Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Chinese are Working on Laser Weapons

Chinese media have reported that a prototype laser weapon is being tested by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

An article published on 5 April on the Sina news website contains several screengrabs taken from footage broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) showing a trainable optical device mounted on a mobile chassis with a large main lens.

Commercial satellite images have provided the first photographs of a secret Chinese anti-satellite laser base in western Xinjiang province, along with other high-technology weapons facilities.

The laser facility is located near a lake and is about 145 miles south of the Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

The facility was discovered by retired Indian Army Col. Vinayak Bhat, a satellite imagery analyst who specializes on China.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on April 9 bluntly asserted that China’s PLA is “deploying directed energy (DE) weapons,” adding that “Russia is doing many of the same things.” In perhaps the strongest rhetoric yet from a Trump administration official about counterspace threats to US satellite systems, Shanahan said: “Both China and Russia have weaponized space with the intent to hold American space capabilities at risk.”

Shanahan’s comments about the state of Chinese and Russian DE counterspace weapons development go a step beyond the February-released assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). That characterized both countries as pursuing DE counterspace weapons but stopped short of definitively finding that they had deployed such weapons.

“China likely (emphasis added) is pursuing laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors and possibly already has a limited capability to employ laser systems against satellite sensors,” the DIA said in its first ever assessment of threats to US space assets.

The DIA and Shanahan do agree on the view that China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by next year.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Terminator Times #57

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones):

DARPA claims its autonomy experiment to be a success.

USAF AFRL is seeking a prototype Skyborg UAV.

The USAF wanted to turn the D-21 Mach 3 recon drone into a nuclear bomber.

A USAF Global Hawk may replace the two Reapers in Greece.

The US Army has awarded fly-off contracts between Textron and Martin for its Shadow UAV replacement.

The US Army and USMC are looking at procuring a less than 600 kg UAV for resupplying small units in the field by 2024.

The USMC is adding more autonomy to its KMAX helicopter UAVs.

The USMC wants a drone to kill drones, especially drone swarms.

Is the USMC getting 'night vision' drones?

The US Navy is seeking weapons studies for the FireScout and, in general, is enhancing the VTOL UAVs capabilities.

Some US Navy academics think hydrogen fuel could be the key to unlocking very long endurance in UAVs.

Australia is committing to buying a second Triton UAV.

Bangladesh is developing a UAV for UN deployments.  The US is supporting its development.

Belgium has been granted permission by the US State Department to buy the SkyGuardian UAV.

The British have been highlighting their problems with the Watchkeeper drones.

China's Tengden is readying its first production TB001 armed recon drone.

China's Wing Loong UAVs have fired over 3,000 munitions and hit at a rate of 90%, including hitting moving targets.

A Chinese Wing Loong was shot down over Yemen.

The Dutch Reaper contract has been awarded.

France is arming its Reapers.

The first 12 German Heron TP operators are being trained in Israel.

Greece wants to buy 3 Reapers.

Indonesia is buying six ScanEagles.

Iraq has unveiled its first indigenous UAV.

Italy was going to cancel its P.1HH drone contract.

Lebanon has taken delivery of six ScanEagles, supposedly.

Malaysia may buy Reapers.

Russia's shotgun wielding drone gets more profiling.

Russia's Eleron UAV was used in its internal games/competitions.

Russia will fly its first UAV with a 3d printed engine.

Russia is pushing hard to export its Orion-E UAV, especially in Brazil.

Russia wants to show off its Korsar UAV.

Saudi Arabia is working on unmanned helicopters.

Spain has bought its last two MQ-9 Reapers.

Turkey is making progress on its Anka-Aksungar UAV.

Uzbekistan has introduced the RQ-11B Raven.

Vietnam is interested in buying ScanEagle UAVs.

Aurora Flight is promoting its Odysseus long endurance UAV for the US Army.

Bell has been developing its Autonomous Pod Transport VTOL cargo UAV.

Boeing's getting a $17M contract to support ScanEagles in Afghanistan.

General Atomics was awarded a $9.2M contract to sustain the British Reapers.

IAI expanded its control station options for the Heron.

Jetwind of Brazil has developed a UAV.

ST Engineering demonstrated a BLOS requirement for its hexacopter.

