Sentinel Down

And yet again, after leaving behind a cutting edge stealth helicopter during the bin Laden raid, the U.S. conducts another, involuntary, state-of-the-art military technology transfer to the enemy.

Iran’s capture of US drone shines light on spy mission, but may reveal little

The Iranian capture of a high-tech, stealth U.S. drone shines a light on the American spying mission there, but probably doesn’t tell Tehran much that it didn’t already know, a senior U.S. official said.

The RQ-170 Sentinel was providing surveillance over Iran and didn’t just accidentally wander away from the Afghanistan border region, as first suggested. The official said Wednesday that the Iranians will no doubt be able to tell where the aircraft flew. A bigger U.S. concern, the official said, was that the Iranians are likely to share or sell whatever they have recovered of the aircraft to the Chinese, Russians or others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the mission.

Experts and officials acknowledge that there is no self-destruct mechanism on the Sentinels — which are used both by the military and the CIA for classified surveillance and intelligence gathering missions.

. . .

U.S. officials said that while they have enough information to confirm that Iran does have the wreckage, they said they are not sure what the Iranians will be able to glean technologically from what they found. It is unlikely that Iran would be able to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

See also:
US admits downed drone spied on Iran
Iran says US spy drone was flying deep inside its airspace when it was downed
Malfunction likely put U.S. drone in Iranian hands
Iran Probably Did Capture a Secret U.S. Drone
U.S. Military Sources: Iran Has Missing U.S. Drone
Drone that crashed in Iran may give away U.S. secrets
China, Russia want to inspect downed U.S. drone
Sentinel unmanned drone lost in Iran among US most valuable warfare assets
Drone belonged to CIA, officials say
Downed drone was on CIA mission
Officials: Drone downed in Iran on CIA mission
Drone Lost in Iran Was Joint CIA-Military Reconnaissance Plane
Iran’s downing of U.S. drone rattles Washington
US ‘concerned’ over drone lost near Iran border
Experts: Iran capture of stealth drone no worry
US considered missions to destroy RQ-170 Sentinel drone lost in Iran
Spy drone may provide little help to Iran
U.S. debated sending commandos into Iran to recover drone
U.S. Made Covert Plan to Retrieve Iran Drone
Iran: The Stealth War Continues
Drone Drama Proves Iran Is Ready to Rumble
Stealth drone highlights tougher U.S. strategy on Iran
U.S. drones have been spying on Iran for years

The good news is that we seem to be paying close attention to what Iran is up to, have been for years, and can penetrate Iranian airspace with near impunity. These past and, hopefully, ongoing intelligence gathering and surveillance activities should help provide a detailed blueprint for when push comes to shove and Iran has to be dealt with militarily, which is sure to eventually become a necessity.

/that said, it’s a total unforced strategic error to just let Iran have this advanced technology drone, to share with or sell to other potential enemies of the United States, would it have killed us, if we didn’t want to risk lives to recover the Sentinel, to at least launch an airstrike package to obliterate the wreckage?

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Back In The Soyuz Again?

The good news is that we probably won’t have to abandon the International Space Station after all. The bad news is that we’re still dependent on the Russians to get our astronauts there.

NASA Confirms Russian Soyuz Failure Findings

An independent NASA panel reviewing data related to the Aug. 24 failure of the Russian Soyuz rocket transporting cargo to the International Space Station has confirmed that the Russian space agency correctly identified the cause of the problem and is taking appropriate steps to resolve it before the rocket’s next launch scheduled for Oct. 30, said William H. Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, determined that the most likely cause of the failure was contamination in the rocket’s fuel lines or stabilizer valve, which caused low fuel supply to the gas generator, Gerstenmaier told lawmakers Oct. 12 during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s space and aeronautics panel.

See also:
NASA review clears way for manned Soyuz flights
Russian Soyuz Recovery Strategy Endorsed
NASA ‘confident’ Russia’s Soyuz rocket safe
NASA says Soyuz rockets safe for American astronauts
Russian Rocket Failure Shouldn’t Force Space Station Evacuation, NASA Tells Lawmakers
NASA Gives Blessing for Soyuz Rocket, Which is Ready for Takeoff [PHOTOS]
August’s Russian rocket failure is unlikely to force evacuation of the International Space Station
NASA Says Russian Soyuz Flight Risk Low
NASA offers Congress assurances over space station

Hopefully, the Russians have come to the correct conclusion as to what the glitch was on last August’s failed resupply flight and have taken the proper actions to fix the problem.

