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August 2 2014

August 4, 2014




First UAV Near Miss with Ag Aircraft Reported in Pacific Northwest

by Press • 25 July 2014


Earlier this week a pilot from Idaho was preparing to begin a spray run through a field. Barely visible ahead of him was a small stationary object. He decided it must be a kite since a bird would not remain motionless. As he neared the object, it rapidly shot straight up. The pilot took evasive action but it passed so close to the airplane that he was unsure if it had missed the aircraft and spray system. It was close enough for him to be able to identify the make and model of the quad-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). He did not see the vehicle again as he finished the field but he did see the suspected operator/pilot in a car near the field. When he went to the next field, the car followed him where he observed the car’s occupant taking pictures with a hand-held camera.

The pilot notified his operator of what had transpired and was told to see if he could identify the car. Through the assistance of the farmer and the crop consultant, they were able to narrow down the search for the individual. The pilot notified the county sheriff of the incident and deputies were able to locate the suspected operator of the UAV.

During an interview with the suspect, the sheriff told him the endangered pilot could press charges and he would have been held liable if any damage had occurred to the aircraft. The suspect was asked if his operation of the UAV was covered by insurance. The person was visibly shocked when he learned of the value of a turbine ag aircraft. His demeanor became extremely remorseful.

At the same time, strictly by chance, inspectors from the local FSDO happened to stop by the operator’s business on a courtesy call. They were immediately informed of the event and the follow-up. Although they did not know exactly how to handle the reporting of the incident, they knew the FAA needs to have reports of UAV incidents to aid in developing rules for the safe integration of UAVs into the airspace system.

The pilot and operator declined to press charges against the UAV’s operator because of his remorse and attitude upon realizing the safety implications of his actions. The possible financial liability alone was sufficient to get the message across.

NAAA reminds pilots and operators to report to their local FSDO and law enforcement agency any incidents involving near collisions or interference to their flying activities from UAVs. An actual report is the only way official documentation will be able to track the extent of the problem.



FAA grants comment extension at the request of AMA

by Press • 25 July 2014

Well done the AMA, now its time for folks to really get writing so far its been lackluster. I wonder if this will allow the FAA to delay the more important for our readers, small rule making NPRM??

At the request of the AMA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a 60-day extension for the public comment period (Docket No. FAA-2014-0396) for FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft established by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The 60-day extension establishes the new deadline for comments as September 23, 2014.

In the United States Department of Transportation/FAA notice published in the Federal Register on July 25, 2014, the FAA noted the following:

“On July 16, 2014, the Academy of Model Aeronautics submitted a request to extend the comment period by 60 days, citing the need to “educate the aeromodeling community, clarify the issues, and respond to questions regarding the impact that the interpretive rule has on various aspects of the modeling activity.” The FAA agrees that additional time for the submission of comments would be helpful, and therefore has decided to extend the comment period until September 23, 2014. The FAA expects that the additional time for comments will allow the affected community to prepare meaningful comments which will help the FAA to determine what clarifications to the interpretation may be necessary.”

The Academy of Model Aeronautics will continue to encourage its membership, partnering organizations, and the aeromodeling media to comment on the interpretation. Several items outlined in the interpretation could significantly impact the entire aeromodeling community, and the AMA is resolutely committed to protecting the hobby.

At the request of its membership, AMA has developed a simplified explanation, and suggested comments to the Interpretive Rule. Additional information, as well as a video, can be found on the government relations section of

The Academy of Model Aeronautics has been the nation’s collective voice for approximately 165,000 modelers in 2,400 clubs in every state and U.S. territories since 1936. A nonprofit association, headquartered in Muncie IN, AMA sanctions more than 2,000 events and competitions each year under the auspices of the National Aeronautic Association.



Understanding the FAA’s Interpretation of the Rule and How to Comment.

On June 23, 2014, the FAA issued an Interpretive Rule that outlines its interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft that was included in the FAA Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2012. As you should know from previous alerts AMA has significant concern about the FAA’s interpretation of many of the stipulations in the law. We’ve outlined some of those concerns and how the FAA’s interpretation of the law may effect aeromodelers:

1. Are you a model aircraft enthusiast?
As a model aircraft enthusiast you are now subject to all the rules and regulations of the National Airspace System, including those intended for full-scale aircraft. If you are a private pilot and are cited for a violation while flying a model aircraft, your full-scale license may be jeopardized.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation concludes with the statement that an unknown number of aviation regulations “may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances of the operation.” I believe this sweeping statement is contrary to Congressional intent in the 2012 statute, in which Congress required the FAA to exempt recreational model aircraft from new aviation regulations and to continue to allow community-based organizations to self-govern the hobby instead. This interpretation negatively affects me because the FAA has not provided guidance on what kind of model aircraft use might now be subject to regulation and possible penalties. This seems unfair.

2. Do you enjoy flying First Person View?
Even operating under AMA’s guidelines and using a spotter, FPV flight using goggles is prohibited. This is despite that it could be argued that a spotter provides enhanced awareness of the airspace because a spotter scans the airspace while a pilot with visual line of site on the model is focused on the model. AMA also sees this an unprecedented attempt to prohibit one specific technology opening the door to threats to other modeling technologies that the FAA may not like.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation suggests that hobbyists who fly their models by “first person view” (FPV) might be doing something wrong if they are using video glasses or “goggles.” For the past decade, FPV has been inspiring students, engineers, robotics enthusiasts, and many others to take up the hobby or to expand their hobby activities. FPV control adds no danger to the hobby, especially when a spotter is present to monitor the airspace. The language of the 2012 statute concerning “within visual line of sight” indicates how far away a person should fly the model aircraft, not what method of control may be used for the recreational experience. [This part of the FAA’s interpretation impacts me because I enjoy flying FPV or plan to explore FPV in the near future.]

3. Are you a sponsored pilot, fly in competitive events, or enjoy watching companies demonstrate product?
In the strictest sense of the interpretation it could prohibit sponsored pilots, pilots who accept any compensation (even reimbursement of expenses) to put on demos at events, or pilots who receive prizes or cash awards at a competitive event if they represent a company. It could eliminate companies demonstrating their product at events. The rule specifically calls out as prohibited “Receiving money (compensation) for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft.”

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft restricts people who are flying model aircraft from receiving any payments. For decades, people have been paid by hobby companies for promotional or product development purposes and have participated in contests and competitions that have cash prizes. These payments do not change the underlying recreational purpose of the overall activity or make the hobby any less safe. The FAA’s very narrow interpretation of “hobby,” dug out of dictionaries rather than an understanding of actual hobby in question, will change model aviation for the worse with no public benefit. [This part of the FAA’s interpretation will negatively impact me because I like to participate in and watch model airplane competitions, I work for a hobby company, I am sometimes paid for my time teaching people to fly model airplanes, or I have plans to do one or more of those things.]

4. Do you fly within 5 miles of one of the more than 17,000 airports in the US?
The interpretive rule requires that you have permission to fly within this 5-mile area. An airport authority, for no reason other than because he or she simply doesn’t like model aircraft could prohibit your ability to fly within the 5-mile radius, even if the club has been flying at a site for decades.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation appears to require any person with any size model aircraft to ask authorization from air traffic control before flying it, if within 5 miles of an airport. This is a new requirement for model aircraft, contrary to Congressional intent. The FAA has not offered any guidance as to what is considered an “airport” and whether that includes rarely used grass strips and helipads. If so, how do I reach the airport controller when no one is there? In another part of the interpretation, the FAA suggests that certain “classes” of airspace may govern what permission a model aircraft operator needs. This is confusing and unclear, and imposes many more obligations upon hobbyists than they ever had before, in contradiction to Congress’s intent. This interpretation impacts me because it does not clearly provide notice of what I am supposed to do. [My home, local park, or model aircraft club is within 5 miles of an airport and I am concerned that I need to ask permission of air traffic control just to use a toy in my backyard or local park.]

5. Does your club manage its own flying site in a safe and responsible manner?
In its strictest sense the interpretive rule comes close to giving the FAA the ability to dictate the layout of club flying sites. It has the potential to shut down park pilot flying sites in urban areas, and gives the FAA the ability to take enforcement action against a modeler who violates the statute.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation specifically implies that the FAA may take enforcement action against someone, even a model aviation enthusiast, for posing a risk to people or property on the ground. The interpretation also states that “operations may not be conducted closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.” AMA’s recommended guidelines for flying sites has worked well for decades. Imposing such stringent requirements as outlined in the interpretation would have a devastating impact on my flying site, my ability to enjoy model aviation in what I believe is already a safe and responsible manner, and potentially cause the demise of countless model aviation flying sites across the country.

