China's army looks like it's getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea - We Are The Mighty
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China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

China’s military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang’s military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.


report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.

China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.

Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea’s new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea’s artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.

In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as “a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely.”

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea
The THAAD missile system. Lockheed Martin photo.

Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.

In response to North Korea’s missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful THAAD missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad’s powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China’s ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.

Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Report: Two Russian Mig-29s may have been shot down over Libya

According to reports, two Russian Mig-29 Fulcrums have been shot down over Libya throughout the recent months of fighting, though the Russian government has yet to acknowledge these losses.

In May, Sandboxx News covered the presence of 14 Russian military aircraft deployed to Libya in support of Russian-backed mercenaries fighting on behalf of General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar’s forces, alongside Russia’s state-sponsored mercenaries, have been engaged in a civil war with Libya’s formally recognized Government of National Accord, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.


China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Russian fighter jets were recently deployed to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground there. (U.S. Africa Command)

The Kremlin denied transferring any aircraft to Libya in support of the Wagner Group or General Khalifa Haftar, and rumors were floated online that maybe Libya had simply managed to repair and refit a group of older jet platforms. Those rumors, however, seem to have been intentional misinformation.

“Libyans never had MiG-29s or Su-24s in their inventory, so anyone who says they ‘fixed their old planes’ is not representing the facts.”
-Col. Chris Karns, U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) Director of Public Affairs

Russia has opted to utilize the Wagner Group in Libya just as they have in other war-torn regions like Syria. By utilizing mercenary forces, the Russian government is able to stay one step removed from having to take responsibility for the actions of their troops on foreign soil.

When Russian mercenaries from the same Wagner Group engaged a group of around 40 American Special Forces troops alongside Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria in 2018, the Russians suffered brutal losses, with the mercenaries eventually having to retreat under American air strikes only to return to collect their dead later. No Americans were injured in the battle, but estimates of Russian mercenaries killed reach as high as 400. After the incident, the Russian government claimed no knowledge or affiliation with the Russian forces that took part in the attack, claiming they were all there independently in support of Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime.

Now, reports are beginning to emerge that indicate not one, but two Russian Mig-29s have been shot down in the months since we first discussed their arrival in Libya, and in keeping with the Kremlin’s policy of pretending they aren’t involved, the Russian government has yet to acknowledge these incidents, despite details finding their way onto social media.

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On September 7, a video was uploaded to YouTube apparently showing a Russian-speaking Fulcrum pilot who was forced to eject from his aircraft and was then awaiting rescue.

What do you know about simple human happiness? (warning! this training courses! )

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The video does not indicated what type of aircraft the pilot ejected from, nor does it offer any clues as to what forced his ejection. The aircraft may have been shot down by Government of National Accord forces, or the Soviet-era aircraft may have suffered a mechanical failure. Because we know that the Wagner Group brought in both Mig-29s and Su-24s, it seems likely that this pilot ejected from one of those platforms, and because the Su-24 is a two-seater and there are no other personnel present, it seems likely that this footage was captured by a Mig-29 pilot.

The Mikoyan MiG-29 (NATO designator Fulcrum) is a single seat, twin engine air superiority fighter developed by the Soviet Union in the late 1970s to serve as a direct competitor to America’s premier intercept fighter at the time, the F-15 Eagle. In the years since, Mig-29s have been updated to serve as highly capable fourth generation multi-role fighters capable of engaging ground targets and serving in an air support role.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Mig-29 (WikiMedia Commons)

It’s believed that these aircraft are not being piloted by active Russian military pilots, but rather by Wagner Group personnel, which has prompted serious concerns that these fighters will not be beholden to international law.

“USAFRICOM stated in the press release that ‘there is concern that these Russian aircraft are being flown by inexperienced, non-state [Wagner Group] mercenaries who will not adhere to international law; namely, they are not bound by the traditional laws of armed conflict.'”
-Lead Inspector General for East Africa And North And West Africa Counterterrorism Operations report.

While it isn’t yet clear if either of these Mig-29s were shot down, it’s certainly possible. While the Mig-29 is a fast and fairly acrobatic Cold War fighter, it lacks any stealth capability and is likely being used in a close air support role in Libya. That means these aircraft are likely flying low, and if the Wagner pilots aren’t particularly well trained, they would have difficulty dodging anti-aircraft or surface to air missile fire.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns of ‘new path’ if US insists on sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that his country could seek a “new path” in relations with the United States “if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world…and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic.”

