March 30, 2018

The Origins of Easter. Even a Submarine

A very rare Easter Submarine. (Courtesy "Kouzla s čokoládou" (in Czech) or "Chocolate Spells"
 (in English ) Femina via pinterest)

Happy Easter Everyone! 

Easter, held in late March or early April each year, was at first a pagan festival celebrating Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This includes cherry blossoms (15 seconds into this Youtube). Spring, of course, is connected with fertility, rebirth and new growth of plants and animals.

In order to smoothly convert "pagans" into Christians Christian missionaries converted pagan Spring festivals into popular resurrection of Jesus Christ.Easter festivals. 

Most Christians, agnostics (like me) and non-Christians connect Easter with the most popular practice. That is eating chocolate (mainly Easter bunnies and Easter eggs (eg. Cadbury)) that are coincidentally fertility/rebirth symbols.  

I try to limit my Easter egg intake, but happily never succeed :)


March 29, 2018

Naval Group's New Intermediate Frigate (FTI) - Belharra Design: 5 Ships on Order


The sleek, stealthy configuration and other traits of the FTI-Belharra frigate (below) may influence Australia's Future Frigate SEA 5000 Project. This is particularly the case if a future Fincantieri/Naval Group alliance wins the Future Frigate competition, with the winner expected to be announced in June 2018


The following is a translated and summarized report of March 21, 2018, from the "ouest-france" (West France) website:

Naval group. In Brest, Thales will take care of the sonars of the future frigate

Naval group (formerly DCNS) is designing and will soon start building five new intermediate frigates (in French Frégates de taille intermédiaire (FTIs) that will be specialized in anti-submarine warfare, "self-defense" [surface and air warfare] capabilities and can carry special forces troops.

Within this project Thales’ complex in Brest will develop and supply sonar and other systems. The FTI frigate project carries the more compelling name "Belharra" (Giant Wave)Belharra may also be the first ship of class name?

The frigate is will dispalce about 4,000, making it smaller than the 6,000 tonne FREMM that Naval Group already builds. [Naval-technology advises: Overall length and midship beams of the ship are 122m and 17.7m respectively. With a displacement of approximately 4,200t, the frigate will carry up to 150 personnel, including 110 crew and 15 [in the] helicopter detachment.]

The FTI must be delivered in 2023 for admission to active service in 2025. The Lorient, France, site will be responsible for the final assembly, as is the case for the [multimission FREMMS?] already  being delivered.

The contract, awarded by France’s Directorate General of Armaments, provides for the construction of five FTIs for the French Navy (with the five costing a total of about 4 Billion euros).


MARINELOG, March 26, 2018 reports - Rolls-Royce has received its first order for the new 16-cylinder engines in its MTU Series 8000 range. French shipbuilder Naval Group (known as DCNS until 2017) has ordered twenty MTU 16V 8000 M91L engines, each delivering up to 8,000 kW of mechanical power. [Four will be installed in each of the] French Navy's five new FTI-type...medium-sized frigates) from 2023 onwards. The engines are due to ship between the end of 2020 and 2027.

Five of these mid-size frigates will be built by Naval Group and its suppliers by 2030. (Artwork by Naval Group via ouest-france)

The Naval Group Youtube above, was uploaded on December 23, 2016 and demonstrates the FTI-Belharra frigate's many capabilities. 

In the frigate's 2016 stage of development the Youtube description was: "On the occasion of the Euronaval Exhibition [2016] in Paris-Le Bourget, DCNS [now Naval Group] unveils BELH@RRA®, the new front-line digital frigate dedicated to the international market and which renews the heavily-armed 4,000-tonne frigate segment. The new heavily-armed frigate made for the international market

With the BELH@RRA® frigate, Naval Group intends to continue the success enjoyed by La Fayette-class frigates, a reference on the naval defence market with over twenty units sold to four navies around the world. Naval Group completes its product line by positioning a latest-generation vessel between the 6,000-tonne FREMM multi-mission frigate segment and that of the 2,500- to 3,000-tonne GOWIND®corvettes.

With the BELH@RRA® frigate, Naval Group responds to the expectations of navies looking for a compact frigate, capable of ensuring long-range missions, operating alone or embedded in a naval force, on the high seas or as part of coastal surveillance missions in a dense and hostile environment.

