Quote from foreign minister stirs up tempest
An Egyptian foreign service official’s comment about President Obama is turning into a sensation among bloggers for its claim that the American leader claims to be Muslim.
Obama’s religiosity has been the subject of discussion since before he was elected and his Chicago-area pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, delivered a “God d— America” sermon that was caught on video.
Obama later claimed to be a Muslim in a television interview where the interviewer corrected his “misstatement” and he has referenced the Muslim heritage in America’s past several times.
Now the heat on the issue is being turned up because of a weeks-old report in Israel Today.
In the report, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted as saying during an appearance on Nile TV that, “The American president told me in confidence that he is a Muslim.”
The White House remained silent on the comment, declining to respond to a WND request for comment.
But blogger Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs wrote, “This is akin to an SS officer getting elected president during WW II. Every country in the free world must be cognizant of such a catastrophic sea change in the leadership of the free world (as witnessed by events over the past year). This changes everything. He took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and yet he has gone around the world promoting Islam, the Shariah (Islamic law).”
She suggested that the exchange could have happened early in 2010 when Gheit was in Washington, D.C., to address “Mideast peace talks.”
Obama’s comments from before the 2008 election:
The Israel Today report, from late in April, focused on the “crisis” in relations between Jerusalem and Washington under Obama.
It quotes sources who called Obama a “strategic catastrophe” for Israel.
They expressed concern, speaking on condition of anonymity to the newspaper, that Obama’s administration is a serious threat to the future of Israel.
The report then said Israelis feel Obama is “appeasing” Muslims at the expense of Israel.
“‘The American president told me in confidence that he is a Muslim,’ said Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Nile TV. That could explain why Obama has instructed that the term ‘Islamic extremism’ no longer be used in official government documents and statements,” according to the report.
There was no independent verification of the statement attributed to Gheit.
But a video has been assembled by a group called Feel the Change Media highlighting Obama’s numerous remarks about Islam:
It has been viewed more than two million times already.
It was last year when Toby Harden, of the Daily Telegraph, cited Obama’s statement that the U.S. is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”
Obama had said, he quoted, “if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’ be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”
Obama also previously said in Turkey that Americans “do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.”
That prompted members of Congress to disagree. At that time a bipartisan group of 25 members of the House of Representatives submitted H.Res. 397, which calls on Congress to affirm “the rich spiritual and religious history of our nation’s founding and subsequent history” and to designate the first week of May as America’s Spiritual Heritage Week for “the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.”
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., specifically challenged the president’s claims that America is not a Christian nation in a news conference announcing the bill immediately following a National Day of Prayer observance.
“The overwhelming evidence suggests that this nation was born and birthed with Judeo-Christian principles,” Forbes told reporters, “and I would challenge anybody to tell me that point in time when we ceased to be so, because it doesn’t exist.”
During a June 2007 speech available on Youtube, Obama stated, “Whatever we once were, we’re no longer a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”
In that speech, Obama took aim at the “Christian Right” for “hijacking” religion and using it to divide the nation:
“Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it’s because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who’ve been all too eager to exploit what divides us,” he said.
Geller suggested perhaps other evidence should be considered as well, listing how Obama in early 2009 declared the “war on terror” over, suggested discussions with Hamas and recruited more Muslims for the White House staff.
He also created the Outreach to the Worldwide Muslim community in the State department, announces cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, offered funding to a Muslim technology fund, issued a special hajj message, had a “non-religious” Christmas, ordered NASA to work with Muslim nations and offered support for an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N.
“This is one hellacious argument and anyone not lobotomized by liberalism can see Obama’s an agent of Islam inside the wire,” said one participant in Geller’s forum page.
Arab and Turkish journalists and media are big time lairs and biased to the core
By Mike Evans
On May 31, Israel walked straight into a trap—a trap set by a group of so-called activists determined to break Israeli attempts to halt the flow of arms and war materiel into the Gaza strip.
Having been warned in advance that the intent of the Free Gaza movement flotilla was to shatter the Israeli blockade, the IDF prepared to board the ships and divert them to Ashdod for inspection. A member of the Free Gaza organization credited with launching the flotilla, Greta Berlin, clarified the intent of the group: “We’re not trying to be a humanitarian mission.”
