April-16-17 – We Just Survived World War III

Here we have it. First, The Donald’s tough talk – “I’m crazy. I can start WW 3. I fear nothing!”

The tough talk is immediately followed by weak facts as we have a fake gas attack, all staged, like on a movie set.

Then we have a fake Tomahawk attack where 60% of the missiles disappeared and “nobody knows where.” The Russians are saying that they were not within their reach; the Syrians are mum; and the US declares it was a complete success, a wipe-out strike, without accounting for anything on their side. No signs of damage on the Syrian side, either, although the US claims to have inflicted a devastating blow to “the Syrian regime” (20% of Assad’s air force, which would be something like 100 planes, and the air base “disabled forever,” and so on).

Now comes the second act in this Kabuki theater: the Tough Donald takes on North Korea.

First we have 600,000 people evacuated from Pyongyang and preparations for a “major event,” then all the foreign journalists are summoned, just to announce a street opening.

Then we have the gathering of the entire military leadership and dozens and dozens of Korean submarine-launched missiles, ICBM missiles, medium-range missiles, all within a one-mile radius brought together in the center of Pyongyang creating an open invitation for an all-out American bulls-eye strike. One would expect a Mother Of All Bombs to wipe out the entire military leadership and at least 20% of their toys, as in Syria.

But the devastating blow came later, not with a Boom but the Hiss of a deflating balloon — in this case, a failed launch of a Korean missile. Was it the launch of a state-of-the-art ICBM? No, just a routine medium range, maybe even short-range missile. Maybe no range at all.

So now McMaster, and all the other masters of the US full-spectrum dominance, supposedly took out a toy missile. The mountain gave birth to a mouse.

Maybe it was the overwhelming concentration of forces by the “full spectrum dominant” force, their satellites, aircraft carriers, submarines, THAAD, cyber/electronic warfare, all brought together to stop this missile in its flight. But maybe, also, the Korean Boy who runs the fearless Korean war machine set up a prank, maybe together with the Chinese (maybe agreed at the famous chocolate-cake war room conference at Mar-a-Lago), so that they had a launch and self-destroyed it instantly.

Now everybody can go home and have their Easter eggs. Oof, we avoided World War III! Or, maybe we that was it, we just had it. Who knows?

But we all survived, and now the Donald has had himself awarded the title of a war president, and he can now negotiate with the Chinese and the Russians – from a position of strength . . . the demise of the United States.

Happy Spring to a new world.

April-12-17 – U.S. Intelligence Source: Syria Chemical Weapons Attack Launched From Saudi Base

Trump Withholds Syria-Sarin Evidence

April 12, 2017

Exclusive: Despite President Trump’s well-known trouble with the truth, his White House now says “trust us” on its Syrian-sarin charges while withholding the proof that it claims to have, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

After making the provocative and dangerous charge that Russia is covering up Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the Trump administration withheld key evidence to support its core charge that a Syrian warplane dropped sarin on a northern Syrian town on April 4.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon, March 16, 2017. (DoD photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

A four-page white paper, prepared by President Trump’s National Security Council staff and released by the White House on Tuesday, claimed that U.S. intelligence has proof that the plane carrying the sarin gas left from the Syrian military airfield that Trump ordered hit by Tomahawk missiles on April 6.

The paper asserted that “we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence,” but then added that “we cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods.”

I’m told that the key evidence was satellite surveillance of the area, a body of material that U.S. intelligence analysts were reviewing late last week even after the Trump-ordered bombardment of 59 Tomahawk missiles that, according to Syrian media reports, killed seven or eight Syrian soldiers and nine civilians, including four children.

Yet, it is unclear why releasing these overhead videos would be so detrimental to “sources and methods” since everyone knows the U.S. has this capability and the issue at hand – if it gets further out of hand – could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

In similarly tense situations in the past, U.S. Presidents have released sensitive intelligence to buttress U.S. government assertions, including John F. Kennedy’s disclosure of U-2 spy flights in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan revealing electronic intercepts after the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983.

Yet, in this current case, as U.S.-Russian relations spiral downward into what is potentially an extermination event for the human species, Trump’s White House insists that the world must trust it despite its record of consistently misstating facts.

In the case of the April 4 chemical-weapons incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which reportedly killed scores of people including young children, I was told that initially the U.S. analysts couldn’t see any warplanes over the area in Idlib province at the suspected time of the poison gas attack but later they detected a drone that they thought might have delivered the bomb.

A Drone Mystery

According to a source, the analysts struggled to identify whose drone it was and where it originated. Despite some technical difficulties in tracing its flight path, analysts eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels, the source said, adding that the suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

President Trump at a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on April 5, 2017, at which the President commented on the crisis in Syria. (Screen shot from whitehouse.gov)

If indeed that was the motive — and if the source’s information is correct — the operation would have been successful, since the Trump administration has now reversed itself and is pressing Russia to join in ousting Assad who is getting blamed for the latest chemical-weapons incident.

Presumably, however, the “geospatial intelligence” cited in the four-page dossier could disprove this and other contentions if the Trump administration would only make its evidence publicly available.

The dossier stated, “Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. These aircraft were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack.”

So, that would mean – assuming that the dossier is correct – that U.S. intelligence analysts were able to trace the delivery of the poison gas to Assad’s aircraft and to the airfield that Trump ordered attacked on April 6.

Still, it remains a mystery why this intelligence assessment is not coming directly from President Trump’s intelligence chiefs as is normally the case, either with an official Intelligence Estimate or a report issued by the Director of National Intelligence.

The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.

The White House photo released late last week showing the President and a dozen senior advisers monitoring the April 6 missile strike from a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was noteworthy in that neither CIA Director Mike Pompeo nor Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was in the frame.

Now, it is the White House that has released the four-page dossier supposedly summing up the assessment of the “intelligence community.”

An Argumentative Dossier

The dossier also seems argumentative in that it assumes that Russian officials – and presumably others – who have suggested different possible explanations for the incident at Khan Sheikdoun did so in a willful cover-up, when any normal investigation seeks to evaluate different scenarios before settling on one.

It is common amid the “fog of war” for people outside the line of command – and even sometimes inside the line of command – to not understand what happened and to struggle for an explanation.

On April 6, before Trump’s missile strike, I and others received word from U.S. military intelligence officials in the Middle East that they, too, shared the belief that the poison gas may have resulted from a conventional bombing raid that ruptured containers stored by the rebels, who – in Idlib province – are dominated by Al Qaeda’s affiliate and its allies.

Those reports were cited by former U.S. intelligence officials, including more than two dozen who produced a memo to President Trump urging him to undertake a careful investigation of the incident before letting this crisis exacerbate U.S.-Russia relations.

