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Monday
May092011

Chinese Stealth Fighter Could Rival U.S.'s Best: Report

F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)(WASHINGTON) -- The next generation stealth fighter under development by the Chinese military could rival America's best fighters in speed, stealth and lethality, according to a new private report.

Details on the Chinese J-20 fighter are scant as the project has been developed under extreme secrecy, but an analysis conducted by the conservative Washington D.C.-based defense policy think tank The Jamestown Foundation based on the little publicly available information concluded that the fighter "will be a high performance stealth aircraft, arguably capable of competing in most cardinal performance parameters...with the United States F-22A Raptor, and superior in most if not all cardinal performance parameters against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter."

The F-22 Raptor, which cost the U.S. government $77 billion for 187 planes from defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, has never seen combat in any of America's three simultaneous major combat operations, but is considered by the Air Force and Lockheed Martin to be a stealth fighter without match. The slightly cheaper F-35, an all purpose stealth fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, is not meant to focus on air-to-air combat like the F-22, but on air-to-ground attacks and is expected to work in tandem with the F-22.

The Jamestown Foundation report, written by defense analyst and F-22 proponent Carlo Kopp, was first published last week just days after America's entire fleet of F-22s was grounded due to oxygen system concerns and a new video surfaced online, purportedly showing a rare test flight by a prototype J-20. The report noted the Chinese planes would not have the range to make unsupported strikes against the continental U.S., but U.S. military bases and allies in the region are well within the potential target zone -- including air bases that have been home to the F-22 fighters. It also says that due to its larger size, the J-20 could potentially carry more or bigger payloads than the F-22.

Though the Defense Department declined to comment on the Jamestown Foundation report, in response to the J-20 video, a Pentagon spokesperson told ABC News last week the U.S. has been "carefully monitoring China's comprehensive and sustained military modernization and its implications for the region."

But as early as January, shortly after a test flight of what appeared to be the J-20, Department of Defense Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters, "We don't know, frankly, much about the capabilities of that plane" and urged observers to "slow down a little bit on our characterizations of the J-20 at this point."

China is still in the development stage for its fighter, whereas once the oxygen system issues are sorted out, the U.S. Air Force will return to having more than 160 operational F-22s. The last of the 187 planes are still being delivered by Lockheed Martin.

As more information has surfaced about the secretive J-20, the Defense Department spokesperson would only say the Pentagon has not been taken by surprise.

"The fact that China has developed a prototype for this program is not surprising and is consistent with the direction we have seen China's military taking over a number of years," the spokesperson said.

According to Lockheed Martin, which is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to upgrade current F-22s, the J-20 "shows that other nations are seeking to develop the capability to challenge the F-22, and by extension, our capacity to attain air superiority in future conflict.

"Such emerging threats illustrate the need to continue enhancing the F-22's capabilities so that it stays ahead of evolving threats," a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the $143 million-a-pop F-22s have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed specifically to dominate the air against rival sophisticated air weapons like the J-20, not small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said in 2009 did not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Before the decision was made to cut the F-22 program at 187 planes -- rather than the more than 600 that were originally part of the deal -- dozens of supporters in Congress and state governments sent letters to President Obama arguing that the full force of the F-22s would be needed to counter the next generations planes being developed by China and Russia. Gates dismissed the idea, saying the F-22s and newer F-35s would greatly outnumber any adversaries' forces for the next 15 years at least.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Japan's Hamaoka Nuclear Plant to Halt Operations

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The operator of Japan's Hamaoka nuclear power plant agreed to temporarily shut down three reactors Monday, amid rising concerns about their ability to withstand a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

The decision came days after Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged Chubu Electric, Japan's third-largest power producer, to halt the plant's operations, citing a government study that forecast a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the Hamaoka area in the next 30 years.

The aging plant located in Shizuoka, 125 miles southwest of Tokyo, sits on an active earthquake fault where nearly 80,000 people live within a six-mile radius.

Safety activists have long questioned Hamaoka's inability to protect its reactors from large waves, but those concerns have grown louder since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami devastated the northeast coast, crippling reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Chubu Electric currently relies on sand dunes to block waves, and has said it would take a few years to build a seawall.

