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January 17, 2017

Russia’s Fifth-Generation Fighter Jet T-50

Russia is building its own fifth-generation fighter jet — a plane that might even have some advantages over the U.S.’s troubled F-35.

The PAK-FA, also known as the T-50, is still in prototype, and is built to emulate and improve upon many of the successes of the American F-22 — the only effective fifth-generation airplane in the world. The T-50 achieves this by combining older Sukhoi designs along with improvements based upon the F-22.

Bill Sweetman, of Aviation Week, notes that one of the major structural improvements of the T-50 over the F-22 are the spacing of the twin engines. On the T-50, the engines are more widely spaced. This spacing provides better roll and yaw control for the T-50 compared to the F-22 in the case that the thrust-vector control system fails.

Russia T 50 Fifth Generation Jet

The T-50 is also designed to have extreme maneuverability at both supersonic and subsonic speeds. It is thought that the T-50 could outperform both the F-35 and the F-22 in this regard. Likewise, the T-50 can maintain a super cruising speed of approximately Mach 1.8, matching the F-22 and surpassing the F-35.  In terms of overall stealth, however, the T-50 is surpassed by both the F-35 and the F-22. The T-50’s radar-cross section (RCS) is an average of 0.1-1 m 2. In comparison, the RCS of the F-22 is 0.01 – 0.001 mfrom the side and behind, while the F-35’s is 0.01 m2. A lower RCS indicates that the plane is more difficult to detect on radar.

It should be kept in mind that the specifications of any fifth generation craft should be met with skepticism. The T-50, like the F-35, has encountered its own series of developmental delays. The Russian military is also notoriously secretive, so any problems with its new flagship aircraft are likely to be suppressed.

The T-50 is slated to go into service in 2016.

Courtesy: www.businessinsider.com

China’s Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft J 20 | A Game Changer

China is in the process of developing its own native fifth-generation fighter to compete with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Russia’s T-50. Although China has been secretive about the exact specifications of the aircraft, experts are warning that the plane could be a game-changer in East Asia’s potentially fragile security environment.

China’s Chengdu J-20 is currently in its fourth round of prototypes. On July 26, the most recent version of the fighter flew for two hours before successfully landing. Information about the J-20 is limited, but an unnamed Asian government source told IHS Jane’s that upwards of 20 J-20s could be deployed by within the decade.

The J-20 has evolved rapidly from its first documented prototype in 2011. Each successive prototype has shown a number of design advancements that help the plane evade enemy radar detection. These changes include modifying the plane’s wing size and adjusting the air intakes to maximize stealth.

China's Fifth Generation Fighter J 20

It’s likely that China is also outfitting the J-20 with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar in the plane’s nose.

AESAs are incredibly powerful radar systems broadcast at a range of frequencies, allowing a plane to remain stealthy in the process. And the use of the AESA in the J-20’s nose marks a striking similarity to the design of the U.S.’s F-35 fifth-generation fighter.  The similarities between the F-35, the F-22, and the J-20 are likely not a coincidence.

Aviation expert Carlo Kopp notes that China imitates the basic shapes and skeletal designs of existing aircraft to speed development while minimizing the risk of a costly and embarrassing engineering failure later on.

“By cleverly exploiting contemporary United States-developed stealth fighter shaping design rules,” Kopp writes for the independent Australian think tank Air Power Australia, “Chengdu engineers were able to rapidly get an excellent basic shaping design with a minimum of risk and cost, and significant long-term stealth performance growth potential.”

This potential, if China capitalizes on it, could allow the J-20 to achieve levels of stealth on par with, or even exceeding, the F-35.

This stealth capability could put all of East Asia at risk — the integrated air defense systems in the region rely primarily on types of radar that would be incapable of adequately detecting the J-20.

China would have undisputed first-strike superiority throughout a region where tensions are on the rise. Exact details of the aircraft’s

fuel capacity and range are unknown, but estimates give the J-20 a striking range of 1,000 nautical miles, which would place Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Philippines airfields within reach of China.

And China has simmering economic and territorial disputes with each of these countries.

China’s J-20 has likely also benefited from Chinese espionage.

