Friday, July 26, 2013

Pakistan develops smallest nuclear weapon the size of a tennis ball

Shared via Terminalx.

Over the past few years, Pakistan’s strategic forces, responsible for the country’s primary deterrence program, have been doing extensive research into the design and development of smart weapons i.e. nuclear weapons that have a dynamic and compact form, and which can easily be transported from one location to another.

Although a variety of warheads already exist, especially in northern Pakistan, these enhanced productions are considered a landmark in strategic deterrence, owing to their size and power. Sources for Terminal X revealed that Pakistan has taken the term ‘ special degree ’ one step ahead by developing what they call, “ the world’s smallest nuclear weapons ”.

Reportedly, these special weapons are about the size of a tennis ball (which can easily be hand-picked). Officials familiar with the development said that Pakistan’s Strategic Forces Command made it clear it has not signed any treaty preventing it from taking an aggressive reaction (in defence, when provoked or attacked by a hostile enemy).

It was said that if any mistake was made to initiate force aggression against Pakistan, then these ball-sized nuclear weapons will also be distributed across the Muslim world’s armed forces. In addition to these smart weapons , sources said that the Pakistani military has developed plutonium-based anti tank bullets which can prove very lethal for enemy armored vehicles, especially those of neighboring India.

TX has received information that a clandestine transfer protocol has been put into place for the past few years after discussions with a few allies, according to which, if in case Pakistan is attacked in the near future, threats of which are in increasing abundance, then the country’s strategic forces will initiate a plan-of-action by which the aforementioned smart weapons will be distributed among friendly armed forces in Africa, the Arab world and South Asia. Of interesting note in this regard is the claim that this entire process of “ emergency transfer and armed protocol ” can be completed from start to finish within 8 hours.

Drone hacking via GPS Spoofing; how Iran hacked the US drone

shared via Juggaar under CC-BY-NC-ND license.

The US stealth drone was captured by Iran spoofing its GPS coordinates tricking the bird to land within the Iranian territory instead of it's actual programmed landing zone, Afghanistan. Iranian engineers, only a few months back, claimed that the drone’s GPS was reconfigured which made it land inside Iran.

NATO monitors the long Iran-Afghan border for weapon smuggling into Afghanistan. Three years ago the Iranians claimed to have designed their own drone with a range of 300 miles reachable to Israel. The captured stealth drone has been built with very sophisticated technology. A same kind of stealth plane was monitoring the US raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. The captured stealth drone costed up to $6 million and was manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

According to the US officials, RQ in its name means that it is unarmed and some industry experts who have written about the Sentinel stealth is that its design makes it more of an operational platform not an intelligence gathering aircraft. It was used to fly support during the Bin Laden raid. However, according to the Iranian news, the drone was shot down and recovered almost completely intact which goes as a warning to the US.

According to an unnamed Iranian engineer who has been working on the US bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, the spoofing method used allowed the Iranians to divert the landing of the bird without even hacking into the remote-control signals of the US control centre.

The GPS weakness of aircraft has been a concern for US since a long time. Such an attack is much more sophisticated than ECM jamming due to being executed under cover and finding out the hacker is not possible until the spoofing has already been done. The attack method allows the GPS receiver to send wrong GPS signals which makes the drone believe that it is located somewhere in space while it is flying at its normal altitude, making it to reduce altitude and actually land. The US officials lay the claim of their loss of the stealth drone on a supposed malfunction from their end.

The Iranian engineer, however, claims the GPS navigation to be the weakest point. After being “jammed” by sending noise over the normal communications, the bird automatically goes into autopilot mode and doesn’t know what to do next. It can then be tricked and commanded into doing whatever the controller wants.

None of the current GPS systems are “spoof proof” due to several reasons. The main reason being the near impossibility to validate consistently on a “one way” communications channel because of “replay attacks”. Therefore all the GPS sytems require an additional channel that is not possible to jam.

Claims have also been made that Iran has sold the stealth to China so that China may undertake serious investigations on the other hand Pakistan is also believed to have shared with China, the stealth technology from the stealth helicopter that crashed in Abbottabad attack.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Researchers create ‘an impossible material’ by mistake

shared via io9 and plosone under creative commons license.

In yet another example of scientific serendipity, Uppsala University researchers have created an unprecedented material with record-breaking properties. And most remarkable of all, this new material — which was thought impossible to make for over a century — was the result of an accident in the lab.