6. Do you or your club fly in “controlled airspace”?
The interpretive rule defines a model aircraft as an aircraft. To enter Class B airspace, the operator of an aircraft would need to be licensed, establish two-way radio communication, and have a transponder (a device that help controllers better identify an aircraft). It’s impossible for a model aircraft to comply with the requirement, and in some cases controlled airspace begins at ground level. This could eliminate nearly 100 AMA chartered club flying sites that have flown safely in Class B airspace for years, and hundreds more that fly in other controlled airspace.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The Interpretive Rule establishes new restrictions and prohibitions to which model aircraft have never been subject to in the past by saying, “if an operator is unable to comply with the regulatory requirements for operating in a particular class of airspace, the operator would need authorization from air traffic control to operate in that area.” Nothing in the Public Law or FAA’s current guidance for model aircraft, AC 91-57, makes such a requirement. And, the application of this “interpretation” would effectively prohibit model aircraft from operating in airspace where there are requirements specifically intended for manned aircraft operations.

For example, under 14 CFR 91-131, “No person may operate an aircraft within a Class B airspace area (unless) the operator… receive(s) an ATC clearance. No person may… operate a civil aircraft within a Class B airspace area unless – the pilot in command holds a… pilot certificate.” These are requirements to which model aircraft operators cannot reasonable comply, and it is doubtful that any authorization and/or clearance will be forthcoming despite the Interpretive Rule’s suggestion that, “modelers… obtain authorization from air traffic control prior to operating” in such airspace.

7. Do you know every rule and regulation pertaining to the National Airspace System?
    The FAA may, at its discretion, subjectively apply any rule or regulation created to address full-scale operations to model aircraft. In the strictest sense this could even require licensing of model aircraft pilots. This might be unlikely, but this clearly opens the door to that possibility.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation concludes with the statement that an unknown number of aviation regulations “may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances of the operation.” I believe this sweeping statement is contrary to Congressional intent in the 2012 statute, in which Congress required the FAA to exempt recreational model aircraft from new aviation regulations and to continue to allow community-based organizations to self-govern the hobby instead. This interpretation negatively affects me because the FAA has not provided guidance on what kind of model aircraft use might now be subject to regulation and possible penalties. This seems unfair.

8. What the rule is:
    It is an attempt to circumvent the protection Congress provided for aermodeling in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The interpretive rule does this while clearly recognizing a section of the law which reads “Section 336 (of the act) also prohibits the FAA from promulgating) “any new rule or regulation regarding model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft …” if certain requirements are met. There are several examples of the FAA creating new rule in the interpretation.

There are more examples of concern within the interpretive rule but these examples are the most egregious. As the FAA has interpreted the law, it could affect thousands or tens of thousands of model aviation enthusiasts and hundreds if not more than a thousand AMA chartered clubs.

9. What can I do to help?
    Add your voice to others who oppose the potential damaging effect the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft will have on model aviation. Virtually every modeler faces the potential for some negative impact from the FAA’s interpretation of the law. Choose one or more of these issues that you believe may affect you and submit your comments. We’ve offered some viewpoints that you can draw from to help guide you in preparing your remarks. Your voice can help protect the hobby.

Emailing your comment is the fastest and most convenient method. All comments must include the docket number FAA-2014-0396. Go to Follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.


Educators express Special Rule for Model Aircraft concerns

by Gary Mortimer • 28 July 2014


The FAA must be starting to bounce emails from Lawyer Brendan Schulman from office to office hoping that somebody else will open and deal with them. This time several Universities make fair and valid points.

A month ago Peggy Gilligan, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety at the Federal Aviation Administration, was awarded the L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation. The award was given in recognition of Ms. Gilligan’s many contributions to advancing commercial aviation. I wonder who will be the first FAA official to pick up an award from the civil commercial unmanned community in the USA? An award from AUVSI of course, would not count.

I have a feeling Brendan is firmly at the head of the queue for awards at the minute.

To Whom It May Concern,

As educators and researchers, we write to express our collective concern about the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (hereafter the Interpretive Rule for Model Aircraft or Interpretive Rule) published in the Federal Register on June 25, 2014. The Interpretive Rule addresses the critical issues of model aircraft safety and protection of our national airspace system. Perhaps inadvertently, this novel interpretation could also haveserious and severely detrimental impacts on education and research in the United States,particularly in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Model aircraft have been safely used in education and research since the earliest days of flight. The Wright Brothers used models to test their designs before putting their own lives at risk. Radio-controlled model aircraft, identical in many respects to today’s devices, have been used in the United States since at least the 1930s. Some of our nation’s top scientists, engineers, pilots, and astronauts furthered their careers experimenting with model aircraft, a list that includes John Glenn, Paul MacCready, Burt Rutan, Neil Armstrong, Robert Gibson, Arthur Young, Samuel Langley, Thomas Edison, William Stout, and numerous others.


Model aircraft are ideal for developing and testing new designs that can improve the aerodynamic efficiency, flight dynamics, and safety of full-sized aircraft; with the availability of miniature cameras and other small sensors, these same models now make valuable contributions to environmental science, GIS mapping, filmmaking, archaeology, agricultural science, and many other fields. As educators in STEM fields, we believe that free and open access to this technology is absolutely essential to our nation’s continued leadership in aviation, to our future economy, and to our long-term security.


Perhaps surprisingly, model aircraft used in research and education have a safety record that appears to be unmatched by any other form of aviation. According to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), there have been six recorded fatalities involving model aircraft in our entire nation’s history. Nearly all of these incidents involved the operator or direct participants. No fatalities have ever been caused by small battery-powered models (e.g., “Park Flyer” models) and, to the best of our knowledge, no fatalities have resulted from academic research with model aircraft. It is difficult to identify any other high-value activity that occurs in the outdoor airspace and has such an extraordinary safety record. Even baseballs are statistically more deadly. Some of today’s model aircraft are so small and safe that they can even be flown indoors around people and furniture.


We understand and share the FAA’s concern about model aircraft being operated in places where they do not belong and creating a hazard to manned aircraft operations. Recent news reports suggest there have been model aircraft sightings by airline pilots in the vicinity of airports and in other highly objectionable locations. We firmly believe that our legal system should address these transgressions through both civil and criminal remedies as appropriate against anyone who maliciously or through wanton recklessness endangers the navigable airspace. Our long-standing use of model aircraft, however, bears no resemblance to the objectionable practices that have recently become such a concern. Overbroad regulatory interpretation, such as the one the FAA has issued, will serve only to chill and thwart responsible parties, such as our institutions, while doing little if anything to restrain those who actually could put the safety of the public at risk.


Read the full document here


Paul Voss, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Picker Engineering Program

Smith College

Joined in support by, listed alphabetically:


James G. Anderson, PhD.

Philip Weld Professor

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Harvard University


Ella M. Atkins, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering Department

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Donald C. Baumer, Ph. D.

Professor, Department of Government

Smith College

Reid W. Bertone-Johnson, MLA

Manager, Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station

Smith College


Carol Cady, M.Sc.

GIS Specialist

St. Lawrence University


Jon Caris, M.Sc.

Director, Spatial Analysis Lab

Smith College


Patricia A. Cleary, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Mary “Missy” Cummings, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science Department

Director, Humans and Autonomy Laboratory

Duke University


Philippe Cohen, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve

Stanford University


Elizabeth J. Carmichael, CPCU

Director of Compliance and Risk Management

Five Colleges Incorporated


Scott A. Drzyzga, PhD, GISP

Associate Professor, Department of Geography-Earth Science

President, PASSHE GIS Consortium & Affiliates, President

Shippensburg University


David R. Fitzjarrald, Ph.D.

Senior Research Associate

Atmospheric Sciences Research Center,

University at Albany, SUNY


David R. Foster, Ph.D.

Director, Harvard Forest

Harvard University


Mark Friedl, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Earth and Environment

Boston University


Josh M. Gray, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Earth & Environment

Boston University


Andrew J. Guswa, Ph.D.

Director, Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability

Professor, Picker Engineering Program

Smith College


Benjamin W. Heumann, Ph.D

Assistant Professor, Geography

Director, Center for Geographic Information Science

Central Michigan University


Christina M. Hupy

Associate Professor, Geography Department

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Joseph P. Hupy, Ph. D.

