All set for Obama visit
SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2014 - 12:00am

The countdown for the big event next week has already commenced with an advance team of about 400 various personnel composed of Secret Service agents, presidential staff, and media people arriving ahead to cover the visit of US President Barack Obama on April 28-29. The large contingent is expected to double by Monday, although the exact time of Obama’s arrival is still being kept under wraps coming as he is from Malaysia to the Philippines which is the last stop for the US president’s four-country visit to Asia.

Security has been set out at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where Obama will disembark from Air Force One, the call sign of the aircraft carrying the US President. It’s customary, however, for two identical Boeing 747 jets (shown in photo) to be both designated as Air Force One, with one serving as a decoy, so either Obama will be on board the first B747 that will land or he will be in the second.

As requested by the US Secret Service, the air space will be cleared of any aircraft for approximately two hours, meaning no planes will be allowed to land or takeoff from NAIA while awaiting the arrival of the US President and his contingent. It won’t also be surprising if a US aircraft carrier will be within the vicinity, so to speak, to provide additional air cover for the American President. During Obama’s African safari last year, a navy carrier containing medical trauma staff and equipment was even deployed in case of medical emergencies.

The total cost for Barack Obama’s 24-hour visit to Manila: about $25-30 million.

US military technology three decades ahead of China

Washington hawks and hardliners are getting wary of the military spending spree demonstrated by China and Russia – countries that many Americans consider as threats to world peace. Russia for instance has increased its military budget by more than 90 percent since 2010, with plans to double its spending in the next three years. According to sources, Russia’s spending will increase from $68 billion in 2013 to about $98 billion by 2016.  China on the other hand is allocating an estimated $159.6 billion for defense spending by 2015 – outspending the UK, France and Germany whose combined defense allocations is pegged at $149 billion by 2015. 

But despite the planned cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, the US military continues to be way ahead of Russia and China with highly advanced technology that experts say will “change the battle space.”

In October last year, the US Navy launched the USS Zumwalt touted as the most advanced warship there is. The Zumwalt (named after Admiral Elmo Russell Zumwalt Jr. who distinguished himself during the Vietnam War) – is the first stealth destroyer of the US Navy. It has a vast array of weapons plus computer-guided advanced gun systems that can annihilate targets from a distance of 63 miles – three times farther than other destroyer guns can reach. Naval research experts say tests will be conducted for more advanced laser weapon prototypes, one of which can be fired from a video game-like terminal to counter attacks from aircraft or small surface vessels. Another prototype is an electromagnetic railgun that can send missiles to a range of 125 miles at seven times faster than the speed of sound – at one-tenth the cost of current missiles. According to experts, the revolutionary, affordable technology will change the way American troops fight, not to mention it will also save the lives of soldiers.

Competition is also heating up between aircraft manufacturers, specifically Boeing which is locked in battle against Lockheed Martin. Boeing says its fourth generation EA-18 G electronic attack aircraft dubbed as the “Growler” can trump Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter jet. 

The new F-35 jets are equipped with jammers and advanced sensors that enable it to counter threats in the so-called “X-band spectrum.” Boeing, however, says stealth only works within a limited spectrum and that modern computer software, highly advanced sensors and other new detection methods reduce the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s stealth advantage. According to a Boeing official, the Growler is more capable of fighting in the battlefronts where the enemy has sophisticated air defenses – known as the anti-access, area denial environments.

Sources said one concern is that sophisticated sensors that use infrared technology, low frequency radar and other systems used by both Russians and Chinese make it easier now to spot approaching stealth aircraft – buttressing arguments from some sectors that F-35s should work with the Growlers at the start of combat to protect the F-35s and help secure carrier strike groups. Growlers, an industry expert explained, are equipped with powerful wide-frequency emitters and jammers that can counter a wider range of threats, while the F-35s can jam X-band frequencies, but not infrared and lower spectrum radar.

In any case, the battle is on with supporters of Boeing and Lockheed arguing either for or against the respective aircraft.

Meantime though, Australia is placing an additional order for 58 Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets at the cost of $11.61 billion.

Forewarned is forearmed

A source from Washington informed Spy Bits that US Secret Service agents may restrict Obama “selfies” during the visit of US President Barack Obama. Apparently, the White House is still unhappy about the “selfie” of Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz with the US President during the White House visit of the 2013 World Series champs a few weeks ago. Ortiz, a Samsung endorser, tweeted the photo he took using a Galaxy Note 3 – which Samsung immediately retweeted to its 5.2 million followers.  The White House will definitely frown on any attempt to capitalize on photos with Obama  – although it’s really up to POTUS (President of the United States) if he will allow selfies or not.

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