Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM - We Are The Mighty
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Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Despite North Korea’s claim its intercontinental ballistic missile launch shows it can attack targets anywhere it wants, experts say it will probably be years before it could use such a weapon in a real-world scenario.


The July 4 test demonstrated the North is closer than ever before to reaching its final goal of developing a credible nuclear deterrent to what it sees as the hostile policy of its archenemies in Washington.

But even for an experienced superpower, getting an ICBM to work reliably can take a decade.

Launching a missile under test conditions is relatively easy. It can be planned and prepared for and carried out whenever everything is ready, which makes success more likely. The real game-changer would come when the missile is considered operational under any conditions — in other words, when it is credible for use as a weapon.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Image from Wikimedia Commons

For sure, the North’s Fourth of July fireworks were a major success.

Initial analyses indicate its new “Hwasong 14” could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was instead shot at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

Hwasong means “Mars.”

“If a vague threat is enough for them, they could wait for another successful launch and declare operational deployment after that, and half the world will believe them,” said Markus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korea’s missile capabilities who is based in Germany. “But if they take it seriously, as the US or Russia do, it would take at least a dozen more launches and perhaps 10 years. Mind you, this is their first ICBM.”

Schiller noted the example of Russia’s latest submarine-launched missile, the Bulava.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
One of Russia’s SLBM-capable submarines, K-535 Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Photo by Schekinov Alexey Victorovich.

“They really have a lot experience in that field, but from first launch to service it took them almost 10 years (2004 to 2013),” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “They still have troubles — one of their test launches just failed.”

The bar for having an operational ICBM is also higher for the North if the United States is its target.

An ICBM is usually defined as a land-based ballistic missile with a range in excess of 5,500 kilometers (3,420 miles). That comes from US-Soviet disarmament talks and in that context makes good sense. The distance between Moscow and New York is about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles).

But Narushige Michishita, a defense expert and professor at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that although the range required for North Korea to hit Alaska would be 5,700 kilometers (3,550 miles) and Hawaii 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles), reaching the other 48 states requires ranges of 8,000-12,000 kilometers (5,000-7,500 miles).

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Screenshot from Google Maps

“In the US-DPRK context, the 5,500 kilometer-range ICBM means nothing,” he said. “We must take a look at the range, not the title or name.”

Pyongyang made a point of trying to dispel two big questions about its missiles with the test: re-entry and accuracy.

It claims to have successfully addressed the problem of keeping a nuclear warhead intact during the descent to a target with a viable heatshield, which would mark a major step forward. The Hwasong 14 isn’t believed to be accurate enough to attack small targets despite Pyongyang’s claims otherwise, but that isn’t a major concern if it is intended to be a threat to large population areas, such as cities on the US West Coast.

The reliability problem, however, remains.

“These missiles are very complex machines, and if they’re launched again tomorrow it might blow up on the pad,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You don’t want to do that with a nuclear warhead on top.”

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Wright said he believes Kim Jong Un decided to start a number of different development programs for different missile systems a couple of years ago and that the frequency of launches over the past 18 months suggests those programs have moved forward enough to reach the testing stages.

“I have been surprised by how quickly they have been advancing,” he said.

Wright said the North is believed by most analysts to have a nuclear device small and rugged enough to be put on a long-range missile, or to be very close to having one.

But he said it remains to be seen if its latest missile can be further modified to get the range it needs to threaten the contiguous US, or whether that would require a new system with a scaled-up missile and more powerful engine.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

“I suspect the latter, but don’t know yet,” he said.

The answer to that question matters because it has implications for how long it will take North Korea to really have an ICBM that could attack the US West Coast — and how long Washington has to take action to stop it.

What is Wright’s estimate?

“I would expect a couple years,” he said.

Articles

Watch this Green Beret-turned-aid-worker brave enemy fire to save an Iraqi girl

A dramatic rescue of a little girl trapped by ISIS gunfire was captured Friday on video.


David Eubank, a former Special Forces soldier-turned-aid worker, was filmed as he ran out in the open amid ISIS sniper fire to rescue the girl as two other men covered him with rifle fire.