A Chinese entrepreneur was arrested in July after stealing gigabytes of data related to the F-35 and the F-22, along with other U.S. military aviation projects. Previous extensive theft of F-35 data is believed to be the driver of a number of redesigns to the J-20 and the cause of the aircraft’s improvements within each prototype stage.

However, China is still believed to be a long way from developing a native engine system for the plane.

Engines are “the long pole in the tent,” Reuben F. Johnson, a Russian and Chinese military aerospace analysts who writes for Jane’s, told The Diplomat. Until China develops its own engines, it is limited to using Russian imports.

Ultimately, the overall quality of a plane is just one factor in the aircraft’s effectiveness, David Cenciotti, a military aviation expert and founder of The Aviationist, told Business Insider via email.

“We don’t know much about the [J-20], but it is safe to say it’s not always a matter of technology, armament or on-board equipment,” Cenciotti wrote. “Theoretically, the J-20 will be able to match Western fifth-gen fighters in a one vs one confrontation, but a realistic engagement with airborne early warning and emissions control procedures would be something much different[.]”

And, as Cenciotti warns, training and logistics may be the most important factor. And if China can get that right, they’ll have a fighter plane that can overcome their rivals’ existing air defenses, and even match the over trillion-dollar F-35.

Courtesy: www.businessinsider.com

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/russian-pak-fa-poses-serious-challenge-to-us-2014-5#ixzz3B6dpgsBd

Sudan and South Sudan are on Brink of Another War

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir threatened on Wednesday to overthrow the `insect` government of South Sudan, amid global efforts to pull the rivals from the brink of all-out war after the South seized a key oilfield.
“Our main target from today is to liberate South Sudan`s citizens from the SPLM (Sudan People`s Liberation Movement), and this is our responsibility before our brothers in South Sudan,” Bashir said, adding that the southern government cannot be called a `movement`.
We call it an insect … trying to destroy Sudan, and our main target from today is to eliminate this insect completely.
He spoke at a youth rally in support of troops who hope to reclaim Sudan`s most important oil field, Heglig, from South Sudanese troops who seized it eight days ago.
`There are two choices: Either we end up in Juba or they end up in Khartoum. The old borders cannot take us both,` Bashir said, predicting that the victory will be swift.

sudan war pic
`In a few hours you are going to listen to good news from your brothers in Heglig,` he told about 3,000 young people, some of them dressed in military gear.
`Heglig will not be the end. The end will be in Juba,` the South`s capital, said Bashir, whose audience sang songs about jihad, or holy war.
While Bashir forecast a swift victory, a foreign ministry official said Sudan is pursuing both military and diplomatic measures to getSouth Sudan out of the area.
`Military steps are underway … and they are calculated measures,` Omar Dahab, head of the ministry`s crisis team, told a news conference.
`At the same time, they are taking into consideration the diplomatic and good offices efforts regarding the ending of the occupation.
`We have to end the occupation by hook or crook, by either way.
Sudan`s military has released virtually no information about the situation on the ground but South Sudan has vowed to hold its positions in Heglig, despite air strikes.Clashes broke out last month in the Heglig area and escalated last week with waves of aerial bombardment hitting the South and Juba`s seizure of the oil centre on April 10.
The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have criticised the South`s occupation of the north`s most important oil field, equally denouncing Sudanese air strikes against the South.
There are widespread fears that the fighting, which began with skirmishes in the same area in late March and intensified last week, will spread.
It is already the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after a 1983-2005 civil war which killed two million people.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council discussed possible sanctions against Sudan and South Sudan in a bid to halt a wider war.
But Dahab, of Khartoum`s foreign ministry, said penalising both the aggressor and the victim would be wrong.
`It is clear that that is not fair,` he said. `Logically it should be directed to the aggressor.
For its part, the African Union renewed its demand for both sides` forces to leave the region.
Air strikes have killed several South Sudanese civilians and earlier this week damaged a UN peacekeeping camp in the South`s Unity State.
The two Sudans are locked `in a logic of war,` with hardliners controlling both countries, international peace envoys told the UN Security council.
Although South Sudan disputes it, Heglig has been internationally recognised as being part of Sudan.
Princeton Lyman, the US special envoy on Sudan and South Sudan, is expected in Khartoum on Thursday after a meeting in the South`s capital Juba with President Salva Kiir.
His message will stress `that we need an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence, and we need both sides to get back to the AU process