The memo said “our U.S. Army contacts in the area” were disputing the official story of a chemical weapons attack. “Instead, a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died,” the memo said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing the audience at a concert for Palmyra, Syria, via a satellite link on May 5, 2016, after the ancient city was liberated from the Islamic State. (Image from RT’s live-streaming of the event)

In other words, to suggest possible alternative scenarios is not evidence of a “cover-up,” even if the theories are later shown to be erroneous. It is the normal process of sorting through often conflicting initial reports.

Even in the four-page dossier, Trump’s NSC officials contradicted what other U.S. government sources have told The New York Times and other mainstream news outlets about the Syrian government’s supposed motive for launching the chemical-weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

According to the earlier accounts, the Syrian government either was trying to terrorize the population in a remote rebel-controlled area or was celebrating its impunity after the Trump administration had announced that it was no longer seeking Assad’s removal.

But the dossier said, “We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.” Although Khan Sheikhoun was not near the fighting, the dossier presented the town as an area of support for the offensive.

Assuming this assessment is correct, does that mean that the earlier explanations were part of a cover-up or a propaganda operation? The reality is that in such complex situations, the analyses should continue to be refined as more information becomes available. It should not be assumed that every false lead or discarded theory is proof of a “cover-up,” yet that is what we see here.

“The Syrian regime and its primary backer, Russia, have sought to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks,” the dossier declared.

But the larger point is that – given President Trump’s spotty record for getting facts straight – he and his administration should go the extra mile in presenting irrefutable evidence to support its assessments, not simply insisting that the world must “trust us.”

[In a separate analysis of the four-page dossier, Theodore Postol, a national security specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded that the White House claims were clearly bogus, writing:

“I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

“In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4. This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April-12-17 – U.S. Intelligence Source: Syria Chemical Weapons Attack Launched From Saudi Base

Award winning journalist Robert Parry says incident was likely a false flag

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
April 12, 2017


Award-winning Iran-Contra journalist Robert Parry says the chemical weapons attack in Syria was launched from a joint Saudi-Israeli special operations base in Jordan, according to his intelligence sources.

U.S. intelligence analysts determined that a drone was responsible for the attack and “eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels,” according to the source.

“The suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad,” writes Parry.

As we highlighted back in 2013 after another chemical weapons attack in Ghouta that was blamed on Assad, rebels freely admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they had been given the weapons by Saudi Arabia but had “handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions.”

Parry’s background lends the information credibility. He covered the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek and was later given a George Polk award for his work on intelligence matters.

The contention that the incident was a “false flag” to create a justification for air strikes has also been voiced by former Congressman Ron Paul as well as numerous other prominent voices, including Vladimir Putinhimself, who went on to warn that rebels could now stage a similar incident in Damascus to goad the U.S. into toppling Assad.

Whoever was responsible for the attack does not take away from the horror of the event and the fact that innocent people and children died.

Parry dismissed the four page report released by President Trump’s National Security Council that blames the Syrian government for the chemical attack as being heavy on assertions but lacking actual evidence.

The white paper states, “we cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods,” although as Parry points out, “In similarly tense situations in the past, U.S. Presidents have released sensitive intelligence to buttress U.S. government assertions, including John F. Kennedy’s disclosure of U-2 spy flights in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan revealing electronic intercepts after the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983.”

Parry challenged the Trump administration to make its evidence publicly available, while also questioning why both CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats were not show in a photo released by the White House which shows the President and a dozen of his senior advisers monitoring the April 6 missile strike from a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

“Given President Trump’s spotty record for getting facts straight – he and his administration should go the extra mile in presenting irrefutable evidence to support its assessments, not simply insisting that the world must “trust us,” concludes Parry.

Sent from my iPad

April-9-17 – Tillerson Will Not Be Meeting with Putin

Rossiyskiy Dialog April 9, 2017, 16:42

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not fly to Moscow this Tuesday, April 11, to meet with President Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that just yesterday it was understood that Washington wants to persuade Russia to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The meeting between Putin and Tillerson has been cancelled, as Steve Herman, head of Voice of America in the White House, made public Sunday afternoon, April 9.

According to Herman, the private talks with Putin scheduled for April 11–12 disappeared from his working schedule less than two days beforehand. The reasons for this cancellation have not been made clear.

[Earlier today, CBS News was still broadcasting that “Ahead of Moscow visit, Tillerson blames Russia’s ‘failure’ in Syria for killings.” At the same time, Stratfor reports that the “meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has been removed from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s schedule…” but that, “Regardless, Tillerson will continue discussions on Syria in person in Moscow on April 11-12.” ]

The American media reports that Tillerson is allegedly flying to Moscow with evidence that Damascus organized the chemical attack on Idlib on April 4, and with a demand that the Kremlin desist from further supporting the legitimate authority in Syria.

As previously reported by "Russian Dialogue," Tillerson has accused Russia of ignoring its obligations to dispose of chemical weapons in Syria, charging Moscow with responsibility for their possible presence in Damascus.

April-9-17 – Dacian Cioloş Should Defend Romania’s Interests, Not the Lords of Brussels

President of the Romanian Senate Calin Popescu-Tariceanu called for Dacian Cioloş to "defend Romania’s interests, not those of the bigwigs in Brussels." He says the former premier is in the service of a faction that feels Romania “should be content with the status of a colony within the EU."

"I’ve been quite surprised by the criticism coming lately from the technocrat Dacian Cioloş, former premier, and I think it’s worth a response. Not a personal response, because I don’t want to ascribe to Mr. Cioloş a greater importance than he merits. Dacian Cioloş speaks for a faction in Romanian politics that says Romania should content itself with the role of a colonial state within the European Union. We have politicians going around Europe with the same mindset of 250 years ago when the Phanariot rulers approached the Sublime Porte [seat of the Ottoman government] with the attitude, ‘better to bow your head than wind up dead.’ There are politicians out there who present it like a great victory for Romanians that the notion of a ‘multi-speed Europe’ has been replaced with a Europe ‘at different paces and intensity.’ It’s like the saying, ‘Still the same Mary, but in a different hat,’ Tariceanu wrote Saturday evening on Facebook.

He maintains that EU decisions are taken after "hard negotiations" in which each state has a responsibility to work "vigorously" to protect its own interests.

"Probably, some of these people think it’s better to be a slave with a generous master than to stand on one’s own feet. Others have gotten used to their luxurious lives as high-status functionaries with the same salary as the CEO of a private company, without even having to worry about getting in trouble with your employer. Whatever their motive, one thing is clear as daylight: all these politicians know that MCV is a political mechanism, and that decisions that have to do with Romania, like all the other second-tier Member States, are not automatically taken in accordance with European principles but have to be negotiated on the basis of economic or political interests. Even Dacian Cioloş says as much in a statement he sent in reference to discussions he’s had with other European leaders about postponing the country’s admission to the Schengen area. To use an expression that President Iohannis is fond of: that’s the elephant in the room, that everybody knows about. In the EU, decisions are made following tough negotiations in which each state has to act vigorously to protect its interests. “If you don’t do that, you’re going to lose.”

