Archive for March 8, 2020

Innovative Light-Blade laser can cut down Hamas, Iranian attack drones

March 8, 2020

The laser uses a low-powered system, making it suitable for use in urban environments such as airports without the risk of blinding anyone in the area.

https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/Laser-defense-system-developed-by-BGU-offers-defense-against-drones-619765

The OptiDefence laser defense system, which can neutralize attacks by balloons and drones (photo credit: screenshot)

A laser-based defense system capable of taking out attack drones even in urban environments has been developed by Israeli experts, who hope to roll out the system for a range of security uses, including at airports.

The system was developed by Prof. Amiel Ishaaya at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev after incendiary balloons started being launched into Israel in 2018, setting fire to farmland and causing widespread damage. Realizing that no one was looking into a way to prevent the balloons from posing a threat, Ishaaya, an expert on lasers, contacted industry experts. Together, they developed the Lahav-Or, or Light Blade defense system.

“We just worked on a laser system for cutting thick plastic for greenhouses. Kites and balloons are made of similar materials,” he recalled.

Together with Dr. Rami Aharoni and the backing of Border Police commander Yaakov (Kobi) Shabtai, Ishaaya founded OptiDefense to develop the system, working on a shoe-string budget of just a few million shekels to develop a prototype within a year.

Last month, the team proved the efficacy of their system by downing explosive balloons traveling across the border from Gaza. The system was paired with Elbit’s SupervisIR threat detection system in the test, and operated by the Border Police. “We succeeded in downing everything that came within our field of fire,” Ishaaya said.

However, OptiDefense has set its sights on bigger targets.

Attack drones are becoming increasingly common threats, but at the moment require a communication link to either their handler or a GPS system in order to operate, meaning that they can be downed by electronic jamming systems – known as a “soft kill.” Future generations of drones are expected to do away with this weakness and operate completely autonomously. In order to neutralize the threat, a “hard kill” option would need to be employed to shoot the drone out of the air. This is where the Lahav-Or system comes in.

“In order to operate most high-powered laser defense systems, the airspace needs to be cleared for many kilometers around so the laser does not accidentally blind anyone. Our system operates on a lower frequency which makes it safe for urban environments. Airports, for example, could station our systems around to provide complete coverage without endangering any pilots or passengers,” says Ishaaya.

Other applications could include defending public events such as speeches or concerts. The system’s range is several kilometers.

OptiDefense is now seeking investment to further develop and refine the technology.

Trump Just Enabled Israel to Attack Iran’s Nuclear Sites

March 8, 2020

Hmmm…

https://www.meforum.org/60529/trump-enables-israel-to-attack-irans-nuclear-sites

If Israel does decide to bomb Iran, the U.S. government has made it a little easier.

The U.S. State Department has approved an Israeli request to buy eight KC-46A Pegasus aerial tankers. Including support equipment, spare parts and training, the deal is valued at $2.4 billion, with the first aircraft arriving in 2023.

The sale “supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” said the State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency. “Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies. In addition, the sale improves Israel’s national security posture as a key U.S. ally.”

If approved by the U.S. Congress — which is unlikely to block it — the sale is notable on several levels. It’s the first time the U.S. has sold tanker aircraft to Israel. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) currently has 11 tankers, including seven American-made Boeing 707 airliners and four Lockheed Martin C-130H transports. But the Israelis themselves converted these planes into tankers.

The problem is that most IAF tankers are 60 years old: the 707, long retired from commercial air travel, dates back to 1958. The IAF is so desperate to maintain its aerial refueling capability – which allows its aircraft to fly deep across the Middle East – that in 2017, it bought an old Brazilian Air Force 707 just to cannibalize for spare parts.

The KC-46A Pegasus has a range of more than 6,000 miles.

The KC-46A Pegasus is a different beast. Based on Boeing’s 767 airliner, the twin-engine KC-46A can carry 106 tons of fuel to feed hungry jet fighters, and has a range of more than 6,000 miles. The Pegasus is replacing the 1950s KC-135 Stratotanker as the Air Force’s aerial refueler, with 31 currently in service.

A series of manufacturing defects led the U.S. Air Force in 2019 to briefly ban cargo and passengers from flying on the KC-46A, and there are still glitches in the remote-controlled refueling boom. Because the U.S. also flies the Pegasus, it’s reasonable to assume that the Pentagon will insist on ironing out the bugs, which will also benefit the Israeli models.

Also significant is that the State Department approval of the sale is deemed to “provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war.” In other words, the U.S. is selling tankers to Israel with the expectation that they will be used to support American as well as Israeli forces during wartime.

However, the U.S. government also asserts that the sale “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

Iran may beg to disagree.

A direct flight path between Jerusalem and Tehran is just under a thousand miles each way.

Israel is buying 50 U.S. F-35 stealth fighters, and has already stood up two squadrons. The U.S. Air Force’s F-35A model has a range of more than 1,350 nautical miles using internal fuel. While the Israeli-modified F-35I has special Israeli-designed external fuel tanks, a direct flight path between Jerusalem and Tehran is just under a thousand miles each way.