“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,” Eubank told the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Times, Eubank’s dramatic rescue played out on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS snipers were firing at civilians that were attempting to flee. Wearing only a t-shirt, bulletproof vest, and helmet, Eubank is seen running out into the street approximately 150 yards where he picks up the girl and brings her back safely behind a tank.

Eubank, 56, served for a decade with the US Army Special Forces. After leaving the military, he founded an aid group called the Free Burma Rangers, which seeks to bring “hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan,” according to its website.

Watch the dramatic video:

Articles

That time Israeli airmen and a US Marine attacked 10,000 Egyptians and won

In November 1947, the United Nations voted to partition what was then called “Palestine.” The plan called for a complete British withdrawal, separate Jewish and Palestinian states, and an international regime to control the ancient, holy city of Jerusalem. The partition plan was rejected by Arab nations in the region on the grounds that it violated the UN charter’s principles of self-determination. Before May 1948, the conflict consisted of separate Arab and Jewish fighting for supremacy and fighting to expel the British. On May 15, 1948, the Jewish people of the region declared independence as the state of Israel and the world hasn’t been the same since.


Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
The 1947 UN Partition Plan

The Partition of Palestine passed in the UN General Assembly in November 1947. Immediately after the partition vote passed, the country descended into a civil war for control of the political and cultural hearts of the region. May 14th, 1948 was the day the British announced their intent to end their UN mandate. Shortly before midnight that day, Jewish political leader David Ben Gurion declared an independent Israel.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Ben Gurion (center)with Israeli forces in the Negev during the 1948 war.

The Jewish people in Palestine didn’t just get independence handed to them. The conflict that started the day after the partition vote now exploded into a full-scale war, the day the British were to leave. The neighboring Arab states Egypt, Transjordan (now modern Jordan), Iraq, and Syria immediately invaded the territory declared to be Israel. Jewish paramilitary groups that were once considered terrorists under the British Mandate coalesced into the Israel Defence Forces. These groups were already engaged in conflict with Palestinian Arab units throughout the area, including the Arab Liberation Army and Holy War Army. The British were functionally gone anyway and the major cities of Tiberias, Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre had already fallen to the Israelis.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Syrian forces would invade from the North, linking up with Iraqi and Jordanians forces in Nazareth, then pushing West to take the coastal city of Haifa. The Egyptians were supposed to capture Tel Aviv from the South. The Jordanian King Abdullah I didn’t want to invade any area given to the Jewish state under the UN partition, and the plan was changed. The Egyptians, by far the largest of the invading armies, were still to invade from the South and capture Tel Aviv. Two weeks after the Israeli declaration of independence, Egyptians were knocking at the door, ready to move on Tel Aviv. The defense of the city fell to one man, Lou Lenart. Lenart would enter the history books as the man who devised and executed the IDF’s first aerial strike.

Lenart was a seasoned combat airman. He joined the Marine Corps in 1940 with the singular goal of killing Nazis. He would go to flight school later in his career, which saw him serve as air support for Marines on Okinawa and participate in bombing raids over Japan. After the war, he found out he lost 14 family members in the Holocaust. That loss galvanized his feelings on an independent Jewish state. By the time he arrived in Israel, he was an experienced combat pilot.

Lenart and three fellow pilots (Ezer Weizmann, Mudy Alon, and Eddie Cohen) flew four Czech Avia S-99 airplanes, cobbled together with the remains of Nazi Messerschmitt fighters. Armed with a machine gun and four 150-pound bombs, the four flew south to Ashdod where they’d heard the Egyptians were camped. They had no radar, no radios, and communicated with hand signals. Finding masses of Egyptian troops, trucks, and tanks, the Jewish pilots dropped low, dropped their bombs and shot up anything they could see.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Avia S-99 being fitted for combat in 1948.

“They didn’t even know Israel had an air force,” Lenart would say later. “The Arabs had everything, we had nothing. And we still won. When I’m asked how we did it, I say: ‘We just didn’t have a choice. That was our secret weapon.'”

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

They encountered what turned out to be an armored column of 10,000 Egyptian troops and 500 vehicles. Cohen was killed in the attack and Alon was shot down (he would be killed later in the war). The Egyptians were stunned and scattered. By the time they recovered, Egypt had lost the initiative.