And indeed, the new magnesium carbonate material exhibits some remarkable properties.

Adsorption, Not Absorption

Called upsalite in honor of the university where it was discovered, the material features a surface area of 800 square meters per gram. It's got the highest surface area measured for a synthesized alkali metal carbonate. And in addition, upsalite is filled with empty pores all having a diameter smaller than 10 nanometers.

This means that it can absorb — or more accurately, adsorb — more water at low relative humidities than the most advanced materials currently in existence.

Unlike absorption, where fluids permeate or are dissolved by a liquid or solid, adsorption involves the adhesion of atoms, ions, or molecules from a gas, liquid, or dissolved solid to a surface. And it does so as a consequence of surface energy (similar to surface tension).

a) Scanning electron microscope view of upsalite. Scale bar, 1 µm. b) Higher magnification SEM of a region in a) showing the textural porosity of the material. Scale bar, 200 nm. c) image of upsalite showing contrast consistent with a porous material. The image is recorded with under-focused conditions to enhance the contrast from the pores. Scale bar: 50 nm.

Once refined, upsalite could significantly reduce the amount of energy required to control environmental moisture in electronics and in drug delivery. It could also be used in hockey rinks and warehouses. Perhaps more crucially, the material could be used to suck up toxic waste, dangerous chemicals, and oil spills.

Scientists have known about natural and ordered forms of magnesium carbonate, both with and without water structure, for quite some time. But creating a water-free disordered version has proven difficult. As early as 1906, German researchers concluded that the material could not be created in the same way as other disordered carbonates, namely by bubbling C02 through an alcoholic suspension. Other studies in 1926 and 1961 came to the same conclusion.

'We started to get excited'

But on one fateful Thursday afternoon in 2011 this all changed. A research team led by Johan Goméz de la Torre made some slight changes to the synthesis parameters of an earlier unsuccessful attempt to create a water-free disordered form of magnesium carbonate — and they left it in the reaction chamber by mistake! It sat there for the entire weekend, and when the researchers returned to the lab the following Monday, a rigid gel had formed.

Surprised and excited, they dried the gel and studied it further. They soon realized that they were onto something.

After a year of further experiments and refinements, upsalite was born. The new material featured an adsoprtion capacity about 50% larger than that of comparable materials at low relative humidities, and an ability to retain more than 75% of the adsorbed water when the humidity was decreased from 95% to 5% at room temperature.

“This places the new material in the exclusive class of porous, high surface area materials including mesoporous silica, zeolites, metal organic frameworks, and carbon nanotubes”, noted researcher Maria Strømme through a release. Indeed, it can adsorb more water at low humidities than the best materials available — and with less energy. “This, together with other unique properties of the discovered impossible material is expected to pave the way for new sustainable products in a number of industrial applications”, said Strømme.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Applied sciences exclusive: Analyzing Pakistan's need for effective stealth countermeasures

by Faran Awais Butt via Terminalx. Shared under CC BY-NC-ND license 3.0.

Before I begin, I would like to familiarize the readers with two acronyms which I would use throughout this article: Electronic Counter Measure (ECM) and Electronic Counter Counter Measure (ECCM).

ECM is something that intends to disturb the normal working of a radar and ECCM refers to the efforts to overcome ECM. Jamming of the radar by noise or deception were the most notable amongst the ECMs but today, the radars of the world are under the threat of an even more sinister technology which is in possession of a very few countries; this technology, known as 'stealth', makes the target invisible to the radar. Stealth technology has brought up a revolution in the field of ECMs and has exposed the ineffectiveness of thousands of radars all across the world. The stealth aircrafts diffract and/or scatter very low power electromagnetic radiations owning to its special geometry and highly absorbent material. It is essential for the ground-based radars to have the capabilities of ECCM against stealth technology.

ECMs can be both seen and unseen. After World War II, there has been a significant research work on radar technology but as it progressed, its countermeasures also started to develop. The purpose of ECM is to make the radar less capable of detecting targets, deceiving the system and hence making it dysfunctional. It prevents the enemy radar from detecting the object. In reaction to ECM, there developed another form of electronic warfare which was developed as a reaction to ECM, known as ECCM i.e. electronic counter counter-measures of radar systems.