The Senate President gives Poland as a model negotiator and pleads in favor of a one-speed European Union.

"This is a fact that states like Poland understand, but people like Prime Minister Dacian Cioloş do not apply it. They still believe in the logic whereby, if in the final negotiations they offer a several-billion-euro contract to a Dutch company to build ships, without putting it out to bid, they will gain the goodwill of the Netherlands. Posing as convinced Europeans, they say all this to me, who was Prime Minister at the time we joined the European Union. I believe in the European Union, but a single-speed European Union, not one with ‘colonies’ and ‘great powers,’ not a Europe with ‘first-tier citizens’ and ‘second-tier citizens.’ I believe such a European Union can be achieved, in which Romania will be a strong state, possibly even the seventh largest economic power in Europe, as befits the size of its territory and population. This is one of my objectives in traveling Monday to Brussels, where I am going to meet with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and with Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice," said Tariceanu.

According to him, Romania must uphold its "interests" in Brussels.

"This EU, which I think every Romanian wants, can be achieved only if we uphold our interests in Brussels and do not accept the status of a servant. Politicians like Dacian Cioloş want to sell an illusion to those few Romanians who still believe him. The illusion that if we behave ourselves and don’t bother anyone, we will get what we deserve. The illusion that if we keep still while our rights and freedoms are infringed, we will be counted among “the good guys.” The illusion that if we applaud every decision made by today’s leaders in Brussels, we will be given a front-row seat. But if there is a lesson to be learned from Romanian history, it’s this: when we were other people’s servants, we were weaker and lived poorly. When we dared to look up from the ground, we were stronger. I hope that Dacian Cioloş and the other politicians like him will find this courage. Whether they do or not, I, together with ALDE and our partners in government, will continue to work to gain a stronger position for Romania in the EU,” said Tariceanu.

Agerpres / (Author: Livia Popescu, editor: Nona Jalbă, online editor Anda Badea. Translated by Alice Decker.)

April-7-17 – Trump’s Attack in Syria

My reading of the attack is that it is a highly choreographed non-attack, fake news attack.

Not real. Having the Chinese President at his side, and hitting empty fields, Trump (and Putin) prevents a real attack and might even set the stage for a backlash against possible false flag attacks.

Not real.

Don’t kid yourselves, Trump is bluffing. All he can do and all he is doing is hard bargaining the “controlled demolition” of the US. He might get an extra 10 years from Xi. But the writing is on the wall and has been for some time.

Can you imagine Trump notified the Russians in advance: “herefrom these two little ships we will volley our cruise missiles, just over your heads, you can see them with naked eye”. And the Russians were “defeated”, just like that. This a war-story for children.

Nothing is real in this episode.

April-02-17 – The US Has Opened a New Front in Syria by an Air Assault Operation

By Valentin Vasilescu

Trans. by Alice Decker

Raqqa, the Islamic State “capital,” was cut off from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) trained and led by the US military from the north, west and east, within a radius of 20–35 km. The city’s defenders had only one link left with other territories: that from the south. Some 45 km southwest of Raqqa is Tabqa Cty, an important outpost for the defense of Raqqa on the banks of the river Euphrates. After the Syrian army liberated Dayr Hafer from ISIS, they advanced to Tabqa on the southern shore of Lake Assad, 40 km from the city. To the west of Tabqa city is a strategic objective — the Tabqa dam. It was built in the 1960s and 1970s with help from the USSR. It is a major dam, 4.5 kilometers long, and provides 35% of the electricity in Syria. There is another, smaller dam on the Euphrates River, called the Baath. It is 20 km east of Tabqa dam, between Tabqa and Raqaa.

On the night of 21/22 March 2017, the US military launched a joint airborne operation in Syria, carried out initially for about 80 American soldiers from the 75 Rangers Regiment Special Operations Forces and 400 Kurdish YPG fighters, now called SDF. The purpose of this operation was to occupy a strategically important area on the southern shore of Lake Assad and the Euphrates. The area is bounded to the west by a portion of the road linking Tabqa with Aleppo, in the middle by the Tabqa dam and the Tabqa Air Base, and in the east by a portion of the road that connects Tabqa and Raqaa. This operation occurred a week before the Syrian army’s maneuver, preventing it from participating in the liberation of Raqaa city from the Islamic State.

The operation started 48 hours before the actual transport, when the US led nearly 50 coalition airstrikes against ISIS. They targeted pockets of resistance, ammunition depots and 50 Islamic State military vehicles. The targets were the city of Tabqa, Tabqa Air Base and near the Tabqa dam. After nightfall, about 75 US Marines in expeditionary unit 11 crossed Lake Assad using dinghies. Their mission was to create a safe overflight for American aircraft by clearing the southern shore of Lake Assad of Islamic State fighters.

At around 04.00 on March 22, in the district where the boarding for the airborne operation was to take place, just north of the town of Jabăr on the northern shore of Lake Assad, about 30 MH-47F helicopters and OV-22 Osprey vertical takeoff aircraft took off from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) Command. The OV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. It combines the flight characteristics of winged aircraft with those of a helicopter, in that the wing on which the two engines are mounted can change its position by 90 degrees around the transverse axis of the aircraft. The OV-22 can transport 24 soldiers or a 4×4 Badger Phantom vehicle and has not only a gun inside the hatch but also a rotating machine gun with six barrels (7.62 mm caliber, firing at a rate of 6,000 projectiles per minute), operated by remote control, under the belly of the airplane. Now the OV-22 can protect itself in all directions while landing.

In the flight path and near Abu Hurayrah peninsula, the designated landing area, the transport aircraft were protected by US AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Another 124 American marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed near the town of Jabar. They run a battery of M777 howitzers (155 mm caliber) and, together with the AH-64 Apache helicopters, they neutralized any attempt by Islamic State fighters to fire on the landing areas. The M777 howitzer fires Excalibur-type high-precision projectiles with a range of up to 40 km and is accurate to 4–10 m, due to the use of GPS and a digital fire-control system.

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi, Chief of Operations of the Russian military’s General Staff, said the Americans’ 155 mm caliber projectiles had damaged one of the sluice gates and compromised the Tabqa dam. It is jammed shut, and there is danger of catastrophic flooding.

The distance between the boarding area of Jabar and the landing in Abu Hurayrah is 25 km. Thus, by March 22, 08.00, US aircraft made at least 60 deliveries including 480 troops, with weapons, ammunition, food, equipment engineers, etc. Note that the MH-47F helicopter is capable of carrying the 75th Rangers Regiment’s Humvee light armored vehicles. The first flights carried exclusively American servicemen and their armored vehicles. The MH-47F helicopter transports 33–55 troops, or weapons and ammunition up to 10,886 kg. They defend themselves with a 7.62 mm caliber machine gun operated form the open hatch at the tail. The mission of the 80 US soldiers from the 75th Rangers Regiment was to secure the two landing areas on the Abu Hurayrah peninsula.