Terra Drone has taken a stake in a Slovenian UAV company.

Unmanned Surface Vehicles:

The US Navy is betting big on its LUSV program.

Why did the US Navy shift to getting LUSVs?

US Navy's unmanned ships may be the key to defeating China and Russia.

A panel stated USVs will be a major part of a future US Navy.

The Chinese Sea Lizard is making progress, more than what the Jane's article states in public.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (robo subs):

The program for the USN/Boeing Orca gets fleshed out and is getting serious money.

The British have started development on their own XLUUV like the Orca.

The Russians have launched the Poseidon wielding mothership SSN, the Belgorod.  She is derived from the Oscar line of classes, but is 100 ft (30m) longer.

Software Bots:

How AI could change warfare.

Could the rush to weaponized AI create cyberthreats?

Simulating superintelligences in war.

Microsoft may have worked with a chinese military university on AI.

Thales highlights its modular BRAINS system.


The US Navy turned a Royal Navy amphibious ship into a minesweeper through the use of unmanned tech.

Robots will autocomplete soldiers' commands.

Lethal autonomous weapons are a legal challenge.

The Pentagon wants your thoughts on AI in war, but may not listen.

Friday, April 26, 2019


NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency’s approach to moving up a human lunar landing from 2028 to 2024 will focus first on speed and then on sustainability.

In a plenary speech at the 35th Space Symposium here April 9, Bridenstine said the new approach the agency is developing in response to the goal of a human lunar landing in five years announced by Vice President Mike Pence two weeks ago will involve many of the same elements of NASA’s original plans, but in a revised order.

“All of those elements that were necessary to getting humans to the surface of the moon in 2028, all those elements still exist. The plan is still the same,” he said. That includes, he said, development of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, a lunar Gateway in orbit around the moon, and lunar landers.

What will change, he said, is the schedule for developing some of those elements, which will be split into two phases. “The first phase is speed. We want to get those boots on the moon as soon as possible,” he said. “Anything that is a distraction from making that happen we’re getting rid of.”

That emphasis on speed includes launching Exploration Mission (EM) 1, an uncrewed Orion test flight, on the first flight of the SLS in 2020, to be followed by the first crewed Orion mission, EM-2, “as soon as possible thereafter.”

NASA published the presoliciation for the lunar ascent system.

The NASA Administrator appointed Sirangelo to oversee the lunar plans.

NASA started testing the Gateway station hab modules.

NASA and Boeing hope to have the first stage core for the SLS done by the end of the year.

ESA has started designing the Gateway's deepspace airlock.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

US Missile Defense Agency Wants Megawatt Class Laser by 2025/2026

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is looking for information on a 1,000 kW-class electrically-pumped laser for defending the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and friends against all ranges of enemy ballistic missiles in all phases of flight.

The post on the federal business opportunities website is asking industry for information on a capability to demonstrate a 1,000 kW-class electrically-pumped laser in the 2025-26 timeframe.

Missile Defense Agency does not provide a specific platform or strategic mission at this time. The proposed ground demonstrator laser system would be designed to have technology maturation and lightweight engineering paths to potential future platforms.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Pondering the Precambrian #27



Did a massive volcanic eruption trigger the Gaskiers Glaciation?

Deposits from British Columbia may be evidence of deep sea conditions just prior to the Gaskiers Glaciation.

Fossil fats from the Cryogenian may actually be from algae instead of sponges.

Amoebozoa diversified earlier than expected during the Tonian 750 million years ago.

How were banded iron formations created in Egypt from the NeoProterozoic?

Was the Cambrian Explosion really that big a deal? Or did it really originate in the Ediacaran?

First record of carbonates with spherulites and cone-in-cone structures from the Ediacaran of Norway has been found.


The Yili Block was likely located in the NW margin of the supercontinent Rodinia.


The apparent cyclical deposition of the Dales Gorge Member banded iron formation appears to be related to sea level rise and fall or tectonic activity.

The Vempalle Formation dolomites of India appear to have more in common with Phanerozoic carbonates than Proterozoic ones.

There's a sedimentation record from 2.27 BYA to 1.96 BYA in West Africa with evidence of volcanic ash and activity in the layers.