Drought in Afghanistan will effect 2.6 million people

Zara, an Afghan mother of seven, doesn’t know what to tell her children when they ask about dinner.
”I simply tell them that we must wait until their father gets home to see if he’s going to bring anything,” she said, speaking from under a dusty blue burqa covering her from head to toe.
Zara, who uses just one name, is one of an estimated 2.6 million Afghans facing food shortages after one of the worst droughts to strike northern Afghanistan in a decade, according to Afghan officials and aid agencies.
Already living in poverty in a country at war, many have been left destitute by the drought, which has affected 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces – all in the north.
Wells have dried up. Hundreds of children have been treated for malnutrition. Families are selling their animals at below-market prices. People are moving to cities to try to find food, water, work and, in some cases, a refuge from the fighting.
The Afghan government and aid agencies are racing to help them before snow blocks access to remote areas.
Rahmatullah Zahid, disaster coordinator in Balkh province, which has been hard-hit by the drought, said he is not worried yet about people starving to death, but he wonders how people will survive the winter, especially in remote areas.
”If the weather gets very, very cold in the remote areas and if the aid doesn’t come, those families will be in danger of starvation,” he said.
Beyond the relief effort, aid officials are trying to figure out how to end a vicious cycle of drought, drought relief and drought again in an area of the country that has suffered water and food shortages in eight of the past 11 years.

Drought in Afghanistan
Instead of trying to cultivate chronically dry land, perhaps farmers could grow almonds or grapes, which require less water than wheat, or industry, could be lured to the area to extract its prevalent gas and oil.
Zara and her family moved to Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, so her husband, whose crops dried up, might find work as a day laborer.
She and hundreds of others who fled the rugged Alburz Mountains in the province gathered last week in a dirt lot in Mazar-e-Sharif to receive large canvas bags of kitchen supplies, blankets, lamps and other items, including a phone card. The aid was distributed by the Norwegian Refugee Council.
”We have very little food,” Zara said, squatting next to her aid bag. ”If my husband finds work, he can buy some breads and vegetables on his way home, but otherwise there is nothing.”
As she spoke, a light mist began to fall. The rain came too late. The crops were ruined months ago.
”There was no rain so everything was burned up,” said Mir Ahmad, a 58-year-old wheat farmer who also moved to Mazar-e-Sharif from the mountains.
”There is not much work here in the city right now,” he said, fingering a strand of yellow prayer beads as the large blue bags were unloaded from a truck. ”Some days there is nothing and I have to borrow food or money to feed my family.”
The UN issued an appeal for $142 million on Oct. 1 to help those hit by the drought in 14 northern provinces, where up to 80 percent of non-irrigated fields yielded little to no crops. So far, about $49 million has been pledged by aid groups, the US and European nations.
The Afghan government also is distributing about 40,000 tons of wheat, 5,000 tons of rice, 10,000 tons of wheat seed and 20,000 tons of animal feed.
Sayed Anwar Rahmati, the governor of neighboring Sar-e-Pul province, said more aid is needed.
”Every day people are coming and complaining,” he said. ”The crops were lost and the cattle were seriously affected.”
Zainab Noori, a member of the local council in nearby Bamiyan province, said people in six districts were waiting for aid.
”If the aid is not delivered in the next month, the road will be blocked by snow,” she said. ”At least 50 families have left already to go to Kabul and Iran to find work.”
Aidan O’Leary, head of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said repeated droughts in northern Afghanistan suggest that economic development is needed in addition to drought relief.
”What you’re dealing with here is basically trying to maintain a rural, agrarian lifestyle in a climate that might not be conducive,” O’Leary said. ”What’s the solution? Are you looking at better seeds? … Are you looking at alternative crops? Are you looking at alternative livelihoods?”
With the international focus on pulling troops from Afghanistan, it’s difficult to get nations sending development aid to discuss long-term solutions that would end the need for drought relief in the north every couple of years, he said. Compounding the problem is that while international aid has been flowing into Afghanistan for years, only a fraction has been targeted to reducing poverty, he said.
O’Leary noted a World Bank report this month that said the expected decline in international aid will have only a modest impact on the poor. The report said the majority of aid was spent to improve security and governance mostly in more urban areas where there is less poverty.
Ironically, it rained both days last week that O’Leary traveled to the north to check on drought aid with Michael Keating, deputy special representative of the UN secretary-general for Afghanistan with responsibility for relief, recovery and reconstruction. The first day it sprinkled. The second day it poured. Muddy water filled deep ruts in unpaved roads in Dawlat Abad district.
Keating and O’Leary tried to visit a nearby village, but one of the heavily armored UN vehicles in their convoy got stuck. They left the vehicle, turned around and drove on better roads to their next stop: a medical center where children are being treated for acute malnutrition.
The number of cases of malnutrition treated at the clinic increased threefold after the drought, said Dr. Said Mahmood Shah, nutrition coordinator for Save the Children. In the summer months, up to 90 malnourished children showed up at the center where a tiny office was crowded with cardboard boxes of eeZee Paste Nut, a peanut butter-like food with high energy, proteins and nutrients.
Now, rain, snow and poor roads have prevented some children from getting help, Shah said. “There are lots of cases, but they can’t get here,” he said.
The last stop was a meeting with villagers, including women who had received seeds and tools as part of a backyard garden project run by ActionAid, a British aid group.
One of the women, Jan Bibi, said that because of the drought, she and 10 other members of her family eat only once a day. Bibi, who is in her 70s with no land or home of her own, said she had not eaten meat for six to eight weeks,
“We are sticking to one meal a day,” Bibi said, holding up a forefinger. “This year, it’s really, really bad.”