Associate Professor, Geography Department

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Barbara Kellum, Ph.D.

Professor of Art, Director of the Archaeology Minor

Smith College


Jack W. Langelaan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering

Pennsylvania State University


Steven Moore, Ph. D.

Director of Spatial Studies

University of Redlands


Thomas Mueller, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Earth Science

California University of Pennsylvania


Robert M. Newton, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Geosciences

Smith College


Eric E. Poehler, Ph. D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Classics

University of Massachusetts Amherst


Andrew Richardson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology

Harvard University


Chris Roosevelt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Archaeology Department

Boston University


Peter D. Washabaugh, Ph.D.

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering Department

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Senate’s Top Republican Appropriator Doubts 2015 Defense Bill Reaches Floor

Jul. 25, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — Can the US Senate put aside a years-long procedural impasse and pass a Pentagon spending bill? The top Republican on the Appropriations Committee has his doubts.

“If [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] wants it to come to the floor after recess and after the elections, it’ll come to the floor,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the panel’s ranking member, told CongressWatch. “He has that prerogative.”

But what if the 27-year veteran had to bet on whether or not his committee’s $547.9 billion will get to the floor?

“If I had to guess, I’d say no,” Shelby said.

If the upper chamber again fails to pass its own version of a defense appropriations bill, Shelby and Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., could negotiate a compromise version with their House counterparts. The tactic, known as “pre-conferencing,” has been used in recent years to produce defense policy and spending legislation due to the Senate’s partisan procedural squabbling.

Shelby hinted that could again be the way a final 2015 Pentagon appropriations bill — which could be included in an omnibus government-wide funding bill — passes both chambers.

With a coy grin, he said, “The House has been tracking a lot of the stuff we’ve been doing.” ■




US, Iranian Drones Crowd Iraqi Air Space

Jul. 27, 2014 – 04:59PM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments

WASHINGTON — Despite a years-long history of intermittently sniping at one another’s drones in the skies over Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf, the United States and Iran have for the most part avoided each other in the air.

But with the US now flying about 50 missions a day over Iraq and a dedicated Iranian drone and signals intelligence presence having been established in Baghdad, the two rivals find themselves overtly sharing the same airspace, even while denying any coordination or contact.

Of course, Iraq is a big place, and the prospect of two aircraft bumping into one another is remote. But given the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach the two countries have taken toward one another’s unmanned aerial assets, the possibility for another volley exists in the long-running, if rather sleepy, drone war.


We can date the first shot in this conflict to February 2009, when an American F-16 downed an Iranian drone almost on top of a small US combat outpost in eastern Iraq.


In that mostly forgotten episode, the Iranian aircraft had been flying in Iraqi airspace for about 70 minutes trailed by two American aircraft before being shot out of the sky.

“This was not an accident on the part of the Iranians,” the Pentagon said in a March 2009 release. “The [drone] was in Iraqi airspace for nearly one hour and 10 minutes and well inside Iraqi territory before it was engaged.”

According to a US Army after action report obtained and published by Wikileaks, the wingspan of the drone was 20 feet; it was 4.5 feet high and 14 feet long, with “Garmin GPS beacons on tail. Motor is aero flash systems, Chicago, IL.”

On the other side of the ledger, in December 2011, Iran claimed to have shot down the secretive American RQ-170 Sentinel, which it said had strayed into Iranian airspace near the Afghan border. While American officials would only admit that operators had lost contact with the aircraft, the Iranians paraded a mockup of the aircraft for the global media, and claimed to have reverse-engineered parts of its mission package.

And in November 2012, two Iranian Su-25 fighters made repeated passes at a US Predator drone flying over the Arabian Gulf — with the drone’s cameras picking up the trails of bullets that flew past it — but were unable to bring it down.

“We are aware of the reports that Iran is flying unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq,” Pentagon spokesperson CDR Elissa Smith said. “There are a variety of aircraft, manned and unmanned, flying with different flight parameters in the airspace over Iraq, and the Iraqi government is deconflicting the air space.”

Still, some analysts are skeptical that the Iraq mission will bring US-Iranian fireworks.

“I’d be surprised if an Iranian drone and a US drone had crossed paths” in Iraq, said Michael Knights, a specialist in the military capabilities of Iraq and Iran at the Washington Institute.

“Even in the pre-2011 period, Iranian drones were commonly working up to 50 kilometers west of the Iranian border,” he continued. “They went much deeper sometimes, typically to Camp Ashraf, the Mojaheddin-e Khalq [MeK, Iranian opposition] camp. In fact, pre-2003 the Iranians ran a lot of UAVs to Ashraf and other MeK camps to do [battle damage assessments] on air strikes and artillery strikes.”

In addition to American and Iranian drones, over the past year the US has also sold Iraq 48 Raven and 10 ScanEagle drones.

Even with American, Iranian and Iraqi platforms searching for Islamic State fighters, the Iraqi airspace “is not congested so much as it is confused,” said Christopher Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War.

The ability of Iraqi air traffic controllers to keep an eye on their airspace is extremely limited, as their equipment and training is still in its formative stages and there is little commercial air traffic over Iraq.

Baghdad International Airport is still only handling about 20 takeoffs and landings a day, for example, some of which are Iranian Ilyushin-76 cargo aircraft loaded with military gear headed to resupply the Assad regime in Damascus, Syria.

But the beefed-up American presence should be filling in some of the gaps, at least from an American perspective. “At any given time you’ve got at least two Aegis-class destroyers in the Persian Gulf, equipped with long-range, high-resolution, multiple frequency radars that can provide some air cover” for US aircraft, Harmer said.

The USS George H.W. Bush in the gulf is also likely launching E2 Hawkeyes orbiting at 30,000 feet to give those pilots extra situational awareness.

But that surveillance cuts both ways.

It has been reported that the Iranians have set up an operations center at Rasheed Air Base in Baghdad from which they are flying a small number of surveillance drones along with a signals intelligence unit.

The Ababil drone is one of the most likely candidates to fly over Iraq. It has been used by Hezbollah over Israel and Lebanon, and in 2012 Syrian rebels captured one that they claimed to have shot down. The Israelis also shot down an armed Ababil in 2006 near Haifa.

Despite this, Harmer said the presence of US radar and intelligence might force the Iranians to shy away from showing their most sophisticated assets for fear of them falling into US or Islamic State hands.

“I’m skeptical about their technological capabilities,” Harmer added. “The Iranians are trying to minimize the public knowledge of what they’re doing,” and they’re not talking to anybody.

But again, both sides are likely playing the same game. “The Iranians have put themselves into the perfect intelligence-gathering situation” in Iraq, he said, with intelligence assets working on the ground with the blessing of the Baghdad government, and most likely trying to pick up everything they can on not only the Islamic State, but US operations and platforms as well. ■


Philippines:- CAAP regulates the use of drones

by Press • 28 July 2014

— Elizabeth Marcelo/DVM, GMA News

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) recently issued a memorandum regulating the operation of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones.

Under the CAAP’s Memorandum Circular No. 21 series of 2014 dated June 26, 2014, drone owners or operators are now required to register their equipment with the CAAP, and secure a certification to operate from the agency.

Under a memorandum provision, to be certified as a UAV controller, an applicant must:

•qualify for a radio operator’s certificate of proficiency,

•have been awarded a passed rating in an aviation license theory examination,

•have been awarded a passed rating in an instrument theory examination,

•completed a training course on the operation of the type of UAV that he/she posses to operate,

•have at least five hours experience operating UAVs outside controlled airspace.


The applicant must also first obtain at least one of these three certifications:

•a flight crew license with a command instrument training,

•a military qualification equivalent to a license,

•an air traffic control license.


The memorandum also requires the applicants to provide a detailed description of their UAV and their purpose for operating it.

“Any violation of the said memorandum will be dealt with accordingly as the aviation body imposes stiff penalties to regulate the operations of UAV specially on restricted areas like airports, crowded areas and ‘no fly zone,'” said CAAP-Assistant Director General Capt. Beda Badiola, who is also the head of the agency’s Flight Standard Inspectorate Service (FSIS).

Under the provisions of the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCAR), “any operators found violating rules will be fined between P300,000 to P500,000 per unauthorized flight depending on the grave of violations.”

In its memo, CAAP defined a UAV controller as a person who performed a function that would be, if the UAV were a manned aircraft, a function of its flight crew.