The new BELH@RRA® frigate offers operational intelligence that is unequalled on the market, in addition to a modular design, robustness and simplified use, which are all the fruit of the technological evolutions of the last few years. Ten years after the first design studies for the FREMM multi-mission frigate, Naval Group’s latest frigate also capitalises on the experience of the French Navy with this vessel across a large number of operational theatres.

Thanks to the architecture and versatility of Naval Group’s SETIS® combat-management system, proven on the FREMM frigates and GOWIND® corvettes, the BELH@RRA ® frigate will respond to the specific needs of client navies in all areas of warfare, whilst at the same time offering significant platform modularity to increase vessel payload or autonomy. The new frigate will offer cutting-edge performance for submarine warfare, an unprecedented aircraft detection capability and strengthened air-surface warfare capacities; a multi-mission foundation to which capacities responding to new threats such as asymmetric warfare or cyber-defence will also be added.

The first frigate for “digital natives” Resolutely oriented towards future operators in command of vessels beyond 2020, the BELH@RRA® frigate benefits from digital technologies. These endow it with greater performance for data processing and threat detection whilst at the same time allowing the crew to concentrate on tasks with the most added value. The development of digital technologies guarantees the upgradeability of the vessel throughout its life-cycle. For a period of almost forty years, the equipment and systems will be incrementally modernised to adapt to evolutions in the operational context, future threats and the arrival of new technologies.

The BELH@RRA® in its French-Navy version, a programme that is already under way Naval Group already offers a French-Navy version of the new BELH@RRA ® frigate in the frame of the FTI (intermediate-size frigate) programme conducted by the French Procurement Agency (DGA) on behalf of the French Navy. For the French-Navy version, the BELH@RRA ® frigate is designed to satisfy France’s needs as defined by the French Ministry of Defence: a front-line frigate for anti-submarine warfare of a displacement of 4,000 tonnes equipped with widened self-defence and commando-projection capacities.

Last but not least, it integrates the Thales Sea Fire® four flat antenna radar and is equipped with ASTER® 30 missiles from MBDA. * Naval Group has named its new frigate BELH@RRA® in reference to Europe’s only giant wave: the Belharra. The first “a” transformed into an @ makes reference to the highly digital nature of the frigate proposed by Naval Group.”

Is Donald still hot, sweet, luv'n Stormy Pornstar? Trump Exposed, Melania Silent.


So the US (and world) is stuck with playboy-mafioso Trump for a bit less than 3 years. Surely the  failed US electoral system could have appointed better - eg.  James Comeyas a Democrat OR Republican. 

An equally principled Robert Mueller is mentioned at the end of this article


From  Australia's government owned  ABC News, March 29, 2018

"Why Donald Trump hasn't addressed porn star Stormy Daniels by name"

Updated 27 minutes ago
Throughout the 14 months of his presidency, and even before that, Donald Trump has never hesitated to lash out or taunt people who get on his nerves. No one has been spared, from Pope Francis to Kim Jong-un to journalists and even sports figures.
But there's one name you aren't seeing in Mr Trump's tweets (at least, not thus far): Stormy Daniels.
The porn star/video director gave an extensive interview with the US version of 60 Minutes on Sunday night, talking about her alleged affair with Mr Trump in extensive detail.
Speaking in an articulate, determined way, Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — calmly discussed how a thug came up to her in 2011 and implied that her daughter could come to harm if she didn't keep silent.
She spoke about the non-disclosure agreement she signed a week and a half before the 2016 election, what journalist Anderson Cooper called "the most famous hush agreement in history".
She also talked about spanking Mr Trump, having dinner with him, and having consensual sex with him in 2006, when she was 27 and he was 60. She didn't enjoy the encounter, Daniels told Cooper, but felt that she didn't have a way to escape it.
It was the 180-degree opposite of the famed 1990 New York Post front page that supposedly quoted Marla Maples, later to become Mr Trump's second wife, as saying her relations with Mr Trump were "the best sex I'd ever had".
Ms Daniels said nothing about the affair was a secret, even though Mr Trump's wife, Melania, had just given birth to their son, Barron, who is now 12 years old.
The reaction from Mr Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen has been understandably irate, and Daniels has been threatened with a $1 million fine every time she speaks about Mr Trump.
Melania Trump's press secretary has asked that the Trumps' "minor child" be spared from being included in any news stories.