By the end of the day, March 22, a bridgehead was established on the southern shore of Lake Assad. About 3,000 fighters and 300 SDF Marines or US Special Forces had been flown in. Additionally, the US Marines also provided landing ships which helped to deploy the SDF’s heavy machinery (Humvees, armored personnel carriers, mortars, artillery, bulldozers), on the south bank of the Euphrates. Later, the Tabqa Air Base was captured and most of the troops were deployed 10 km east of Tabqa in the direction of the Baath dam to prevent the Islamic State troops from migrating from Raqaa to Tabqa.

Because of the potential failure of the Tabqa dam, the original plan of operation was changed, meaning that SDF troops who had reached the northern end of it did not go ahead and seize it. Thus they missed the opportunity to open up transport routes for the SDF troops on the southern shore of Lake Assad. The American landing troops then proceed to encircle the Islamic State at Tabqa and to occupy the Baath dam. By crossing the Baath dam, SDF can pop up behind the Islamic State’s defensive deployment, located on the north bank of the Euphrates. By this means, the SDF troops on both sides will now be linnked.

Raqaa City straddles the north bank of the Euphrates. By occupying the Baath dam, SDF also surrounds the forward defense positions of the Islamic State, to the west and on the south bank of the Euphrates, near the city of Raqaa, completing the encirclement of the Islamic State capital. This new operation will end when the Islamic State fighters from Tabqa City surrender or are wiped out, and there will be no gap in the encirclement of Raqaa. Islamic State can no longer receive reinforcements from Raqaa or Deir-ez-Zor and Iraq.

26-March-17 – Russian Special Forces and the Ka-52 Helicopter in the Second Liberation of Palmyra

By Valentin Vasilescu

Translated By Alice Decker

Syria is a training ground for the Russian military to test new combat methods and new organizational structures adapted to fighting terrorists.

The Islamic State offensive from 8 to 12 December 2016 resulted in their recapturing the city of Palmyra, advancing westward, and blocking the Syrian T-4 Air Base at Tiyas, located 30 km west of Palmyra. Islamic State’s offensive formation was composed of three brigades with one in reserve, or about 5,000 fighters. The first brigade took the lead. It had 1,700 men with 30 tanks armored vehicles (BMP-1 or IFVs), 70 trucks equipped with 14.5 mm-caliber machine guns, 20 pieces of artillery (122 mm-caliber howitzers and BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers), and dozens of 120 mm- and 82-caliber mortars. IS had a brigade of more than 1,000 soldiers on both its left and right flanks, without heavy artillery and with fewer armored vehicles and trucks than the main body. Palmyra and the city’s airport were guarded by Islamic State reserves of over 800 fighters.

Combat Forces in Palmyra.

Syria’s T-4 Air Base at Tiyas was defended by about 2,000 soldiers. The defensive forces included: a mechanized brigade of the Syrian Army’s 10th Infantry Division, an NDF territorial battalion comprised of Syrian reservists, a battalion of Lebanese Hizballah and a battalion from the Afghan Shiite organization Liwa Fatemiyoun. The T-4 Base was close to being surrounded and cut off, so that the Syrian army was forced to send reinforcements, about 2,500 troops, from Aleppo.

In addition to a battalion of Tiger special forces, a battalion from the 5th Legion and three tank companies from Tank Division 18 (totaling about 1,000 soldiers), soldiers brought in as reinforcements, were NDF (National Defense Forces) ancillary forces without much combat experience. Even with the reinforcements, the Syrian army was no greater than that of the Islamic State.

Under these conditions, it could have taken several months to stop the Islamic State offensive and prepare a counterattack to liberate Palmyra. Therefore, the general staff of this group was made up of Russian planning officers. The Russian planners quickly drew up a plan of air and ground operations that could achieve the intended goal in less than a week.

Offensive Plan for the Liberation of Palmyra.

The first key was to restrict the mobility of the three IS brigades, preventing them from moving. They put the IS on the defensive and prevented them from bringing up their reserves, located 30 km away from the Syrian air base.

To keep the Islamic State forces in place and neutralize them, a Russian tactical aviation group in Syria (having both jets and attack helicopters) had to hit at least 600 major IS targets in the first 72 hours of the operation. This meant that some aircraft, particularly the Mi-28 and Ka-52 attack helicopters, had to perform five battle flights daily (compared to the two runs normally carried out. Most of these were close air support missions at low altitude. This meant an additional risk to Russian aircraft as they were vulnerable to IS heavy machine guns and small-caliber cannons.

The second key element was to make the most efficient use of one of the basic elements of warfare: reconnaissance, mainly through research carried out independently by ground troops. The accuracy of any airstrikes depended on good intelligence, accurately detecting and transmitting the location of each enemy position. Therefore, the center of gravity of the operation to break the encirclement of the air base at Tiyas and to free Palmyra was the Russian Spetsnaz group’s ability to convey reconnaissance information to the headquarters of the operation. The special forces also organized raids and ambushes.

The Russians gave the Syrian army a flexible order of battle, consisting of approximately 10 assault groups made up of one platoon of T-62 tanks, a BMP-1 platoon, a BTR-82A platoon, two ZSU-23-4 Shilka automatic cannons, 15 pickups with machine guns (14.5 mm caliber) and 200 more Marines onboard the trucks. Reconnaissance by the ground troops of each assault group was conducted by advance detachments that formed joint commando units consisting of Spetsnaz special forces and Syrian Tigers.

IS support points that had been hit in the airstrikes were liquidated by the Syrian army assault groups, which eliminated the Islamist rebels or forced them to retreat. In the mountainous terrain north and south of the road that links the T-4 Tiyas Air Base to Palmyra, it is harder for aerial forces to hit their targets. There, the Syrian army used an artillery support group consisting of 32 artillery systems: D-30 122-mm-caliber howitzers; BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, and TOS-1A thermobaric launchers. Thermobaric ammunition is a combination of liquid fuel and tetranor powder. It is used for destroying fortifications and armored vehicles or fighters. Thermobaric projectiles first produce a small explosion that vaporizes the contents in a flammable cloud. When the aerosol thus created makes contact with the oxygen in the atmosphere, it self-detonates, creating a tremendous shock wave followed by intense fire.

Within 48 hours of the start of the operation, Russian aviation had fulfilled its mission, the Islamic State terrorist offensive was stopped and the Syrian army assault groups took the lead. IS fighters retreated to Palmyra, which was besieged from the south, west and north by the Syrian army. The city was quickly liberated and the terrorists retreated east of Palmyra. The Syrian army continued in pursuit, moving towards the town of Deir ez Zor.

According to a statement by Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian General Staff Main Operational Directorate, 1,000 ISIS members were killed and wounded, and 19 tanks, 37 armored vehicles, 98 pickups armed with heavy weaponry, and over 100 cars were destroyed.