This was the beginning of Operation Pleshet. Israeli forces would then harass the Egyptians and group for a counter attack. Though that counter was not successful, Egypt’s strategy turned from offensive to defensive and to this day, the bold Israeli airstrike is credited for saving Tel Aviv. The (first) war for Israel’s existence would drag on until March 1949 but Tel Aviv would never fall to an Arab army.

Lenart died in 2015 at the ripe old age of 94. His efforts in the 1948 war were never forgotten.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress wants misconduct by military’s top brass to be public

A subcommittee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act would require the secretary of defense and military service secretaries to post reports of misconduct by generals and admirals, and those of equivalent civilian rank, so they are accessible to the public.

The House Armed Services subcommittee on military personnel released its markup of the fiscal 2019 defense budget bill on April 25, 2018, one step in the complex process of the bill passing the House and Senate and becoming law.


The 121-page document contained language requiring all substantiated investigations of senior leader misconduct to be made public.

“This section would require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the military departments to publish, on a public website, redacted reports of substantiated investigations of misconduct in which the subject of the investigation was an officer in the grade of O-7 and above, including officers who have been selected for promotion to O-7, or a civilian member of the Senior Executive Service,” the section reads.

Currently, such investigations can be requested through the Freedom of Information Act, but are not automatically made public if they are not requested.

The prevalence and severity of misconduct among the senior ranks has been a common topic of conversation on Capitol Hill in recent months.

At a February 2018 hearing of the personnel subcommittee, ranking member Jackie Speier, D-California, complained that there appeared to be “different spanks for different ranks,” meaning that top brass seemed to get lighter punishments for their misdeeds.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Jackie Speier
(Photo by Daniel Chee)

She highlighted five specific cases in which military generals had been found guilty of serious misconduct. In three, the violations came to light outside the military only because a journalist inquired or a FOIA request was filed.

“As you will see, these senior leaders committed serious crimes and rule violations, yet received only light administrative, not judicial, punishments,” Speier said. “Most got no public scrutiny until journalists inquired about their cases.”

A handful of new allegations has spurred additional criticism.

Early April 2018, the Marine Corps removed its one-star head of Marine and Family Programs after he allegedly told troops and civilians at a town hall-style meeting at Quantico, Virginia, that allegations of sexual harassment by another officer were “fake news.”

While the Marine Corps proactively sent news releases about Brig. Gen. Kurt Stein’s suspension and eventual firing, some have complained because he did not face additional loss of pay or rank.

More recently, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, has had his confirmation process put on hold amid allegations he drank on duty and committed other misconduct.

While it’s not clear if any of the allegations against him were substantiated in military investigations, the case highlights the lack of public information about wrongdoing at the highest ranks.

Following subcommittee markups, the NDAA must pass a full committee markup, be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill, and approved by both houses before it can go to the president to be signed into law.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

There are an estimated 10,000 spies in Washington DC

Of the more than 700,000 residents of the capital of the United States, 10,000 of those are actively working in the interests of a foreign power. The city is filled with federal employees, military personnel, contractors, and more who are actively working for the United States government, and some are working to betray its biggest secrets to the highest bidder.

It’s an estimate from the DC-based international spy museum – and it’s an estimate with which the FBI agrees.


Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

If only it were this easy.

“It’s unprecedented — the threat from our foreign adversaries, specifically China on the economic espionage and the espionage front,” Brian Dugan, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Counterintelligence with the FBI’s Washington Field Office told DC-based WTOP news.

According to the FBI, spies are no longer the stuff of Cold War-era dead drops, foreign embassy personnel, and conversations in remote parks. For much of the modern era, a spy was an undercover diplomat or other embassy staffer. No more. Now you can believe they are students, colleagues, and even that friend of yours who joined your kickball team on the National Mall. Anyone can be a spy.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Ever watch “The Americans”? That sh*t was crazy.

There are 175 foreign embassies and other diplomatic buildings in the DC area. In those work tens of thousands of people with links to foreign powers. This doesn’t even cover the numbers of foreign exchange students, international business people, and visiting professors that come to the city every year – not to mention the number of Americans recruited by spies to act on their government’s behalf (whether they know it or not).

