• UN withdraws inspectors from Syria ahead of schedule

    UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has instructed the UN weapons inspectors investigating last Wednesday’s chemical weapons attack to leave Syria by Saturday. The withdrawal of UN inspectors in the face of an imminent military campaign is reminiscent of other instances of early departures of UN weapons inspectors from Iraq in December 1998. The Clinton administration tipped the inspectors off that missile strikes against Saddam Hussein’s regime were imminent.

  • Divisions in U.K. over Syria action

    A U.S.-led attack on Syrian targets in response to the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons in an attack on Sunni civilians last Wednesday may be delayed until next week in the face of strong opposition in the U.K. parliament to British involvement. Prime Minister David Cameron said MPs would be given a second vote to approve military action ahead of a Commons debate today (Thursday) on Syria, in order to defuse a parliamentary revolt. About seventy Tory MPs said they would join the Labor opposition in voting against the U.K. participating in the attack on Syria. Some of the opponents of U.K. participation say a UN approval of such an attack would be needed, while others say they want to see clear-cut proof of the Assad regime’s culpability.

  • Pentagon not likely to attack Syria’s chemical weapons depots

    Administration officials say that the coming U.S. military strike against Syria – and it may be launched as early as tomorrow, Thursday – will aim not to change the regime, but to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons, and “deter and degrade” the ability of the regime to launch chemical weapons in the future. The attack will not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, as American officials fear that such an attack may release clouds of toxic clouds into the air, possibly causing humanitarian and environmental disaster. Israeli intelligence analysts disagree, pointing out that the components of the chemical weapons are stored separately and assembled when an order is given – meaning that a strike on a chemical weapon storage facility will not trigger a chemical reaction. Whether or not Israel has been able to persuade the United States on this issue remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: if Assad decides to retaliate against Israel in the wake of an American strike on Syria, Israel will not hesitate to attack these storage facilities.

  • Cruise missile-only strikes have mixed record of success

    If the United States limits its operation in Syria to cruise missile strikes, the operation will resemble similar attacks in the past – for example, cruise missile attacks in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Iraq in 1998. Cruise missile-only operations have had at best a mixed record of success. Experts note that Tomahawk missile strikes are politically and psychologically significant, but typically have a limited tactical effect.

  • 3D Earth model accurately pinpoints source of earthquakes, explosions

    During the cold war, U.S. and international monitoring agencies could spot nuclear tests and focused on measuring their sizes. Today, they are looking around the globe to pinpoint much smaller explosives tests. Researchers are working on developing a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D. The purpose of this model is to assist the U.S. Air Force and the international Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, Austria, more accurately locate all types of explosions.

  • New technology improves IED detection

    Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are homemade bombs that can both injure and kill civilians and service members. One solution to the problem of IEDs is to find them before they explode by detecting the chemicals used in the explosives. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed a technology, using silicon to fabricate a sensor that may revolutionize the way trace chemical detection is conducted

  • Unmanned undersea platform network to help better deploy naval capabilities

    Today’s naval forces rely primarily on highly capable multifunctional manned platforms, such as ships and submarines. Even the most advanced vessel, however, can only be in one place at a time, making the ability to respond increasingly dependent on being ready at the right place at the right time. New Hydra program aims to make it easier, faster, and cheaper to deploy crucial capabilities worldwide.

  • Young scientists to tackle DoD’s most demanding technological challenges

    A group of twenty-five early-career scientists at research universities have received grants totaling more than $12 million for basic research to address some of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) most challenging technological hurdles. The long-term goal of the DARPA Young Faculty Award (YFA) program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers who will focus their careers and research on DoD and national security issues.

  • U.S., allies prepare military strikes against Syria

    Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday said that the use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons in attacks on civilians last Wednesday was undeniable. He said the Obama administration would hold the Syrian government accountable for this “cowardly crime” and “moral obscenity.” U.S. political and military leaders have been holding around-the-clock discussions with allies about a coordinated military attack on Syrian regime facilities. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey said there was no need to seek a UN Security Council approval of military action against Syria, and that none will be sought. Administration lawyers have been crafting legal justifications for an intervention without UN approval that could be based on findings that Assad used chemical weapons and created a major humanitarian crisis. The U.S. Navy has moved more ships to the eastern Mediterranean, and activity has been stepped up in Britain’s air base in Cyprus.

  • Israel offers proof of Assad regime’s responsibility for chemical weapons attack

    Israeli sources said that the IDF’s sigint unit, Unit 8200 – which, among other intelligence operations, routinely eavesdrops on communications among military and political leaders in Syria — has recordings of senior Syrian political and military officials discussing the timing and scope of the chemical attack last Wednesday against civilians in rebel-held areas. Israeli intelligence sources have also identified the Syrian military unit which fired the chemical weapons: the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, a division under the command of the Syrian president’s brother, Maher Assad.

  • U.K. newspapers complain government "conflating terrorism and journalism"

    The U.K. government, relying on the Terrorism Act 2000, has recently taken actions against several newspapers, culminating the 18 August detention at Heathrow Airport of David Miranda. Miranda is the companion of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian’s journalist who broke the Snowden story, and the security services believed Miranda, a Brazilian, was transporting Snowden-related material with him. He was detained and questioned for nine hours.

  • World's smallest drone may be a search-and-rescue tool

    See video

    Researchers have designed, built, and tested the world’s smallest open source autopilot for small unmanned aircraft. A smaller and lighter autopilot — it weighs only 1.9 grams — allows these small flying robots to fly longer, fit into narrower spaces, or carry more payloads such as cameras. This makes them more suitable to be used, for example, rescue operations.

     

  • A flying car is developed for the U.S. military

    Flying cars would enhance the mobility of soldiers. Transportation will no longer be restricted to trafficable terrain that makes movement predictable and easy to track, and a flying car will enhance capabilities for resupply operations, fire-team insertion and extraction, and medical evacuation — reducing timelines and increasing the probability of survival.

  • Collaboration with industry leads to improved forensics

    Three-dimensional (3D) scanners used at crime scenes for forensic investigations are not just the stuff of prime time television. Investigators and crime laboratories are using 3D laser scanning measurement systems to measure and model, in 3D simulations, the critical aspects of crime scenes. A 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, however, questioned the reliability of some forensic sciences, including the use of 3D scanning technique. Furthermore, pressure began building in the forensics community to have crime laboratories and stand-alone crime scene units in the United States adhere to specific standards in their services, which require traceability to the SI [the SI in SI traceability refers to the International System of Units (Système International d’unités)].

  • As many as 1,400 killed in a suspected chemical attack in Syria (updated)

    Rebel sources say the number of dead in a Syrian army chemical weapons attack, which targeted a dozen villages in a rebel-held area east of Damascus, has reached 1,400. The Syrian government admitted launching a major military offensive against rebels in the area – both rebels and government sources say it is the largest military operation since the beginning of the war — but strongly rejected the allegations about chemical weapons use by the Syrian army. The Israeli defense minister, in the first official Israeli reaction, confirms the Syrian military used chemical weapons. Chemical weapons experts say there are two other possibilities: the Syrian regime may have used crowd-dispersal chemicals in higher-than-usual concentration, causing death among people trapped in bunkers and shelters; or the army may have used fuel-air bombs in bombing Sunny residential areas. Such bombs, also called thermobaric explosives, rely on oxygen from the surrounding air, unlike most conventional explosives which consist of a fuel-oxidizer premix.