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Russian Airforce to Get First T-50 Fighters in 2013


“The Russian Air Force will receive the first batch of prototypes of its fifth-generation T-50 fighter for performance testing in 2013, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said on Thursday.

The T-50, developed under the PAK FA program (Future Aviation System for Tactical Air Force) at the Sukhoi experimental design bureau, is Russia’s first new major warplane designed since the fall of the Soviet Union.

“The work on the fifth-generation fighter is going according to schedule,” Zelin, a former Air Force commander, told a news conference in Voronezh (central Russia). “The third prototype has joined the testing program and the fourth is being built.”

The T-50 made its maiden flight in January 2010 and three prototypes have since been undergoing flight tests.

Zelin earlier said that the number of T-50 aircraft involved in testing would be increased to 14 by 2015.

The fighter was first shown to the public in August 2011, in Zhukovsky near Moscow, at the MAKS-2011 air show.”

NATO activates missile shield despite Russian anger


NATO leaders launched Sunday the first phase of a US-led missile shield for Europe, risking the wrath of Russia which has threatened to deploy rockets to EU borders in response.

A NATO official told AFP that US President Barack Obama and his allies “just decided” at a Chicago summit to put a US warship armed with interceptors in the Mediterranean and a Turkey-based radar system under NATO command in a German base.

The alliance insists the shield is not aimed at Russia and aims to knock out missiles that could be launched by enemies such as Iran, but Moscow fears that the system will also serve to neutralize its nuclear deterrent.

Missile defense is indispensable. We are faced with real missile threats,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on the eve of the summit, adding that 30 states either have or seek ballistic missile technology.

“Against a real threat we need a real defense,” he said.

The standoff has tested Russian-US relations for much of the past decade and been one of the primary issues addressed by Obama when he launched a diplomatic “reset” with Moscow in 2009.

Russian military chief General Nikolai Makarov said this month one option was for Russia to station short-range Iskander missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave near Poland, a long-running threat that has alarmed Eastern European states.

NATO had hoped that Russian President Vladimir Putin would come to Chicago, but instead he sent a lower level delegation to represent Moscow during the summit’s discussion on Afghanistan.

Putin, who returned to power after succeeding his protege Dmitry Medvedev this month, was often at odds with the previous US administration over missile defense in his first two terms of office.

“Russia is sensitive about its nuclear capability because that’s what makes it a superpower,” said Nick Witney, a London-based defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

In a bid to appease its former Cold War foe, the Western military alliance invited Russia to cooperate in the system at the last summit in November 2010 in Lisbon, but the two sides have struggled to find common ground.

“This is not a project targeted against Russia, but a project we want to push forward with Russia in the interest of Europe’s security,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “And therefore the door for Russia will stay open.”

Moscow has called for joint control over the system and for NATO to sign a legally-binding guarantee that it is not aimed at Russia.

But NATO has balked at both demands, insisting on keeping two separate systems and refusing to sign a legally-binding document.

The US election also appears to have affected the pace of negotiations.

An open microphone famously caught Obama telling then president Medvedev in March that he could negotiate some concessions on the system if Russia gave him “space” until after the election this year.

The system will be deployed in four phases and become fully operational by 2018.

Spain will host four US Aegis ships at its port in Rota while Poland and Romania have agreed to host US land-based SM-3 missiles in the coming years.

The United States has tested missile defense technology for years but analysts have raised questions over whether the shield is a full-proof defense against incoming rockets from rogue states.

“They have scored successes (in tests) but it’s easier to hit things when you know something is about to come than when something is coming out of the blue,” Witney said.

“There is a huge number of technical unknowns on both sides of this equation,” Witney said, pointing out that there are also doubts over whether Iranian missiles could reach deep into Western Europe.”

Source: DefenceTalk

Russian spy babe’s gadgets in new exhibition

“RUSSIAN spy babe Anna Chapman was outfitted with a $2,300 Chanel bag featuring a hidden, high-powered wi-fi device so she could secretly communicate with her Moscow-led overseers.

The bag, still in FBI custody, is expected to join a bevy of other Chapman goodies going on display as part of an exhibition about spies and their gadgets – including Chapman’s – opening Friday in New York.

“If she had been here another six months, Anna Chapman could have become the most dangerous spy in American history,” said spy-book author and former CIA operative H. Keith Melton, who is curating the exhibition.

“She could access anyone,” he said.

Melton believes Chapman was well on her way to severely compromising US business interests until she foolishly handed off her Toshiba laptop – chock full of sensitive information – to an FBI informant posing as a Russian agent.

The laptop’s hand-off came during a meeting at a Manhattan Starbucks the day before she was taken into custody in June 2010, when she complained the computer did not work properly and the “Russian” agent – who told her his name was “Roman” — offered to have it fixed at the Russian consulate.