The worst part is that spies these days are so skilled at their craft, we may never realize what they’re doing at all, and if we do, it will be much too late to stop them.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

It would be super helpful if they wore their foreign military uniforms all the time.

“Everybody in the espionage business is working undercover. So if they’re in Washington, they’re either in an embassy or they’re a businessman and you can’t tell them apart because they never acknowledge what they’re doing.” said Robert Baer, who was a covert CIA operative for decades. “And they’re good, so they leave no trace of their communications.”

He says the dark web, alone with advanced encryption algorithms means a disciplined, cautious spy may never get caught by the FBI for selling the secrets that come with their everyday work, be it in government, military, defense contractors, or otherwise.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly invading this important U.S. ally

Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.

Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.


The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia

Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory

Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.

It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.

Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.

The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.

It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.

With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.

In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise

Georgia’s NATO woes

Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”

“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.

The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”

‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’

The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.

“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.

“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.

“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”

www.youtube.com

A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind

The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.

The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.

Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Featured

Watch the new F-15QA perform a vertical takeoff and pull 9 Gs in its first ever flight

The most advanced version of the F-15 ever built took to the skies in St. Louis, MO, on April 14, 2020, and highlighted just how impressive its capabilities are. In the 90 minute flight, the F-15QA (QA stands for Qatar Advanced) showcased its speed, maneuverability and, in general, just how badass of a force this new jet will be.


What’s a “Viking takeoff”? Watch as the Qatar Emiri Air Force #F15 demonstrates the maneuver during its first flight.pic.twitter.com/wLHEuvH0Lt

twitter.com

With the F-15QA’s unmatched speed and maneuverability, Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese was able to showcase the capabilities by performing a vertical “Viking” takeoff and by pulling nine Gs during the test in various maneuvers. The maiden flight highlighted just how advanced this aircraft is. Avionics, radar and other systems all performed as designed and the flight was deemed a success.

“This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager in a press release issued by Boeing. “The advanced F-15QA not only offers game changing capabilities but is also built using advanced manufacturing processes which make the jet more efficient to manufacture. In the field, the F-15 costs half the cost per flight hour of similar fighter aircraft and delivers far more payload at far greater ranges. That’s success for the warfighter.”

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Image via Boeing

The F-15QA was developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF). The Department of Defense awarded Boeing a .2 billion contract in 2017 to manufacture 36 F-15 fighter jets for the QEAF with delivery date being 2021. To put it mildly: the QEAF is stoked.

“We are very proud of this accomplishment and looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this program,” Col. Ahmed Al Mansoori, commander, QEAF F-15 Wing said in a press release. “This successful first flight is an important milestone that brings our squadrons one step closer to flying this incredible aircraft over the skies of Qatar.”

In addition to being able to perform seamless Viking takeoffs, Boeing shared the other impressive features of the advanced aircraft. According to Boeing, the F-15QA brings to its operators next-generation technologies such as fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit; modernized sensors, radar, and electronic warfare capabilities; and the world’s fastest mission computer. Increases in reliability, sustainability and maintainability allow defense operators to affordably remain ahead of current and evolving threats.

https://twitter.com/abdulmoiz1990/statuses/978202978984300544
[VIDEO]: Qatar Emiri Air Force F-15QA will get large area display cockpit with touch screen made by Elbit Systemspic.twitter.com/6kUzF0VHby

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Don’t worry, this fun and excitement isn’t only for Qatar. Boeing is preparing to build a “domestic variant” of the F-15QA, the F-15EX, as approved in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. According to Boeing, in January, the Air Force announced their intention to award a sole-source contract to Boeing for eight of the F-15EX, with future plans for as many as 144.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

The F15EX. Image via Boeing

Boeing considers the F-15EX the cost-effective, ready solution. According to their website:

In support of the National Defense Strategy, the United States Air Force must purchase an additional 24 combat aircraft per year. F-15EX is the only way to rapidly and affordably meet the Air Force’s critical requirements.

Boeing’s F-15EX is the most cost-effective, ready, advanced solution to meet U.S. Air Force capacity requirements and add capability to the fleet. Driven by Boeing’s active production line, the next-generation jet enables pilots and mechanics to transition in a matter of days as opposed to years while delivering unmatched total life cycle costs.