Tigers Syrian Commando Units.

At the end of 2013, Lieutenant Colonel Suheil al-Hassan was tasked with forming a new Syrian special forces battalion which was to have a greater offensive capability. They were called the Tigers. Some of the officers of this new unit are selected from Tank Divisions 4 and 11 of the Syrian army. Originally, the Tigers were prepared using manuals and trainers from the Iranian and Hezbollah commandos. In early 2016, the Tigers went ahead and formed two battalions. They were trained by Spetsnaz special forces and Iranian instructors. This explains why the Tigers used Russian AK-74 weapons with silencers and with laser rangefinders, headphones and armor from the Russian RATNIK equipment, 10 to 15 T-90A tanks and several Russian light armored vehicles (Russian LMV) in operations in the Aleppo governorate, in the summer of 2016.

Offensive operations by Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups are preceded by two types of suicide actions carried out simultaneously. Up to ten 4×4 cars and trucks with heavy plates of armor called VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) or armored BMP-1s (IFV), all filled with explosives, start out from different directions at full speed and ram their way through the Syrian army positions in order to explode in their midst. Simultaneously, dozens of individuals or groups of fighters, with explosive belts, try to penetrate the Syrian army.

If this method works, the terrorist assault units start their offensive.

The Tigers have adopted a method of neutralizing these suicide attacks by setting up ambushes. In the ambush, the Tigers use multiple observation points covering different sectors, using snipers with Orsis T-5000 sighted rifles (7.62 mm caliber) and KSVK sighted machine guns (12.7 mm caliber), as well as SPG-9 recoilless rifles (73 mm caliber), RPG-29 anti-tank missile launchers, and Metis-M and Kornet portable anti-tank missiles.

The 5th Legion and the IS Hunters Regiment are auxiliary units of the Syrian Army, supplemented by volunteers who have undergone a program of training, equipping and arming financed by Russia. The 5th Legion has a first batch of 1,000 soldiers who have been trained in assault tactics to be used on Islamic State groups, and they are used in elite units serving under the Tigers.

The role of Russian Spetsnaz in the liberation of Palmyra.

Russian Special Forces are equipped with 6B47 helmets (RATNIK equipment) that have a 1PN139 thermal finder and 1-P88-2 sighting device, for night vision. This allowed them to infiltrate secretly, at night, to a distance of less than 5 km from IS resistance points. During the day this was impossible, because of the many IS observation points manned by snipers.

Spetsnaz troops equipped with RATNIK then launched silent ZALA 421-08 type mini UAVs, with electric motors, weighing 1.7 kg, with a ceiling of 3,600 m and flight duration up to 90 minutes [1]. Video transmissions from the Zala 421-08 provided infrared imagery of Islamic State formations. These were received via satellite at the air operations center of the Russian air base at Hmeymim. The transmission is done using the Special Forces’ Strelets tactical computer device. The Strelets screens also automatically displayed to Russian aviators the positions of all the Spetsnaz detachments, thus avoiding any “friendly fire” incidents.

Having identified targets to hit, the Russian command center at Hmeymim dispatched Su-24, Su-25, and Su-30 planes as well as Mi-28 N, Mi-35 and Ka-52 attack helicopters. The armored cars, pickup trucks and artillery were hit first — the strong points of IS.

To aid the precision airstrikes, Spetsnaz illuminated some of the targets by laser beam. These Russian airstrikes neutralized fire power of infantry Islamic State.

Testing the Russian Ka-52 Helicopter.

For Russia, one important objective of this operation was to test the Ka-52 helicopters that are being deployed with Russia’s Navy. The Ka-52 Alligator is a new reconnaissance and attack helicopter with two coaxial bearing propellers driven by two Klimov TV3 engines of 1830 kg each. It can reach a speed of 350 km/h. The Ka-52 helicopter has a range of 545 km without additional fuel tanks, and it can carry two tons of weapons. Four containers can be mounted with 23 mm caliber guns, or four multiple-launchers with six Vikhr-type laser-guided antitank rockets (with a range of 12–15 km), or with six Igla-V air-to-air missiles or two blocks of 20 S-8 reactive projectiles each (80 mm caliber).

In the Palmyra operation, tests of the new Vikhr missiles showed very good results. When the Russian Navy uses the Ka-52, it is equipped with two torpedoes or four Kh-25 air-to-ship laser-guided missiles, or two Kh-35U missiles (with a range of 300 km) or two Kh1AD missiles.

The avionics on board the Ka-52 includes equipment designed by the French company Sextant Avionique, part of the Thales concern. This allows them to display all the NASH information (Navigation and Attack System for Helicopters) on the unit’s HDD (head-down displays) sighting system, or directly on the helmet visor of the pilot and the weapons system operator using the Topowl system. The 30-mm Shipunov2A422 mobile cannon located in the nose of the helicopter is also operated via the helmet visor.

For navigation at night and in low visibility, the helicopter is equipped with Russian Khoda-type FLIR sensors and laser rangefinders linked to the laser target-marking system. They are mounted in a turret under the cockpit. In another turret, electro-optical sensors are mounted (TV and infrared cameras). Ka-52 helicopters also have Phazotron FH-01 Crossbow radar, which can track up to 20 air and ground targets simultaneously.

To protect itself, the Ka-52 helicopter has a broadband receiver and Pastel L150 radar warning system. In the infrared spectrum it is protected by Mak L136 equipment, and in pulsed laser frequencies by L140 Otklik equipment. UV-26 flare and chaff dispensers and metalized dipole cartridges are mounted in a container at the wingtips.

[1]. Russian soldiers have the best personal protective gear ( https://southfront.org/russian-soldiers-have-the-best-personal-protection-gear-opinion/ )

14-03-17 – Funding Ballistic Missile Shields vs. Space Programs

by Valentin Vasilescu

Translated by Alice Decker

Concomitant with the miniaturization of nuclear warheads, designers of intercontinental ballistic missiles switched to rocket engines that use solid propellants (fuel/oxidizer) instead of liquid fuel. This made it possible to reduce the nuclear vector and shorten the preparation time for launch. All of the US military forces abandoned liquid fuel rockets in the last twenty years.

In liquid fuel rockets, the liquid fuel and an oxidizer are burned together in a combustion chamber. The fuel flow and the thrust generated can be regulated and the engine can be controlled, making it more fuel-efficient. Solid-fuel rockets are simpler, safer, and cheaper. A fuel and an oxidizer are pre-mixed in a solid form. It is no longer necessary to separate the fuel tanks and cryogenic receptacles, as is required when using liquefied gases (LOX/LH liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen) and there is no more need for turbopumps to pump the propellant from the tanks into the combustion chamber. However, once combustion begins, the thrust cannot be controlled or turned off, making this a less efficient system.