Source: www.dawn.com.pk

European Economies 2011, European Economic Review 2011

EUROSTAT, the EU statistical agency, has reported a sharp slowdown in economic growth during the second quarter. Gross domestic product for the European Union as a whole grew at a quarterly rate of 0.2 per cent according to preliminary estimates from Eurostat. It was the weakest growth rate in two years and came after a 0.8 per cent expansion in the first three months of 2011. Economists were expecting growth to have slowed, with many projecting a 0.3 per cent rate in the quarter. Germany, the largest economy in Europe, nearly ground to a halt in the quarter.
The nation’s GDP grew at a quarterly rate of only 0.1, down from 1.3 per cent in the first quarter. France, the second largest EU economy did not grow at all in the second quarter.The weakness in Europe’s economic powerhouses raises concerns about the ability of stronger EU economies to support struggling members outside the core of the European Union.

European Economies in 2011
In Europe, the decline in output came against a backdrop of turmoil, as the long-running debt crisis in Greece, Portugal and Ireland accelerated in the second quarter. Investors have been rattled by fears that larger economies, including Spain and Italy, may need to be bailed out. That has raised fears about the future viability of the 12-year old currency union. Meanwhile, the governments in Europe have been working to contain the continent’s sovereign debt problems and stabilize the euro. The European Council has announced a new 109 billion rescue package, and agreed to expand the powers of the EU financial stability fund.
European finance officials are stepping up their efforts to slow the rising panic over the euro zone’s debt crisis. Finance ministers from the G-7 — a group of significant world economies – have pledged support for troubled countries. In the face of renewed strains on financial markets, they have agreed to take all necessary measures to support financial stability and growth in a spirit of close cooperation and confidence. The European Central Bank signaled that it was ready to begin buying Italian and Spanish government bonds. Both countries — two of the largest economies in Europe — have been under pressure to speed up budget reforms as investors have demanded higher interest rates for loans.
The European banks are finding it increasingly harder to get cash they need to operate. Exactly three years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers touched off a credit panic, confidence in European leaders is fading as they scramble to head off a default on Greek debt and ease fears that Italy may head for the same fate. According to the International Monetary Fund, after a year and half of failed attempts at a solution, the world economy has entered a “dangerous new phase.” Without collective resolve, the confidence that the world so badly needs will not return.
Germany and France, the last hope of a European bailout, have seen their economies grind to a halt as the crisis widened. Investors have bailed out of European bank stocks, fearing they could lose large chunks of capital if governments default on the bonds they hold. Some bank stocks are now trading for less than half the reported value of the assets on their books, a sign that investors believe those assets will inevitably have to be written down. European leaders have been working for more than a year to assemble a financial backstop, similar to the response by the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve to the collapse of credit markets in 2008. Source:Dawn.com.pk