In a New Year’s statement broadcast on Jan. 1, 2019, Kim praised his June 2018 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where the leaders had “fruitful talks” and “exchanged constructive ideas.”


He also said he was ready to meet again with Trump “at any time in the future.” Kim also called on the United States to extend its halt on military exercises with South Korea.

He added that the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushing ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

At the June 2018 summit, Kim and Trump agreed to a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but little progress has been made on the issue in recent months.

Kim Jong Un warns U.S. in New Year’s speech

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A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials was canceled in November 2018 and has yet to be rescheduled.

On Dec. 31, 2018, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim had sent Trump a “letter-like” message that was “conciliatory” in tone.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said Kim had sent a message to Seoul expressing a desire to hold additional Korean summits in 2019 with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.

In 2018, Kim used his New Year’s address to open up a new diplomatic initiative with Washington and Seoul that led to three summits with Moon and the historic Singapore summit with Trump.

Kim also met three times in 2018 with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban returns American and Australian hostages in prisoner swap

An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.

The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were “successfully recovered” in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.

The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.

Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.


In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.

In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was “gravely ill” and needed urgent care.

The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a “goodwill measure.” The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.

(National Directorate of Security)

The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement,” the State Department said.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was “profoundly relieved” by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.

“We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan,” she said.

Payne added that Weeks’ family had “asked for privacy” but conveyed that they felt “relief that their long ordeal is over.”

According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain tested its plan to blackout Russia in case of war

British military forces reportedly practiced a cyberattack on Russia on Oct. 6, 2018, to send Moscow into total darkness if Vladimir Putin’s forces attack the West.

Military sources told the Sunday Times that the only other way of hitting Russia back would be to use nuclear weapons.

But cyber weapons reportedly give Britain the best chance of deterring Russia because the West no longer has small battlefield nuclear weapons.


The Sunday Times reported that the test to “turn out the lights” in Moscow – which will give Britain more time to act in the event of war – happened during the UK’s biggest military exercise for a decade.

5,500 British troops took part in the desert exercise in Oman, where troops also practiced other war games to combat Russia’s ground forces.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

British troops practice section attack drills in Oman, 2001.

The £100m (0.5 million) exercise in the Omani desert reportedly involved 200 armoured vehicles, six naval ships, and eight Typhoon warplanes.

Sources told the Sunday Times that in a series of mock battles, the Household Cavalry played the role of an enemy using Russian T-72 tanks.

Britain-Russia tensions are being tested at the moment over the fate of two Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents who Britain accused of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018, and over accusations that Russia is behind a host of global cyberattacks.

On Oct. 4, 2018, British and Dutch intelligence exposed an operation by the GRU to hijack the investigation into the assassination plot against the Skripals.

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

Articles

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.


The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.

The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea
DoD Photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson

US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.

The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.

“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields

The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US aircraft carriers aren’t that easy to kill, here’s why

Aircraft carriers are symbols of American military might, and, recently, a Chinese military professor caused a stir by calling for China to sink two of them to crush America’s resolve.

That’s certainly easier said than done.

The US military conducted a “Sink Exercise” test in 2005, using the decommissioned USS America for target practice to test the defensive capabilities of US carriers in order to guide the development of future supercarriers. The ship was bombarded repeatedly and hammered in a variety of attacks.


The carrier withstood four weeks of intense bombardment before it was finally sunk, according to The War Zone.

These leviathans of the seas are beacons of American power for a reason. China could knock one of the US’ 11 carriers out of the fight, but sinking one of these 100,000-ton warships is another thing entirely. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It’s just no simple task, experts told Business Insider.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)

“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” said retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who previously served as an aircraft engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers.

At 1,100 feet long, carriers are floating nuclear power plants, fuel tankers, bomb arsenals, and an airfield stacked atop each other like a layered cake. They are then surrounded by cruisers and destroyers to defend them from missiles, fighters, and torpedoes — even if that means sacrificing themselves.

China can bring a lot of firepower to a fight.

The Chinese military has a lot of different weapons it could throw at a US carrier in a war.

China has its “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as a variety of anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.

