air Force] Secretary [Michael] Donley and [Air Force Chief of Staff] General [Norton] Schwartz stated that a new stealth bomber was required, and Secretary Gates said that the Air Force needed “a new long-range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber” that was optionally manned. He also said we needed to begin this project today “to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service.”
Clearly, Gates stopped the program in April 2009 not because there was no need for a bomber, but because he believed there was further need to review what kind of new bomber the Air Force needed. This is the genesis of the so-called “family of systems” (FoS) approach, in which the bomber will leverage off-board [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] and survivability support to enhance operational effectiveness while minimizing initial functionality requirements, thereby reducing the cost and schedule/technical risk associated with reaching the target [Initial Operational Capability]. 
The FoS approach also incorporates other long-range strike assets, such as the Navy’s planned long-range, air-refuelable ISR-strike [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] and the Air Force’s planned long-range stand-off weapon (LRSOW), which will give the U.S. much needed “offense-in-depth” in the emerging global persistent surveillance-attack domain.
Why not just upgrade existing bombers to meet future threats? What will the new bomber do that old, upgraded bombers can't?
The Air Force currently operates three types of bombers: the B-52H, the B-1B and the B-2A. Design of the B-52 began in the late 1940s and the last one was delivered in 1962. It has been upgraded many times and has excellent range and payload. However, no amount of updating can alter the fundamental characteristics of the aircraft – like its shape and resulting large radar signature – that make it relatively easy to detect and very vulnerable to air defenses of even modest sophistication. 
So for decades, the Air Force has relied on the B-52 to launch long-range cruise missiles rather than risk penetrating air defenses. Cruise missiles are very useful against relatively soft targets in known locations, but their long flight times and limited ability to penetrate hard or deeply buried targets limits their utility against the increasing number of important mobile and hardened targets. 
Current generation cruise missiles also lack the survivability characteristics required for effective use against heavily defended targets. And while the Air Force plans to develop a new stealthy long-range cruise missile to replace [existing missiles], these weapons will be expensive and thus used only in small numbers relative to the total number of aim points required for a major air campaign (nominally 30,000 to 40,000).
The B-1’s design dates from the 1970s and they were built in the late 1980s. They have also been modified many times over the past 25 years and are more survivable than the B-52s, but again their design characteristics place fundamental limits on how much upgraded sub-systems can extend their ability to penetrate advanced air defenses. Thus, B-52s will increasingly be used in the stand-off weapon-delivery role, and exclusively so in operations against well-defended adversaries.
The B-2 stealth bomber was developed in the 1980s and the last was delivered in the late 1990s. They were designed to penetrate advanced air-defense systems and are the only Air Force bombers capable of survivably delivering large weapons – or large numbers of smaller weapons – in a non-permissive air environment.
However, the Air Force has only 20 B-2s, roughly one-fifth of what’s generally regarded as the minimum-required stealth bomber force for major air campaigns in either East Asia or Southwest Asia – and remember, the new defense strategy calls for global strike forces capable of conducting two such campaigns concurrently. As our adversaries adapt to known U.S. military strengths by acquiring more advanced air defenses, mobile systems or hardening important targets the capacity of the B-2 fleet will fall ever further behind the demand for its capabilities.
In other words, the new bomber will restore a balance between Air Force bomber capabilities, capacities and demands.
If you had to guess, what do you think the new bomber will look like and be capable of? Are we talking about a cheaper B-2?
As you know, the president’s new strategic guidance specifically calls for a new stealthy penetrating bomber, and the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program is fully funded in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. And while the program is classified, the information the Air Force has released about the program, combined with a general sense of current aerospace industry capabilities, indicates the new bomber will be both less expensive and more capable than its predecessor.
Now, this isn’t to diminish the capabilities of the B-2. It remains – and will remain until the new bomber is fielded in the mid-2020s – the most powerful single conventional weapon system in the U.S. inventory, and will play an essential role in U.S. power projection strategy for at least the next two decades. 
That said, the B-2 is an approximately 30-year old design and has been in service for over 15 years. During that time, and largely because of the trailblazing B-2, industry has made significant advances in stealth technology – both in terms of radar signature reduction and efficient manufacturing and maintenance of “low-observable” features – and equally giant leaps in a number of other key areas that will positively impact LRS-B capability and cost-effectiveness.