East European Economies 2011, Growth & Economic Review

THE heavily export dependent economies in the region would almost inevitably be dragged down by the rapid slowdown in Europe’s principal economic motor, the German economy. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania all reported slower GDP growth in the second quarter, due in large measure to the disappointing performance of their German neighbour, central Europe’s most important trading partner.
As anticipated, the Hungarian results were especially weak. Analysts had widely predicted inter annual growth of just under 2.5, but in the end the result came in at 1.5 per cent. Even worse, the economy completely failed to grow in the second three months in the year, since quarter on quarter growth was effectively zero.
The increase in industrial activity which accompanied the increased demand for exports was only sufficient to compensate for the drop in internal demand at a time of near record export levels in many European countries. This is doubly worrying since the government, while continuing to reduce the deficit, has appropriated something like nine per cent of GDP from a one off pension move, paying down debt and, in addition, adding some support to this year’s spending programme. Mirroring what just happened in Germany, second quarter GDP growth in the Czech republic slowed from what had been the fastest pace in almost three years achieved in the first three months of the year, to a mere 0.2 per cent, the slowest rate of increase in two years.

East Europen Economies
Like many economies in the region, the Czech one is now strongly dependent on foreign demand for its products. Exports have surged back up and beyond pre-crisis highs, while industrial output has grown strongly. What makes the Czech case interesting is that neither the private nor the public sector is heavily indebted – public sector debt was only 41.3 of GDP in 2010. The country’s external debt was only 46.7 of GDP. The central bank policy rate is currently 0.75. The Koruna has gained nearly 2.4% against the euro so far this year, as compared with a decline of around 10 per cent in the Polish zloty. Some economists are talking of the Koruna as a potential safe haven alternative to the Swiss franc.
Romania has struggled far longer than any other CEE economy to emerge from recession, only grew by 0.1 in the second quarter, following a 0.7 per cent quarterly rate of increase in the first quarter. Romanian GDP is barely up from one year ago. And indeed is still something like 8.5 per cent below its pre-crisis peak.This is despite the fact that exports have been booming, and are now above the pre-crisis level. As per the regional pattern, domestic demand has not recovered and retail sales are falling. Construction is well down, and is unlikely to return to pre-crisis levels.
But Romania and the other countries suffer from an additional problem – they have significant external debt levels, and despite the activation of the Vienna initiative- they continue to suffer from very tight credit conditions. Total Romanian government debt is only just over 35% of GDP, while external debt is over 70 per cent of GDP. The country continues to run a significant current account deficit (4.2 of GDP in 2010). The inflation rate was exacerbated by a 5% VAT rise in July 2010 and the annual rate has now fallen back from eight per cent in June to 4.9 in July. Source Dawn.com.pk

Russian Economic Review 2011 | Economy of Russia in 2011

THE World Bank has cut its forecast for Russian economic growth this year to 4% from a previously estimated 4.4% as a result of an expected slowdown in the U.S. and the European Union, a decline in oil prices and the euro-zone debt crisis. The bank expects Russia’s GDP to grow 3.8% in 2012. Its 2011 forecast is more pessimistic than the Russian Economy Ministry’s estimate of 4.1% growth this year. The ministry predicts 3.7% growth in 2012. However, the World Bank still expects Russia to grow faster than the global economy as a whole, as global GDP growth is now projected to slow to 2.8% in 2011 before firming up to 3.2% in 2012.Aside from higher budgetary spending, the main risks for Russia lie the outside the country. Relatively high oil prices and low unemployment will help sustain robust growth in domestic consumption, which, in turn, will support overall growth during the second half of 2011.The bank notes that although “Russia’s short-term economic and fiscal situation remains favorable because of high oil prices with an almost balanced budget this year,” the balance of macroeconomic risks “has shifted toward an uncertain growth path as inflation pressures subside and external risks rise sharply.” The bank predicted Russia’s budget will be balanced in 2011 but will show a deficit of 1.6% of GDP in 2012.