The CAAP also defined a Large UAV as an unmanned airship with an envelope capacity greater than 100 cubic meters; a Micro UAV means a UAV with a gross weight of 100 grams or less; and Small UAV means a UAV that is neither a large UAV nor a micro UAV.

The memorandum also prohibited the flying of UAVs over populated areas, restricted areas such as airports and no-fly zones such as military training camps, and over Malacañang Palace.

“You know the potential of a UAV, you can just load a small bomb into it, fly to an airport or over crowded people. You see, these are terrifying so to speak, that is why as much as possible, we would like to be able to register this,” said CAAP deputy director-general B/Gen. Rodante Joya in an interview aired on GMA News’ “State of the Nation with Jessica Soho”.

The report also said that while the memorandum was already in effect, some of its provisions would be refined and clarified as soon as the CAAP determines the approved areas where a UAV can be operated without a CAAP certification, and the limit on the altitude and range in which a UAV can be flown.



Drone enthusiast Jerry Cheng, meanwhile, said that while the intention of the memorandum was good, it made things difficult for drone flyers.

“Marami ang gumagamit niyan na frustrated pilot, na hindi afford kaya yan (drone) nalang. So mafo-force pa sila ngayon na kumuha ng pilot lessons, sobrang mahal yun. Sana gawing affordable yung pagkuha ng license (from CAAP),” Cheng said.

Cheng also pointed to the importance of drones in his photography business.

“Kapag professional photographer ka and you want aerial shots aakyat ka sa building, magrerent ka ng chopper, plane or aakyat ka sa puno. But right now, it’s (drone) easier to launch, it’s easier to control at instant siya, you don’t need human effort,” Cheng said.

Several photographers, researchers, geodetic survey firms and media entities are now using drones in obtaining aerial shots as it is more cost-efficient and easy to operate.


On Not-So-New Warfare: Political Warfare vs Hybrid Threats


Frank Hoffman

July 28, 2014 ·


The ongoing conflict in Ukraine challenges our traditional Western concepts of warfare. The current crisis, pitting the national government against separatists, Russian ultra-nationalists, proxy fighters and possibly Russian GRU personnel, does not fit neat Western categories of “war.” In one sense it’s a civil war, or perhaps a proxy war that pits Ukraine against Russia. Current doctrine tries to separate conflict into two boxes, irregular and conventional. General Barno, in this journal, recently referred to this crisis as an example of a shadow war, worthy of greater study. He correctly notes that war is morphing beyond our current conceptions. The evolving character of contemporary conflict has presented an intellectual challenge that has perplexed security analysts and forward thinking scholars for some time.

Lately, the term “political warfare” has been raised to describe ambiguous and nebulous conflicts that fall outside the neat intellectual box we have ascribed to “war.” Max Boot approvingly cited usage of the term political warfare from a State Department memo written by George Kennan at the dawn of the Cold War in 1948. Boot seeks to gain the “hearts and minds” of populations in the Middle East, and integrated covert actions targeting key foreign institutions. Other scholars including Dr. Michael Noonan of the Foreign Policy Research Institute have suggested that the concept of political warfare is worth exploring as a means of reducing our exposure and maximizing U.S. influence. In his words,

While the publics’ mood for involvement in further overseas adventures is less than sanguine, it still remains important for the United States to at least try to be able to shape events on the ground overseas with as little force as possible or else live with the consequences of outcomes that may call for the use of more force down the road.

Words have meaning (or should), and I find the term imprecise—if not redundant—in one important sense: if all wars are political in their purpose (as the famous Prussian soldier-scholar Carl von Clausewitz insisted), what is different about this phenomenon referred to by thinkers like Kennan, Boot, and Noonan? Second, “warfare” has been used by military scholars to address the physical conduct of war or the fighting and violent aspects of war. But there is no violence or lethal force in the kinds of political activity Kennan listed. His definition included “political alliances, economic measures (such as ERP—the Marshall Plan), and “white” propaganda to such covert operations as clandestine support of “friendly” foreign elements, “black” psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.” There is no warfare as we know it in these political and economic activities, which is why the term is an oxymoron.

The provenance and formal definition of “political warfare” are also suspect. Kennan was hardly an expert in military theory, nor did he possess a sound foundation for theoretical matters in warfare (he did cite Clausewitz in his memo , but there is a poor correlation between citing the Prussian and understanding him). Still, it is no surprise that a serious student of Russian affairs found comfort in the term. Before the Cold War, during it, and well after, the Russians were facile with the admixture of political, economic and criminal activities. “Mr. X” knew their history and their tool kit.

However, the definition Kennan used, and which Boot and others seem to favor, is also problematic. Kennan defined political warfare, in his broadest definition, as “the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.” Here again, words should matter. The employment of “all means” extends the definition beyond the political or diplomatic component. Secondly, this mode of warfare is limited to contexts “short of war.” If it short of war, then it’s not warfare. Additionally, it is not clear to me that the activities Kennan listed are things one does only short of war. Moreover, many of the activities cited by Kennan (propaganda, sanctions, subversion, etc.) do not stop when a war officially begins. So both sides of this term are resistant to common understanding and the definition defies logic.


The immediate goal of Kennan’s memo was approval for a Directorate for Political Warfare inside the State Department. As such, the memo raised the issue of where to situate the government’s capacity in the U.S. security framework. We face the same question today. If political warfare warrants an American counter, where should it be located within our national security architecture? Where are the experts in this field, and how are they organized and structured? Boot, like Kennan, favors centering the effort inside the State Department, which I fear dooms the entire enterprise to memo writing.

Another term is for adversaries employing complex and violent combinations is hybrid threats, a construct developed by the Marine Corps a decade ago. The concept was derived from historical analyses and references in foreign literature regarding a deliberate blending and blurring of modes of warfare. The term was adopted in Service and DOD documents including the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and leading military intellectuals like Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster used this term to describe the complex and evolving character of conflict. The term has been used in Marine planning documents, Navy strategies, Army doctrine, and British assessments of contemporary conflict. It also appears in the National Intelligence Council’s assessment of global trends. Senior military leaders have used the term, including the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, who observed that his Service needs to come to grips with:

…one of the most costly lessons it has learned over the last decade: how to deal with the challenge of hybrid warfare. It will be increasingly common for the army to operate in environments with both regular military and irregular paramilitary or civilian adversaries, with the potential for terrorism, criminality and other complications.

My own definition of hybrid threats is very close to how General Odierno defined it. Hybrid threats are “Any adversary that simultaneously employs a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the same time and battlespace to obtain their political objectives.”

This captures both states and non-state actors, who employ four different modes of conflict within a theater or battlespace. However, other definitions exist that focus more on composite scenarios where multiple actors are operating.

This definition adequately represents what the Russians (and their Chechen mercenaries and Ossetian militias) did in Georgia in 2008, and it dovetails quite well with how the Russians are fighting in Ukraine. For this reason, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused Russia of conducting “hybrid warfare” in an interview recently. The criminal aspects of the Ukrainian situation are not as evident so far, but the catastrophic terrorism posed by the shooting down of MH17 is obvious (even if the incident is a gross accident). Anne Applebaum, a student of Russian affairs, recognized Putin’s purportedly new form of warfare as “masked warfare,” part of the KGB or GRU’s traditional bag of KGB “dirty tricks” demonstrated in Ukraine. Clearly, however, the Russians, like the Iranians and Hezbollah, are evolving and incorporating more violent and lethal conventional capabilities, blended with tactics we have associated with terrorists or irregular conflict. The categorization of these operations as Putin’s “new warfare” is partially correct, but perhaps better captured by hybrid rather than political or “new.”

The problem with the hybrid threats definition is that it focuses on combinations of tactics associated with violence and warfare (except for criminal acts) but completely fails to capture other non-violent actions. Thus, it does not address instruments including economic and financial acts, subversive political acts like creating or covertly exploiting trade unions and NGOs as fronts, or information operations using false websites and planted newspaper articles. It also fails to address what a pair of Chinese Army Colonels discussed in their book titled Unrestricted Warfare (really War without Borders) that was explicitly critical of Western and American conceptions of war. That concept included diplomatic and financial and information tools as part of a larger conception of warfare. More recently, Chinese explorations of three warfares build off the earlier Chinese military analysts. Where do “lawfare” and some forms of cyber espionage or warfare fit in?