The first drillings into the Temagami Anomaly have uncovered potential links to the Sudbury Impact.

The Francevillian Biota of Rhyacian Gabon seems to have had something able to move.  Scientists have found evidence of trackways from shallow, oxygenated waters.


Evidence from Mauritania suggests the Archean geophysics were as complicated as today.

Evidence of a breakup of a continent from the Archean.

There appears to be evidence of major crustal growth circa 2.6 BYA and 3.2 BYA.

There is evidence plate tectonics were active, despite prior theory, during the Archean.


There is evidence of a continental margin at the tail end of the MesoArchean in North China.

A subduction zone has been found from the MesoArchean/NeoArchean boundary.

Evidence of a continental rift was found in Hainan, China from the MesoArchean.

There is evidence of ephemeral oxygen oases in the Mesoarchean Ocean.


South African barite deposits were not laid down in a marine environment, but from a spring.

Life was thriving during the paleoarchean 3.5 billion years ago.


How the first continents formed in the EoArchean.


Was the Theia impact the reason for the heterogeneity of Earth's crust?

Origin of Life:

Was the repeated drying and wetting cycle of the margin of water the source of energy for the original polymerization of amino acids et al?

Did hydrogen peroxide play a crucial role in the origin of life?

Pluripotency and the origin of multicellular life.

Could the RNA world hypothesized never have existed?

Shallow pools of water might have been the original location for the origin of life, not the sea.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Boeing Starliner Flights Delayed, Extended

NASA and Boeing have agreed to extend the duration of the company’s first crewed flight test to the International Space Station after completing an in-depth technical assessment of the CST-100 Starliner systems. NASA found the long-duration flight to be technically feasible and in the best interest of the agency’s needs to ensure continued access and better utilization of the orbiting laboratory.

The extended duration test flight offers NASA the opportunity to complete additional microgravity research, maintenance, and other activities while the company’s Starliner is docked to station. The mission duration will be determined at a later date.

“NASA’s assessment of extending the mission was found to be technically achievable without compromising the safety of the crew,” said Phil McAlister, director of the commercial spaceflight division at NASA Headquarters. “Commercial crew flight tests, along with the additional Soyuz opportunities, help us transition with greater flexibility to our next-generation commercial systems under the Commercial Crew Program.”

The agency and its industry partner also agreed to adjust the target launch dates for flight tests, which will demonstrate Boeing’s readiness ahead of NASA certification to fly crew regularly to the station.

Boeing is now targeting August for its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test, although this date is a working date and to be confirmed. The decision to adjust that launch date was guided by limited launch opportunities in April and May, as well as a critical U.S. Air Force national security launch – AEHF-5 – atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 in June.

The company’s first flight with astronauts on board, called the Crew Flight Test, is now targeted for late 2019, again to be confirmed closer to that timeframe. Boeing also will fly a Pad Abort Test before those two orbital flights to demonstrate the company’s ability to safely carry astronauts away from a launch vehicle emergency, if necessary.


2nd link.

3rd link.

NASA actually blamed the ULA.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

China is Proposing Banning Bitcoin Mining as Wasteful

China’s bitcoin miners have long embodied a contradiction. Cryptocurrency trading is illegal in the country; initial coin offerings, used to fund new blockchain projects, are banned; and Chinese banks can hardly touch the stuff. And yet somehow the country has remained the epicenter of global cryptocurrency mining, home to more of the computing power used to mint new bitcoin than any other country.

Now the Chinese government has proposed to ban mining.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Russia may Have Developed a new Coorbital Spy Sat in Support of its ASAT Program

Russia has been working since 2011 to develop a next-generation on-orbit anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, according to two new studies by U.S. nongovernmental organizations.

The Secure World Foundation’s “Global Counterspace Report,” finds that the Russian work on a space-based ASAT codenamed “Burevestnik” (also known as Project 14K168) is being undertaken in tandem with a larger effort to develop a space-based space situational awareness (SSA) capability. The SWF report, and one by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) were released today and based on open source information.