Israel has long threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites if Tehran tries to build atomic weapons. Iran has more than a thousand anti-aircraft guns, several varieties of surface-to-air missiles, and has repeatedly asked Russia to sell it advanced S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. Iranian nuclear facilities will certainly be protected by strong air defenses.

The KC-46A has more fuel capacity and better sensors and jammers than current IAF tankers.

Which means that if Israel attacks Iranian nuclear sites, the IAF F-35’s – as well as additional F-15 fighters that it intends to purchase – would need mid-air refueling, and probably multiple refills. The KC-46A carries more fuel than current Israeli tankers, and it has better sensors and jammers to survive hostile air defenses.

New aerial tankers by themselves won’t guarantee the success of an Israeli strike on Iran. But they do make it a little easier.

 

Iran reports 49 new coronavirus deaths, highest single-day toll

March 8, 2020

Source: Iran reports 49 new coronavirus deaths, highest single-day toll | The Times of Israel

New count brings the number of those killed by the virus in the country since mid-February to 194; Iran Air announces suspension of all flights to Europe until further notice

Workers disinfect the shrine of the Shiite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, March, 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Workers disinfect the shrine of the Shiite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, March, 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s health ministry on Sunday reported 49 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest toll within 24 hours since the start of the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

The new count brings the number of those killed by the virus in the country since mid-February to 194, one of the highest tolls outside of China, where the disease originated. The virus has spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces with 6,566 confirmed cases.

Some 743 new cases of infection were identified over the past 24 hours. The total number of cases now stands at 6,566, of whom 2,134 have recovered.

Hardest hit are the provinces of Tehran, Qom, and Mazandaran with 1,805, 685, and 620 cases, respectively, according to Iran’s Deputy Health Minister, Kiyanoush Jahanpour.

Meanwhile, Iran Air announced on Sunday the suspension of all its flights to Europe until further notice.

The statement issued by the company made no mention of the novel coronavirus epidemic as a reason for the measure, citing only “restrictions” imposed by European authorities for “unknown reasons.”

According to several specialized sites, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) banned on February 3 Iran Air aircraft from European airspace, namely an Airbus A321-200 and two Airbus A330-200 that had not undergone necessary upgrades for authorization to fly in Europe.

Sweden on March 2 announced it was temporarily suspending the flight permits of Iran Air on the advice of health officials who said Tehran was “not in control” of the novel coronavirus outbreak on its soil.

The Iranian carrier operates flights to multiple European destinations including Paris, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Vienna and Rome.

 

Iran reports 49 new coronavirus deaths, highest single-day toll 

March 8, 2020

Source: Iran reports 49 new coronavirus deaths, highest single-day toll | The Times of Israel

New count brings the number of those killed by the virus in the country since mid-February to 194; Iran Air announces suspension of all flights to Europe until further notice

Workers disinfect the shrine of the Shiite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, March, 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Workers disinfect the shrine of the Shiite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, March, 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s health ministry on Sunday reported 49 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest toll within 24 hours since the start of the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

The new count brings the number of those killed by the virus in the country since mid-February to 194, one of the highest tolls outside of China, where the disease originated. The virus has spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces with 6,566 confirmed cases.

Some 743 new cases of infection were identified over the past 24 hours. The total number of cases now stands at 6,566, of whom 2,134 have recovered.

Hardest hit are the provinces of Tehran, Qom, and Mazandaran with 1,805, 685, and 620 cases, respectively, according to Iran’s Deputy Health Minister, Kiyanoush Jahanpour.

Meanwhile, Iran Air announced on Sunday the suspension of all its flights to Europe until further notice.

The statement issued by the company made no mention of the novel coronavirus epidemic as a reason for the measure, citing only “restrictions” imposed by European authorities for “unknown reasons.”

According to several specialized sites, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) banned on February 3 Iran Air aircraft from European airspace, namely an Airbus A321-200 and two Airbus A330-200 that had not undergone necessary upgrades for authorization to fly in Europe.

Sweden on March 2 announced it was temporarily suspending the flight permits of Iran Air on the advice of health officials who said Tehran was “not in control” of the novel coronavirus outbreak on its soil.

The Iranian carrier operates flights to multiple European destinations including Paris, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Vienna and Rome.

 

Secret facility at Hizballah’s Beirut hospital cares for Iranian high-ups down with corona – DEBKAfile

March 8, 2020

Source: Secret facility at Hizballah’s Beirut hospital cares for Iranian high-ups down with corona – DEBKAfile

Hizballah’s Al-Rasool Al Aatham University hospital in south Beirut has been converted to a secret facility for treating high Iranian officials infected with coronavirus, various Lebanese sources reveal. Tehran’s Lebanese proxy boasts that its hospital operates according to strict Shiite Islamic tenets.

Transferring high-profile victims outside the country to a secret venue appears to be part of the Islamic regime’s cover-up of the real figures and death toll from coronavirus in a country of 80 million which, alongside Italy, is seen as a primary source of global contagion.