The evolution of solid fuels.

Dr. Theodore von Karman emigrated from Europe in 1930 to become the first director of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT), which later became Aerojet Engineering Corporation. The aim was to study and develop new solid rocket fuels. The first solid fuel, called GALCIT 27, was a black powder made from an organic matrix (the asphalt used in roads) with an inorganic oxidant (potassium nitrate, known as saltpeter). GALCIT 61-C, which was still used after the end of the Second World War, was composed of 76% potassium perchlorate as the oxidizer and 24% fuel (asphalt and motor oil). To get rid of the fumes, the potassium perchlorate was replaced with ammonium perchlorate (NH4ClO4). Ammonium perchlorate derivatives are the most widely used fuel rocket today.

It was a big step forward when the asphalt was replaced with an elastomeric polymer. Zinc oxide was added as a hardener or curing agent, creating polysulfides that have a structure and properties similar to rubber. To test the new solid fuel, the Aerojet Engineering company created a small rocket called the "Thunderbird." Weighing 580 kg, the Thunderbird had a thrust of 2,720 kg. The Thunderbird led to the creation of the Sergeant rocket engine and later the XM33 Pollux, which was widely used for the upper stage Vanguard rockets that placed the first US Explorer satellites in space.

From polysulfides they progressed to polyurethane (thermoplastic polymers) by adding aluminum to the fuel composition. Polyurethane can be easily modeled, and was poured directly into the rocket body. ESTANE, the first rocket fuel based on polyurethane, was produced by Goodrich Chemical company, but the most commonly used fuel in this class was PBAA, a copolymer of polybutadiene and acrylic acid, which was first produced in 1967.

Since space rockets are about 80% derived from military ballistic missiles, solid fuel has become the norm in both areas. The most common polyurethane rocket fuel is HTPB (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene), produced by ATOChem and was used the Delta II, Delta III, Delta IV, Titan IVB and Ariane rocket boosters. A derivative of the HTPB solid fuel is PBAN, which was used by the two Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) to provide thrust during the first two minutes of flight..

US rocket motors: Recycled from the ICBM and Re-assembled as an Antiballistic Shield

Orbital Sciences Corp (OSC) became famous in April 1990 when the Pegasus, its first ultra-light rocket, was launched from a B-52 bomber (capable of carrying up to 32,000 kg) and managed to place in orbit a 443 kg satellite. The Pegasus ultralight rockets were 17.6 m long and weighed 23,130 kg; they had four stages with solid fuel. The rocket would detach from the airplane at an altitude of 10,000 m and the satellite was placed in a low orbit around the Earth.

This ultra-light rocket was a turning point in the construction of American missiles, showing that it was feasible to build a US anti-ballistic shield. On December 13, 2001, President George W. Bush notified Russia that the US was unilaterally withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The ABM Treaty limited each signatory to installing Anti-Ballistic systems in just one location. At the same time, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) was created within the US Defense Department. Technically, this institution was the latest incarnation of President Reagans Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program, later restructured and renamed the BDMO (Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) in 1994. The MDA funded OSC (manufacturer of the Pegasus rocket), to assemble ballistic missiles, switching over to the Taurus and Minotaur rockets. The 1,000 three-stage missiles (the LGM-30F Minuteman II, operational from August 1965 until 1997) and the 500 LGM-118 Peacekeepers (the MX, operational until 2005), were decommissioned and subsequently supplied to Pentagon agencies and private companies like OSC, SpaceX (Space Explorations Technologies) and ULA (United Launch Alliance).

The Taurus rocket is assembled by OSC with a launch mass of 73 tons and a payload capacity of 1.3 tonnes for satellites to be placed in low orbit. The first stage of the Taurus rocket is the SR-19. The SR-19 is the second stage of the Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile and the Peacekeeper MX-II. The SR-19 has a mass of about 7 t, with a thrust of 27,000 kgf. The SR-19 later became the first stage of the GBMD (Ground-Based Midcourse Defense) fixed rocket system for the US Missile Defense Agency. The GBMD shield defends the US Pacific Coast with launch sites in Alaska, California and Hawaii.

The GBMD was developed in parallel with the ABMD (Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense), the naval component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). It uses recycled solid rocket. The US Navy has fifteen Arleigh Burke-class AEGIS destroyers and 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers. All these vessels are equipped with SPY-1D antiballistic radar and 24 anti-ballistic missiles (the RIM-161/SM-3, launched by the MK-41 Vertical Launch System). AEGIS ballistic systems were installed on six Japanese Kong-AEGIS-class destroyers and three Korean Sejong-class destroyers.

The same AEGIS system has been deployed in Romania, at Deveselu, and it will be deployed in Poland as well. The RIM-161 / SM-3 Block 1b uses the Aerojet MK 72 engine which was the third stage of the American ICBM Minuteman-II rocket, which has been decommissioned.

The US Army has created its own ABM shield called THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). A battery consists of 9 launchers x 8 missiles, one radar and two tactical operations centers, all on a M1075 chassis (for 6 x 6 specialty trucks) manufactured by Oshkosh Corporation. The THAAD missiles solid fuel engine is a variant of the Aerojet MK 72.

The Minotaur is the second family of solid fuel rockets from the OSC company. The Minotaur I can launch into orbit an object with a mass of 580 kg. Its first stage engine is a M55A1 (the same as the first stage of the Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile) with 80,000 kgF thrust. The second stage (SR-19) is, as mentioned above, the same second stage used in the American Minuteman II and the MX intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Antares Rocket Disaster

In 20102013, the same Orbital Sciences Corp. bought 40 Russian NK-33 engines and used them in NASA launches, replacing the first two stages of the Minotaur I rocket with two Russian NK-33 liquid fuel engines, each with a thrust of 170,000 kg and functioning for 600 seconds, in order to be able to increase the payload to 2700 kg. The Russians had been using NK-33 engines since 1975 without incident, and the Russian company Energomash delivered them to the Americans. Because of US sanctions on Russia at the beginning of 2014, when the inventory of 40 engines was exhausted, the American side also interrupted the technology transfer with Russia.

For this reason, the White House and the US Senate proposed that the US company Aerojet copy the NK-33 and produce liquid fuel engines, to be designated the AJ26-58/62. Aerojet collaborated on this with the Yuzhnoye design office in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, a design office known in Soviet times as OKB-586, when it designed the Zenith family of light rockets. Two AJ26-58/62 (modified NK-33s) engines constitute the first stage of the new Antares rocket (Taurus II), after the architecture of the first stage of the Soviet Zenith rocket only Aerojet introduced new Ukrainian components into the Russian engines without consulting with the Russian designer, Kuznetsov.

The Ukrainians from Yuzhnoye, although they had owned the engine technology for more than 20 years with liquid fuel, working with liquid oxygen and kerosene, they had never used NK-33 engines from the JSC Kuznetsov (part of the militaryindustrial conglomerate "Rostec") they had been using engines from the Russian company Glushko (the RD-171 and RD-120, designed by OKB-456). These engines use a different type of high pressure turbo pumps.