Electronic warfare is something in which every nation is trying to gain superiority at. There has been a rapid increase in sophistication of weapons in order to tackle the hostility of threats. ECCM is purely reactionary, that is, it has been developed in response to observed threats. If the ECM effects are observed in a specific system, a solution must be developed especially for a country like Pakistan which is under immense threat of this technology both from the western border (US, NATO forces) and India on the east.

Although stealth aircraft are in use and possess many qualities which make them superior to other fighter jets, however there still exist limitations to this technology. Many such aircraft are unstable and require a high-integrity sophisticated flight control and a fly-by-wire control system. The Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the aircraft is a parameter which dictates the detectability of the target. The greater the RCS, the easier it would be for the radar to detect it. Below 900 MHz, the target cross section increases exponentially. However, there is increased return from undesirable clutters. Shaping requirements have negative effect on the aerodynamics of the aircraft and hence they cannot be flown without a fly-by-wire control system. Hence, radar designers can exploit these vulnerabilities better than a mono-static radar since the bi-static RCS can be quite different depending upon target scattering characteristics.

The dramatic incident that took place on 2nd May 2011 at Abbottabad caused a humiliating disgrace to Pakistan when the United States' “modified” Blackhawk helicopters did a violation by covertly doing an operation at a strategically important location in Pakistan.

The report states that the latest stealth technology was used by the choppers employed in the raid. Helicopters with such technology are undetectable by ordinary radars.

The reports revealed that all of Pakistan Air Force's radar systems and technical monitoring assets were fully functional on 2nd May and no lapses of vigilance occurred that night on the part of the institution. This implies that there was lack of technology which resulted in the radars being unable to identify the incoming targets. It is evident thus, that radars are of no use if they cannot detect a target owing to ECM, which once again brings us to the conclusion that there needs to be an effective introduction of ECCMs into the system.

There is a global trend of using monostatic radars i.e. radars which have the same antenna which acts both as a transmitter/receiver and a duplexer which separates the signal. On the other hand, a bistatic radar is one in which there is a separate transmitter/receiver and the distance of the receiver should be considerable to the distance between radar and target. This trend needs to be changed for all the possible stealth-affected countries like Pakistan.

Stealth-oriented structures usually do not reflect the incoming wave in the same direction, rather they are absorbed and also scattered in different directions away from the radar.

These locations can be covered by use of multiple receivers at various locations. Pakistan should look for bistatic or a multi-static radar systems which have separated transmitters and receivers and whose receivers are located at a location comparable to the target’s distance.

Russia’s Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics limited (HAL) are working on a project, 'Perspective Multi-role Fighter' (PMF), whose objective is to make Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA); these planes are expected to be in operation by 2015. India too, is working on autonomous unmanned combat air vehicles developed by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) for the Air Force.

Having already unveiled the J-20 Chengdu stealth fighter in January 2011, China is the only country which is developing two separate stealth fighters. The US is developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in three versions; Russia is working on a single design, the 'PAK-FA', on which India is also collaborating. Separately, Japan is developing the ATD-X demonstrator.

Pakistan has a very fine air defence system against jamming techniques but there is a need to make efforts to overcome the threats of stealth. India has been working on stealth in collaboration with Russia where as Pakistan did not make any efforts to bring stealth technology to their system. Pakistan should seriously consider collaboration with China in the manufacturing of the'Mighty Dragon' J-20.

Efforts should be made by Pakistan to bring affordable stealth capabilities to their system. Although it must be acknowledged that this can take a lot of time. Pakistan should instead make efforts to build or design the counter to stealth system. The best radar that Pakistan has is the American TPS-77 which is a phased array radar. Phased array radars have many transmit/receive modules and such radars are very good in countering different types of noise jamming and to some extent, deception jamming. It also has a great deal of graceful degradation and room for modification according to situation.

Active phased array radars should be deployed since in such systems, there is a separate transmit/receive module which can be modified to have varied polarization, bandwidth and even operating frequency. Pakistan should look to work on active phased array systems in the radar factories at Kamra. Pakistan should also look to utilize radars operating on the lower side of L band of radar on the borders. Since building a multi-static radar approach could be very costly, we can either use modified radar warning receivers on a temporary basis or build a low cost multi-static radar system indigenously.

Microscopic sunburn

What a sun burn looks like under a microscope.