“Open source research done by analyst Bart Hendrickx suggests that the Cosmos 2491, 2499, 2504, and 2521 satellites are part of a project started in 2011 to develop space-based space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities and may play a supporting role for other counterspace weapons,” the SWF report says. “Publicly-available documents and patents suggest a link between those Cosmos satellites and procurement for a project designated Nivelir … under the control of the Central Scientific Research Institute for Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM). Hendrickx also has uncovered evidence suggesting there is an active Russian co-orbital ASAT program codenamed Burevestnik (“Petrel”) or project 14K168, also managed by TsNIIKhM and also started in 2011.” Burevestnik “may be designed to target GEO satellites, although it may be targeted against LEO satellites instead.”

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Stealth Saga #46

Sixth Generation Fighters:

The USAF NGAD/PCA has a proposed FY20 budget of $1B.  It had been predicted to be $1.2B.  The AETP engine often associated with the NGAD also received a budget of $870M.  The F-22 and F-35 both funded their engines internally, unlike the NGAD/PCA.  However, Jane's takes the stance the NGAD is being rethought.

The US Navy's Next Generation Fighter program is shifting from $5M in FY19 to a proposed $20M in FY20.

The US Navy will finish its AOA this summer for its 6th gen fighter.

Leonardo wants a role in Britain Tempest.

International interest in the British Tempest is growing.

The Franco-German FCAS may be a bad idea, or so goes one opinion.

FGFA (Pakistan):

Pakistan is outlining its plans for developing a 5th gen fighter.


Putin - goodness me - considers the Su-57 the best plane in the world.

The Russians have already created an export version of the Su-57.  They may be trying to export it to Turkey and China.

?!?!  The Russians are stating the first batch of Su-57s will be delivered to a frontline unit in 2019.

The Russians are refuting the Su-57 has been redeployed to Syria.


Why did the YF-23 lose to the YF-22 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition?  The only man to have flown both the F-22 and the YF-23 talks explains.

Model 401:

Scaled Composites' Model 401 is on the east coast at a Navy flight test facility.  Why?


The F-117 has been out flying about (with a plexiglass canopy, btw).

The Drive noted the interesting bit of the choice of emblem on the F-117.


Listen to a B-2 test drop nuclear weapons.


The USAF has selected which airbases will be hosting the B-21.


Rapid Raptor: the program to allow the F-22 to deploy anywhere, well, rapidly.

24 Raptors conducted an elephant walk in Alaska.

Will Langley AFB be the center of F-22 training?


General Fick is the new head of the F-35 program.

The Pentagon is considering selling the F-35 to Poland, Greece and Romania.

A continuous software upgrade program would speed capabilities to the F-35, but delay the purchase of aircraft.

The F-35 is expected to hit an 80% availability rate in Sept 2019.

The F-35 has the capability to deploy towed decoys from under its stealthy skin.

Some are strongly arguing to buy the F-35 instead of the F-15X.

48 F-35As, 10 F-35Bs and 20 F-35Cs are in the FY20 proposal.

The USAF wants 12 more F-35As than the budget provided for.

The USAF has conducted the first fast/hot crew swap exercise for the F-35A.

The IG is slamming the F-35 program office for allowing contractors to manage government assets.

The F-35 will take a starring role in an exercise in Greece.

China claims it is not the reason countries are buying the F-35.  Actually, about that...

The USS Wasp carried at least 10 F-35Bs into the South China Sea.  The USS Wasp has been operating near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

The USMC may deploy F-35Bs off the deck of the Korean amphibious ships.

The US Navy F-35Cs that achieved IOC are only ready 5% of the time...

The readiness of the F-35C is improving, supposedly.

The British are monitoring the situation about the Japanese F-35 crash.

Italy's Deputy PM  defended the F-35 purchases.

The Italian F-35As in Sardinia get close ups.

Italian F-35As participated in the 'Lightning Thunder over Europe' exercise.

How did Italian F-35 pilots feel about their participation in Red Flag exercise?

Japan just purchased the JSM antiship missile for its F-35s.

Japan declared IOC for its first F-35A unit.

Japan had its first F-35 crash.  The wreckage has been located, but salvage and investigation will be dauntingEfforts are still underway to try to find the pilot.  Japan has grounded its F-35As. The aircraft that crashed was the first F-35A assembled by Japan.  Here's an update.

Poland is considering the F-35 for its Harpia program.  In fact, they want to outright buy 32 of them.