All these errors came together on October 27, 2014, when the Antares rocket was to carry an American Cygnus cargo ship with supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Six seconds after take-off, the Antares ran out of fuel and lost thrust, and began to fall. The controllers at the Wallops Island launch center in Virginia were forced to fire the rockets self-destruct mechanism. According to Agence France-Press, the spokesman of Orbital Sciences Corporation acknowledged that "analysis of the available data indicates a fault at one of the two turbopumps in the first stage of the rocket." That ended the cooperation with the Ukrainians. The Russian Soyuz rocket uses the NK-33-1 engine and it works flawlessly.

With the closure of the Space Shuttle Program (2011), ATK (Alliant Techsystems) decommissioned its production line for the most powerful solid fuel boosters in the world. The Pentagon and NASA were left without the most powerful rocket engines that had a thrust of 1.4061 million kg. Lieutenant General Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air and Missile Systems Center (SMC), says that in the next 1015 years the Russian engines will be indispensable, and that only the P238 in the world (which are the first stage of the French Ariane 5 rocket), could help in case of an emergency with the Russian RD-180 engines.

The French Ariane 5 rocket is 50.5 m long, with a mass of 780 t; it can launch 1621 t into orbit. The first stage has two P238 solid rocket motors, each with a thrust of 630,000 kg. The second stage uses the Vulcain 2 engine, using LH2/LOX, with a thrust of 115,000 kg. The third stage uses the Aestus 2/HM-7B engine with a thrust of 6,900 kg, and it can be turned on and off repeatedly.

In December 2014, the White House sent the French President a request to supply P238 engines, but the Ariane 5 ECA only had six launches a year and could not even meet the demand for placing satellites for the European Union. France appealed to Russia for missiles. Russian specialists built the Kourou Space Center (in French Guyana), a new launch pad and rocket assembly hangar, for the Russian Soyuz and Vega; France could not provide the Americans with rocket motors.

Russian and US missile engines from the Apollo missions

Although liquid fuel rockets have a larger capacity, and have far more parts and subassemblies, they remain today the only way to launch objects weighing 2030 tons into space. The White House followed a totally erroneous strategy in directing funding mainly to research and development of solid fuel suborbital rockets, intended for various components of the antiballistic shield, and this prevented NASA and the US Air Force from developing a new generation of space launcher.

On 21 July 2011, upon the completion of the 135th mission, the Space Shuttle Program with manned flights was ended. And with it, NASAs and the US militarys primary launcher disappeared. Even though it invested heavily in creating and maintaining the International Space Station (ISS), the US no longer has the means get astronauts on board and has to appeal to Russia.

Space Dragon

In October 2012, the Space Dragon capsule, built by the American company SpaceX (Space Explorations Technologies), performed its first three-week mission in space without crew. The Dragon capsule carries 400 kg of supplies for the ISS. To launch, it uses a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, the mastermind behind PayPal, as a private company.

Falcon 9

The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket, 54 m long, 3.6 m in diameter, with a weight of 333 t ; it can place an object of 6.6 t in a low orbit. The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket is made up of nine Merlin 1C rocket engines (using liquid fuel, LOX/RP-1), each with a thrust of 56,696 kg. The first stage has a total of 500,000 kg thrust and stage 2 has a single Merlin engine which operates for 345 seconds.

While the Western media talk about the Falcon 9 as something new, it is not nothing but a recycling of old relics from the Cold War. The Merlin 1C engine is a more modest version of the already famous RS-27 engine (93,304 kg thrust), manufactured by Rocketdyne from 1974 to 2000 for the McDonnell Douglas companys Delta rockets. The Delta 2000 can place a satellite of 6 tons in low orbit.

Delta II

More than 70% of the thrust for another rocket used by USAF today, the Delta II rocket family (6000/7000 Series), is provided by the first stage (operating on LOX/RP1). This stage (also equipped with the RS-27 engine) is nothing but an intermediate-range Thor-type ballistic missile (IRBM). The Thor was created in 1959 with a single stage engine (RS-27). SpaceX just copied & pasted the configuration of the Saturn I and Saturn IB rocket for the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket; they were designed NASAs glory days to serve the Apollo missions. Eight MB-3 (Thor missile, renamed H1) engines were put together to serve as a first stage (S-IB) for the Saturn IB.

Stage 2 (Able) of the Delta II rocket is actually the engine of the Apollo Service Module. It was used to launch the lunar module and the command module into lunar orbit and then to remove them from lunar orbit and propel them back to Earth. Their propulsion was provided by the AJ 10-118 engine (with 4,000 kg of thrust).

For take-off, the Delta II rocket uses small new solid rocket boosters, with a diameter of 1 meter, with a thrust of 6,500 kgF. The rocket boosters use a GEM-40/Castor engine. In 19621977, it was used in the MGM-29 Sergeant short-range, solid-fuel surface-to-surface missile (a range of 135 km) for US land troops.

Delta IV

After NASAs budget was dramatically cut, some of the experts from subsidiaries of Lockheed Martin and Boeing joined forces in 2006 as the ULA (United Launch Alliance). ULAs mission is to put together new rockets from left-over systems and engines at the Pentagon and to provide launch services for American military satellites. Basically the same as for SpaceX, the Delta IV rocket put together by ULA is another example of recycling old rocket stages used in the Cold War. Unlike the series Delta II, Delta IV can place objects weighing 822 tons in orbit.

The Delta IV has two boosters with RS-68 engines using LH2/LOX, each with 337,811 kg thrust. This is actually the main engine of the Space Shuttle, derived in turn from the J-2, the second stage engine of the Saturn IB or the third stage of the Saturn V. The first stage also has an RS-68 motor and the second stage (Centaur) has an RL10 engine, with 11,216 kg of thrust, using LH2/LOX.

Atlas V

ULA also assembles the most powerful American rocket in service (the Atlas V). It is capable of launching into orbit objects weighing 929 tons. At launch, the Atlas V uses two Russian RD-180 booster engines, working with liquid oxygen and kerosene (LOX/RP-1) which each produce a thrust of 423,386 kg. The RD-180 engine is based on the first stage of the Russian Zenith family of rockets produced by NPO Energomash. The first stage of the Atlas V rocket also has the Russian RD-180 engine and the second stage (Centaur) is the same as the Delta IV rocket.

Only the Atlas V rocket can place in orbit the X-37B autonomous (unmanned) spacecraft which are used by the US air forces for their secret missions. Some experts suggest that the X-37B is used for creating, testing and developing new weapons systems that are intended to attack from orbit, anywhere on Earth. The US currently has two X-37B spacecraft built by Boeing that can execute missions lasting 469 days in space. ##

The sanctions levied by the US government against Russia could affect the cooperation between JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), NASA, and the Russian Space Research Institute (Roscosmos). The safest and most often used launchers remain those of the Russians, i.e., the Soyuz and Proton rockets, with a capacity of 12 to 23 t. They carried the crews and cargo to the Salyut and Mir orbital stations and also to the Russian modules assembled at the ISS station (Zarya and Zvezda).