So much Fake News. Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate. But through it all, our country is doing great!
And Mr Trump sent out a single cryptic tweet about fake news.

Why he's stayed quiet

But Mr Trump has said nothing about her specifically, for a number of reasons.
First, if Mr Trump were to let loose with tweets about Daniels, he would essentially confirm the entire relationship. There is no question that the NDA exists, or that Ms Daniels received $130,000 from Mr Trump's attorney, Mr Cohen.
But, there is still a question of where that money came from, specifically whether it was drawn from campaign funds, which would be illegal under US law.
Mr Cohen has insisted he paid the money out of his own pocket and that "people are mistaking this for a thing about the campaign", according to Vanity Fair.
Second, the president has a family — five children, including Barron, who lives at the White House; Ivanka, who works at the White House; and Donald Jr., who is going through a divorce — not to mention the First Lady.
The spectre of a sitting president attacking a porn star might be something that the media would relish, and his family actually might cheer him on. But then again, they might not.
Eventually, people will be writing biographies of both the president and his wife, and no doubt they will be writing their own autobiographies at some point, too. Every utterance, every gesture and every tweet becomes historic material.
All of those books are now likely to include pages about Stormy Daniels, and only the President can blunt its impact on the public's view of the First Family for generations to come.

Pre-nup 'a hard, ugly tool'

Also, there is the question of the relationship between the First Lady and the President, one of the most talked about in Washington since Bill and Hillary Clinton, who was rumoured to have thrown a lamp at her husband in anger over his behaviour.
Mr Trump has had pre-nuptial agreements with all three of his wives. He told New York Magazine that he actually thought his agreement with Melania, before their marriage in 2005, had made their relationship stronger.
Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.
VIDEO: Stormy Daniels v Monica Lewinsky: History repeating itself? (ABC News)
"It's a hard, painful, ugly tool," said Mr Trump. "Believe me, there's nothing fun about it. But there comes a time when you have to say, 'Darling, I think you're magnificent, and I care for you deeply, but if things don't work out, this is what you're going to get.'"
In addition to financial settlements, some pre-nups also spell out the assumptions for each party in the marriage, and whether fidelity is expected. It's completely possible that there are no such expectations in the Trump pre-nup.
And yet, if Mr Trump were to attack Daniels by name, it could be fodder for any future legal actions by his wife, whether or not she decides to stay married.
It seems incredible to be talking about a president, his wife and a porn star, but that is the state of Washington in 2018.
And, the situation is not even the greatest of Mr Trump's problems, given that he is already preoccupied with what former FBI director Robert Mueller may be digging up on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Daniels, however, seems to have accomplished something that no one in Mr Trump's staff has been able to do. She has put the President's speaker on mute."

March 28, 2018

Russian Intelligence and TRIPLE AGENT Skripal.

Russia's Ambassador to Australia, Grigory Logvinov, has just been put in his place, by 
Australia's stern Foreign Minister, all while on camera. The subject? The disturbing Russian habit of poisoning its defectors in horrible ways, from Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 to Seijei Skripal this month. Even a southeast European intelligence service, inspired by the KGB, indulged in umbrella pellet poisoning, in the 1970s.

So why did the Russians decide to poison double agent Sergei Skripal on March 4, 2018, that is 12 years after reducing his sentence in his "high treason" trial of 2006. How did the Russian's know he was hidden by British intelligence in the small UK city of Salisbury?

From the 1970s Skripal rose in the "GRU" (Russian military intelligence) and by the late 1990s he was a colonel. During this career Skripal was spotted by Spanish intelligence as a potential candidate for "turning" to work for Western intelligence as a double agent. Spanish intelligence handed the management of Skripal over to larger, better funded, UK intelligence (MI6). Posted back to Moscow for medical reasons in the late 1990s Skripal had access to the identities of 100s of Russian case officers and agents ("spies") whose names he revealed to MI6.

In December 2004, Skripal was arrested in Moscow shortly after he returned from a private visit to the UK. Russian intelligence is always going to consider a private visit of an ex-Russian spy to the UK (an opponent of Russia) as suspicious.

Skripal's arrest by the Russians, trial for "high treason" and sentence of only 13 years (imposed in 2006) all appeared oddly inconsistent for someone Russia went to great trouble to murder in 2018.