China would likely use missiles to suppress the carrier, using ballistic missiles to damage the air wing’s planes and wreck the flight deck, where planes launch and land. Weapons like cruise missiles, which can strike with precision, would likely be aimed at the hangar bay, superstructure, and maybe some of the airplanes, Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told Business Insider.

These targets are all far above the carrier’s waterline and are meant to knock the carrier out of the fight.

“If they really wanted to sink the carrier, they might have to turn to a torpedo attack,” he added. “Torpedo defense is hard, not really perfected, and so [torpedoes] actually end up being the more worrying threat.”

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jasen Morenogarcia)

US carriers are behemoths that are built to take a hit.

Displacing more than 100,000 tons, the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest warships ever built. Their ability to take a beating “is a function of both their size and the compartmentalization of the carrier,” Clark explained.

“In the case of the USS America, the size alone resulted in it being pretty survivable,” he said before calling attention to some other aspects of the powerful ships.

Each carrier has a number of main spaces, which the crew would try to seal off should the carrier take a hit below the waterline, say from a torpedo. The ship is so incredibly large that it would take a number of these compartments filling up with water for the ship to sink.

The type of steel used on the ships also makes them difficult to penetrate, Manvel said. “It has an underbottom and side protection of several layers of steel.” There are also “voids that allow for warhead gas expansion.”

The extra armoring is also designed to keep damage from detonating the ship’s weapons magazines, where bombs and missiles are stored.

Additionally, the US Navy pays attention to how it moves weapons around the ship, keeping these bombs and missiles as protected as possible. And steps have been taken to reduce the number of hot surfaces that could ignite.

There are also a lot of redundant systems, which means that critical systems can be rerouted, making it hard to take out essentials, such as the propulsion system, which would leave the ship dead in the water if destroyed. As long as the ship can move, it can retreat if necessary.

“Given enough time and weapons, you can sink a carrier. But, if you have defenses, people doing damage control, and propulsion, the carrier can take damage and drive away to eventually come back,” Clark told BI.

US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” Manvel, who taught at the US Naval Academy, said.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) launches a rolling airframe missile (RAM).

(US Navy)

US carriers and their escort ships are armed to the teeth.

Carriers and their escort ships are armed with sonar and torpedoes to prevent the stealthy boats from getting close enough for a torpedo attack. And the battle group is also armed with electronic countermeasures and kinetic interceptors for missile defense. They also have various close-in weapons systems to strike at incoming threats as a last resort.

Submarines are their gravest threat to sinking. Russian subs, for instance, are often armed with 1,000-pound torpedoes that were designed to destroy carrier groups, and it’s conceivable that enough fired at once and on target could sink a carrier.

For just this reason, the US has put a lot of effort into anti-submarine warfare, so US carrier strike groups have “the ability to put weapons on submarine contacts very quickly,” Clark told BI. Escort ships can launch torpedoes or rocket-fired torpedoes, and SH-60 helicopters can drop torpedoes or sonobuoys to track submarines.

The US has also put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare to prevent US carriers from being actively targeted by enemy missiles. The Chinese could “launch a weapon, but it may not be accurately targeted enough to actually hit” a moving carrier from 1,000 miles away, Clark further explained.

There is also a keen interest in improved missile-defense capabilities. “There are lots of ways to shoot it down with kinetic interceptors, like the SM-6, SM-2, Rolling Airframe Missile,” he added.

Of course, there is also the air wing, which could include up to sixty fighters, as well as a number of jammers, helicopters, and early-warning aircraft. “We have a pretty robust air wing that can go hundreds of miles out to provide a buffer for incoming stuff. It would take a lot to get through that,” Manvel said.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

American carriers are never alone in hostile waters.

“It’s important to put the carrier where it is least at risk … surrounded by the battle group,” Manvel said.

US aircraft carriers are surrounded by smaller ships, known as escorts. They sail in carrier strike groups consisting of at least one carrier, one cruiser, and one or two destroyers and are capable of unleashing a lot of firepower when needed.

They are exceptionally well defended. “You have to launch hundreds of weapons at the carrier strike group to even get a few of them through,” Clark explained. That doesn’t mean a strike group can’t be overwhelmed, though.

There’s a good chance China has the ability to do that. At a recent talk at The Heritage Foundation, Clark explained that China could hurl around 600 missiles downrange at a carrier group, which could, on a good day, down roughly 75% of the incoming Chinese weapons.