The Hizballah-Iran operation flies high Iranian officials down with the disease from Tehran to Beirut by direct flight. This is one means of concealing the true scale of the infection across the country, but also high officials benefit from better treatment than they would in Tehran. There are no details about the numbers of these transfers

The regime only reports the deaths of prominent officials post factum. The last death reported on Thursday, March 5, was of Mohammad Mirmohammadi, who was a member of the Expediency Council which chooses national leaders and a close adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. On Friday, a female member of parliament Fatima Rahabar, succumbed to the virus.

No international health authority engaged in halting the spread of coronavirus has laid hands on reliable information for determining the scale of Iran’s contagion. It is also kept secret from the domestic authorities in Tehran. If anyone has the true figures of the numbers of Iranians infected and/or dead of corona-19 it would most likely be a very tight circle of regime leaders within the supreme ruler’s inner circle and top commanders of the Revolutionary Guards.

In the early stages of the virus, cases were reported in the shrine city of Qom, a popular center of international Shiite pilgrimage, and therefore a primary source of contagion to other parts of the Shiite world.

 

Israel mulls quarantine for travelers from NY, California and Washington 

March 8, 2020

Source: Israel mulls quarantine for travelers from NY, California and Washington – The Jerusalem Post

AIPAC attendees arriving home after March 5 also require isolation. Three conference attendees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, two from New York and one from Los Angeles.

The backdrop of the stage at last year’s AIPAC conference in Washington, DC (photo credit: REUTERS)
The backdrop of the stage at last year’s AIPAC conference in Washington, DC
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Health Ministry is considering adding the American states of Washington, New York and California to the list of places requiring 14 days of home-quarantine.
In an interview with Channel 12, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said the ministry was making decisions regarding the United States not as one country but on a state-by-state basis.
As such, he said that as of Saturday night, the only states from which travelers might require quarantine are Washington, New York and California. Other states could be added to the list in the future.
He told Channel 12 a final decision would be made late by early Sunday.
Other Western nations – including Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands – are also being considered for quarantine. The ministry is waiting to receive news about the coronavirus situation in all of these countries before making a decision, which Bar Siman Tov said would be done in close cooperation with the National Security Council.
At the same time, all Israelis who attended the AIPAC Policy Conference last week in Washington and returned to the country after March 5 must immediately enter home-quarantine, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
The decision regarding the AIPAC policy conference came after at least two New Yorkers who attended conference, held February 28 to March 2, tested positive for the coronavirus, the pro-Israel lobby confirmed on Friday.

Overnight, NBC Los Angeles reported that a third AIPAC attendee was diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in LA County to 14.

“The additional positive case is a resident who recently returned from attending the AIPAC Conference in Washington, D.C. where there was a known exposure to a person who was positive for COVID-1, officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said,” and NBC reported.
A spokesperson for AIPAC said he did not know how many Israelis took part in the 18,000-person conference, which was attended by a few world leaders, dozens of members of Congress and high-profile administration officials. Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote speaker.
According to the AIPAC website, prominent Israeli participants included former ambassadors to the United States Danny Ayalon and Itamar Rabinovich and head of the opposition in the Jerusalem Municipality Ofer Berkovitch.
In contrast to the Health Ministry, the capital’s Department of Health issued a statement Friday saying that, based on its investigation in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH), “There is no identified risk to conference attendees at this time. All attendees and members of the public are urged to follow the well-established prevention tips, like staying home if sick and calling ahead to a health provider if experiencing symptoms. We will work with AIPAC leadership to keep all attendees informed of any new developments.”
AIPAC also released a statement on Friday, saying the organization is in constant communication with the Westchester County Health Department and the DC Health Department, which is coordinating with the New York Health Department as well as with national health authorities.
“We have consulted with a top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Edward Septimus – adjunct professor of Internal Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine,” AIPAC said in a statement.
The pro-Israel organization called on all conference participants to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and consult with their health care providers if they feel ill or have medical questions. “If you test positive for coronavirus, we urge you to inform your local health authorities, so they can properly coordinate their response to this situation with the appropriate health authorities,” AIPAC added.
Pence, who is the Trump administration point man in charge of coronavirus response, was asked during a press conference on Friday about the fact that two attendees tested positive for the virus, and whether he is concerned the virus is now in Washington.
“It’s the first I heard of it amidst a busy day – and we will be engaged, I am confident, with the same contact tracing like with any case,” Pence said. But the vice president did note that thousands of Americans are currently in isolation and cautioned those who are elderly or suffer from health conditions such as heart disease or respiratory issues should “use common sense” and refrain from taking part in activities or outings that could put them at risk.
This is the second instance of coronavirus being reported in the Washington area. Nearby Maryland declared a state of emergency last week after three patients tested positive for coronavirus in Montgomery County, which borders the district. At the same time, the coronavirus has surfaced in at least four more states over the weekend and the number of cases in San Francisco continues to increase.
Among the 2,400 passengers stranded off the California coast on a cruise ship, there are at least 21 infected people, Reuters reported.
As of Saturday night, New York was reporting 76 cases of coronavirus, many of them in the close-knit Modern Orthodox Jewish community of Westchester County north of Manhattan, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency to deal with the worsening coronavirus crisis.