Apparently, Israel was ill-informed that the ship carried 700 pro-Palestinian activists prepared to do whatever necessary to reach their goal. American-born pro-Palestinian activist Hawaida Arraf threw down the gauntlet with the assertion: “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us. They are going to have to forcefully stop us.”
According to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon “the armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terror organization was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organizers are well-known for their ties to Global Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror. On board the ship we found weapons that were prepared in advance and used against our forces…”
A number of the passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara Turkish passenger ship suspected of having connections with Global Jihad-affiliated terrorist organizations have refused to provide proper identification to the Israeli authorities. Many were carrying envelopes containing thousands of dollars in cash.
During a search of the ship on Tuesday a cache of bulletproof vests, night-vision goggles, and gas masks was discovered. A defense official stated, “This is the group that was behind the violent [attack] against the naval commandos. They came on board the ship prepared and after they had trained for the expected Navy takeover.”
When confronted by the Israelis, five of the six ships’ captains diverted to Ashdod; the sixth was decidedly on a mission of defiance. Obviously, the mistake made by the IDF was to assume that the voyagers on board the Mavi Marmara were a charitable group. Rather, it was loaded with pro-Palestinian terrorists, not with the specified humanitarian agenda, and determined to create an international media incident.
The IDF deployed about a dozen soldiers with the intent of taking the bridge and diverting the flotilla to the Israeli port. Instead, the troops fell into the hands of an angry mob of rioters armed with clubs, knives, scissors, pepper spray, and with side arms after having disarmed several IDF soldiers.
The Israelis boarded with non-lethal paintball guns, the kind used by teens on paintball courses, and pistols they never thought they would have to unholster. Video shows the unsuspecting IDF paratroopers being assaulted as they reached the deck. One IDF soldier was thrown over a railing to a deck 30 feet below.
In a statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated that this was “a clear case of self-defense because as our soldiers were inspecting these ships, they were attacked—they were almost lynched. They were attacked…and they had to defend themselves—they were going to be killed. Israel will not allow its soldiers to be lynched and neither would any other self-respecting country.”
Israel will become the target for every terrorist worldwide. Now more than ever America must stand with our only true ally in the Middle East
Israel has maintained the 4-year blockade to halt the flow of weapons from Iran to Hamas, its armed and funded proxy in Gaza. In November 2009, the Israeli navy intercepted a huge cache of weapons headed from Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas onboard Francop, a German container ship. The markings on the materiel discovered were clearly Iranian. The ship carried some 3,000 missiles including Katyusha rockets.
The Israeli embargo against Gaza has become more powerful than rockets; it created the perfect storm, the Vietnam, for the State of Israel. The secular media, which has always been prone to call terrorists “activists,” only encourages such actions.
In 2008, Israeli President Shimon Peres held a “Facing Tomorrow” conference to which he invited some of the most noted thinkers in the world. One of the conclusions of the meeting was that wars of the 21st Century would be fought first as a media war, secondly as an economic war, thirdly as a proxy war, and finally with boots on the ground. Israel has lost this media war and is well on the way to losing the economic war.
Israel ceded Gaza in hopes of achieving peace in the region; its hopes were dashed. Hamas continued to lob some 1,200 missiles across the border at innocent Jewish civilians. Despite the ongoing provocation, Israel has allowed food and humanitarian supplies into Gaza through the Red Cross and UN.
This skirmish came amid plans for a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. The aim of the summit was to keep Iran at the top of the agenda, not the Palestinian Authority.
Iran found the perfect means to distract the liberal media—create a flag-waving, humanitarian crisis. The resulting propaganda-driven riots worldwide would certainly take attention from the IAEA announcement that Iran now possesses more than two tons of enriched uranium—enough for two nuclear warheads.
If you were sitting in the seat of power in ancient Persia, what would you do when confronted with new sanctions against your nuclear program? You would sponsor a David-versus-Goliath flotilla—a media extravaganza—carrying a Nobel Peace Prize winner, an American activist, and a Holocaust survivor. Central casting could not have done it better.
The question becomes: When is a humanitarian mission not a humanitarian mission? It fails the test when it is peopled with terrorists on a suicide mission.