Russian Economy 2011
However, significant downside risks are associated with global demand and highly volatile oil prices and new expenditure pressures from the planned modernization of the army, spending on infrastructure, and additional social spending, especially during the election period. The balance of payments position is expected to deteriorate towards the end of 2011, while capital flows are likely to remain volatile, reflecting increased global uncertainties. The bank expects surplus on the external current account to amount to about $67 billion in 2011, about 3.8% of GDP, and then to deteriorate to $21 billion in 2012, or 1.1% of GDP. Unemployment is expected to remain below 7% but a further reduction in unemployment will be slow.
The inflation rate may drop to 5 percent to 6 percent next year from a forecast 7 percent to 7.5 percent in 2011, according to the ministry. Russian economic growth may slow more than previously forecast next year as oil prices stagnate and the government uses its energy revenue this year to rebuild the nation’s sovereign wealth funds. The ministry revised down its growth forecast to 3.5 percent in 2012 from the previous estimate for a 3.9 percent increase. Practically all of the increased revenue from higher oil prices is going to the Reserve Fund and the National Wellbeing Fund instead of toward boosting expenditures. The weaker growth forecast signals the world’s biggest energy supplier will struggle to meet President’s target of achieving expansion of as much as 10 percent within five years.
The World Bank currently expects Brent crude to trade at an average of $105 a barrel this year and then drop 9.5% during 2012. That scenario would effectively reduce Russian GDP growth to an annualized rate of 4.0% in 2011 and 3.8% next year. This is roughly in line with official Russian forecasts of 4.1% and 3.7% growth in 2011 and 2012, respectively. A “severe” shock could push Brent all the way to $45 during the next few months and then back up to an average of $60 in 2012.That worst-case scenario would push Russia’s economy into a deep 1.5% contraction next year. In any event, the Russian economy looks set to grow faster than the rest of the world, whatever happens. Source Dawn.com.pk

North Korea-Iran Nuclear Cooperation and Alliance

It is one of the West’s biggest nuclear proliferation nightmares — that increasingly isolated Iran and North Korea might covertly trade know-how, material or technology that could be put to developing atomic bombs.
“Such a relationship would be logical and beneficial to both North Korea and Iran,” said Mark Hibbs, an expert of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Last year, a UN report suggested that impoverished, reclusive North Korea might have supplied Iran as well as Syria and Myanmar with banned atomic technology.
In what could be a sign of this, a German newspaper last month reported that North Korea had provided Iran with a computer programme as part of intensified cooperation that could help the Islamic state build nuclear weapons.
“There are reports and rumours, which governments and the IAEA (the UN International Atomic Energy Agency) have not denied, indicating that there may be a track record of bilateral nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Iran,” Hibbs said.


But while this could make sense for two states facing tightening sanctions — and potentially earn Pyongyang some badly needed funds — the extent and nature of any such dealings, if they take place at all, remain shrouded in mystery.“It seems to be very difficult to sort out what the relationship in the nuclear world between DPRK (North Korea) and Iran is. We just simply do not know,” prominent US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker said.
This was in contrast to missile cooperation between the two countries, where North Korea has helped Iran both with the weapons and in building related factories, he said.
Hecker, who has often visited the east Asian state, said possible Tehran-Pyongyang atomic technology transfers would be a major concern for everyone dedicated to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Iran’s nuclear programme is based on uranium enrichment, activity which can have both civilian and military purposes.
North Korea has twice tested plutonium-based nuclear devices, drawing international condemnation, although it last year revealed the existence also of a uranium enrichment site, potentially giving it a second pathway to bombs.
“They complement each other so well (in terms of their expertise). There is just a lot of synergy in how they would be able to exchange capabilities,” Hecker said at a seminar for diplomats in Vienna, the IAEA’s headquarters, this month.
Citing Western intelligence sources, the Munich newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said in August that North Korea had this year delivered software, originally developed in the United States, that could simulate neutron flows.
Such calculations, which can help scientists identify self-sustaining chain reactions, are vital in the construction of reactors and also in the development of nuclear explosives.
With the help of the programme, Iran could gain important knowledge of how to assemble nuclear weapons, the paper said.
There has been no public confirmation or denial of the report in the West. But Hecker did not rule it out, saying Pyongyang had demonstrated experience in this field.
He said North Korea must have some “nuclear code capabilities” which they would have been able to assess in comparison with the result of an atomic test.
“So to some extent they have had an opportunity to verify or check their codes,” Hecker said. “Iran has not had a chance to do that. So exchanging that type of information … you could see as being very useful.” North Korea tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, but still has not shown it has a working nuclear bomb.
Proliferation experts have said the country has enough fissile material for up to 10 nuclear weapons. But they don’t believe Pyongyang is yet capable of miniaturising the material to fit into the cone of a missile.
While North Korea has made no secret of its nuclear weapons ambitions, Iran denies Western allegations that it is covertly seeking to develop an atomic arms capability.
The Islamic Republic says its nuclear programme is for purposes of electricity generation, but its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and its stonewalling of a UN nuclear watchdog probe have stoked suspicions abroad.
The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said this month in a report that it was “increasingly concerned” about possible work in Iran to develop a nuclear missile.
For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran has coordinated efforts to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp a ballistic missile cone to accommodate a nuclear warhead.
Iran says the allegations are baseless and forged.
In a separate report on North Korea, from which its inspectors were expelled in 2009, the IAEA suggested past nuclear-related ties with Syria and Libya, but it made no mention of Iran.
Proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick said it would not be hard for Tehran and Pyongyang to put “well-practised trade deals and transfer routes” from their ballistic missile cooperation to use also in the nuclear field. Still, there were few signs of any nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
“It is not for lack of looking. Western intelligence agencies are intensively targeting nuclear acquisition efforts by Iran and North Korea,” Fitzpatrick, a former senior US State Department official, said.
“Yet finding nuclear weapons-related trade is akin to the proverbial needle in a haystack. In the vastness of ocean and sky routes, most forms of nuclear-related cargo are so minute as to be almost undetectable.” Hibbs said any nuclear dealings with North Korea would pose risks for Iran: “Were this traffic to be confirmed, that would deepen the suspicion that Iran is involved in nuclear activities which are clandestine and military in nature.” Source: Dawn.com.pk