What is provocatively refreshing about the term “political warfare” is that it makes one think. In this journal, David Maxwell, a retired Army Special Forces Colonel, has studied this issue, and cited Kennan’s memo. When such strategically-minded students of war find utility in this construct, it’s worth reconsidering. While I prefer “hybrid threats” to describe the opponent, I think that Maxwell’s “unconventional warfare,” with an updated definition that incorporates aspects of contemporary conflict, might be adapted to capture today’s evolution. Activities traditionally included within subversion and counter-subversion can be added to the definition to make it sufficiently robust. Perhaps “unconventional conflict” is a compromise that expands the concept beyond a narrow military vision of warfare.

This discussion leads to a set of crucial questions:

◦Who is studying this challenge today with any rigor and how well resourced is the effort?

◦Exactly which activities should be incorporated in the definition, and exactly which left out?

◦Is the term “unconventional conflict” or “operations” better than “warfare”?

◦Where should the loci of U.S. capability and conceptual/doctrinal development exist: Defense, State, Intelligence, or something uniquely joint/interagency?

◦Is the United States organized and prepared for these contingencies and tactics, and how important are they?


Surprisingly, despite hybrid examples like Hezbollah in 2006 and Georgia in 2008 (and 30 years against evolving Middle East terrorists), unconventional warfare or hybrid threats are not mentioned in key defense planning documents, including the Quadrennial Defense Review. I doubt the National Defense Panel will pick up the challenge either. We have retreated from gray area conflicts and Shadow Wars to chase the next big shiny thing, whether it’s the rise of robotic warfare or some imaginary, long shot disruptive threat. Unconventional warfare challenges should certainly be addressed in the next iteration of the National Security Strategy, but I would not hold my breath. General Barno and David Maxwell have identified a critical shortfall in our approach to this challenge. These threats are not new, but our vulnerability to them is more acute than we realize.

The shortfall is not just within the U.S. military’s conception of conflict: our entire national security community is chasing its tail on vague transnational challenges and climate change. We are too narrowly focused on more traditional but increasingly rare modes of warfare, and overlooking the unconventional approaches used by our Russian and Chinese competitors. They do not delude themselves with neat orthodoxies about categories and Clausewitzian models about how “real wars” are fought and won. Neither should we.

Frank Hoffman is a retired Reserve Marine officer and a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Research at the National Defense University. These comments are his own and do not reflect the policy or position of the Department of Defense.


Israel Debuts Micro Robot in Anti-Tunnel Campaign

Jul. 28, 2014 – 03:45AM | By BARBARA OPALL-ROME | Comments


TEL AVIV — Israel debuted a locally developed micro robot in its ongoing onslaught against the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacks from Gaza.

Built by Roboteam, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) is the latest tool to be fielded under fire by infantry and special units targeting Gaza’s elaborate and often explosives-rigged network of tunnels.

The Tel Aviv-based startup, a newcomer to the global robotic market, beat US and Israeli bidders in a rush tender for up to 110 shoulder-carried robots, defense and industry sources said.

Several systems are already operating with combat engineering units and specialized infantry against the dozens of tunnels and multiple access points concealed in homes and civilian structures throughout the Gaza Strip, sources here said.

Measuring 60 centimeters across, MTGR is similar to the width of soldiers tasked for the high-risk surveillance, mapping and explosive-ordnance-disposal missions.

It weighs less than 20 pounds, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain.

Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points generate intelligence and targeting data 360 degrees around the vehicle, while an encrypted radio streams secure voice and video to tactical operators and commanders.

The system is soldier-carried, travels at 2 miles per hour and has a line-of-sight operating range of some 1,600 feet.

Roboteam was informed of its winning bid during the second week of Operation Protective Edge, now in its 21st day, an Army procurement officer said on July 28.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense declined comment on the unannounced down-select, and Roboteam executives referred questions to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In an interview last October, Yosi Wolf, Roboteam co-founder and co-chief executive, highlighted smuggling tunnels and other underground threats as ideal missions for MTGR and another smaller, 2.5-pound system developed by the company.

Wolf cited Roboteam’s selection, less than four years after it launched operations, as priority provider to the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), the authority managing interagency programs for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

According to the CTTSO’s website, 100 MTGRs have been earmarked for “priority fielding” to special forces and explosive-ordnance-disposal units, while another 35 were destined for the US Homeland Security Department and other domestic users.

Since its 2009 founding by Wolf and Elad Levy, former junior commanders of an Israel Air Force special unit, Roboteam and a US subsidiary based in Bethesda, Maryland, operate parallel production lines supported by some 100 subcontractors in both countries.

In the previous interview, Wolf said the firm operated like an elite technology force, “with access to the IDF as our backyard for testing” and organized for rapid-response design and production tailored to customer needs.

“Our added value is the speed at which we can develop software and integrate technologies into ruggedized, reliable and very low-cost robots,” he said at the time.

When contacted July 27, he declined comment on Roboteam’s operational or contractual activities pertaining to the ongoing Gaza campaign. ■



Common sense from CASA

by Gary Mortimer • 30 July 2014


Australian aviation regulators have updated their drone page and what’s not to like. Plenty of useful links and information.

What are RPA?

The term RPA refers to remotely piloted aircraft, but these aircraft are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The term unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) includes not only the aircraft, but all the ground support equipment and personnel.

The term drone can be seen in news stories about military operations in the Middle East using unmanned aircraft. The aircraft flying such missions are precision weapons systems. That is not what we’re talking about when we discuss unmanned aircraft operations in civil airspace. The operations CASA approves provide many safety benefits and serve the public good.

CASA (and the international aviation regulator ICAO) refers to these as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). This term emphasises that there is a human ‘in the loop’, controlling and overseeing the aircraft, even if that person remains on the ground.

RPA come in all shapes and sizes, from those that are as big as a 737 to some that will fit in the palm of your hand. RPA can be used for such purposes as firefighting, search and rescue, disaster relief, border patrol, weather monitoring, hurricane tracking and law enforcement.


Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) have been around a long time. Pilotless balloons bombarded Venice during the first Italian War of Independence in 1849, and the first unmanned winged aircraft were developed as ‘aerial torpedoes’ during World War I. Radio-controlled aircraft were used as targets for training gunners in World War II, and in the 1950s Australia developed a jet-powered RPA, the Jindivik, which served as a target drone until 1997.

Remotely piloted craft are also central to space flight. The Voyager 1 space probe, has been remotely controlled continuously since 1977, and is now 19 billion km from earth and moving at 17 km per second. Other remotely controlled spacecraft have landed on Mars and Venus and flown past Mercury.

Recently, RPA have become popular, as several distinct technologies have matured.

These include:

  • The widespread civilian use of GPS (global positioning systems), following the US decision to end selective availability of the system in 2000
  • Powerful lithium-ion batteries have made small RPAs possible, particularly in conjunction with brushless electric motors
  • Development of microelectronics has made sophisticated flight control systems and lightweight sensors possible
  • Advances in robotics, which brought artificial intelligence and self-learning computer software.  Some RPAs can now analyse their previous flight paths and fly more accurately on their next pass
  • Development and commercialisation of strong lightweight materials, including carbon-fibre composites.

The result is that over a short time, an RPA industry has flourished, producing aircraft that range from helicopters a few grams in weight and centimetres across to autonomous military aircraft the size of a World War II medium bomber.

More than 650 applications for remotely piloted aircraft have been identified. Most of these can be categorised as ‘dull, dirty, dangerous and demanding,’ and are tasks that a remotely piloted aircraft can do best because it does not put its pilot at risk.

Remotely piloted aircraft are a technology whose time has come-they are a new element in aviation. The

RPA bring broader issues in their wake, such as the privacy implications of having camera-equipped aircraft roaming the skies and flying over places previously protected from view.challenge is to integrate them safely with existing aircraft and conventions.

These concerns are real, but CASA is not the body to address them. CASA’s task is to deal with safety.




Chinese and Russian Radars On Track To See Through U.S. Stealth

By: Dave Majumdar

Published: July 29, 2014 11:01 AM

Updated: July 30, 2014 1:05 PM


A growing trend in Russian and Chinese radar could make U.S. stealth fighters easier to see and — more importantly — easier to target for potential adversaries, a former senior U.S. Navy official told USNI News.

U.S. fighters — like the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) — are protected by stealth technology optimized for higher frequency targeting radars but not for lower frequency radars.

Until now a focus on higher frequencies have not been a problem because low frequency radars have traditionally been unable to generate “weapons quality tracks.”

JSF and the F-22 are protected from higher frequencies in the Ku, X, C and parts of the S bands. But both jets can be seen on enemy radars operating in the longer wavelengths like L, UHF and VHF.