Skripal was a "double agent" in the sense he originally spied as a GRU officer for Russia. Then he was persuaded to spy for the UK against Russia. 

Arguably Skripal became a TRIPLE AGENT (meaning his loyalty notionally, or did, return to Russian intelligence again) given the extent Skripal cooperated with Russian intelligence investigators in informing them about his experience of UK MI6 personnel and methods. Skripal informed on the UK so much that after his 2006 trial for "high treason" his sentence was reduced from death to 13 years because of  "his co-operation with [Russian intelligence]  investigators." that is he cooperated with Russian intelligence.

Skripal was traded to Britain in a "Spy Swap" in 2010. After the his Swap Skripal continued to provide intelligence and sensitive insights to the UK and other Western intelligence agencies (very likely including US agencies) for a period. Such post swap services to UK and US intelligence no doubt angered Russian intelligence.

But why did Russia try to murder Skripal in 2018?

Partly because the Russians had found Skripal by 2018, so were in a position to decide what to do with him. 

Also be 2018 Russia has become more antagonistic against the UK and US in so many ways (post Crimean and current Ukraine crises), Putin's increasingly pugilistic personality

As with the Russian murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 Putin occasionally and unsubtlely reminds his intelligence agents that if they defect they may die a terrible death. Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in a critical condition in Salisbury District Hospital. They may not live much longer than Litvinenko's 3 weeks.


But how did Russian intelligence find out Skripal was hidden in Salisbury?

Maybe one or several of the following ways:

1.  A lucky spotting by a Russian intelligence employee on a tour of the popular Salisbury Cathedral
2.  An educated Russian guess on which places UK intelligence hides ex-Russian spies.
3.  A mole in the UK Government informing Russian intelligence as to Skripal's whereabouts and
     possible new identity? 
4.  A UK journalist tipoff, OR
5.  Skripal or his daughter Yulia consciously or unconsciously revealed their Salisbury "safe house"
     to Russian intelligence.

Regarding 4. and/or 5. On [March 24, 2018] the BBC said it contacted one of Skripal’s friends from his school days, who said that he was contacted by [Skripal] in 2012. The friend was Vladimir Timoshkov who told the BBC that he had known Skripal since school days. In 2006, when he learned through the media that Skripal had been convicted of espionage, Timoshkov said he managed to contact Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, after finding her on a social media platform. He remained in contact with her, and in 2012 he received a telephone call from Skripal himself. By that time, the double spy was living in England, having relocated there...” 

Put another way, if you use communications these days it is difficult to remain hidden for years from powerful intelligence agencies out to find/get you. Russian intelligence (including Skripal's old employer, GRU, has a signals-cyber intelligence arm (see 3rd paragraph down) that, on a priority basis, can trace and record intelligence related social media emails and then trace followup phone calls from the UK that are routed to Russia.

It is possible Russian intelligence contacted Skripal, had some sort of TRIPLE AGENT intelligence relationship (informing on the UK) with him, but then Russian intelligence overall found it expedient to kill him (Skripal the defector example, Putin's general anti-West stances).  and also Putin's desire to antagonize the West). More specifically Putin wanted to stoke Russia Againt the West patriotism - part of Putin's campaign for the March 18, 2018 Russian Presidential Election.

So plucky Russians need to consider painful consequences before they enrol in GRU, SVR or FSB


March 27, 2018

Hitachi An Asset in Japan's Comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Capability


Japan, particularly in this era of Trump uncertainty, has available the three essentials of a nuclear weapon capability:

A.  can be assumed to have the technical know-how to build a nuclear device (easily the gun-type 
      for which plans have apparently been circulated on the Internet over the years),

B.  has maintained its weapon delivery capability via Epsilon missile, and

C.  the essential materials that go into a nuclear device including:
      =  Uranium 235 that has been stockpiled for Japan's dormant nuclear power reactors
      =  Has a reprocessing plant that can be modified to produce weapon's grade Plutonium. 
      =  Has Hitachi and SILEX knowledge (point 2. below). 
      =  Had about 47 tons of Plutonium at the end of 2016.      

To put A, B and C together there may well be a Japanese nuclear weapons working group (under a much blander name) drawn from personnel in Japanese nuclear regulatory bodies, the Japanese Ministry of Defense and (for rockets/missiles) the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).