Pine Gap top secret US Military Base in Australia

Deep in the silence of Australia’s Outback desert an imposing American spy post set up at the height of the Cold War is now turning its attention to Asia’s growing armies and arsenals. Officially designated United States territory and manned by agents from some of America’s most sensitive intelligence agencies, the Pine Gap satellite station has been involved in some of the biggest conflicts in modern times. But its role in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, and in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, had been little recognised until one of its most senior spies broke ranks recently to pen a tell-all account. Intelligence analyst David Rosenberg spent 18 years at the base, 20 kilometres south of Alice Springs, working with top-secret clearance for the National Security Agency (NSA), home to America’s code-cracking elite.

Pine Gap
Formally known as the “Joint Defence Space Research Facility”, Pine Gap is one of Washington’s biggest intelligence collection posts, intercepting weapons and communications signals via a series of satellites orbiting Earth.
Australia has had joint leadership at the post and access to all intercepted material since 1980, but the base’s history is not without controversy.
Former prime minister Gough Whitlam was sensationally sacked by the British monarchy — allegedly at American urging — not long after he threatened to close Pine Gap in 1975, although other domestic political issues were also involved in his removal.
Its futuristic domes were originally built as a weapon in America’s spy war with Russia, officially starting operations in 1970, but Rosenberg says it is now targeting the US-led “war on terror” and Asia’s military boom.
“There’s a large segment of the world that are weapons-producing countries who have programmes that the United States and Australia are interested in, and obviously a lot of Asia encompasses that area,” Rosenberg said.
The career spy is under a lifetime secrecy agreement with the NSA, meaning he cannot reveal classified information and is limited in what he can say about his time at Pine Gap, but said North Korea and China were among its targets.
“I think any country that has a large military, is a large weapons producer, is always going to be a focus for the intelligence community and China of course is growing and it’s growing rapidly,” he said.
“There are developments there that we are looking at.” India and Pakistan were also “very much of a concern”, he added, with a surprise nuclear test by New Delhi in 1998 catching Pine Gap’s analysts “blind”.
The latter half of his time at the mysterious station known to locals as the “Space Base” was dominated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an intense focus on Al Qaeda following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Rosenberg recalls that day as his most sombre in the job, with analysts scouring the region for clues on what was going to happen next, knowing instantly that Al Qaeda was responsible and fearing they would strike again.
“While these attacks were happening we of course were thinking how many other simultaneous or near-simultaneous actions are going to happen?” he said.
“We didn’t know how many other attacks had been planned that day.” It was also a huge wake-up call to the fragmented spy community, he added, who soon realised all the signs had been there of an impending attack but they had failed to piece them together to perhaps prevent 9/11.
Delays also allowed Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders to escape into hiding, a “significant intelligence failure” which left agents with a 10year hunt Rosenberg was not around to see completed — one of his few regrets.
It was “certainly possible” that Pine Gap was involved in the US mission which ultimately saw Bin Laden killed in Pakistan in May, he added.
He sees “cyber-warfare” such as state-endorsed hacking and increasingly portable technology allowing, for example, the remote detonation of a bomb with a mobile phone, as the next big front for the intelligence community.
Rosenberg’s book offers a rare insight into the mysterious world of military espionage, discussing widespread doubts amongst spies about the sincedebunked claims of weapons of mass destruction that presaged the invasion of Iraq.
It was screened 16 times before publication by four intelligence agencies — three American and one Australian — and has been altered or blacked out in sections through an arduous censorship process which saw him, at one point, taken into a vault in Canberra for interrogation.
Defence officials were also due to seize and destroy his computer hard-drive to ensure classified elements of the original manuscript were wiped out.
But the self-confessed “Mission: Impossible” fan said he had no regrets about telling his story.
“Imagine being in a job where secrecy surrounds everything you did for 23 years — it’s kind of like letting the cork out of a champagne bottle, all the secrets come flowing out,” he said. “It was quite a liberating experience for me.”Source: Dawn.com.pk