In other words, Russian and Chinese radars can generally detect a stealth aircraft but not clearly enough to give an accurate location to a missile

But that is starting to change.

“Acquisition and fire control radars are starting to creep down the frequency spectrum,” a former senior U.S. Navy official told USNI News on Monday.

With improved computing power, low frequency radars are getting better and better at discerning targets more precisely.

“I don’t see how you long survive in the world of 2020 or 2030 when dealing with these systems if you don’t have the lower frequency coverage,” the former official said.

Further, new foreign rival warships are increasingly being built with both high and low frequency radars.

“Prospective adversaries are putting low frequency radars on their surface combatants along with the higher frequency systems,” the former official said.

Chinese warships like the Type 52C Luyang II and Type 52D Luyang III have both high and low frequency radars, the former official said.

“If you don’t have the signature appropriate to that [radar], you’re not going to be very survivable,” he said.

“The lower frequency radars can cue the higher frequency radars and now you’re going to get wacked.”

Nor will the Navy’s vaunted Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) do much to help the situation. Firstly, given the proliferation of low frequency radars, there are serious questions about the ability of the F-35C’s survivability against the toughest of air defenses, the former official said.

“All-aspect is highly desirable against this sort of networked [anti-air] environment,” he said.

Secondly, the Chinese and Russians are almost certain to use cyber and electronic attack capabilities to disrupt NIFC-CA, which is almost totally reliant on data links.


“I question how well all these data links are going to work in a heavily contested [radio frequency] environment where you have lots and lots of jamming going on,” the former official said.

Moreover, in certain parts of the world potential adversaries —China and Russia— are developing long-range anti-radiation missiles that could target the central node of the NIFC-CA network—the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

“I think the anti-radiation homing weapons that are passive and go long-range are very, very difficult for the NIFC-CA concept to contend with,” the former official said.

Fundamentally, the Navy’s lack of an all-aspect broadband stealth jet on the carrier flight deck is giving fuel to advocates of a high-end Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft that can tackle the toughest enemy air defenses.

Without such capability, the Navy’s carrier fleet will fade into irrelevance, the former official said.



Gaza’s Network Of Tunnels Is A Major Hole In Israel’s Defenses

by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

July 30, 2014 5:14 PM ET


An Israeli army officer walks near the entrance of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border. A network of tunnels Palestinian militants have dug from Gaza to Israel is taking center stage in the latest war between Hamas and Israel.

Israeli officials say the country’s deadly ground offensive won’t end until its soldiers destroy a vast network of Hamas tunnels the militants use to try to attack Jewish communities outside the Gaza Strip.

Three more soldiers died Wednesday when explosives detonated as they uncovered one of those tunnels. That came hours after Hamas released a graphic video claiming to show another deadly tunnel-generated attack inside Israel earlier in the week.

Such incidents have many Israelis asking why their forces didn’t stop Hamas from building the elaborate tunnels in the first place. And in Israel, calls are mounting for an investigation into how authorities have handled the tunnel threat.

In the grainy video released by Hamas Wednesday, black-clad militants shove their weapons through a tunnel entrance, then climb out and run toward what looks like an army post inside Israel.

Five Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack Tuesday — which the video purportedly shows — as were a handful of Hamas fighters. Israeli officials say the militants’ aim was to kill and kidnap Israeli citizens.

Such revelations are rattling Israelis more than the 2,000-plus rockets Hamas has fired into their country since the war began earlier this month, says Smadar Perry, who writes about the tunnels for Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

“If we don’t finish the problem of the tunnels, people in the southern part of Israel along the border with Gaza may leave their houses and go look for a new address because nobody wants to go to sleep and wake up with the killers and terrorists in his bedroom,” says Perry, who is the paper’s Middle East editor.

But she and other journalists say Israeli authorities will likely have to answer for how Hamas was able to build enough tunnels to allow militants to infiltrate Israel six times since the Gaza offensive began three weeks ago.

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.

An investigation by Israel’s state comptroller in 2005 found “continued failure” in dealing with the tunnel problem due to issues with technology and intelligence. The Israeli military only intensified its efforts to deal with the tunnel threat in December 2004 — after a number of major attacks — but it wasn’t enough, the state comptroller concluded.

At the time, the inquiry called for bringing in more international and Israeli experts to find better ways to detect tunnels.

At a briefing earlier this week, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, defended the way authorities have dealt with the tunnels. The military says 32 have been uncovered so far; half of those have been destroyed.

“You know it is not always the case that if we have threats we decide to immediately go to a big ground operation in order to neutralize it,” Steinitz said.

Perry, however, says she found few officials who were concerned about the tunnels before some of the newer, more sophisticated versions were accidentally uncovered earlier this year.

The journalist toured one of them with a senior Israeli officer.

“It was very strange,” Perry says. “I could feel or I could sense that the officer and the military feel helpless because these four tunnels were exposed by coincidence because of the heavy rains and not because of intelligence.”

Military officials deny they are negligent in tackling the tunnels and say they used both intelligence and technology to plot them.

But what they and their critics agree on is that previous encounters with the tunnels — most of which ran between the Gaza Strip and Egypt — were less worrying because they were mainly used for smuggling.

Israeli officials say it wasn’t until Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Hamas took over the territory in 2007 that a labyrinth was created to send militants into Israel for large-scale attacks. Because Jewish settlements were gone, officials say, it made it more difficult to keep tabs on what Hamas was doing.

Israeli Reserve Brig. Gen. Shimon Daniel, who headed the combat engineering force between 2003 and 2007, says it wasn’t easy to uncover tunnels even back then, because they aren’t deep enough for ground penetration radar to locate.

He says Israel adapted foreign technology used to find oil and gas reserves to come up with a way to locate tunnels.

The newer tunnels are easier to find, Daniel adds, because they are far longer and heavily reinforced.

“Unlike what it was like during my time, they are put together with communications [capabilities], air, electricity, cement walls and other materials,” he says.


All of this means they show up better on radar.

But not so their entrances into Israel, because they are too close to the surface for radar to locate.

“It looks simple, but it’s complicated. It’s low-tech that high-tech doesn’t even know how to find,” he explains. “It borders on the abilities of what modern physics can do today.”

Nor can they be seen by the naked eye, Daniel adds, because they aren’t dug open until the actual attack.

He adds that as many as 11 tunnel entrances into Israel have been uncovered so far.


New US Air Force Strategy Emphasizes Closer Ties With Industry, Congress

Jul. 30, 2014 – 06:17PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force is calling for closer ties to industry, better relations with Congress, and increased flexibility for both airmen and acquisitions — all part of a 30-year strategy document unveiled Wednesday.

Titled “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” the document is part of a broader strategic overview ordered by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh this year. Welsh announced his goal of taking a longer look into the future during February’s Air Force Association conference in Orlando, Florida.

The 22-page document is largely broad in its goals. Service officials indicated a 20-year “Strategic Master Plan” document, planned for completion before the end of 2014, will feature more concrete goals and targets.

Still, the 30-year document provides a roadmap of sorts for how Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James see the future of the service. The review is largely based on four trends:

■ “[R]apidly emerging technological breakthroughs,” such as the leap in technology for portable devices over the past decade, will continue to occur, which requires the service to stay flexible to maintain a technological edge;

■ Geopolitical instability will continue, meaning that “preparing for a threat based solely on current geopolitical realities will be insufficient;”

■ A “wide range of operating environments” that the Air Force will have to contend with, requiring equipment that can operate in contested and uncontested environments, as well as heavily degraded environments for humanitarian missions;

■ The need to ensure protection for the “global commons” of the air, cyber and space domains.


Handling these four trends relies on “strategic agility,” or making sure the service can be flexible and adaptable to deal with whatever threats could emerge.

“Embracing strategic agility will enable us to ‘jump the rails’ from our current path of 20th-century, industrial-era processes and paradigms,” the report reads.

That agility comes in a couple different ways. For airmen, it involves creating a way for them to leave the service, gather real-world experience, and then bring that back into the Air Force without being punished for it.

“Breaks in service — or transitions between full-time and part-time — need not be punitive in the advancement of our future airmen. Rather, the experience they gain during their time out of uniform should be recognized for the broader perspective it delivers,” the report reads. “Similarly, we must commit to a career development model that provides those in specialized career fields with incentives and promotion opportunities on par with those in more mainstream disciplines.”