The main takeaway from the Submarine Matters article of March 23, 2018, that I have is:

"Given France's dual-use military-civilian nuclear industry structure any entity, like US General Electric-Hitachi involved in France's nuclear power stations will also have some knowledge and influence over France's military nuclear effort."

1.  In particular Japan/Hitachi may gain some knowledge of nuclear weapon requirements from the takeover of France's Alstom Power [including nuclear] Systems

2.  Also Hitachi could gain military nuclear knowledge from the corporate memory of its partner  General Electric (GE). GE, up to 1993, has been involved in nuclear reactors with military applications. See in part points to an early (pre-electricity use) nuclear reactor:

"Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory [KAPL]
(Niskayuna and West Milton, New York; Windsor, Connecticut)
SIZE: 170 acres (0.3 square miles) at Niskayuna; 3,900 acres (6.1 square miles) at West Milton; 10.8 acres at Windsor
BUDGET: $274.2 million [including DOE’s Schenectady Naval Reactors Office] (100 percent defense-related) (2001)
EMPLOYEES: 65 [federal]; 2,700 [contractor] (as of 9/30/97)
FUNCTION: Designs, builds and tests prototype NAVAL NUCLEAR REACTOR and trains U.S. NAVY PERSONNEL [naval references capitalized/bolded by Pete] in their operation and maintenance. Maintains two operational and two inactive (defueled) test reactors at Niskayuna, NY, and an inactive (defueled) reactor at Windsor, CT (shut down in March 1993).
RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS ON-SITE: 1.6 metric tons of uranium-235 and 171.7 grams of plutonium
CONTRACTOR: KAPL, Inc. (formerly Lockheed Martin-KAPL Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation)
FORMER CONTRACTOR: General Electric Company, 1947-1993

3.  Also GE-Hitachi took over the Australian developed (in the 1990s) "SILEX Laser Uranium Enrichment Technology" : Silex invented and initially developed the ‘SILEX’ laser-based uranium enrichment technology in Sydney during the 1990’s. The technology was licensed exclusively in 2006 to GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (‘GLE’), a business venture currently comprising GE (51%), Hitachi (25%) and Cameco (24%). Silex and GLE jointly continue to commercialise the technology for potential deployment in the USA. The target markets are the global nuclear fuel markets for natural and enriched uranium, worth several billions of dollars annually.


Two Russian intelligence officers expelled from Australia

It has now been confirmed by Australia's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (see Media Release below) that two Australia based Russian intelligence officers, under diplomatic cover, will be expelled by the Australian Government. 

This Australian expulsion action is Australia’s international response following the almost certain Russian government poisoning of former Russian spy (defector) Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury, UK.

So far 21 countries have expelled 130 Russian intelligence officers as part of the international response.


 "Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Defence and National Security, International and Trade

Together with the United Kingdom and other allies and partners, Australia is taking action in response to the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury, UK.
Two Russian diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence officers will be expelled by the Australian Government for actions inconsistent with their status, pursuant to the Vienna Conventions.  The two officials will be directed to depart Australia within seven days. 
This decision reflects the shocking nature of the attack – the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, involving a highly lethal substance in a populated area, endangering countless other members of the community.  
It takes into account advice from the UK Government that the substance used on 4 March was a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. Such an attack cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation. We strongly support the call on Russia to disclose the full extent of its chemical weapons program in accordance with international law.
This attack is part of a pattern of reckless and deliberate conduct by the Russian state that constitutes a growing threat to international security, global non-proliferation rules against the use of chemical weapons, the rights of other sovereign nations and the international rules-based order that underpins them.
Australia has had strong sanctions in place since 2014 in response to Russia’s threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We also continue to support international efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the downing of MH17, and we have called out unacceptable Russian action in cyberspace. In the same way, we will vigorously back the UK’s full investigation of the nerve agent attack.
Australia remains committed to acting with its allies and partners to deter Russia’s actions where they are a threat to international security.

This is why the Government is overhauling offences for espionage, secrecy and treason, and for the first time establishing powerful new foreign interference offences in legislation currently before the Parliament."

It remains to be seen if (or how) Russia may retaliate against Australia... 

In an Australian ABC TV interview at 12.15pm, March 27, 2017: Australia's Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister commented that Australia is expecting Russia will retaliate by expelling Australian diplomats [2?] from Moscow. They also commented Australia's Embassy, Moscow, is preparing for this Russian action.