Soldiers were met by well-planned lynch in Gaza waters
So-called Humanitarians started attacking Israeli Soldiers with live fires, batons and sticks when they boarded their ships suddenly becoming Terrorists with a Smile
Army says at least 10 activists killed, dozens injured, six Navy commandos wounded as protesters open fire in violent Israeli takeover of Gaza flotilla; Al Jazeera broadcasts footage.
International activists aboard the flotilla of ships on their way to the Gaza Strip opened fire on IDF soldiers who boarded the ships to prevent them from breaking the Israeli-imposed sea blockade, the IDF said Monday.
According to the IDF, the international activists “prepared a lynch” for the soldiers who boarded the ships at about 2 a.m. Monday morning after calling on them to stop, or follow them to the Ashdod Port several hours earlier.
According to IDF reports, at least 10 activists were killed during the ensuing clashes. Six Navy commandos were also wounded, some of them from gunfire and at least one was in a serious condition with a head wound. Foreign reports claimed that the number of dead was close to 15. Some of the wounded were evacuated to Israeli hospital by Air Force helicopters.
Upon boarding the ships, the soldiers encountered fierce resistance from the passengers who were armed with knives, bats and metal pipes. The soldiers used non-lethal measures to disperse the crowd. The activists succeeded in stealing the weapon from one of the IDF’s soldiers and reportedly opened fire, leading to an escalation in violence.
Al Jazeera on Monday broadcasted footage from the Gaza flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showing Israeli Navy commandos boarding the ship. Helicopters could also be seen flying overhead.
“It was like a well-planned lynch,” one IDF officer said. “These people were anything but peace activists.”
The IDF said that the ships would be taken to the Ashdod Port where, despite the violence, the cargo that are carrying will be inspected and then transferred to the Gaza Strip via land crossings. Israeli Navy commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom was commanding over the operation from sea.
The Navy made initial contact with the flotilla at 11 p.m. on Sunday ordering the ships to follow them to Ashdod Port or otherwise be boarded.
The actual boarding of the ships took place at 2 a.m. Monday and was yet to be completed by 8 a.m.
Activists aboard the ships repeatedly said they would not respond with violence to the navy’s interception of their flotilla prior to the boarding.
Al-Jazeera reported Turkish leaders called an emergency meeting to discuss responses to the attack at sea. The Israeli ambassador in Turkey was called in to offer explanations, according to a report.
Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh came on Al-Jazeera to condemn the “brutal attack” and called on the UN to intervene on the activists’ behalf.
The ministry condemned Monday’s raid on the ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists, called it unacceptable and demanded an “urgent explanation” from Israel. It says Israel violated international laws and will suffer consequences.
By Aaron Klein
Dramatic escalation in cooperation between Israel’s foes
JERUSALEM – Egypt is concerned Israel could be in a conflict in the very near future with Syria or the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, a senior Egyptian security official told WND.
The security official said in any future war with Syria or Hezbollah, both actors have been preparing to storm the Israeli border with guerillas and commandos, an act unseen here since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the last conflict in which Syria was openly involved.
In previous conflicts with Hezbollah, the terrorist group fired rockets into Israel.
In addition, the security official said Syria has separately been contemplating launching low-grade attacks against Jewish communities in the Golan Heights to pressure Israel into negotiations aimed at relinquishing the strategic territory.
The official said his country is concerned about a coming conflict but did not mention a specific timeframe.
“It’s possible either side may misinterpret moves and launch the opening salvo very soon,” he said.
The official also said Israel is concerned Syria has recently passes advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon. He said his country believes Israel may want to engage in a conflict with Hezbollah to minimize that group’s capabilities before any future strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Hezbollah could be used as part of Iran’s strategy of retaliation against Iran in a future war, the official said.
Recent weeks have seen a war of words between Israel and Syria, as well as a dramatic escalation of public cooperation between Israel’s foes Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Last month, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, that any war with his country would topple his regime.
“Assad should know that if he attacks, he will not only lose the war. Neither he nor his family will remain in power,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman was responding to a Syrian threat against Israeli cities one day earlier.
“Israel knows that if it declares war on Syria, such a war will reach its cities as well,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said following a meeting last week with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos.
Syria has long demanded the Golan Heights as part of any deal with Israel. The Golan looks down on Israeli population centers and twice was used by Damascus to launch ground invasions into the Jewish state.
Last week, Syria hosted a summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Meshal, head of the Hamas. All participants expressed solidarity with each other and vowed the destruction of Israel.