The report also emphasizes “a character-based, diverse culture” inside the service, with the goal of blending the lines between the active, Guard and reserve components.

Technologically, that agility means working more closely with the science and technology (S&T) side to nurture and develop new technologies.

“A commitment to capitalize on the most promising S&T breakthroughs will expand the aperture when we consider future capabilities,” the authors wrote. “We must couple this commitment with a requirements process and acquisition system that accommodates more frequent ‘pivot points’ — opportunities to modify or abandon a program during its life cycle — and harnesses rapid prototyping to reduce resources required to bring a design idea into service.”

Looking to modular systems will help get technology into the field sooner and provide more options for forces operating around the globe, the report notes.

The rapid pace of development on new concepts and ideas also means making acquisitions easier and less cumbersome — and will require working more closely with industry.

“As we increasingly elevate affordability as a key attribute of future acquisitions, we should look to the commercial industry for insights. The profit motive that drives the private sector forces increased competition — along with innovative acquisition and development processes — into business models as a matter of survival.”

James previewed the strategic agility idea during a speech to American industry at the Farnborough International Airshow July 15.

We’re still too rigid in our processes and procedures … we still take too long too frequently to get things done,” James told the audience. “We have got to learn to talk to each other freely.”

Also important in the report is an emphasis on “partnerships” — strengthening ties with think tanks, industry and, notably, Congress.

Relations between the Hill and the Air Force have been rocky for years, something the report acknowledges and pledges to improve upon. Given the service’s goal of retiring platforms such as the A-10, which have been largely blocked by congressional action, those improved relations can’t come soon enough.


New Technologies

One area that goes into greater details than others is a focus on what “game-changing” technologies being developed now could be relevant for the future of the service.

The five areas highlighted are hypersonic weapons, nanotechnology, directed energy, unmanned systems and autonomous systems.

Those are all areas in development, and the report notes this is not an exhaustive list. However, the emphasis on these technologies provides a roadmap not just for Air Force researchers, but for industry leaders who want to get a jump on new investments.

Speaking on Tuesday, Gen. Mike Hostage, head of Air Force Air Combat Command, made it clear directed energy was one technology he would like to see focused on, particularly given magazine size challenges on newer jets such as the F-22 and F-35.

“I spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks talking to the different labs that are working on directed energy,” Hostage said. “There are some amazing developments in that arena.”

Hostage also expanded on how he would like to see industry and the Air Force work more closely together to develop new technologies, noting that Air Combat Command hosts “innovation conferences” to bring research labs, operators and industry together.

“The idea is to spark interest on the part of our industry partners to grab a lab and say ‘hey, we would like to partner with you on that technology,’ ” Hostage said.

“Our industry partners have IRAD money that is their lifeblood,” Hostage continued, referring to internal research and development. “That’s how they produce things that will eventually produce profit. It’s IRAD that produces the stuff I actually need to go to war. So it’s really important to me that we spend the S&T to keep the labs producing technology, but also that industry takes that technology and produces real things with it.”


Modern Deterrence

The report also lays out the need for a modern deterrence strategy.

“In the 21st century, a credible nuclear deterrent is still absolutely necessary, but not always sufficient,” the report reads. “The future deterrence landscape is exceedingly more difficult.”

A dispersed threat, such as a terrorist group like al-Qaida, is not deterred by the threat of a nuclear strike — and realistically, nations such as Iran that would act against the United States would do so with a cyber attack, not a military intervention that could open the possibility of a nuclear response.

Instead, new deterrent methods are needed, ones that are based on technologies that are cheaper and more responsive. Cyber will play a role here, as will having highly capable ISR platforms.

“Instead of committing vast amounts of national treasure to overwhelm any and all potential adversaries, we will develop innovative, lower-cost options that demand high-cost responses,” the report concludes. “If it costs markedly less for us to defeat a missile than it does for the adversary to build and launch it, the strategic calculus changes significantly.” ■


Like Amazon, other firms want permission to fly drones

by Press • 31 July 2014


Martyn Williams

Amazon made headlines this month when it sought permission from the U.S. governmentto test its drone-based delivery service, but it’s far from the only company that’s applied for such approval.

In the past two months alone, at least 14 other companies have sought permission to fly drones for commercial purposes as diverse as shooting movies and inspecting oil rigs at sea, according to applications to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reviewed by IDG News Service.

The FAA allows drones to be flown under the existing model aircraft regulations, but only for “recreational or hobby purposes, and within the visual line of sight of the operator.” Commercial flight is specifically prohibited, and companies wanting to test drones for commercial use must obtain an exemption from the FAA.

Trimble Navigation is one such applicant. It’s best known for GPS navigation systems but also makes products for surveying land, such as construction sites. It wants permission to fly its UX5 drone, which takes high-quality images used to build contour maps of the area, among other things.

Yamaha Motor, best known for motorcycles and keyboards, wants permission to use itsRMAX remote-controlled helicopter for agricultural services, which include things like “precision crop-spraying.” The company says the RMAX is already in use in Japan, Australia and other countries.

“Yamaha seeks the exemptions to bring the commercial benefits of the RMAX to the United States,” it says.

VDOS Global, a company that deploys drones to collect sensor data in “hostile environments,” wants permission to use an Aeryon SkyRanger drone to inspect gas flares on Shell oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. In its application to the FAA, it said using a drone would be much safer than sending a worker for the inspections.

Making movies

Several other companies want permission to fly drones for TV or movie camera work, while still others didn’t specify the reason.

In its own application, Amazon said it had built a ninth-generation drone capable of flying at 50 miles per hour, but that it was limited to testing “indoors or in other countries” because of the FAA rules.

It hinted that it might take its work overseas if it can’t conduct research in the U.S. “Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle,” it said.

The legal situation for commercial drone use is still foggy, and the FAA is accepting comments on what regulations should apply. A month long comment period was recently extended to late September and has already attracted close to 30,000 comments.

Last week, some university professors sent an open letter to the FAA, saying its drone rules could have “severely detrimental impacts on education and research in the United States.”

“We understand and share the FAA’s concern about model aircraft being operated in places where they do not belong and creating a hazard to manned aircraft operations,” the professors said. But “overbroad” regulations will “chill and thwart responsible parties” such as universities, while doing “little if anything to restrain those who actually could put the safety of the public at risk.”

The FAA has fined at least one drone operator for commercial operation, although an administrative judge dismissed the US$10,000 penalty earlier this year, saying the FAA exceeded its jurisdiction.

California drought: ‘May have to migrate people’

Mark Koba    | @MarkKobaCNBC

July 31, 2014


It’s going from worse to worst each week in California.

Suffering in its third year of drought, more than 58 percent of the state is currently in “exceptional drought” stage, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. That marks a huge jump from just seven days ago, when about 36 percent of the state was categorized that way.

Exceptional drought, the most extreme category, indicates widespread crop and pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells.

If the state continues on this path, there may have to be thoughts about moving people out, said Lynn Wilson, academic chair at Kaplan University and who serves on the climate change delegation in the United Nations.

“Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought,” Wilson said. “We may have to migrate people out of California.”

Wilson added that before that would happen, every option such as importing water to the state would likely occur— but “migration can’t be taken off the table.”

The drought has nearly depleted the state’s surface water—which is seen being reduced by about one-third this year. Farmers in California have turned to groundwater to keep crops irrigated.

That has led to fears of depleted groundwater in the years ahead if that continues, according to a report released earlier this month.

“So far, groundwater has helped get crops to market and keep food prices in line,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, which released the report.

But the study said the drought in California will cost the state $2.2 billion and put some 17,000 agricultural workers out of a job this year.


Key findings form the report include:

•Direct costs to agriculture total $1.5 billion (revenue losses of $1 billion and $0.5 billion in additional pumping costs). This net revenue loss is about 3 percent of the state’s total agricultural value.

•The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion.

•The loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture represents 3.8 percent of farm unemployment.

•428,000 acres, or 5 percent, of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California because of the drought.

•The Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $810 million, or 2.3 percent, in crop revenue; $203 million in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional well-pumping costs.

•Agriculture on the central coast and in Southern California will be less affected by this year’s drought, with about 19,150 acres fallowed, $10 million in lost crop revenue and $6.3 million in additional pumping costs.

•Overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause additional wells in the Tulare Basin to run dry if the drought continues.


More drought ahead

To try and curtail the drought’s effects, California started implementing fines statewide this week of up to $500 for watering lawns and washing cars. But experts aren’t sure more conservation will work.

