United States military dispatches aircraft carrier, other assets to help in Haiti

The U.S. military is urgently dispatching a Navy aircraft carrier and large-deck amphibious ship, as well as military transport aircraft and assessment teams, to Haiti to assist with the earthquake relief effort, a senior U.S. military official said Wednesday.

“We are massing our forces to provide as much support as we can as quickly as we can,” said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command. “We are corralling all the resources of the Department of Defense to support this effort.”

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates later told Fraser that the disaster relief effort is a “very high priority” and that he should ask the Defense Department for “anything and everything” he needs, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

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NASA flies Boeing 747 with big telescope door open, oh Sofia

Boeing with door open

A German-built telescope is exposed during a flight of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy 747SP on Dec. 18, 2009. Credit: Carla Thomas/NASA

On Dec. 18, NASA for the first time opened the doors of its Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy in flight.

The observatory, known by its acronym, SOFIA, is a modified Boeing 747 equipped with a 98-inch German-built infrared telescope and doors that open to expose the telescope in flight. The Dec. 18 flight included two minutes with the telescope doors fully opened to allow engineers to understand how air flows in and around the telescope.

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REPORT: United States defers plan to acquire F-35 fighters, single-seat, single-engine, stealth multirole fighters

F-35 Stealth fighter

The F-35 stealth fighter aircraft. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Even as Lockheed Martin announced the successful flight test of its F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) stealth fighter aircraft, US has put off its plan to buy 10 F-35s in 2011.

The US had earmarked a total of $2.8 billion to buy the fifth-generation combat aircraft. Now, the fund would be used for the aircraft’s development, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said according to a news report in Bloomsberg.

The US has also decided against buying 122 F-35s through financial year 2015, the report said.

The combat aircraft is being developed by the US defence major Lockheed Martin in partnership with eight other countries.

Lockheed Martin had last week reported the successful flight test of the aircraft’s short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) version. The F-35B would replace the US Marine Corps AV-8B STOVL fighters, F/A-18 strike fighters and EA-6B electronic attack aircraft, it had said.

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Chavez says Venezuela jets intercepted U.S. plane

Chavez showing a plane

President Hugo Chavez said he ordered two F-16 jets to intercept a U.S. military plane that twice entered Venezuelan skies on Friday, but Washington said none of its planes flew over the South American country’s airspace.

Brandishing a photo of the plane, which he described as a P-3, Chavez said the overflight was the latest violation of Venezuelan airspace by the U.S. military from its bases on the Netherlands’ Caribbean islands and from neighboring Colombia.

“They are provoking us … these are warplanes,” he said.

Chavez said the F-16s escorted the U.S. plane away after two incursions lasting 15 and 19 minutes each.

A spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department denied Chavez’s assertion, saying in an e-mail: “We can confirm no U.S. military aircraft entered Venezuelan airspace today. As a matter of policy we do not fly over a nation’s airspace without prior consent or coordination.”

Senior Obama administration officials said the U.S. Southern Command was unaware of any incident involving U.S. government aircraft in Venezuelan airspace on Friday.

The perceived threat of U.S. intervention has become a central element of Chavez’s political discourse and a rallying cry for his supporters.

Foes say Latin America’s loudest U.S. critic is hyping the idea of a foreign threat to distract Venezuelans from domestic problems such as economic recession, rampant crime and inadequate public services.

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Airbus threatens to scrap A400M aircraft, Europe’s high profile defence project

Airbus A400M

The much delayed and over-budget A400M aircraft finally flew for the first time last month. Credit: CNN / Getty Images

Airbus is threatening to scrap its €20bn ($28.8bn) programme to build the A400M military aircraft, Europe’s most high profile defence project, unless governments agree to come up with more money for it before the end of this month.

“We need to stop this constant drain on resources,” an Airbus spokesman said on Tuesday. “We’ve asked the governments to take their share of the burden and this needs to be done as soon as possible.”

Analysts warned that abandoning the programme would be costly for the aircraft maker, which would have to repay €5.7bn in development funding under the original programme contract, and could hurt its reputation for reliably delivering aircraft.