This, however, creates a dilemma for the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army has to make the hard decision on how many weapons it will throw away just to knock a carrier out for a few weeks, assuming it has merely been damaged and not sunk.

“Those weapons are gone. They don’t have them for some other part of the fight,” Clark said. “Maybe that is worth it to them. Maybe it’s not.”

And it’s likely in a war that the US would destroy these missile batteries with bombers and long-range missiles before it sends a carrier into their range.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) pulls alongside the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a fueling at sea.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila Peters)

To strike a killing blow, China has to get close, really close.

China has decent torpedoes, and their submarines are increasingly capable. But whether or not they are good enough to slip past the defenses of a carrier strike group to deliver the kill shot to a US carrier is debatable.

In 2006, a Chinese Song-class submarine reportedly managed to skirt the defenses of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, surfacing within firing range of the carrier as it sailed through the East China Sea, according to a report by The Washington Times, some details of which have been called into question. The incident reportedly caused the US Navy to reevaluate its approach to Chinese subs.

The US Navy can put a lot of fire on a submarine very quickly, and because submarines tend to be rather slow with limited defenses, the enemy submarine could retreat only once it was spotted.

“Once a submarine has been detected and you start throwing weapons at it, it pretty much has to leave because it is too slow to evade, it doesn’t have a lot of self-defense, and it doesn’t have the sensors necessary to stand and fight,” Clark told BI.

The big question is: Will the US Navy strike group be able to spot an enemy submarine before it manages to get a shot off?

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

Articles

Air Force drone pilots are about to make bank if they agree to re-up

If you fly a killer drone and you’re thinking of pulling chocks when your commitment ends, the Air Force has some cold hard cash to entice you to stay.


Top Air Force officials announced Aug. 10 that Remotely Piloted Aircraft operators who re-up for another five-year contract would receive $35,000 per year in bonus cash. That nets out to a whopping $175,000 when all is said and done and is $10,000 more than previous bonuses.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea
Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of deployed service members while maintaining the normalcy of their day-to-day lives through programs designed to enhance communication skills, family and spiritual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

“The Air Force recognizes the important contribution RPA pilots make every day, and retaining these valued aviators to execute our current operations and shape the future is critical,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. “While we applaud this effort, we recognize we have similar challenges across our entire pilot force, and we’d like the opportunity to offer higher retention bonuses for all our pilots.”

Drones are some of the most sought-after air assets for ground commanders worldwide, from launching missiles at bad guy convoys to snooping around insurgent bases and scooping up radio chatter, the RPAs can go deep behind enemy lines without risking the lives of American pilots and crew.

But as the demand increases, so does the pace of pilot operations and both the drones and their crew are burning out fast, Air Force officials say.

“What we are doing in the world of our RPAs [is] to try to lessen some of the strain and improve quality of life,” said Air Force Sec. Deborah James. “With respect to our ‘get well plan,’ is that it is proceeding at pace. It is not all done yet, but there is a lot going on – a lot in process.”

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea
An MQ-9 Reaper performs a low pass during a first-ever air show demonstration May 29, 2016, at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. The 2016 Cannon Air Show highlights the unique capabilities and qualities of Cannon’s Air Commandos and also celebrates the long-standing relationship between the 27th Special Operations Wing and the High Plains community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr.)

To relieve the stress, the Air Force plans to establish a new MQ-9 Reaper aircraft wing and is in the midst of surveying potential bases to host it. Officials say the service is also supplementing drone crews with Air National Guard pilots and has hired on contractors to fly some surveillance missions.

The service has also doubled the number of drone pilots in the force since 2015.

“Producing more pilots of course means a better quality of life for all of our RPA airmen, because it will give them more family time and more opportunities to pursue developmental opportunities,” James said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China holds live-fire drills in tense South China Sea

A few days after multiple US bomber flights over the disputed waters of the South China Sea, fighters and bombers from the Chinese military carried out live-fire exercises over the same area — the latest round of drills in a period of increasing tension between the two countries.

Aircraft from the Southern Theater command of the People’s Liberation naval air force conducted “live fire shooting drills” at a sea range in the South China Sea, according to the People’s Daily official newspaper, which released photos from a broadcast by state-run CCTV.