Since the advent of the B-2, industry has made its most striking and revolutionary technological leaps within the unmanned aircraft domain. The Air Force has acknowledged that LRS-B will be an optionally-manned system, meaning it will capable of both manned and unmanned operations.
With respect to the latter, we aren’t talking about remotely-piloted operations like one sees with the Predator-series UAVs. Rather, if the Air Force fully leverages emerging programs and technologies – its own and the Navy’s – LRS-B will become the most advanced UAV in history, carrying with it profound implications for U.S. power-projection capabilities.
Two UAV subdomains stand out. The first is system autonomy, which can be further subdivided into the categories of autonomous flight management and autonomous mission management.  The most advanced UAVs in operation today, such as the Air Force’s Global Hawk, don’t require a “pilot” in the traditional sense because they literally fly themselves and perform core mission functions, e.g., sensor employment, autonomously. Give them a mission plan and they can execute it start-to-finish without human intervention. Exceptions occur when real-time conditions call for a change in the mission plan, in which case human operators in a ground station (which houses the vast majority of the mission management software) upload new plans to the aircraft.
Future UAVs won’t only fly themselves and perform pre-planned missions autonomously, they will also possess advanced onboard mission management software enabling them to perform inherently dynamic mission functions – such as routing through mobile air defenses – autonomously and in real-time. Human operators will always remain “on the loop” for critical battle management-related decision-making – not least the decision to attack – but the UAV and its onboard software will increasingly assume a majority of the core mission execution responsibilities currently handled by pilots, both onboard and in manpower-intensive ground station.
Emerging mission management technology will also permit large numbers of UAVs, even dissimilar aircraft types, to be controlled by very small numbers of human operators, thus enabling a dramatic up-scaling of UAV operations without an intolerable growth in the mission control footprint.  For example, I know that in the advanced development part of the Navy’s [Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration armed drone] program, engineers are demonstrating prototype software that allows three to five mission operators to manage a mixed force of over 40 UCAS and [Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance drone] aircraft simultaneously.
The second key UAV subdomain, also spearheaded developmentally by the UCAS-D program, is autonomous aerial refueling. Beyond high survivability, ultra-long combat endurance is the most valuable attribute for future airborne power projection systems. In addition to penetrating advanced air defenses, future systems will need to stage operations from extended, “access-insensitive” distances on the periphery of a theater outside ballistic missile (and other threat) envelopes, and they will need to persist for long durations within defended airspace to find and kill mobile and re-locatable targets. 
While today’s bomber aircrews can rotate sleep schedules to tolerate long transit times and overcome the distance challenge, no one sleeps upon entering enemy airspace, so combat endurance – the time spent within the operational area – is severely constrained by human endurance limitations. Generally speaking, a manned bomber is capable of one multi-hour penetration into enemy airspace, after which the aircrew must refuel and return to base. This is particularly true if the manned bomber is staging operations from distant bases and the aircrew is logging extended transit time during the mission.
UAVs are only limited by issues such as consumables (e.g., engine oil, weapons) reservoirs and the mean time between failure of flight or mission-critical systems. With aerial refueling, an LRS-B in unmanned mode will be capable of repeatedly cycling back to a loitering tanker and returning to operational station, accumulating 24 hours or more of on-station time during a single sortie compared to five hours or less for a manned bomber.
This five-fold (or greater) increase in combat endurance per sortie will enable the planned force of 80 to 100 LRS-Bs to hold an entire country the size of Iran at continuous persistent attack risk from secure bases (e.g., Diego Garcia) well outside anti-access threat range.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Is Biggest And Closest Full Moon On May 5, 2012 A SUPERMOON ?

Photo credit: Alice Popkorn

According to U.S. clocks, May 5, 2012 features the closest and largest full moon of this year. Calendars say May 6, by the way, for this same close full moon as seen from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We astronomers call this sort of close full moon a perigee full moon. The word perigee describes the moon’s closest point to Earth for a given month. But last year, when the closest and largest full moon occurred on March 19, 2011, many used a term we’d never heard: supermoon. We’ll probably hear that term again at this 2012 close full moon. What does it mean exactly? And how special is it?