The meeting was followed up with another confab in Iran last weekend entitled “Islamic and National Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” The summit was attended by the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria. All three again denounced Israel.
By Chris Gaylord
Last night, the military officially entered the age of airborne laser weapons. A large laser mounted to the front of a modified 747 jet successfully detected and shot down a ballistic missile while both were in mid-flight.
The airborne laser program – part Star Wars (the sci-fi flick) and part Star Wars (the Strategic Defense Initiative) – has taken years of work and billions of dollars it get here. But the Pentagon can now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station.
“While ballistic missiles like the one [the Airborne Laser Testbed] destroyed move at speeds of about 4,000 miles per hour, they are no match for a super-heated, high-energy laser beam racing towards it at 670 million mph,” says defense contractor Northrop Grumman in a release after announcing the successful test Friday.
Thursday night, a test missile fired from an “at-sea mobile launch platform” – likely a ship or submarine. The 747 detected the liquid-fueled missile and fired three different beams. The first, a low-energy laser, allowed the system to track the missile. Its second blast monitored the atmosphere between the aircraft and the target to better hone the final stage.
Once the system has locked on, it powers up what Boeing calls “the most powerful mobile laser device in the world.” The third stage actually involves six laser modules, each the size of a sport-utility vehicle, that fire in unison through a telescope-like lens located at the front of the 747. “When fired through a window in the aircraft’s nose turret, it produces enough energy in a 5-second burst to power a typical household for more than one hour,” says the US Air Force.
The beam cannot slice through a missile, lightsaber-style, but rather heats up pressurized portions of weapons, rupturing them. In Thursday’s test, the airborne laser disabled the test missile two minutes after it launched.
In a massive collaboration, Northrop Grumman constructed the megawatt-class high-energy laser, Lockheed Martin designed the firing system, and Boeing tied everything together with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The military has been tinkering with “megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser beam” weapons since 1996. But the Pentagon isn’t happy with the price tag. Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled the original order for a second airborne laser system, but held onto the original aircraft for further experiments.
While yesterday’s success encourages missile-shield proponents, the system still needs lots of tuning. A second trial Thursday night hit its target, but stopped firing before crippling the weapon.
By John Malhotra
North east India has a high concentration of Christians, but there are fears that this fact is being exploited by criminals disguising themselves as missionaries and evangelists in order to traffic children.
Last month, over 70 such malnourished children from Manipur, Nagaland, and other north eastern states were rescued from a home at Kuzhithurai in Kanyakumari district.
Families, particularly in Manipur, are reportedly sending their children off into the hands of traffickers who promise to give them an education or employment, as highlighted recently by the Times of India.
It is believed that the children, aged from around six to 15, are being taken to unregistered children’s homes where they are kept in poor conditions and made to do menial work such as cooking and laundry.
There have been reports of children dying in suspicious circumstances and of others being molested and abused.
“These institutions exploit religion to make money. With many of them not registered with the government, the homes escape scrutiny,”said Vidya Reddy of the Centre for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse in Tulir, according to the Times of India.
In light of the reports, the Church has become concerned for the welfare of children.
“This trend is shocking and deplorable,” said Dr. Hrangthan Chhungi, theologian and Secretary of Commission on Adivasis/Tribals in the National Council of Churches in India.
“It is indeed very ruinous and gross that religion is used for the trafficking business,” she said. “Taking the name of Christianity, they lure gullible Christians, specially the parents of poor families or guardians of homeless children and make it a thriving business.”
In explaining why Manipur is an easy target, Chhungi noted how the Kuki people in that state are one of the most victimized tribes in inter-tribe conflicts. These conflicts and killings have rendered children without parents in recent years.
“This sorry situation is taken advantage and made a business by vested interests,” she stated.
Knowing this, the National Council of Churches in India plans to hold a symposium to raise awareness of child trafficking among churches and NGOs.
The ecumenical organization of Protestant and Orthodox churches in India presently represents 13 million Christian people through out the country and includes groups such as National Council of YMCAs, YWCA of India, Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), and Bible Society of India (BSI).
In total, NCCI is made up of twenty-nine member churches , fourteen regional councils, fourteen all-India organizations and seven related agencies.