The F-15EX leverages B+ in technology investments over the past decade to bring the U.S. Air Force the world’s most modern variant of the undefeated F-15. Complementing other aircraft, the F-15EX enhances the air combat capabilities of the fleet to ensure the U.S. remains ahead of current and emerging threats. With next-generation technologies to provide unrivaled capabilities in a broad spectrum of environments, Boeing’s F-15EX delivers more payload, capacity and range than any fighter in its class.
Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Image via Boeing

We can’t wait.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just sent an F-35 carrier to the South China Sea

The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.

When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs in early 2018, the media was in on it. But the Essex’s departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.


The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.

The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps’ F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy’s F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

The F-35

(Photo by Tom Reynolds)

Naturally, the US military would be keen to show off the jets, which it bills as a revolution in aerial combat because of their stealth design and advanced sensors and controls. But it seems it has opted to skip the public-relations coup for something a bit more operational.

The Navy wants to change the media’s expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.

The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

The flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Luzon Strait.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane)

What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?

The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.

It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.

But it’s China’s navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it’s possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.

When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.

The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called “freedom of navigation” operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.

China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it’s better if the challenges to China’s claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China’s military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.

By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it’s getting ready to put the ball back in China’s court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard starts the new fiscal year with big narco sub busts

After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.

During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.

The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.


Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.

The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.

Narco subs

The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.

In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.

They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.

In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.

The Valiant’s seizure closed that fiscal year, and the crew of the cutter Harriet Lane opened the current one with another, stopping a semi-submersible smuggling vessel in the Eastern Pacific on October 23 and seizing about 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

‘A mission enabler’

Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.

The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”

Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.

“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US was told no Russians were involved in deadly Syria attack

The Pentagon says U.S. military commanders were told by their Russian counterparts that there were no Russians in a paramilitary force whose attack on a base in eastern Syria early February 2018 led to a massive counterstrike by U.S. forces.


The comments by Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White on Feb. 22, 2018, add another piece to the puzzle surrounding the Feb. 7 incident, which Moscow said this week caused dozens of casualties among fighters from Russia and other former Soviet republics but did not involve uniformed Russian troops.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other U.S. military officials have repeatedly said that U.S. military commanders were in contact with their Russian counterparts at the time of the clash. But White’s comments are the clearest to date that the U.S. military was told there were no Russians in the attacking force.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“The strike in Syria — our strikes were done out of self-defense. We were very clear about that. We saw those — that group moving towards us. We still don’t know, and I won’t speculate, about the intentions or the composition of that group,” White said.

“What I can tell you is that we used our deconfliction phone line, and we used it before, during, and after the strike. And we were assured by the Russians that there were no Russians involved,” she said.

The clash in Deir al-Zor Province appears to be the first time that U.S. forces engaged directly with Russians in Syria, where Russian forces are backing President Bashar al-Assad’s government in a devastating seven-year civil war.

Also read: Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

The revelation that Russian mercenaries were killed stoked fears of an outright hostile confrontation between Russians and U.S. forces. But the Russian government has distanced itself from the incident and its public comments have been subdued.

The United States has said that air and artillery strikes launched after as many as 500 pro-government forces attacked a base housing U.S.-backed opposition forces and U.S. military advisers killed about 100 of the attackers.

Mounting evidence

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Screenshot of Russian soldiers in the Syrian desert. (Screenshot via RamiroWTF YouTube)

No Russian official directly acknowledged that Russian citizens were involved until Feb. 15, 2018, when Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that about five people who were “presumably Russian citizens” may have been killed.

On Feb. 20, 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry said “several dozen” citizens of Russia and other former Soviet republics were wounded in the lopsided exchange.

With accounts from relatives and acquaintances of Russian fighters in Syria mounting, some open-source researchers and media reports have said that dozens or hundreds of Russians were killed.

Related: What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

Russia has given Assad’s government crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protests.

Moscow helped turn the tide of the conflict in his favor by launching a campaign of air strikes in 2015 and stepping up its military presence on the ground.

In Russia, anger is growing among relatives of the dead and survivors, and supporters of private military companies like Vagner, which is believed to have sent hundreds of contract soldiers to Syria.

The company is financed by a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known for his close ties to the Kremlin.