China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Chinese fighter jets during live-fire drills over the South China Sea, September 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

The brief report by CCTV stated that dozens of fighter jets and bombers performed the drills to test pilots’ assault, penetration, and precision-strike abilities during operations at sea, according to The Japan Times.

Those exercises came days after US aircraft carried out several overflights through the area.

On Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, 2018, a single US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew over the South China Sea in what US Pacific Air Forces described as part of the US’s ongoing continuous bomber presence operations.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

A US Air Force B-52H bomber and two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters during a routine training mission over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, Sept. 26, 2018.

(Pacific Air Forces photo)

“US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) operations have been ongoing since March 2004,” PACAF told Business Insider, saying that recent missions were “consistent with international law and United States’s long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies.”

On Sept. 26, 2018, a B-52H heavy long-range bomber based in Guam met Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan for what Pacific Air Command called “a routine training mission.” The B-52 carried out drills with 12 Koku Jieitai F-15 fighters and four F-2 fighters before returning home.

The US sent B-52s over the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas four times in August 2018, and the increased activity in the skies there comes amid a period of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

A B-52H bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets, Sept. 26, 2018.

(Pacific Air Forces photo)

Asked about the overflights on Sept. 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described them as normal and pointed to Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea — where Chinese forces have constructed artificial islands and equipped them with military facilities and hardware — as setting the stage for tensions.

“That just goes on. If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” Mattis said, referring to a US base in the Indian Ocean.

“So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it,” he added.

Beijing has made expansive claims over the South China Sea, through which some trillion in global trade passes annually, clashing with several other countries that claim territory there. China has also set up an air-defense identification zone and claims uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

On Sept. 27, 2018, China condemned the recent US overflights.

“As for the provocative action taken by the US military aircraft, we are firmly against it and we will take all necessary means to safeguard our rights and interests,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.

In recent days, the US has also sanctioned China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for buying Russian Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and Russia’s S-400 air-defense missile system in 2018.

The sanctions are part of a US effort to punish Russia for its actions abroad, and US officials said Moscow was the “ultimate target” of sanctions on Chinese entities. The sanctions did come amid a broader trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, however.

The US also moved ahead with the sale of 0 million in spare parts and other support for Taiwan’s US-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

China has called for the sanctions to be revoked, summoning the US ambassador and defense attache to issue a protest.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province, also demanded the arms deal with that country be cancelled, warning of “severe damage” to US-China relations.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Live-fire drills being carried out by Chinese fighter jets and bombers in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.

(CCTV via People’s Daily China / Twitter)

China also denied a request for a port call in Hong Kong by US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in October 2018. The last time China denied such a request was in 2016, during a period of increased tension over the South China Sea.

Asked on Sept. 26, 2018, about recent events, Mattis said he didn’t think there had been a “fundamental shift in anything.”

“We’re just going through one of those periodic points where we’ve got to learn to manage our differences,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China has been testing anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea

The Chinese military has been practicing sinking enemy vessels with anti-ship naval missiles in the South China Sea, CNBC reported July 1, 2019, citing US officials.

The Chinese military reportedly began testing these weapons over the weekend, as a week-long drill kicked off in the disputed waterway. CNBC reports that Chinese forces test-fired anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), which could include systems like the DF-21D or DF-26.

The testing of ASBMs would be an important first for the South China Sea and a significant step forward as China seeks to strengthen its anti-access, area-denial capabilities, although some expert observers suspect China may have been testing anti-ship cruise missiles.


For ballistic-missile tests, Chinese authorities typically issue Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) identifying “temporary danger areas,” Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, explained. Such a NOTAM was issued for the period between June 30 and July 1, 2019, marking off two locations in the South China Sea.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.

Beijing previously moved land-based anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), such as the YJ-62 and YJ-12B, to Chinese-occupied territories in the region, a move the US condemned.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft,” Jim Mattis, the former secretary of defense, explained last year. “Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”

Range limits require ASCMs be on islands in the South China Sea in order to reach surrounding waterways. Longer-range ASBMs could be fired from the Chinese mainland, allowing for more robust defenses around the batteries.

China argues that relevant deployments are a necessary response to aggressive US behavior.

