- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2010

Al Qaeda targets Navy

An al Qaeda Web site last week announced that in response to U.S. targeting of al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen it would launch a campaign against U.S. Navy interests, including seeking data on naval nuclear weapons and Navy personnel and their families.

The group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the main al Qaeda affiliate that has been linked to the Christmas Day airliner bomb plot, announced Dec. 29 that it had called on all Muslims to take part in the “mast media campaign,” specifically the gathering of information on U.S. naval interests. Targets include the names of vessels at sea, information on crew and their families, how ships are serviced by other nations and data on possible nuclear weapons on board.

The statement said: “The lions of al Qaeda flirted with the American Navy several years ago when they targeted the destroyer Cole! Now, with the help of God, every American naval vessel in the seas and oceans: aircraft carriers, submarines, and all of its war machines within range of al Qaeda - will be destroyed, God willing.”

In response, the Navy has heightened its alert posture in the Middle East, according to a defense official.

Navy spokesman Lt. Nate Christensen declined to comment on security posture levels, but said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service knows about the threat.

“The Navy has been aware of the al Qaeda threats since discovery on Dec. 31, 2009,” he told Inside the Ring, noting that the NCIS has circulated information about the threat throughout the service.

“It’s important that the Navy family (sailors, civilians, Navy families, retirees) remain vigilant in not sharing potentially sensitive or secure information by any non-secure means - to include letters, e-mail, telephone conversations or social media,” he stated.

The Navy is concerned that sailors and their families could unwittingly provide operational data that “could potentially jeopardize security or expose the safety of our people or forces,” Lt. Christensen said.

A Navy official said NCIS is responsible for investigating terrorists threat and works with law-enforcement and security agencies worldwide to mitigate such threats.

F-22 export study

The recent Defense Appropriations Act signed quietly into law by President Obama on Dec. 19 contains a new provision that has rekindled hopes among proponents of the F-22 Raptor, the U.S. military’s most advanced fighter bomber program that was canceled by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in April.

The spending law keeps in place a provision that prohibits the export of the F-22. However, new language contained in Section 8059 of the law gives the Pentagon the ability to use money to “conduct or participate in studies, research, design and other activities to define and develop a future export version of the F-22A that protects classified and sensitive information, technologies and U.S. warfighting capabilities.”

Edward Timperlake, a former Marine Corps pilot and former Pentagon acquisition official who supports producing more F-22s, said the fact that Mr. Obama signed the legislation with the F-22 export study provision is hopeful.

“If this intent of Congress is executed with skill and insight by U.S. Air Force leadership it will send a powerful message of support to Australia, Japan and the Israeli air force,” Mr. Timperlake said in an e-mail. “This congressional guidance will make the need for more F-22s an important campaign issue in 2010.”

Mr. Gates canceled the F-22 program in April, ending procurement after a total of 187 jets are produced. The Air Force initially stated that its warfighting requirements called for up to 750 F-22s, but Pentagon arms buyers decided to produce more F-35s, claiming that the plane is nearly comparable to the F-22.

Supporters of the F-22, including former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynn, have said the F-22 is needed because it is a production aircraft while the F-35 is behind schedule and over budget.

One advantage of the F-22 is its so-called “supercruise” capability that allows it to fly at high speeds without using too much fuel.

The jet was sought by Japan, which is currently in the market for upgrading its air forces. Other potential buyers include Australia’s military, which has expressed interest in an export version, as well as Israel.

A March 2009 report by the Congressional Research Service on F-22 exports described the aircraft as “the world’s most advanced manned combat aircraft” and concluded that exporting F-22s to Japan would be one way to keep open the F-22 production line after U.S. Air Force procurement ends.

“Developed principally to defeat Soviet aircraft in air-to-air combat, the F-22 exploits the latest developments in stealth technology to reduce detection by enemy radar, as well as thrust-vectoring engines for more maneuverability, and avionics that fuse and display information from on-board and off-board sensors in a single battlefield display,” the report said.

The report said the Pentagon is “officially neutral” on exporting F-22s, “but senior leaders have suggested that they favor foreign sales of the F-22.”

Since 1998, Congress has banned using appropriated funds to approve or license sales of F-22s to any foreign government, under the “Obey Amendment,” named after Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Air Force ISR strike

Air Force Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), said the service is working on a new-concept aircraft to replace the new long-range bomber shelved by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in announcing the defense budget last spring.

“What I would tell you is that a long-range penetrating ISR strike aircraft yields great advantages over any other kind of system,” Gen. Deptula told defense reporters at a Dec. 16 breakfast.

“It’s about putting flexibility and the ability to introduce unambiguous statements into the hands of our national leaders. And when manned, it increases stability and capability by providing a degree of responsiveness to an infinite number of options that you otherwise may not be able to deal with if it’s unmanned.”

Gen. Deptula said the Air Force is reviewing all the requirements for a new bomber and “making the case for why a long-range ISR strike platform is very important to develop as our current geriatric bomber force continues to age.”

Current bomber forces include 1960s-era B-52s and newer but still old B-1s and B-2s.

The new system will be stealthy and may be used for more missions than just delivering bombs or missiles. It could be outfitted with ant-aircraft or anti-missile lasers, and computer warfare equipment that would disrupt enemy weapons and information systems, said the three-star general, who is considered one of the military’s innovators.

Gen. Deptula said he prefers to call the new system an “ISR strike platform” instead of a bomber “because a bomber brings up images in folks’ minds that quite frankly our technological capability has moved us beyond,” he said.

The multi-role aircraft would combine the “find and fix features” of intelligence aircraft on the same system that “apply affects (fires weapons),” he said.

“And they might not all be kinetic in the sense of bombs. That’s why the most important part of the bomber, what we traditionally would call a bomber in the future, isn’t its ability to deliver bombs, but its ability to assimilate information rapidly and then translate that information into decisions to be able to react,” he said.

E-mail Bill Gertz at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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