Dec 262011

Nuclear Power of Nuclear Weapons?

For those who have been watching this in the media this might not be anything new. Those of you who aren’t then you’re missing out – shit’s going down like a Ludlum novel in the fiefdom of Persia.

Everyone knows that Iran is pursuing nukes. This isn’t news. What is news is the effort that external influences (read US and Israel) are going to, to fuck with Iran’s scientific hobby. Assassinations, bombings, sabotage, cyber-attack and stealth reconnaissance are all hitting the headlines at rate rapid. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I am talking about.

Jun 2009 Stuxnet virus infects Iranian enrichment equipment damaging machinery.

Jan 2010 an Iranian scientist killed in a bombing.

Nov 2010 Iranian Nuclear scientists killed in a bombing.

Jul 2011 an Iranian Nuclear scientist is assassinated outside of his home.

Nov 2011 a blast destroys an Iranian missile facility near Tehran.

Dec 2011 a US RQ 170 stealth drone crashes inside Iran.

Mossad sponsored bombing?

As you can see there is some serious covert action going on. The big question is who is responsible? These guys reckon that it’s most likely US or Israel backed up by some sort of local support network. I tend to agree, although I think it’s more likely that Mossad have the helm on this one. Local support is a must have for these types of operations. My guess is Mossad has a proxy force of Iranian dissidents at their disposal and they’re using them to slow the move to nuke weapons as much as possible.

The key for Israel is keeping their ops deniable. The last thing they want is to launch another air strike like Operation Opera. A preemptive strike against an Iranian facility is likely to provoke a brutal response from Iran and potentially tip the Middle East into all out war.

On the other hand they need to avoid terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons. Iran, in particular Quds force, have a long history of supporting terrorism and conducting covert actions. Their operatives are heavily involved in de-stabilising Iraq and they also provide support to Hezbollah. Recently they also planned an audacious assassination attempt against the Saudi Ambassador to the US, in Washington DC. Another story for another time, but needless to say they also planned to hit the Israelis. It would be safe to say that Quds force would lead the charge in retaliation attacks against an Israeli air strike.

It all reads like a good political thriller, in fact a lot of it resonates with the themes in PRIMAL Unleashed. Needless to say I’m watching it closely and am pretty damn interested in how this one pans out.

Dec 012011

Before I even start I want to throw this out there. I know I’m running the risk of getting typecast as uber-nerd but who cares, I think UAVs are seriously cool kit. I mean, ethics aside, what’s cooler than flying a death wielding aircraft from the comfort of an air-conditioned room with a soft drink in one hand and a joystick in the other? Well OK, yeah, having a posse of Victoria’s Secret models in the same air-conditioned room is probably cooler, or hotter. But hey that’s not the point – the point is that drones are pretty damn awesome.

I wrote this blog because I’ve been seeing a lot of hype regarding the flying of UAVs in US airspace. Some self-rightous libertarians seem to be freaking out about the idea that the government will be watching from the sky, loitering above them as they go about their daily activities, ready to pounce when they step outside the bounds of the law… George Orwell eat your heart out.

Yeah UAVs are being used to zap bad guys in Pakistan but this is just one application of a versatile piece of equipment. In other parts of the world drones are used to spray crops, conduct inspections of pipelines, take photos, search for lost hikers, spot drug crops, spot fires, check on nuclear reactors, conduct surveillance of volcanoes, and a variety of other important tasks. Sure they could be used to spy on Americans but let’s face it, there are other cheaper and more effective means of surveillance and tracking available. Everyone carries a mobile phone now and most have GPS trackers in them. Hell even the media can run a phone tap.

A few security experts have commented on a need to heavily regulate the use of drones because they could be armed with a payload and used as a flying bomb. No one can deny that this is possible. In fact a nut job from Boston planned an attack using remote control aircraft packed with C4. This kind of sh#t can and no doubt will happen. Does that mean drones should be kept from adding value to society? My opinion, hell no! They can offer a lot of benefits, let’s just not start handing them out to every wack job like they’re kids toys.

Shadowhawk UAV

I read an article recently that police in Texas now have a remote control helicopter to track fugitives. Some scare-mongering journos called the UAV ‘creepy’ and ‘controversial’ implying that it may, in the future, be armed with capsicum spray and bean bag rounds fired from a 40mm grenade launcher. Not sure how viable that is, I mean shooting a running dude with a beanbag round from a helicopter is one thing. Banging one out of a radio controlled chopper sounds pretty off the charts. The simple reality is that cops have being using aircraft to chase crooks for years. The big win with a UAV is the significant cost savings for taxpayers. A twin turbine chopper costs up to 6K an hour to keep airborne yet a decent sized drone is going to give you change from a grand. I don’t care who you are, in today’s economic climate that makes sense.

The big issue facing UAV operators in CONUS is how they fit into the airspace picture. A drone buzzing around below 1000 feet is pretty harmless, unless it flys into your head, but one getting hoovered into the air intake on a 737 at 20,000 feet is a sh#t sandwich. Currently the FAA is trying to workout how piloted and pilotless aircraft interact with each other safely. Till they figure this out there ain’t gonna be many commercial style UAVs flying. Although I might add that even aircraft with pilots sometimes have problems avoiding each other.

Whilst the outlook for UAVs in the US is up in the air, no pun intended, it’s pretty damn likely that we are going to see more of them flying around in the near future. It makes sense to use smaller, cheaper craft to augment helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. So for all you conspiracy theorists out there you better start wrapping tin foil around your heads and make a bee line for the hills… the drones are coming.