China’s latest testing comes on the heels of joint drills in the South China Sea involving the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 1, which includes the Izumo multi-purpose destroyer that is slated to become Japan’s first carrier in decades.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan operates with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo, June 11, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo)

US officials told CNBC that while the US Navy has ships in the South China Sea, the missile testing did not endanger any US ship. The testing was, however, characterized as “concerning.”

Locked in competition with great power rivals, the US is looking more closely at the development of anti-ship capabilities as it prepares to counter near-peer threats, such as the massive Chinese navy.

Both the Army and the Marine Corps, for example, are looking at long-range artillery and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries to control the maritime space from land.

“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels that it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels,” Mark Esper, the former secretary of the Army who is now acting secretary of defense, explained earlier this year.

“We can, from a fixed location, on an island or some other place, engage enemy targets, naval targets, at great distances and maintain our standoff and yet open the door, if you will, for naval assets or Marine assets,” Esper said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Ross Perot was a veteran to be admired

Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.

The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.


As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.

“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”

Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.

“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.

China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.

When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.

It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch lightning strike an F/A-18C in flight

The following video is pretty impressive. It shows an F/A-18C being hit by a lightning bolt. Along with the flash of light, you can clearly hear a loud bang inside the cockpit, taking the pilot by surprise. Shock aside, the aircraft was probably not really damaged by the bolt.


We have published several articles explaining that close encounters between jets and lightning occur every now and then around the globe, usually causing little to no damage at all to the planes. Usually. Because sometimes, lightning strikes cause significant damaged. As happened on Dec. 19, 2017, when B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC. The heavy bomber was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the aircraft. The B-52 landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft!

Here’s what this Author wrote in one of those stories:

In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being hit by a lightning strike. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.

Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.

Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage externally made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conduting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.

Wide bodies are huge flying Faraday Cages: if hit by a lightning they let the current pass through the fuselage until ground, preserving the systems’ integrity.

All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightning-related requirements to get the airwothiness certifications required in the U.S. or Europe.

For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.

On the Internet, you can find some videos showing civilian planes hit by lightning strikes and continue flying as nothing has happened.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK is sending another warship to the Persian Gulf

The UK is deploying an additional frigate and a support ship to the Persian Gulf region, although the UK Ministry of Defence said the deployments were not related to increasing tensions in Iran.

The Type 45 frigate HMS Duncan is in transit to the region, as the UK announced it would also deploy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and support ship RFA Wave Knight. The moves were reported first by Times of London reporter Lucy Fisher and confirmed by MoD.

British frigate HMS Montrose successfully stopped Iranian gunboats from seizing a tanker on July 10, 2019.


The MoD issued a release confirming that the ships would be deployed as part of Operation KIPION, its “commitment to promoting peace and stability as well as ensuring the safe flow of trade, and countering narcotics and piracy.”

“RFA WAVE KNIGHT’s role is to deliver food, fuel, water and other essential supplies to [Royal Navy] and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) ships,” according to the release. The MoD states that the HMS Kent will take over for the HMS Duncan, a warship currently deploying to the Gulf to “maintain a continuous maritime security presence” in the region.

The news caps off over a month of high tensions between Iran, the US and its allies.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that a UAE-based tanker has gone missing in the Strait of Hormuz.

The 190-foot, Panama-flagged Riah oil tanker entered Iranian waters and stopped transmitting location data more than two days ago, according to the AP. Capt. Rajnith Raja from data firm Refinitiv told the AP that losing the signal from the Riah was “a red flag.”

The Riah was last heard from in Iranian waters, near Qeshm Island, the AP reported, citing a US defense official. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a terrorist organization earlier this year, has a base on the island.

Escalating tensions: Iran calls on United Kingdom to release oil tanker

www.youtube.com

The US official told the AP that the US “has suspicions” that the Riah is in Iranian hands.

On July 4, 2019, the government of Gibraltar, a British territory, seized an Iranian tanker it said was carrying oil to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar; Iran vowed retaliation, and attempted to block a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz a week later. Britain sent a second warship to the region to replace the HMS Montrose, which had been patrolling the British tanker and prevented the seizure.

Britain has agreed to release the Iranian tanker under the condition that it will not transit to Syria.

In June 2019, Japanese and Norweigian tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; the US blamed Iran for the attacks, but Iran has denied responsibility.

The US has proposed a plan for a coalition of allies to patrol Iranian and Yemeni waters as incidents in the Gulf increase.

“We’re engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said July 2019.

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

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