"We understand that the prime minister's request is based on increased concerns over nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident," said Chubu Electric president Akihisa Mizuno at a news conference.

Nuclear energy provides more than one-third of Japan's electricity, with Hamaoka's three reactors accounting for more than 10 percent of Chubu's power supply.

Shutting down the plant is likely to further strain the country's energy supply, already hurting from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant.

Hamaoka supplies power to about 16 million people in regions that include Aichi, home to Toyota Motor Corps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Al Qaeda Stalls on Naming Osama Bin Laden Successor 

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the reasons that al Qaeda has not yet named a replacement for Osama bin Laden is because there's possible confusion within the ranks as to who was actually second-in-command during the slain leader's long tenure.

It was reported in The Wall Street Journal that the person assumed to be bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, actually "parted ways" with his boss six years ago.

According to a senior Pakistani intelligence official quoted by the newspaper, al-Zawahiri was "marginalized" and lost popularity because he didn't have the funds to continue helping underwrite al Qaeda operations.

However, the The Wall Street Journal also cites U.S. officials as questioning any rift between al-Zawahiri, the group's chief ideologue and operational commander, and bin Laden.

The 59-year-old is still believed to be the logical choice to run al Qaeda, which indeed may have cash-flow problems, U.S. counterterrorism officials told the Journal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Taliban Targets Afghan Government and Security Buildings 

U.S. State Department(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) -- The Taliban's spring offensive in Afghanistan began in earnest over the weekend as militants attacked various government and security offices inside the southern city of Kandahar.

Authorities said the deadliest assault occurred Saturday, as 18 people were killed and at least 50 wounded in the latest offensive by the Taliban, which continues its attempts to undermine the Afghan government.  Most of the dead were insurgents who brandished guns and rocket-propelled grenades, while some wore suicide vests as they attacked the governor's office, police stations and the local intelligence headquarters.

Afghan security forces were able to repel virtually all of the invasions although two civilians and two security personnel were killed in the onslaught.  By Sunday, there were reports of scattered skirmishes, while the streets of the city were virtually abandoned by pedestrians and business people.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the violence, which he claimed was in retaliation for the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.  However, Taliban leaders insisted the Kandahar operation was planned weeks ago, before bin Laden was killed in Pakistan one week ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Over a Dozen Killed After Iraqi Prisoners Attempt Jailbreak

Darrin Klimek/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Inmates at an Iraqi jail in Baghdad who tried testing the security system in a daring bid to escape the facility Sunday were ultimately no match for guards who foiled their efforts.

However, the bold impromptu plan left at least 17 people dead, including both detainees and police.

According to police sources, a prisoner in the process of being transferred was able to grab one of the guards' revolvers and began firing wildly, killing several police officers as other inmates joined in the scheme to bolt from the Interior Ministry compound.

The escape plan ended violently as the inmates in the group, including the detainee who started it, were slain when security reinforcements arrived at the scene to quell the uprising.

Later, Iraqi officials said that some of the dead prisoners were part of a terrorist plot that resulted in the deaths of 68 people at a Christian church in Baghdad last October.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
May092011

Pakistan Denies US Access to Osama bin Laden's Compound, Wives

ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pakistan is denying U.S. investigators access to Osama bin Laden's compound and the wives who lived there with him, a rebuke to the U.S. that is escalating tensions between the two allies in the wake of the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader.

Pakistan's prime minister on Monday spoke publicly for the first time since the operation about the raid and rejected accusations that Pakistani officials aided bin Laden, who had been hiding in Pakistan for several years.

In a speech to the parliament, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani denied that officials were incompetent in searching for bin Laden or complicit in hiding him, a suggestion CIA chief Leon Panetta repeatedly made to lawmakers last week.

Gilani added that Pakistani officials will investigate why bin Laden went undetected while hiding virtually in plain sight in a military town, and criticized the United States for not sharing information of the mission beforehand.

Gaining access to bin Laden's compounds and his wives are among the United States' key demands to Pakistan and officials say the denial is another disappointment from Pakistan.

Pakistanis have in custody three of bin Laden's wives, eight of his children and five other children, according to a senior Pakistani military official.