/although I’d feel a whole lot better if the next Soyuz flight, the first since the August crash, wasn’t manned, just in case the Russians still have it wrong

The Russians Are Not Amused

Remember Anna Chapman and the nine other Russian spies that were arrested last June? Well, it appears they were outed by a high ranking Russian intelligence officer who was also working for the United States. Needless to say, the Russians are not pleased about this huge embarrassment.

Russian Double Agent Betrayed Spy Ring in US

Russia’s spy scandal is flaring up again on the news that an intelligence service colonel betrayed the identities of 10 spies, then defected to the United States.

A high-ranking Russian double agent was behind last summer’s exposure and arrest of 10 Russian sleeper spies in the United States. The news was published in Kommersant newspaper Friday and later confirmed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Days before the arrests, a Colonel Shcherbakov, a branch leader of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, fled Moscow to join his daughter and son in the United States, according to the news report.

Gennady Gudkov, a deputy on the State Duma’s Security Committee, told Interfax that the colonel’s defection was a major blow to the “S” Directorate, which prepare deep cover agents for overseas work. He said internal alarm bells should have rung because the colonel’s daughter was a long-term resident in the United State and the Colonel declined a promotion last year, presumably to avoid taking a lie detector test.

Russia Hunts Double Agent Who Betrayed Spies, Newspaper Says

A Moscow newspaper reported on Thursday that the Kremlin has dispatched an assassin to hunt down a suspected double agent it blames for betraying the Russian spies arrested in June by the United States.

According to the report in Kommersant, an unnamed Kremlin official said that the former head of the Russian intelligence service’s “illegal” spying operations in the U.S., a Colonel Shcherbakov, had betrayed his colleagues and is now being actively sought out.

See also:
Spy Defection Roils Russian Intelligence Service
Mole in intelligence service betrayed Russian spies in US, says newspaper
Senior Russian official may have turned in spies to U.S., newspaper says
Russian official revealed spy ring
Dmitry Medvedev confirms traitor told US about Russian spy ring
Russian intelligence service identifies traitor in U.S. spy scandal
Anna’s Unfaithful Spy Boss
More Information Revealed On the Russian Spies In The US
Russian double agent helped US crack spy ring: lawmaker
Russian Newspaper Names Double Agent Responsible For Spy Ring Bust
Kremlin official issues death threat in Russian spy scandal. Is the KGB coming back?
Top Russian Spy Reportedly Defects After Betraying Anna Chapman, Other Agents in United States
Video: Top Russian Spy defects after betraying ring in the United States
Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR)
Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki

Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia)

This is a major score for U.S. intelligence, high ranking defectors like this don’t come around very often. It’s a safe bet that the CIA got a lot more information out of Colonel Shcherbakov than just the names of the ten Russian agents.

/well played Colonel Shcherbakov, your new country thanks you, hopefully the CIA can keep you alive

Coups Have Consequences

Apparently, the interim government of Kyrgyzstan, that came to power in a coup two months ago, has lost control of parts of the country and, so far, their pleas for the Russians to intervene and bail them out are being rebuffed. And so, the chaos and carnage continues to unfold.

Kyrgyzstan to get aid, no troops from regional security group

A Moscow-led security organization Monday recommended offering logistical support and goods such as fuel to Kyrgyzstan rather than peacekeeping troops to help stop ethnic violence in the Central Asian country.

Kyrgyzstan law enforcement organizations, with some help, can control the rioting that began Thursday in Osh, said Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is made up of several former Soviet republics, including Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Bordyuzha met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday as officials announced that the death toll from the rioting in southern Kyrgyzstan had increased to at least 125, with more than 1,200 injured. Tens of thousands of people have fled the violence, many of them ethnic Uzbeks moving either into Uzbekistan or massing at the border.

“The current situation in Kyrgyzstan is intolerable, people have been killed, blood is being shed, and mass ethnic unrest is continuing,” Medvedev said, Interfax news agency reported. “This is extremely dangerous to that region, and therefore anything possible should be done to prevent such developments.”