Some relatives have said their loved ones were lured by the company’s relatively high wages but were deceived into thinking they were going to work on construction projects.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Army artillery is about to get much more accurate

The US Army is developing precision-guided 155mm rounds that are longer range than existing shells and able to conduct combat missions in a GPS-denied war environment.


The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is now being developed to replace the standard PGK rounds, which consist of a unguided 155 round with a GPS-fuze built into it; the concept with the original PGK, which first emerged roughly 10 years ago, was to bring a greater amount of precision to historically unguided artillery fire.

Now, Army developers with the Army’s Program Executive Office Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal are taking the technology to a new level by improving upon the range, accuracy, and functionality of the weapon. Perhaps of greatest importance, the emerging PGK-M shell is engineered such that it can still fire with range and accuracy in a war environment where GPS guidance and navigation technology is compromised or destroyed.

The emerging ammunition will be able to fire from standard 155mm capable weapons such as an Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and M109 howitzer.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Spc. Avery Lebron Johnson Jr. (R), a cannon crewmember in 1st Platoon, Archer Battery, Field Artillery Squadron, 2d Cavalry Regiment guides a m155 round into a M777 howitzer Aug. 5, 2017 while training in the Vaziani Training Area, Republic of Georgia during Noble Partner 17. Noble Partner is a multinational training exercise in support of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn, 2d Cavalry Regiment)

“PGK-M will provide enhanced performance against a broad spectrum of threats. In addition, PGK-M will be interoperable with the Army’s new long-range artillery projectiles, which are currently in parallel development,” Audra Calloway, spokeswoman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, told Warrior Maven.

BAE Systems is among several vendors currently developing PGK-M with the Army’s Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium. BAE developers say the kits enable munitions to make in-flight course corrections even in GPS-jammed environments.

“Our experience with munitions handling, gun launch shock, interior ballistics, and guidance and fire control uniquely positions us to integrate precision technology into the Army’s artillery platforms,” David Richards, Program Manager, Strategic Growth Initiatives for our Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions group, BAE Systems, told Warrior Maven in a statement.

This technological step forward is quite significant for the Army, as it refines its attack technologies in a newly-emerging threat environment. The advent of vastly improved land-fired precision weaponry began about 10 years ago during the height of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. GPS-guided 155m Excalibur rounds and the Army’s GPS and inertial measurement unit weapon, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, burst onto the war scene as a way to give commanders more attack options.

Also Read: This is why the US military gave GPS away for free

Traditional suppressive fire, or “area weapons” as they have been historically thought of, were not particularly useful in combat against insurgents. Instead, since enemies were, by design, blended among civilians, Army attack options had little alternative but to place the highest possible premium upon precision guidance.

GMLRS, for example, was used to destroy Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Excalibur had its combat debut in the 2007, 2008 timeframe. With a CEP of roughly 1-meter, Excalibur proved to be an invaluable attack mechanism against insurgents. Small groups of enemy fighters, when spotted by human intel or overhead ISR, could effectively be attacked without hurting innocents or causing what military officials like to call “collateral damage.” PGK was initially envisioned as a less expensive, and also less precise, alternative to Excalibur.

The rise of near-peer threats, and newer technologies commensurate with larger budgets and fortified military modernization ambitions, have created an entirely new war environment confronting the Army of today and tomorrow. Principle among these circumstances is, for example, China’s rapid development of Anti-Satellite, or ASAT weapons.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Marines with Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, fire an M982 Excalibur round from an M777 howitzer during a recent fire support mission. (US Marine Corps photo)

This ongoing development, which has both the watchful eye and concern of US military strategists and war planners, underscores a larger and much-discussed phenomenon – that of the United States military being entirely too reliant upon GPS for combat ops. GPS, used in a ubiquitous way across the Army and other military services, spans small force-tracking devices to JDAMs dropped from the air and much more, of course including the aforementioned land weapons.

Advanced jamming techniques, electronic warfare and sophisticated cyberattacks have radically altered the combat equation – making GPS signals vulnerable to enemy disruption. Accordingly, there is a broad consensus among military developers and industry innovators that far too many necessary combat technologies are reliant upon GPS systems. Weapons targeting, ship navigation and even small handheld solider force-tracking systems all rely upon GPS signals to operate.