Wastershed’s Lund said that agriculture is by far the state’s greatest water user, accounting for 75 percent of consumption—while cities and suburbs use about 20 percent of the state’s water.

He added that California is always desperate for water and “hard to drought-proof.”

But the situation could get worse before it gets better. Predictions for the drought have it lasting through 2015.



First phase nearly done at Pendleton UAS range

by Press • 1 August 2014

Antonio Sierra / East Oregonian East Oregonian

As the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range is nearing the end of its first phase of construction, local officials are saying they may be close to phasing out local funding for the project.

According to economic development director Steve Chrisman, the UAS launch pads that comprise the first phase of the project could be completed in two weeks.

The 15 pads, which the city spent $120,000 to build, will serve an essential function for the future drone hub.

Chrisman said the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport will rent out those 50×50 foot spaces to provide electricity, high-speed Internet and water for the command center customers use to fly unmanned aerial vehicles.

Originally conceived as a four phase project, the final plans for the range continue to change.

With the first phase almost complete, Chrisman said the range could skip to its final phase of developing the northernmost area of the airport if UAS testing proves successful.

Chrisman wants to pursue federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which would provide the money for a UAV industrial park to house drone companies interested in moving to Pendleton.

Phase two of the project, an area for hangars on the south side of the airport, could see funding from the customers themselves if the demand was great enough for a secure place to store their equipment.

Chrisman’s attempts to stem local funding comes at a time when opinions on the airport are mixed.


While the airport’s recent open house was considered successful, with range manager John Stevens estimating a total of 300 people in attendance, the city decided to reduce the amount of money dedicated toward the airport in a bond issue proposal because a phone poll showed strong opposition to it.

Chrisman said the poll was conducted before the range was selected as a test site by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the $120,000 the city spent on the launch pads was necessary for the project’s survival.

“I don’t know any scenario where you announce something and people come with wheelbarrows of money,” he said.

Despite potential customers “chomping at the bit” to come to the range, testing won’t occur until the FAA gives final approval, which is a date that hasn’t been announced.

FAA regulations keep UND unmanned aircraft grounded

by Press • 1 August 2014

By Mellaney Moore

Federal Aviation Administration regulations are keeping unmanned aircraft grounded at the University of North Dakota.

UND has one of only a handful of four-year unmanned aircraft pilot programs in the country.”This is the INSITU ScanEagle,” says UND Unmanned Aircraft Systems Student Jakee Stoltz, sitting next to the aircraft. “Technically, I’m a commercial, multi-engine rated pilot,” he says.

Stoltz is also a certified flight instructor while finishing school. UND has the only program in the country where students become a commercial pilot before graduating in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Since the program started in 2009, interest has soared to 150 students, but due to FAA regulations, the program can’t actually fly unmanned aircraft.

“Right now we’re limited in that we can’t conduct live flight operations like we could in the manned world, so everything that we do in simulation,” says UND Unmanned Aircraft Systems Chief Pilot Mark Hastings.

According to him, student tuition means the FAA would consider those flights commercial, which is prohibited.

Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks”Students pay per hour to fly an aircraft in training. It would be the same model in unmanned aircraft, except we can’t charge to fly, so that makes it impossible to recoup the costs,” he says.

So students learn about the rules and regulations of unmanned aircraft before coming to a simulation room and working with an instructor on mock missions. Instructors say the FAA is also concerned about safety and money. They say the simulation allows students to experience emergency situations without crashing a real aircraft.

“That simulator is used when they have operated this in the past and the operators that they have, they use the simulator to stay current,” Stoltz says.

Nonetheless, with their use expanding to agriculture, law enforcement and beyond, he says he’s excited to be a part of an industry just taking flight

Instructors say graduates can get a chance to fly the drones if they choose to participate in research projects with local agencies and farmers.


Aug 1, 2014, 11:12am EDT

Congress provides highway funds just in time, but it’s a short-term fix

Kent Hoover

Washington Bureau Chief

Federal funding for highway projects will continue to flow after the Senate accepted the House’s version of an $11 billion bill to replenish the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015.

The Senate passed the House bill on an 81-13 vote Thursday night. Without action, the Federal Highway Administration said it would have start rationing federal funds for highway, bridge and transit projects on Friday.

State transportation officials and construction companies were relieved by this last-minute fix to the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, but they note this bill is only a short-term solution.

“This isn’t a moment to celebrate,” said Brian McGuire, president and CEO of Associated Equipment Distributors, a trade association representing companies that sell and rent equipment for construction and other industries. “By waiting until the last minute to solve a problem we’ve known for years was coming, Congress brought the highway program and the construction industry to the brink of disaster. We hope this exercise has underscored to everyone on Capitol Hill that the Highway Trust Fund is in dire shape and needs additional revenues, be it from a gas tax increase or some other source.”

Congress wasn’t willing to raise federal gasoline taxes this time around — the $11 billion short-term fix was paid for by so-called “pension smoothing” — allowing employers to delay pension plan contributions, thereby raising their taxable income. It also increased customs fees and transferred money from a trust fund for leaking underground storage tanks into the Highway Trust Fund.

In the long run, higher gas taxes and adding tolls to existing interstate highways will be necessary to fund the nation’s transportation needs, contends the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents owners and operators of toll facilities.

“Rebuilding the interstate highways will cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next several decades and current funding sources alone are not equal to the task,” said Patrick Jones, the association’s executive director and CEO. “States should have the flexibility to use tolling and other viable funding and financing options that make the most sense for them.”


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Twenty-four percent (24%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction. Think about that for a minute.

That’s the lowest finding this year but generally reflects the attitude of voters for months now. Admittedly Republicans and unaffiliated voters are a lot more pessimistic, but Democrats now are evenly divided. Just as many voters in President Obama’s party think the country is headed the wrong way as think it’s moving in the right direction.

Belief that the United States is winning the War on Terror has plummeted to its lowest level in over 10 years of regular tracking.

Dislike of the new national health care law is at its highest level in several months, with half or more of voters still predicting it will hurt the quality and cost of care.

Voters rate the latest immigration crisis as a bigger national security problem for this country than Russia and the renewed fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

Most voters think the president is doing a poor job handling the flow of young illegal immigrants across the border and believe he wants to let most of them stay here despite majority support for their quick deportation. 

This potential flood of cheap labor comes at a time when more Americans than ever think it is no longer possible for just about anyone in this country to work their way out of poverty.

As for government assistance, most Americans continue to believe current government anti-poverty programs have no impact on poverty or actually increase it. A sizable number still think the large increase in food stamp recipients is just because the government has made food stamps easier to get.

In this environment, it’s no surprise that the president’s monthly job approval ratings have fallen to a low for the year
His daily job approval ratings show no sign of improvement either. And we know what voters think of Congress.

Yet Americans are resilient despite their pessimism. Yes, the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence fell another point in July. But still it’s down only two points from the six-year high it reached in May.

Consumers and investors remain more upbeat than they have been in the previous years since the Wall Street meltdown in 2008.

More Americans than ever are optimistic that they will be earning more money a year from now.

The reality is that the polls that really count are the ones that open on the first Tuesday in November.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of American Adults believe most of their fellow citizens are not informed voters,
but most voters beg to differ. So what helps voters most to make up their minds – the issues or things like the candidate’s appearance, race and sex?

This week we looked at two Senate races – one close, one not so close.

Democratic Congressman Gary Peters has now taken the lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race.

Unlike his cousin in Colorado, Democratic Senator Tom Udall is comfortably ahead of his Republican challenger in New Mexico

We surveyed four governor’s races that will be closely watched this fall.

Republican Governor Rick Scott and his predecessor Charlie Crist are now neck-and-neck in Florida’s 2014 gubernatorial race. GOP challenger Bruce Rauner has edged further ahead in his battle with Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn for the governorship of Illinois.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal has pulled even with Democratic challenger Jason Carter in his bid for reelection in Georgia. Republican Governor Rick Snyder runs only slightly ahead of Democratic challenger Mark Schauer in Michigan.

In other surveys last week:

— Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

— Voters have long expressed little enthusiasm for getting more involved in Middle East politics, but they are slightly less likely to think this involvement hurts both the region and the United States.

— When it comes to the renewed fighting in Gaza between the Israelis and Palestinians, however, America thinks we should stay out.

Most Americans still consider marriage important, and those who are married rate it even more important.

The number of voters who consider themselves fiscally conservative continues to climb, while one-in-three say they are social liberals.


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