Medvedev also indicated that the security organization’s leaders may need to reconvene if the situation worsens. He said he had shared the same message with Roza Otunbayeva, prime minister of the interim government in Kyrgyzstan. On Saturday, Moscow rejected Otunbayeva’s request to send troops to quash the riots.

But former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, speaking to reporters in Belarus on Monday, said bringing the situation back to normal required international forces. The interim government has lost control, said Bakiyev, who was ousted in a coup in April.

In Jalal-Abad, north of Osh, mobs continued to loot and burn houses and kill people.

See also:
Uzbeks flee Kyrgyzstan, seek safety at border
Thousands flee ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan
“Slaughter” in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan violence: ‘I saw two neighbours shot dead before my eyes’
Kyrgyzstan’s unrest exposes heavy political jockeying
UN slams Kyrgyzstan violence
Red Cross: No Quick End to Kyrgyzstan Crisis
Russian-led Security Group Considers Intervention in Kyrgyzstan
Russia Weighs Pleas to Step In as Refugees Flee Kyrgyzstan
Coup In Kyrgyzstan?

Let’s hope this doesn’t totally spin out of control and spread countrywide.

/the Transit Center at Manas, a key U.S. airbase, crucial to our logistics chain into Afghanistan, is located near the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek

The Ultimate Estes Rocket Takes Off

Straight from the pages of the Estes catalog, the dreams of generations of kids have been realized and private sector orbital flight has been achieved. Their video feed capability leaves a bit to be desired though.

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 private rocket is a success

The Falcon 9, the first of a new generation of private rockets that could one day make space travel commonplace, successfully launched from Cape Canaveral on Friday.

The 180-foot rocket put a model of its Dragon capsule into orbit about 160 miles up, setting the stage for possible flights to the international space station early next year. The flight came after an initial abort right at ignition.

The launch gives a major boost to the rocket’s builder, SpaceX, and its Internet-tycoon founder, Elon Musk. But the launch was almost as important to the Obama administration, which has proposed a far greater role for commercial space companies in the future of NASA.

After Friday’s successful test launch — unusual for a maiden voyage — SpaceX plans to send a fully operational rocket and capsule into orbit this summer, and one to the space station next year.

See also:
Falcon 9 rockets into space in dramatic maiden flight
SpaceX Rocket Achieves Earth Orbit on First Flight
SpaceX Falcon 9 achieves orbit on maiden flight
Falcon 9, world’s first private rocket launched
Obama Space Plan ‘Vindicated’ by Private Rocket Launch, Builder Says
SpaceX fans and foes speak out
Spirialing ‘UFO’ Over Australia Was Likely Falcon 9 Rocket
SpaceX – Falcon
Falcon 9

/well hey, it’s not the Saturn V, but if it can save us from having to rely on hitching space rides with the Russians, bring it on

Pirates Buried At Sea While Still Alive?

Set adrift in an inflatable boat, hundreds of miles out to sea, the pirates never made it to shore. What a damn shame.

Freed Pirates May Have Drowned

Ten pirates released from a Russian warship 300 miles out to sea may have drowned, according to Russian officials and colleagues of the pirates, raising fears of retaliation against other vessels plying East African waters.

The pirates were captured last week after they hijacked the Moscow University, a Liberian-flagged, Russian-operated oil tanker sailing off the Somali coast. A Russian warship came to the ship’s rescue and apprehended the pirates. But after determining it would be too difficult to obtain a conviction, Russian officials said that they dropped plans to take the pirates to Moscow for trial.

Instead, like many other warships that have intercepted pirate skiffs, the Russian marines released the pirates — but not before removing weapons and navigation equipment from the boat several hundred miles from shore. Russian officials gave no explanation for removing the navigation equipment.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said radio signals from the boat disappeared about an hour after the release. “That could mean that they are dead,” the spokesperson said.

Fellow pirates in Somalia also said they lost contact with the boat after their separation from the Russian warship. “We will hold Russia responsible if any harm comes to them,” said a pirate commander, Abdi Dhagaweyne, in a telephone interview. “I’m not sure of their safety now because we have since lost contact.”