The much delayed and over-budget A400M aircraft, which finally flew for the first time just last month, has become a source of friction between Airbus and the European governments that have backed it since its launch nearly seven years ago.

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Was software to blame for Chinook crash? Nope, just pilot negligence

New evidence has emerged that computer software faults may have caused a RAF Chinook helicopter crash in which 29 people died.

An official RAF enquiry into the incident concluded that the aircraft was airworthy and found the pilots guilty of gross negligence.

But the BBC has been passed internal MoD documents – written nine months before the crash – which cast doubt on the helicopter’s airworthiness, and describe the Chinook engine control computer software as “positively dangerous”.

The MoD maintain that since the incident, the Chinook Mk 2 has a “remarkably safe and successful service history” and that the documents in question were available to the crash inquiry and so cannot be classed as new evidence.

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Unmanned aircraft may reveal detailed information about remote areas

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has announced that it is establishing a new programme for earth observation using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which would be able to provide more detailed and timely data about the status of natural resources and environmental conditions in remote areas.

“This exciting approach to earth observation gives scientists a way to look longer, closer, and more frequently at some of the most remote areas of the Earth, places that were previously too dangerous or too expensive to monitor in detail,” said Barbara J. Ryan, USGS associate director for Geography.

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PM hands over Pakistan-made JF-17 aircraft to Pakistan Air Force (PAF)

JF-17 jet joins the PAF

PM Gilani said the JF-17 programme had provided jobs to about 5,000 people, adding that there should be more centers of excellence like the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra, in other fields to attract the youth towards constructive activities. Credit: APP photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday formally joined the international community of fighter aircraft manufacturers as JF- 17 Thunder, the first ever multi-role state of the art fighter jet, rolled out of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamra and was included to the fleet of Pakistan Air Force.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was the chief guest at the ceremony that marked a milestone in the Sino-Pak joint venture in air defense system.

Senate Chairman Farooq H. Naik, Federal Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira, Defense Minister Ch Ahmed Mukhtar, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui, Pakistan’s ambassador to China Masood Khan and three services chiefs attended the ceremony.

The sophisticated JF-17 Thunder, painted green in the color scheme of national flag appeared with grandeur as the Prime Minister unveiled the fighter jet before the audience.

Manufactured with the cooperation of China, the event has been termed as a beginning of new era of Pak-China friendship.

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Swiss test solar-power aircraft for night flight

Swiss test solar-power aircraft for night flight. History is being created inside a hangar in Dubendorf Air Base in Switzerland [ Images ] that will radically change the way an aircraft flies.

The prototype of an aircraft, to be propelled entirely by solar power even at night, has already been successfully tested for a ‘flea hop’ or a short flight.

Scientists and engineers are working full-steam to fly the aircraft around the world for 36 hours through day and night in the spring or summer of 2010, Bertrand Piccard, the driving force behind the Solar Impulse project and its test pilot, told PTI.

“What is being done is not a revolution. We try and open a new path and see what happens. We do not claim that commercial aviation will run on solar energy in the next couple of years. Solar Impulse an attempt to show what can be achieved by renewable energies and new technologies.”

The difference between this aircraft and similar ones developed earlier is that this is being developed to fly at night, Piccard, who created a record by being the first to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon, said.

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Obama Orders Probe Into Airport Security

Barack Obama has ordered an urgent review of airport screening after a former London student was able to take explosives on board a transatlantic airliner headed to the US on Christmas Day.

An urgent investigation is under-way to find out how Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab evaded security checks to board the plane carrying 278 passengers on Friday.

Authorities had apparently been warned about the 23-year-old Nigerian’s extremist views by his own millionaire father.

A spokesperson for the Obama administration said the probe targeted the Department of Homeland Security, specifically the Transportation Security Administration.

He said the US President was “interested in learning how the explosive material was brought on board the aircraft and steps that can be taken to enhance the ability of airport screeners to detect and interdict such materials in the future”.

Abdul Mutallab was charged in hospital on Saturday night with attempting to destroy the aircraft during its final approach to Detroit airport.

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