‘A nuclear Tehran with the present regime is a threat of survival scale’
JERUSALEM – Israel does not need American permission to strike Iran, said Shabtai Shavit, former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, in an exclusive interview with Aaron Klein, WND’s Jerusalem bureau chief.
Asked whether Israel must coordinate with the U.S. on any future military actions against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Shavit replied, “I don’t think that Israel needs American permission when it comes to the survival of Israel.”
“But I would expect Israel to try to coordinate such a move if push comes to shove,” Shavit said.
Shavit, who traditionally shies away from news media interviews, was speaking during an interview on New York’s WABC Radio with Klein, who hosts a weekend show on station.
Shavit posited that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration last week that his country is a nuclear state “proves that the international strategy addressing the nuclear threat until today was completely wrong.”
Shavit said he doesn’t see a consensus materializing to push through the crippling sanctions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been lobbying for.
Shavit did suggest, however, strong sanctions may still work to dissuade Iran from forging ahead with its nuclear ambitions.
“If there is a consensus among the U.S., Europe, Russia and China, I believe it is still possible to convince the Iranians that for them the price that they will have to pay for achieving the nuclear ways is prohibitive for them,” he said.
Asked by Klein whether Israel should strike Iran if sanctions failed and Tehran pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program, Shavit replied, “I wouldn’t like to elaborate too much about this section, but I will only say that a nuclear Iran with the present regime of the extremists’ fanaticism – this is a threat of a survival scale.”
In front of 300 diplomats, including senior US officials, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, and defended Chinese TV and radio as more reliable than Western media.
Why do China sell weapons to failed states like North Korea or Burma or Iran?
By Robert Marquand
Today Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, speaking with unusual bluntness in front of 300 leading diplomats – including senior US officials – here in Munich publicly stated that China is getting stronger on the international stage. He said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, offered that China’s TV and radio news service contains “more solid” and reliable news than Western media, and that China is not ready to address sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, stating instead that the Islamic Republic “has not totally closed the door on the IAEA.”
Transatlantic – meet the Pacific.
Foreign Minister Yang is the first Chinese official to speak at the annual Munich Security Conference, the premier transatlantic security meeting, in its 46 year history. He turned heads in the group at a time when the People’s Republic and the US have come to loggerheads over Taiwan arms sales, Internet freedom, currency rates, and climate policy coming out of the Copenhagen meeting in December.
“I haven’t heard a high-ranking Chinese official say, ‘Yes, we are strong,’ in a public setting before,” said a senior German diplomat. “It was a very assertive message, different, and it means we will soon see a different Chinese policy.”
Mr. Yang, a former ambassador to the US and highly respected, gave a somewhat conventional speech – though in a strong voice. He affirmed that China is both a developed and a developing country, that it seeks “win-win solutions,” and that it is preparing for greater “shared responsibilities” on the world stage – and that it played a transformative role in helping avert a global financial crisis in the past year.
Yet during three probing follow-up questions, Yang mopped his brow repeatedly in answering on Taiwan, cyberspace, and China’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, which he earlier admitted was “at a crucial stage.”
“Does China feel stronger? Yes,” he said as questions opened.
Regarding a proposed US $6.4 billion package of arms for Taiwan introduced in recent weeks by the Obama administration, and which China has for the first time threatened retaliatory sanctions on US firms that supply arms – Yang called it a “violation of the code of conduct among nations” by the US, said China has “every reason to feel indignant about this thing,” and added that Beijing has a “sovereign right to do what is necessary” in response.
He went on to say China is “totally against hacking attacks…I don’t know how this Google thing has popped up” – in response to a question about cyberspace. At a time when the American search engine giant has said it may leave China after repeated hacks on human rights workers, and British intelligence has reported official Chinese espionage against business travelers, Yang said that “China is a victim” of hacking.
The cyberspace answers were prefaced with polemics on the virtues of Chinese news gathering. The Chinese people have better news than members of the western public, and “freedom of speech is what we advocate,” Yang said, adding that with 15 million Chinese traveling abroad every year, “the Chinese people are well informed.” Yang also said that while foreign companies were free to enter China, and that many had done well there, they still must submit to Chinese laws, “and what is in the best interest of China.”