Melton owns or gained access to most of the hundreds of pieces of spy paraphernalia on display in the exhibit – including one titled “Anna Chapman’s Laptop.”

He described the Russian as so friendly, personable and beautiful that her mission of gaining access to wealthy or influential American businessmen was a snap.

After gaining their trust, the modern-day Mata Hari would hand off information about the men to her handlers, who would then decide if their businesses were worth targeting for espionage to help boost Russia’s efforts to become a global economic powerhouse.”

Source: The News Australia

Dozens killed in Damascus ‘suicide blasts’

“Twin suicide bombings killed at least 55 people and wounded nearly 400 in the Syrian capital Damascus, authorities said, in the deadliest attacks of the country’s 14-month uprising.

The government and the opposition traded blame, with Syria’s foreign ministry, in a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon hours after the attacks, saying they were the work of “terrorists” armed and funded by foreign organisations and media.

The blasts during morning rush hour left an apocalyptic scene of destruction and further put into question a UN-backed ceasefire that has failed to take hold since it went into effect on April 12.

Ban strongly condemned Thursday’s attacks and urged all sides to “distance themselves from indiscriminate bombings and other terrorist acts,” his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Washington called the attacks “reprehensible” while UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the truce, described them as “abhorrent”.

Russia and China, both supporters of President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime, called for a stop to the violence and urged all parties in Syria to cooperate with Annan’s peace plan.

State television aired gruesome footage of the aftermath of the twin explosions in the neighbourhood of Qazzaz, also blaming “terrorists”, a term used by authorities to refer to rebels seeking to topple Assad’s regime.

The television showed images of a woman’s charred hand on a steering wheel, her gold bracelets dangling from her blackened wrist.

Other burnt and mangled bodies lay in the street amid the carcasses of smouldering vehicles and rubble.

“Is that the freedom you want? Students from schools and employees going to work are dead,” shouted one man in the middle of the destruction.

The explosions took place on a main freeway in the south of Damascus, in front of a nine-storey security complex whose facade was heavily damaged while nearby residential buildings collapsed.

The interior ministry said the suicide attackers used a tonne of explosives, killing at least 55 people and wounding 372.

It added that emergency workers filled 15 bags with body parts, and that the blasts also destroyed around 200 cars.

“These crimes show that Syria is targeted by a terrorist attack launched by organisations armed and funded by parties who proclaim their backing to terrorist crimes,” state news agency SANA quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

At the United Nations, Syria’s ambassador said that recent bomb attacks in Syria “carried the stamp of Al-Qaeda methods,” adding that British, French and Belgian nationals were among foreign fighters killed in recent clashes.

But the opposition Syrian National Council accused Assad’s regime of staging the bombings in a bid to undermine the UN observer mission and to persuade the international community that Damascus was battling “terrorists.”

“This is the only way for the regime to claim that what is happening in Syria is the work of terrorist gangs and that Al-Qaeda is expanding its presence in Syria,” said Samir Nashar, of the exile group’s executive branch.

The SNC accused the regime of placing the bodies of people it had killed at the site of the bombings, to claim that they died in the blasts.

“Among the victims of the attacks are those whose names are on the lists of people imprisoned by the regime,” the group said in a statement.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the Damascus bombings targeted an intelligence base and killed 59 people, including civilians and security personnel.

The attacks came a day after UN observers monitoring the ceasefire escaped unharmed when a roadside bomb exploded as they were visiting the flashpoint southern city of Daraa. Ten Syrian troops escorting them were hurt.

In Geneva, Annan said through his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi that he “condemns in the strongest possible terms the attacks that took place earlier today in Damascus.”

“These abhorrent acts are unacceptable and the violence in Syria must stop,” he added.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement: “Any and all violence that results in the indiscriminate killing and injury of civilians is reprehensible and cannot be justified.

Damascus has been the target of a number of bombs in the past few months.

Suicide bombers hit two security service bases in the capital on December 23, killing 44 people, in attacks the regime blamed on Al-Qaeda but which the opposition said were the work of the regime itself.

The UN leader had warned on Wednesday of a “brief window” to avoid civil war and indicated the future of the ceasefire monitoring mission was in doubt.

Highlighting an “alarming upsurge” of roadside bombs, alongside government attacks, Ban said that both sides “must realise that we have a brief window to stop the violence, a brief opportunity to create an opening for political engagement between the government and those seeking change.”

If the violence did not stop, Ban said he feared “a full-scale civil war with catastrophic effects within Syria and across the region.”

Elsewhere in the country on Thursday, at least 14 people died in violence, including a child killed by army shelling in northwestern Idlib province, the Observatory said.

The watchdog says that more than 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since the revolt broke out in March last year.”

Source : SBS News Australia

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