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‘Drone’ that shut down Gatwick Airport for days last December ‘could see what was happening on runways, was eavesdropping on radio communications’

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RT

UK military deployed equipment at the airport to ‘catch’ the ‘drone’ but it evaded them every time

The drone attack that caused chaos at Gatwick before Christmas was carried out by someone with knowledge of the airport’s operational procedures, the airport has said.

A Gatwick chief told BBC Panorama the drone’s pilot “seemed to be able to see what was happening on the runway”.

Sussex Police told the programme the possibility an “insider” was involved was a “credible line” of inquiry.

About 140,000 passengers were caught up in the disruption.

The runway at the UK’s second busiest airport was closed for 33 hours between 19 and 21 December last year – causing about 1,000 flights to be cancelled or delayed.

In his first interview since the incident, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, Chris Woodroofe, told Panorama: “It was clear that the drone operators had a link into what was going on at the airport.”

Mr Woodroofe, who was the executive overseeing the airport’s response to the attack – the “gold commander” – also said that whoever was piloting the drone could either see what was happening on the runway, or was following the airport’s actions by eavesdropping on radio or internet communications.

And whoever was responsible for the attack had “specifically selected” a drone which could not be seen by the DJI Aeroscope drone detection system that the airport was testing at the time, he added.

‘No overreaction’

Despite a huge operation drawing resources from five other forces and a £50,000 reward, there is still no trace of the culprit.

Sussex Police says its investigation is ongoing and expected to take “some months to complete”.

The first sighting of the drone was at 21:03 GMT on 19 December but it was not until 05:57 GMT on 21 December that flights resumed with an aircraft landing.

Gatwick says it repeatedly tried to reopen the runway but on each occasion the drone reappeared.

Airport protocol mandates that the runway be closed if a drone is present.

Mr Woodroofe denied claims the airport overreacted, describing the situation it faced as an unprecedented, “malicious” and “criminal” incident.

“There is absolutely nothing that I would do differently when I look back at the incident, because ultimately, my number one priority has to be to maintain the safety of our passengers, and that’s what we did.

“It was terrible that 140,000 people’s journeys were disrupted – but everyone was safe.”

Mr Woodroofe also dismissed the suggestion that the number of sightings had been exaggerated – and a theory, circulating online, that there had been no drone at all.

These claims have been fuelled by the fact that there are no verified pictures of the drone, and very few eyewitnesses have spoken publicly.

Police told the BBC they had recorded 130 separate credible drone sightings by a total of 115 people, all but six of whom were professionals, including police officers, security personnel, air traffic control staff and pilots.

Mr Woodroofe said that many of the drone sightings were by people he knew personally and trusted – “members of my team, people I have worked with for a decade, people who have worked for thirty years on the airfield, who fully understand the implications of reporting a drone sighting”.

“They knew they’d seen a drone. I know they saw a drone. We appropriately closed the airport.”

Panorama has been told witnesses reported seeing an extremely fast-moving, large drone with bright lights.

At least one person noted the characteristic cross shape while others described it as “industrial or commercial” and “not something you could pop into Argos for”, an airport spokesperson said.

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Underworld

How Russia and the United States nearly started a nuclear war in 1995

The Norwegian meteorological rocket incident remains the only time in history that the Russian president has activated his nuclear briefcase.

On January 25, 1995, Doomsday could have come in the world: the Russian Federation was preparing to launch a nuclear strike on the United States. How did it come about that the states that left the confrontation of the Cold War in the past and had just normalized relations with each other found themselves on the verge of mutual destruction?

The beginning of the war?

The cause of the crisis was an ordinary Norwegian meteorological rocket. Its launch from the small island of Anneia at 7 am local time (10 am Moscow time) towards Spitsbergen caused a stir in Russia. 

Black Brant XII.

Black Brant XII. Legion Media / ZUMA Press

Equipped with scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis, the Black Brant XII was similar in size to the nuclear-powered American Trident D-5 ballistic missile, intended for launch from submarines. In addition, it flew along a trajectory along which, as the Russian Defense Ministry believed, American missiles would fly in the event of a nuclear war. 

In December 1994, Norway informed 28 states, including Russia, about the planned launch, but did not give a specific date, limiting itself to specifying the period: from January 15 to February 10 of the next year. Due to bureaucratic delays, this information did not reach the Russian Missile Warning System, which sounded the alarm.