Accordingly, the Army and other services are now accelerating a number of technical measures and emerging technologies designed to create what’s called Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT), or GPS-like guidance, navigation, and targeting, without actually needing satellites. This includes ad-hoc software programmable radio networks, various kinds of wave-relay connectivity technologies and navigational technology able to help soldiers operate without GPS-enabled force tracking systems.

At the same time, the Army is working with the Air Force on an integrated strategy to protect satellite coms, harden networks and also better facilitate joint-interoperability in a GPS-denied environment.

The Air Force Space strategy, for instance, is currently pursuing a multi-fold satellite strategy to include “dispersion,” “disaggregation” and “redundancy.” At the same time, the service has also identified the need to successfully network the force in an environment without GPS. Naturally, this is massively interwoven with air-ground coordination. Fighters, bombers and even drones want to use a wide range of secure sensors to both go after targets and operate with ground forces.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites.  (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is working with industry to test and refine an emerging radio frequency force-tracking technology able to identify ground forces’ location without needing to rely upon GPS.

Given all this, it is by no means insignificant that the Army seeks guided rounds able to function without GPS. Should they engage in near-peer, force-on-force mechanized ground combat against a major, technologically advanced adversary, they may indeed need to launch precision attacks across wide swaths of terrain – without GPS.

Finally, by all expectations, modern warfare is expected to increasingly become more and more dispersed across wider swaths of terrain, while also more readily crossing domains, given rapid emergence of longer-range weapons and sensors.

This circumstance inevitably creates the need for both precision and long-range strike. As one senior Army weapons developer with PEO Missiles and Space told Warrior Maven in an interview last Fall — Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch — … “it is about out-ranging the enemy.”

Articles

An Air Force Academy cadet created a bullet-stopping goo for body armor

After a little more than a year of research and more than 20 attempts to get the right materials, an Air Force Academy cadet and professor have developed a kind of goo that can be used to enhance existing types of body armor.


As part of a chemistry class project in 2014, Cadet 1st Class Hayley Weir was assigned epoxy, Kevlar, and carbon fiber to use to create a material that could stop a bullet.

The project grabbed Weir’s interest.

“Like Under Armour, for real,” she said.

The materials reminded her of Oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid — which thickens when force is applied — made of cornstarch and water and named after a substance from a Dr. Seuss book, and she became interested in producing a material that would stop bullets without shattering. An adviser suggested swapping a thickening fluid for the epoxy, which hardened when it dried.

Related: The Marine Corps just spent $6 million on a war tool invented in the barracks

“Up to that point, it was the coolest thing I’d done as a cadet,” Weir, set to graduate this spring, told Air Force Times.

But soon after, she had to switch majors from materials chemistry to military strategies. That presented a challenge in continuing the research, but she teamed up with Ryan Burke, a military and strategic studies professor at the academy.

Burke, a former Marine, was familiar with the cumbersome nature of current body armor, and he was enthused about Weir’s project.

“When she came to me with this idea, I said, ‘Let’s do it,'” he said. “Even if it is a miserable failure, I was interested in trying.”

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir with professor Ryan Burke. | Air Force Academy photo by Tech Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes

The science behind the material is not new, and Burke expected that the vast defense industry had pursued such a substance already. But a search of studies found no such work, and researchers and chemists at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center said the idea was worth looking into.

They began work during the latter half of 2016 using the academy’s firing range, weapons, and a high-speed camera. Burke got in touch with Marine Corps contacts who provided testing materials.

In the lab, Weir would make the substance using a KitchenAid mixer and plastic utensils. It was then placed in vacuum-sealed bags, flattened into quarter-inch layers, and inserted into a swatch of Kevlar.

At first, during tests with a 9 mm pistol, they made little headway.

“Bullets kept going straight through the material with little sign of stopping,” Weir told Air Force Times. After revisiting their work and redoing the layering pattern, they returned to the firing range on December 9.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
Bullets flattened during tests of Weir and Burke’s prototype. NBC/KUSA 9 News

Apprehensive, Weir fired on the material.

“Hayley, I think it stopped it,” Burke said after reviewing the video. It was the first time their material had stopped a bullet.