See also:
Pirates ‘have all died,’ Russia says, after decrying ‘imperfections’ in international law
Freed Somali pirates ‘probably died’ – Russian source
Russia says freed pirates didn’t reach land
Pirates Missing After Russian Navy ‘Releases’ Them
Russian Military Says Pirates Likely Dead
Reports: Pirates released by Russian military believed to have died
10 pirates released in high seas are evidently dead: Russia
Military Says Freed Pirates Didn’t Reach Land
Freed pirates never made it to shore
Somali pirates released by Russian forces confirmed dead
Pirates Versus Putin

Of course, the obvious question that arises is were the pirates still alive when they were set adrift?

/the Russians ain’t sayin’ and the evidence is forever lost at sea

Pirates Versus Putin

******************************UPDATE******************************

The pirates lose.

Russian special forces storm oil tanker from helicopter, free crew and arrest Somali pirates

Russian special forces rappelled onto a disabled oil tanker taken over by Somali pirates and freed 23 Russian sailors early Thursday, the commander of the EU Naval Force said. Ten pirates were arrested and one was killed.

The raid on the Liberian-flagged ship Moscow University came 24 hours after pirates had taken the ship over and the crew locked itself in a safe room. The vessel is carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil worth about $50 million.

The special forces had been aboard the Russian anti-submarine destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, which rushed to the scene after Wednesday’s seajacking. A helicopter was dispatched to investigate and was fired on by the pirates, EU Naval Force said. The Russian warship returned fire on the pirates, it said.

Special forces troops on the helicopter rappelled down to the Moscow University, Rear Adm. Jan Thornqvist, force commander of the EU Naval Force, told an Associated Press reporter aboard the warship Carlskrona, which on Thursday was 500 miles (800 kilometers) west of Thursday’s rescue and was sailing toward Somali waters.

Ten pirates were detained and one pirate was killed, the Russian state news agency ITAR-Tass cited Vladimir Markin as saying. Markin is the spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee. There are wounded pirates, he said without giving details.

Russian officials were preparing for the pirates to be delivered to Moscow to face criminal charges, Markin said.

See also:
Russian warship wins shootout with Somali pirates, rescues sailors
Russian marines free captured tanker off Somalia
Russian special forces storm oil tanker, free ship
Russian Destroyer Frees Hijacked Oil Tanker
Russian navy retakes oil tanker
Hijacked Russian oil tanker freed off Yemeni coast, crew unhurt

What’d I say? The Russians play for keeps.

/the pirates should have taken my advice and gotten the hell out of Dodge while they still had the chance

******************************END UPDATE******************************

I’m guessing this probably won’t end well for the pirates. The Russians aren’t particularly known for their sense of humor.

Somali pirates seize Russian tanker in Gulf of Aden

Somali pirates on Wednesday attacked and seized the Russian tanker Moskovsky Universitet in the Gulf of Aden, a Navy source said.

He earlier said the incident had occurred around 8.00 a.m. Moscow time [04:00 GMT], when the tanker was en route from the Red Sea to China. The pirates attacked the Russian vessel 350 miles east of the Gulf of Aden. There are 23 people on board, all of them Russian citizens.

He added that a Russian warship, the RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov, was on its way to help the tanker but would be unable to reach it until Wednesday night, most likely “between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Thursday.”

The captain of the tanker, which is carrying 86,000 tons of crude oil, managed to get in touch with the Russian warship by phone and call for help.

The captain said two small boats with armed men on board had made an attempt to approach the tanker and fired automatic weapons.

The Liberian-flagged tanker exercised a series of maneuvers to avoid seizure but subsequently succumbed.

The Navy source did not say exactly where the Pacific Fleet’s Udaloy-class guided-missile destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov was at the moment.

The Marshal Shaposhnikov, a large anti-submarine ship, has two helicopters and an infantry unit on board.

See also:
Somali Pirates Seize State-Owned Tanker
Pirates hijack Russian tanker
Russia sends warship after tanker is hijacked by Somali pirates
Somali pirates hijack Russian China-bound oil tanker
Warship ordered to chase Somali pirates after Russian tanker is hijacked
Somali pirates board oil tanker; warship en route
Somali Pirates Hijack Russian Oil Tanker
Somali pirates seize Russian tanker
Russia confirms oil tanker captured by Somali pirates
Somali pirates hijack Russian oil tanker: EU navy
Udaloy class destroyer

/if I were the pirates, I’d be abandoning ship before the Marshal Shaposhnikov gets there, it doesn’t look too friendly