Decisive minutes

An emergency meeting with the country’s top political and military leadership was convened in the Kremlin. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov and President of the Russian Federation (as Supreme Commander-in-Chief) Boris Yeltsin had three strategic missile forces control terminals activated – the so-called nuclear suitcases.

Vladimir Sayapin / TASS

The military believed the lone missile could have been fired to create an electromagnetic pulse that knocked out Russian radars and communications systems. Following it, a massive blow could be expected.

For several tense minutes, as leaders watched it flight, it was decided whether Russia would launch a nuclear strike against the United States. 

“Little is known today about what Yeltsin said at the time, given that it could have been some of the most dangerous moments in the entire history of the nuclear era,” The Washington Post journalist, David Hoffman wrote three years after the incident : “They make it clear that the Cold War nuclear readiness system continues to operate, and how catastrophic its consequences could be, despite the fact that the feud between the great powers is already over.”   

The situation was discharged only when it became clear that the rocket had gone towards Spitsbergen (not far from which it fell into the ocean). The nuclear cases have been deactivated. Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right).

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right). Igor Mikhalev / Sputnik

The incident with bringing Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces to combat readiness, soon became the property of the world community. When, four years later, the Norwegians were about to repeat their launch of Black Brant XII and reported this to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US additionally warned all key Russian military departments about it through their channels. As a result, this time there were no unpleasant surprises. 

Source: rbth.com

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Underworld

Germany conducted exercises in case of nuclear war

Bundeswehr / Birthe Brechters

The Bundeswehr with partners in the North Atlantic Alliance ( NATO) trained in operations in a nuclear war.

The German army, together with Italian, Belgian and Dutch colleagues, conducted exercises in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

The location of the exercise “Steadfest Noon” was chosen airbase “Nörfenich”, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 31 “Boelcke” is located. Together with the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr, the air forces of other NATO countries, in particular, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, took part in the exercises.

According to a report by Bild, the exercise scenario involved training procedures for safely removing nuclear weapons from storage, delivering ammunition and installing them on aircraft. The training flights took place without nuclear weapons, and in parallel with the aviation exercises at the Büchel airbase, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 51 Immelman is located, the Resilient Guard air defense systems were trained to protect the airfield from air attacks.

The training sites for the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr were not chosen by chance, since the Nörfenich airbase is a reserve storage site for the B61, a hydrogen bomb that forms the basis of nuclear weapons of the US strategic nuclear forces. 

Some of this ammunition is stationed at NATO bases in Europe. The exact number of hydrogen bombs that are stored at European sites and which ones are not reported. In Europe, the B61 is carried by Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers (pictured) and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters.

Recall that the B61 thermonuclear bomb is the main weapon of the US strategic nuclear forces, although it entered service in 1968. Since 2012, a new guided version of the B61-12 has been under development, which will replace all B61 and B83 bombs that have been in service since 1983. It can be used both on strategic bombers and tactical aircraft. About two billion dollars were spent on the development of the 12th modification of the aerial bomb.

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Underworld

The Pentagon wants to use 5G for military purposes

© Al Drago; George Frey/Reuters

The US military has partnered with more than a dozen companies for “large-scale experiments” with 5G technology, including efforts to increase the “lethality” of certain systems, as part of a $ 600 million project. 

Duplicating 5G technology as the “Founding Tool for Modernizing All US Defense,” the Pentagon announced a massive research initiative on Thursday that will donate hundreds of millions of dollars to 15 private contractors to conduct tests at five US military sites.

 “The Department of Defense today announced a $ 600 million award for 5G experiments and testing at five US military training grounds, representing the world’s largest full-scale 5G trials for dual-use applications,” the Pentagon said in a statement that it will bring together experts from multiple industries and disciplines. 

Projects will include piloting 5G-enabled augmented / virtual reality for mission planning and training, testing 5G-enabled smart warehouses, and evaluating 5G technologies to improve distributed management and control.

Selected for the project include telecommunications companies AT&T, Nokia and Ericsson, exploration and information technology contractor Booz-Allen Hamilton, research arm of General Electric, GE Research and a subsidiary of aerospace giant General Dynamics.

One initiative, led by AT&T at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, will apply 5G to its “Distributed Command and Control” system to “Assist in lethality in the air, space and cyberspace”, improving communications for mobile command posts in combat scenarios. At the Lewis-McCord joint base in Washington State, AT&T will also work with Booz-Allen and two other firms to develop 5G-enabled virtual reality technology for training, mission planning, and even Operational Use. 

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