The CIA is pouring through the trove of information seized at bin Laden's compound, which is enough information to fill the library of a small college, officials say. Among the mysteries they are hoping to uncover is what the Pakistani government knew and did not know. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May082011

Pakistani Official: Rogue or Retired Elements Aided Osama Bin Laden

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) -- In the strongest public statement yet from the Pakistani government following the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in which the al Qaeda leader was killed, a senior Pakistani official in the civilian government tells ABC News, "Elements of Pakistan intelligence - probably rogue or retired - were involved in aiding, abetting and sheltering the leader of al Qaeda."

This is based on the government's judgment that the number of years Bin Laden spent in Abbottabad - and it now appears in a village outside the city of Haripur - would have been impossible without help, possibly from someone in the middle tier of ISI -- Pakistan's intelligence agency -- who grew up fighting alongside the mujahidin against the Soviets, said the official.

According to the official, the military and ISI have been weeding some of them out but many remain.

There have long been sharp divisions between the civilian government and military in Pakistan, and those divisions are now playing out in public.

As for the United States, this official says U.S. officials are demanding the identities of particular ISI agents, in part, as proof the government is truly serious about confronting al Qaeda's supporters on the inside.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May082011

Muslims and Christians Clash in Egypt

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO, Egypt) -- Violence continued between two religious groups in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday.

A violent encounter erupted just off of Tahrir Square when groups of Coptic Christians tried to stage a sit-in outside of the State TV building and became involved in a clash with some Muslims, according to a report by the Al Ahram newspaper. Both groups reportedly hurled rocks at each other during the clash. It is unknown if anyone was injured in the violence.

The sit-in was reportedly in response to 12 people being killed and 230 people bing injured on Saturday during a march by Salafists near a Coptic church located in a Cairo suburb.

In response to the weekend violence, government officials released a statement on Sunday, saying that an “iron hand” would be used to protect national security.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May082011

Pakistani Ambassador: 'Heads Will Roll' After Osama bin Laden Raid

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- If Pakistani officials knew Osama bin Laden was living peacefully in the country, said Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani, they would have done something.

"If any member of the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military or the Pakistani intelligence service knew where Osama bin Laden was, we would have taken action," Haqqani told ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour. "Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan was not to Pakistan's advantage."

The strength of Pakistan's intelligence service and its cooperation with the United States have been questioned since the killing of Bin Laden nearly one week ago. U.S. forces killed the al Qaeda leader in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a military town about an hour's drive north of Islamabad, the capital. Bin Laden's compound was less than a mile away from an elite Pakistani military academy.

Pakistan is pursuing an investigation to understand how the al Qaeda leader could have been hiding right under the military's nose. It is premature to reveal the details of the investigation, said Haqqani. Punishment, if warranted, will be delivered, he added.

"Heads will roll once the investigation has been completed," Haqqani said. "Now if those heads are rolled on account of incompetence, we will share that information with you, and if, God forbid, somebody's complicity is discovered, there will be zero tolerance for that as well."

White House national security advisor Tom Donilon told Amanpour that Pakistan has in its custody all the non-combatants of the Abbottabad compound, including three of Bin Laden's wives. Pakistani officials also took additional material from the compound.

Pakistani officials have interviewed at least one of Bin Laden's wives.

"We understand that one of the wives never left the same floor as Osama bin Laden because they were paranoid of physical movement, they didn't go to windows, they didn't have any fresh air," the Pakistani ambassador revealed.

As to whether Pakistan will grant the United States access to the wives and the material in Pakistan's position, Haqqani stuck to a diplomatic script.

"What we do, Mr. Donilon will know," Haqqani said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May072011

Plane Crashes in Indonesia

Jupiterimages/Photos[dot]com/Getty Images(JAKARTA, Indonesia) -- There were reportedly no survivors after a Merpati Airlines plane crashed just off the coast of Kaimana, Indonesia on Saturday.

The plane was reportedly attempting to land in poor weather conditions in the province of West Papua, when it went down just short of the airstrip, according to published reports. A total of 27 people, inclusive of the flight crew, were said to be onboard the aircraft when it crashed.

The bodies of at least 15 people were recovered following the crash.

The cause of the crash is being investigated.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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