Chinese Solar Power Industry is the Largest in the World

China’s solar power firms are emerging as the industry’s dominant force after the collapse of foreign competitors, but the new market leaders are already struggling with low prices and overcapacity.
As the workshop of the world, China has used cheap labour and state support to build a solar industry from scratch in just over a decade as part of a broader strategy to move up the manufacturing value chain from cheap toys and clothes.
China is the world’s second biggest oil consumer, and polluting fossil fuels account for 90 per cent of its total energy use, but the country is making large strides forward in clean energy. Analysts say Chinese firms now have 70 per cent of the growing global market in solar panels, thanks to aggressive pricing and the collapse of three US competitors in the last two months.

Chinese Solar Industry
“The position of Chinese players has certainly been enhanced this year,” said Tang Xiaodong, a Shanghai-based analyst at independent investment advisory firm CEBM. “Lower costs are the direction of the industry and the advantages of Chinese firms on this front have been manifested more clearly.” China’s solar panel prices have fallen to around $1.2 per watt of generation, down from about $1.7 last year and much lower than the global average of about $2 in 2010. But the downward price spiral has hurt revenues across the industry, and Chinese companies are themselves feeling the pain.
“Everyone is facing falling prices, increasing inventories and dire straits,” said an official at Yingli Green Energy, one of China’s biggest solar companies, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Critics argue that Chinese companies have unfair advantages in the form of access to cheap capital from China’s state-run banks.
However, they are not alone in receiving government assistance — the latest US solar firm to file for bankruptcy was Solyndra, which had a $535 million loan guarantee from President Barack Obama’s administration.
It joined Evergreen Solar, once listed on the Nasdaq exchange, and high-profile Intel spin-off SpectraWatt. But even before the collapse of those three US companies, China was already home to the world’s largest producer of solar panels, Suntech.
“There is a periodic murmur from industry, trade groups and elements in the US government that unfair subsidies in other coun tries put the US at a distinct disadvantage in the solar industry,” said US-based analysis firm GTM Research in a recent report.
China’s Suntech, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, counters such criticism by saying consolidation of the emerging industry was natural. “The recent high-profile bankruptcies of innovative solar enterprises are unfortunate,” Suntech said in a statement.
“However, competition among aggressive and innovative companies is critical to driving efficiency, productivity, and industry growth.” Chinese companies are almost solely focused on exports, with as much as 95 per cent of production sold overseas according to some estimates, and they have responded to falling prices for solar panels by ramping up shipments.
But analysts expect domestic demand for solar products to rise with the introduction of a new national “feed-in” tariff — a price the government guarantees to pay to producers of solar power feeding into the grid.
“The days of China’s PV (photovoltaic) production being purely for export are coming to an end,” GTM Research said, referring to solar power technology.