Russia Has Introduced a New Family of Rockets

On December 23, 2014, an Angara-A5 rocket weighing 763,621 kilograms took off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The first stage of the rocket had a thrust of almost 1,000,000 kg and had four boosters with RD-191 engines mounted around a central segment with an RD-191 engine of its own. Aerospace experts were stunned by the RD-191 engine that is capable of reducing the thrust, in flight, from 100% (240,000 kgf) to 30%.

The RD-191 engine can automatically correct the angle and rotation of the rocket to the desired azimuth,, as [t]he combustion chamber of the RD-191 is designed to swing up to eight degrees along two axis (yaw and pitch) in a special gimbal suspension to enable steering of the rocket in flight.[1] This obviates the need for additional correction engines. The hydraulic system is also an innovation in the field. It heats helium to pressurize the fuel tank and to create the hydraulic pressure required for moving the nozzle of the engine.

The first stage of the rocket functioned 211 seconds, achieving a speed of 3 km/s. The first stage was detached at an altitude of 90,435 m; the second stage (which has a 30,000-kg RD-0124 engine) brought the rocket to an altitude of 161,695m, accelerating to a speed of 4.8 km/s. The third stage consists of a 2,000kgF S5.98M engine that can be stopped and restarted repeatedly. The third stage of the rocket accelerated to the first cosmic speed (7.9 km/s) and reached an altitude of 215 km.

Thus some 12 minutes after launch, the payload mass of 25,766 kg made up of several satellites arrived at a stable orbit around the Earth. The propulsion module called Briz-M transferred the satellites from the initial low orbit to a geostationary orbit. The Briz-M rocket engine was switched on and off four times over nine hours. At 5:58 p.m., the Angara-A5 launcher arrived at a fixed geostationary orbit at 35,800 kilometers attitude and an inclination of 0.49 degrees to the equator.

The Angara family of launch vehicles includes the Angara 1.1 light rocket that can put two tons into low orbit (and that can be converted into an InterContinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM). Then there is the two-stage Angara A3 medium rocket that can put objects of 14.6 t to a low Earth orbit, taking the place of the current Zenith rocket that delivers satellites into geostationary and geosynchronous orbit for the Russian military and Russian Space Agency. The Angara rocket family also includes the heavy Angara A5 and the super heavy Angara A7 rocket, in which the RD-191 engines are replaced with more powerful and lighter RD-193, allowing them to put 35 tons into low orbit or 12.5 tons into geostationary orbit. The most powerful rocket in the Angara family is the Angara-100, which can put 100 t into low orbit.

The first Angara to be launched was the Angara 1.2pp rocket, which performed a suborbital flight of 22 minutes on July 9, 2014, with a payload capacity of 1.5 tons onboard. The rocket flew over northern Russia, traveling 57005800 km, and then it fell to the intercontinental ballistic missile impact area in the Kura Test Range (Kamchatka). The Angara 1.2PP did not have the four boosters seen with the Angara-5, the first stage being made up of a single RD-191 engine and the second stage being fed at just a third of capacity. The point was to test the functions of the main components of the rocket Angara-5. The Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region, where construction began in 2011, was specifically designed to launch rockets by 2018, mainly in the Angara family.

10-March-17 – As more US troops enter Syria, the endgame becomes fuzzier

By John Xenakis

We now have American, Russian, al-Assad regime, Free Syrian Army (FSA) Sunni insurgent, Turkish, Kurdish YPG, Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah soldiers all fighting in Syria. These forces are all united in their fight against their common enemy, ISIS, with absolutely no clarity whatsoever about what will happen if and when ISIS is defeated.

Furthermore, while the al-Assad regime still controls an area in western Syria along the Mediterranean coast, there are still large regions controlled by Sunni insurgents. Furthermore, the Kurdish YPG controls a large strip, almost 100 miles deep, along the entire northern border with Syria — except for a small region still controlled by Turkish forces and FSA insurgents.

Of the above forces, the Turks and the YPG Kurds are bitter enemies. The al-Assad regime and the FSA Sunni insurgents are bitter enemies. The Turks and the al-Assad regime are bitter enemies. They’re all getting along now, more or less, because the common enemy is ISIS.

The Kurds would like to control the entire northern border with Turkey, and form an independent state called Rojava. The Turks are bitterly opposed to this, and will not give up the small region they control along the border. Bashar al-Assad will never tolerate even peaceful opposition from the Sunni insurgents. The Sunni insurgents will never stop fighting as long as Bashar al-Assad is president. Iran will not tolerate anyone else as president. Russia couldn’t care less who’s president, as long as they’re controlling Syria. Iran will not tolerate Russia controlling Syria.

Those are all "big picture" issues. Even the current "small picture" issues are unresolved. There are Kurdish, Russian, American and Turkish in or around Manbij, all with different agendas. Who will end up controlling the city?

And who’s going to be fighting ISIS in Raqqa? The US considers the YPG Kurds to be the best and most reliable force fighting ISIS, but Kurdish control of Raqqa will be intolerable to both Turkey and the al-Assad regime.

There actually is a kind of precedent in the fight to recapture Mosul Iraq from ISIS. The Iraqi army is entering the city from the east and doing the fighting. The Kurds are blocking ISIS from fleeing to the north. The Iran-backed Shia militias are blocking ISIS from fleeing to the west or south. They seem to have coordinated the attack, at least for the time being.

So in Syria it’s a little different. Apparently, the Russians and the Kurds are joining forces in Raqqa, backed by American artillery. The battle hasn’t yet begun, so we won’t know for a while whether this will work.

So we have two "small picture" issues and a dozen "big picture" issues. Up until the last couple of months, all of these forces were able to keep separate. The al-Assad regime was fighting in Aleppo, Turkey was fighting in northern Syria, Russia and the US-led coalition were coordinating airstrikes. But those simple solutions are no longer possible.

I read many media sources from many countries every day, and I have not read any article or analysis or white paper that convinces me that anyone has the vaguest clue what’s going to happen in the endgame, if and when ISIS is defeated.

And this is why many people are concerned about the new deployment of American forces to Manbij and Raqqa. The concern is that once ISIS is defeated, all these forces will start fighting each other, and US troops will be drawn in and be part of a major new war.

As I’ve been writing for many years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major regional war, pitting Jews against Arabs, Sunnis against Shias, and various ethnic groups against each other. We may be seeing the start of that major regional war in Manbij and Raqqa. Gulf News and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Arab News and The National (UAE) and Guardian (London)

Nonfiction for the Nonplussed