The first two F-35As for South Korea have arrived in country.

Switzerland will evaluate the F-35 for its new fighter requirement this summer.

Turkey's F-35 deliveries may get pausedStrike that: the deliveries have stopped of parts.  The US has stated buying the F-35 and the S-400 missile system are not compatible.  In the mean time, the US military continues to train Turkish F-35 pilots. Congress again has warned Turkey they cannot have the F-35 and the S-400 missile.

If Turkey gets cut, the F-35 program can progress just fine. Or will it?  How problematic is it for Lockheed?  What next?

BAE has begun Meteor and Spear integration on the F-35.

Lockheed received a $264M contract to support South Korea's F-35s.


What aircraft does the USAF need to defeat Russia and China?

Friday, April 12, 2019

VP Pence Announces America to Seek Moon Landing by 2024

The Trump administration wants to put Americans back on the moon by 2024, Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts launched by American rockets from American soil,” he pledged. It’s an audacious pledge, given NASA’s current capabilities, and especially in light of recent setbacks to the Space Launch System (SLS), the agency’s long-delayed and over-budget heavy lift rocket. If NASA faces difficulties with that timeline, Pence said, “We need to change the organization, not the mission.” How this will affect NASA’s wide host of other goals, from astrophysics to education, remains unknown.

NASA doesn't have a plan for getting back to the moon quick though.

NASA is studying how to accelerate the SLS.  Boeing's reaction.  SLS might be doomed: the budget hinted as much.  Lawmakers and industry went to bat for the SLS though.

The SLS team has been advertising its progress.  SLS engine section has reached a milestone.  The SLS core went through structural tests.  Lockheed has begun assembling structures for the second SLS flight.

NASA Administrator says nothing is off the table.  He had proposed flying Orion on commercial rockets.  There was serious pushback.  He defended his position.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Is China Building an Airbase in Cambodia?

It’s only natural that Beijing might show an interest in a tourism development that aims to lure big-spending Chinese tourists to the shores of Cambodia with the promise of casinos, golf courses and luxury resorts.

After all, Cambodia granted 45,000 hectares of its prime real estate in Koh Kong province – and 20 per cent of its coastline – to private Chinese company Union Development Group, just so it could build this supposed tourism Mecca, and all for a peppercorn rent that will start at just US$1 million per year.

At least, that’s the official version. But sceptics who say the terms of this deal are too good to be true think there’s another reason for China’s interest: they believe the development is as much about welcoming the Chinese military as it is about Chinese tourists.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Paleolithic Papers #28

Genus Homo:

How did ancient Homo choose places to do its cave paintings?

H. sapiens (modern humans):

Apparently, Late Pleistocene hunter gatherers survived in Iberian ancestry.

Modern humans originated in South Africa and spread through Africa just before migrating out of the continent.

Researchers have found a narrative piece of art from Paleolithic Europe.

A very bold paper claims Australian Aboriginals arrived in Australia 120,000 years ago.


A commentary is made on the dating of La Quina Amont.

Neandertals might have had adaptations to the cold like wooly mammoths.


The first pieces of Denisovan skulls have been verified.

Tongzi Hominin:

The Tongzi hominin's teeth are not like H. erectus teeth like had been previously thought.

H. floresiensis (Hobbits):

The environment of Flores at the time of the Hobbit was explored: it was a grassland!  Or so sayeth the rats.

H. erectus:

How big were the groups in Paleolithic India?

H. erectus purposefully started fires on grasslands.  Time to rethink the anthropocene start, folks.

H. naledi:

The root and pulp morphology of a molar for H. naledi gets examined.

Genus Australopithecus:

The brain sizes of A. afarensis and A. africanus are examined.  Did they grow large from eating bone marrow?

Genus Paranthropus:

Dental caries were found in a molar from a P. robustus.

Comparing the metatarsal of Paranthropus to extent hominoids.


The ability to miniaturize stone tools sets hominins apart from other primates.

Did the slowing of the Antarctic current regulate the glaciation cycle?

Green corridors in the Sahara might have facilitated hominin dispersal.

The grandmother hypothesis might explain why women live longer than men.

Why do humans have wisdom teeth that need to be removed?

Unravelling ancient signals of DNA introgression in modern humans.