The supermoon of March 19, 2011 (right), compared to an average moon of December 20, 2010 (left). Note the size difference. Image Credit: Marco Langbroek, the Netherlands, via Wikimedia Commons.
Astrologer Richard Nolle of the takes credit for coining the term supermoon. In 1979, he defined it as:
…a new or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit (perigee). In short, Earth, moon and sun are all in a line, with moon in its nearest approach to Earth.
By this definition, according to Nolle:
There are 4-6 supermoons a year on average.
That doesn’t sound very special, does it? In fact, tonight’s full moon lines up much more closely with perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth – than Nolle’s original definition. The 2012 May full moon falls within an hour of perigee. At perigee, the moon lies only 356,955 kilometers (221,802 miles) away. Later this month, on May 19, the moon will swing out toapogee – its farthest point for the month – at 406,448 kilometers (252,555 miles) distant. So you can see tonight’s moon really is at its closest.
In fact, May 2012 presents the moon’s closest encounter with Earth since March 19, 2011, at which time the moon was a scant 380 kilometers closer to Earth. The moon won’t come as close as tonight’s extra-close moon until August 10, 2014 – although in 2013 the moon at its closest (June 23, 2013) will lie only 36 kilometers farther away than the closest moon in 2012. (See table below) Maybe this helps you see that supermoons – while interesting – are fairly routine astronomical events.
Even the proximity of full moon with perigee in today’s moon isn’t all that rare. The extra-close moon in all of these years – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 – finds the full moon taking place within an hour or so of lunar perigee. More often than not, the closest perigee of the year comes on the day that the full moon and perigee coincide.
By the way, according to U.S. clocks, the full moon falls this evening at precisely at 10:35 p.m. Central Daylight Time. This same full moon falls tomorrow (Sunday, May 6) at 3:35 Universal Time (UT) – the standard time at the prime meridian of 0o longitude, or, for example, in Greenwich, England.
How often does the full moon coincide with perigee? Closest full moons recur in cycles of 14 lunar (synodic) months, because 14 lunar months almost exactly equal 15 returns to perigee. A lunar month refers to the time period between successive full moons, a mean period of 29.53059 days. An anomalistic month refers to successive returns to perigee, a period of 27.55455 days. Hence:
14 x 29.53059 days = 413.428 days
15 x 27.55455 days = 413.318 days
This time period is equal to about 1 year, 1 month, and 18 days. The full moon and perigee will realign again on June 23, 2013, because the 14th full moon after today’s full moon will fall on that date.
Moon closest to Earth

2011March 19356,575 km
2012May 6356,955 km
2013June 23356,991 km
2014August 10356,896 km
2015September 28356,877 km
Looking further into the future, the perigee full moon on November 14, 2016 (356,509 km) will even be closer than the one on March 19, 2011 (356,575 km). The perigee full moon will come closer than 356,500 kilometers for the first time in the 21st century on November 25, 2034 (356,446 km). The closest moon of the 21st century will fall on December 6, 2052 (356,421 km).
Will the tides be higher than usual? Yes, all full moons bring higher-than-usual tides, and perigee full moons bring the highest (and lowest) tides of all. Each month, on the day of the full moon, the moon, Earth and sun are aligned, with Earth in between. This line up creates wide-ranging tides, known as spring tides. High spring tides climb up especially high, and on the same day low tides plunge especially low.
Today’s extra-close full moon accentuates these monthly (full moon) spring tides all the more.
If you live along a coastline, watch for high tides caused by the May 5-6 perigee full moon – or supermoon – over the next several days. Will the high tides cause flooding? Probably not, unless a strong weather system moves into the coastline where you are. Still, keep an eye on the weather, because storms do have a large potential to accentuate high spring tides.
As a result, if you live near a coast, you’ll want to be on the lookout for higher-than-usual tides.
Because the moon – as always – shines opposite the sun in our sky at full moon, you’ll see the moon beaming all night tonight from dusk until dawn. This extra-close full moon is likely to usher in large tides along the ocean shorelines for the next several days, especially if these high tides are accompanied by strong onshore winds.
Bottom line: The full moon of May 5 (or 6), 2012 is the closest and largest full moon of this year. Some will call it a supermoon.
Moon image at top of post: Alice Popkorn