This year, they traveled to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center to present their work and up the ante on their tests.

Weir’s material was able to stop a 9 mm round, a .40 Smith Wesson round, and a .44 Magnum round — all fired at close range.

Also read: The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

During the tests, 9 mm rounds went through most of the material’s layers before getting caught in the fiber backing. The .40 caliber round was stopped by the third layer, while the .44 Magnum round was stopped by the first layer.

The round from the .44 Magnum, which has been used to hunt elephants, is “a gigantic bullet,” Weir told Air Force Times. “This is the highest-caliber we have stopped so far.”

Because it could stop that round, the material could be certified as type 3 body armor, which is usually worn by Air Force security personnel.

The harder the bullet’s impact, the more the molecules in the material responded, yielding better resistance. “The greater the force, the greater the hardening or thickening effect,” Burke said.

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM
The bullet-stopping material developed by Weir and Burke being mixed. NBC/KUSA 9 News

“We’re very pleased,” said Jeff Owens, a senior research chemist with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s requirements, research, and development division. “We now understand more about what the important variables are, so now we’re going to go back and pick all the variables apart, optimize each one, and see if we can get up to a higher level of protection.”

The model Weir and Burke created uses 75% less fabric than standard military-style body armor.

It also has the potential for use as a protective lining on vehicles and aircraft and in tents to protect their occupants from shrapnel or gunfire.

“It’s going to make a difference for Marines in the field,” Burke said.

On the civilian side, the material could aid emergency responders in active-shooter situations.

“I don’t think it has actually set in how big this can get,” Weir said in early May. “I think this is going to take off and it’s going to be really awesome.”

While the ultimate use of the material is unclear, the US Army and Marine Corps are reportedly looking for ways lighten the body armor their personnel use.

A study by the Government Accountability Office, cited by Army Times, highlighted joint efforts to lower the weight of current body armor, which is 27 pounds on average. Including body armor, the average total weight carried by Marines is 117 pounds, while soldiers are saddled with 119 pounds, according to the report.

The Army and Marines have looked into several ways to redistribute the weight soldiers and Marines carry, including new ways to transport their gear on and around the battlefield. The GAO report also said each branch had updated its soft armor, in some cases cutting 6 to 7 pounds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Macedonia poised to join NATO if it changes its name

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance is “ready to welcome” Macedonia as its 30th member once Skopje finalizes an agreement with Athens to change the former Yugoslav republic’s name.

Stoltenberg was speaking on a Sept. 6, 2018, during a visit to Macedonia aimed at expressing support for the “yes” campaign in a national referendum set for Sept. 30, 2018.

“NATO’s door is open, but only the people of this country can decide to walk through it. So, your future is in your hands. We wait for you in NATO,” he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.


The Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers signed a deal on June 17, 2018, to rename the country the Republic of North Macedonia — North Macedonia for short — and resolve a 27-year dispute between Skopje and Athens.

Macedonian lawmakers later voted in favor of the bill to ratify the agreement, which paves the way for talks on Macedonian membership in both NATO and the European Union.

But hurdles remain for the deal to come into effect, including the support of Macedonian voters in the upcoming referendum.

‘Taking this country forward’

Western leaders have also backed Zaev’s “yes” campaign ahead of the referendum, in which Macedonians will be asked, “Are you in favor of NATO and EU membership, and accepting the name agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and Greece?”

Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to visit Skopje on Sept. 7, 2018, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the following day.

In Skopje, Stoltenberg also congratulated Zaev on Macedonia’s reforms.

“I congratulate you on the progress you made, taking this country forward,” the NATO chief said. “The economy is peaking up and the reforms are being implemented, including on the rule of law, security and intelligence, and the defense sector.”

He also called on the Macedonian prime minister to continue with reforms, saying, “This will make you safer, stronger, and even better able to work side by side with NATO allies.”

The name dispute between Skopje and Athens dates back to 1991, when Macedonia peacefully broke away from Yugoslavia, declaring its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.

Neighboring Greece has objected to the name Macedonia, saying it implies territorial claims on the northern Greek region with the same name.

Because of Greek objections, Macedonia was admitted to the UN under a provisional name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Featured image: Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev in october 2017, at a UN meeting about sustainable development.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.