China’s presence at the 48-hour Munich conference, hosted by German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, and that will include US National Security Advisor James Jones, follows a robust Chinese presence at the annual Davos conference in Switzerland, where China rented one of the most splendid villas – used in the past by Microsoft.
Gary Smith, director of the American Academy in Berlin, said that Yuan’s assertive speech did not contain the kind of direct dynamite that Vladimir Putin’s address here did in 2007, when Russia’s then-president affirmed that Russia would taking a newly assertive role on the world stage. But Yuan’s comments nonetheless would be felt strongly here, Smith said: “Europeans have been terrified by this kind of moment…they’ve been obsessed by the rise of China and India.
“[Yuan’s remarks] tells this group that the hard work of Atlantic consensus on global issues can be negligible if the Chinese don’t agree to play ball.”
Russia returned to the global stage Friday as a first-rank military and technological power by launching a ‘fifth generation’ fighter plane, with futuristic characteristics of stealth, sustained supersonic cruise, and integrated weapons.
By Fred Weir
Vladimir Putin is jubilant, the Russian aviation industry is filled with pride, and even normally skeptical military experts say they’re truly impressed by reports Friday that Russia has successfully test-flown the first prototype of a “fifth generation” fighter plane.
They all may have good reasons to cheer. Building such a plane is so expensive, complex, and technologically sophisticated that, until now, only the United States has been able to field an operational version of one: the F-22 Raptor.
According to news reports, Russia’s venerable Sukhoi company – maker of many famous Soviet warplanes – sent the V-tailed, swept-wing Sukhoi T-50 on its maiden flight for 47 minutes Friday near Komsomolsk-na-Amur in Russia’s far east (see video here) and it exceeded all expectations.
“We started flight tests of the fifth-generation aircraft today,” Sukhoi CEO Mikhail Pogosyan told Russian news agencies. “I am strongly convinced that this project will excel its Western rivals in cost-effectiveness and these planes will constitute the backbone of the Russian Air Force for the next few decades.”
A fighter of the “fifth generation” should have futuristic characteristics of stealth, sustained supersonic cruise, multi-role capabilities, integrated weapons and navigation systems that are controlled by artificial intelligence, over-the-horizon radar visibility and other cutting-edge wizardry.
Experts say that the mere fact that Russia can put one into the air announces its return to the global stage as a first-rank military and technological power.
“This is an epic event, because it’s the first time in post-Soviet history that [the Russian military industry] has been able to create something brand new,” Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert with the independent Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, says in a telephone interview.
“Everything we produced after the USSR’s collapse was based on Soviet designs; nobody thought we could make anything so technologically complicated as this. But now, strange as it may seem, this shows Russia’s level is very high.”
Kremlin leaders have been promising to build this new aircraft for years as part of a broader effort to re-arm and modernize Russia’s crumbling Soviet-era armed forces. Though Russia handily won its brief 2008 war with neighboring Georgia, the conflict revealed massive shortcomings in its military machine, including disastrously poor air support for ground forces and almost nonexistent aerial reconnaissance capability.
Prime Minister Putin praised the T-50′s first flight as a “big step” in restoring Russia’s traditional place as a global military power, and pledged that the air force will start receiving production models of the plane in about three years.
As Russia’s president, Putin launched a sweeping, $200-billion rearmament program that aims to introduce new generations of nuclear submarines, intercontinental missiles, tanks, and aircraft carriers for the armed forces within the next five years.
Experts say the T-50 fighter, which has been developed in partnership with Russia’s leading arms client India, will also go far toward restoring the tattered reputation of Russia’s military-industrial complex as a leading supplier of weaponry in global markets.
“This is really good advertising; it shows buyers of Russian-made hardware that we can produce the most modern weapons and also improve them,” says Vitaly Shlykov, a former Soviet war planner who now works as a civilian adviser to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“We invested a lot in this plane, and the fact that we can fly it has a big psychological impact,” he says. “It has a huge symbolic meaning for Russia itself.”
But skeptics say we’d best wait for more details about the top-secret plane of which we have seen, so far, only a few superficial images.
“We see the plane has some external characteristics that are new, but we have no way of knowing whether it actually possesses the technological features that would make it a fighter of the fifth generation,” says Alexander Golts, military expert for the independent Yezhednevny Zhurnal, an online news magazine.
“It’s great that it took off. Hurray. But I want to know a lot more about it.”