The battle for Iwo Jima in World War II became the bloodiest in U. S. Marine Corps history. But for survivors like Chuck Tatum, it also represents the best, the Marines and the United States has to give. For despite the 23,000 American casualties, including 5,400 dead, the flag atop Mount Suribachi, is a symbol of this nation’s willingness to fight for freedom and liberty, no matter what the cost. This episode is an in-depth interview with Chuck Tatum. These are his dramatic experiences in his own words.
The actors from Tropic Thunder became commandos by turning a scripted battle into a real one. Find out which one you’re most like by taking this quiz.
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Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers tells his dramatic stories of combat in North Africa and Europe and details the events surrounding his heroic actions during the Normandy campaign. He also offers his unique perspectives on the infantry, his fellow soldiers and the enemy.This episode also features rare recordings of live combat, direct from the battlefields of World War II.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sept. 18, attended the week-long war games with Belarus that have demonstrated the Russian military’s resurgent might and made neighboring countries nervous.
Putin observed the Zapad 2017 drills — tank attacks, airborne assaults, and air raids that got underway Sept. 14 — at the Luzhsky range in western Russia, just over 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) east of Estonia’s border.
As part of the maneuvers, the Russian military on Sept. 18 also test-fired its state-of-the-art cruise missile at a mock target in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, showcasing the weapon’s extended range and precision strike capability.
Some nervous NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized an alleged lack of transparency about the war games and questioned Moscow’s intentions.
The exercises, held in several firing ranges in Belarus and western Russia, run through Sept. 20. Russia and Belarus say 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops are participating, but some NATO countries have estimated that up to 100,000 troops could be involved.
With Russia’s relations with the West at a post-Cold War low point over the fighting in Ukraine, worries about the war games ranged from allegations that Russia could permanently deploy its forces to Belarus to fears of a surprise onslaught on the Baltics.
Russia and Belarus have said the exercises simulate a response to foreign-backed “extremists” and insisted the maneuvers don’t threaten anyone.
Their troops are fighting three invented “aggressor countries” — Veishnoriya, Lubeniya, and Vesbariya. However, the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — and Poland see the monikers for the made up enemies as thinly disguised references to their nations.
NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and staged regular drills in the region, activities Moscow has criticized as a reflection of the alliance’s hostile intentions.
Russia and Belarus kept the stated number of troops involved in the drills just below 13,000, a limit allowing them to dodge more intrusive inspections by NATO in line with international agreements. The practice maneuvers nonetheless have put Russia’s massive military mobilization capability on display.
They also have involved various branches of the Russian military, including the air force’s long-range bombers and missile forces. In a reflection of the drills’ broad scope, they featured the Sept. 18 launch of the Iskander-M cruise missile, a new weapon that has drawn concern from the United States.
The missile, launched from the Kapustin Yar firing range in southwestern Russia, hit a mock target at a range in Kazakhstan, some 480 kilometers (nearly 300 miles) away, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The US has accused Russia of developing cruise missiles banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with a goal to threaten US facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance. Moscow has rejected the accusations and insisted it has adhered to the pact.
The INF Treaty bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,410 miles). The Iskander-M’s stated range puts it just below the pact’s threshold.
The Zapad 2017 maneuvers are intended to underline the close military cooperation between Russia and Belarus, but also revealed signs of strains between the allies.
While Putin watched the previous drills in 2013 with his Belarusian counterpart, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said he would watch them separately on Sept. 20.
Lukashenko has relied on subsidized Russian oil and gas supplies and billions of dollars in loans to keep his nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat. At the same time, he often has bristled at what he described as the Kremlin’s attempts to subdue Belarus and force it to surrender control over prized economic assets.
Lukashenko also has flirted with the West to try to reduce his dependence on Russia. His decision to dodge a joint appearance with Putin at the military exercises was seen by observers as an attempt to put some distance between Belarus and its giant eastern neighbor.
“Lukashenko is trying to mend ties with the West to get new loans, and the Kremlin’s military games don’t help that,” Alexander Klaskovsky, a Minsk-based political analyst, said.
As you progress in your military career, you find yourself struggling to maintain the era of your youth. The bones creak, the muscles ache, the skin sags and for some of us… the hair starts to go.
It is not easy going bald (trust me, I know) but for many men, it is a part of life that we have to come to terms with at some point… or maybe not.
For me, the loss was sudden. I joined the Marines late at the ripe old age of 24. At this point, I knew my hair was thinning, although it wasn’t that bad. I figured I had a good six years or so before it was gone and didn’t think much of it heading to boot camp. At boot camp, like everyone else, I had my head shaved every week.
But my journey at Parris Island took slightly longer than 13 weeks. I got dropped twice (once was because my arms got infected from so many sand flea bites). As soon as I got back into training, I got pneumonia in both lungs at the Crucible and was dropped again. By the time I graduated, I had been on the Island for five months. My last haircut was supposed to be the first “Marine” cut — when you get the high and tight and start looking like a Marine and not a recruit.
But for me, that didn’t quite work out. I sat in the chair and the barber buzzed the sides of my head, took a step back and started laughing. I was confused until I turned around. In the span of just five months, my hair … was… gone! Yup, it happened that fast.
Instead of a high and tight, I had what my Drill Instructors called a “low and loose,” two strips on either side of my head. It was embarrassing and I asked if I could just shave my head. I was told that because I was bald, I could… but only after I left the Island. (To this day, I am convinced that they made up the last part because they wanted to mess with me).
When my mom saw me, she asked if my haircut was some type of crazy hazing the military did.
Needless to say, the minute I left Parris Island, I “Bic’d” my head.
In the end, it worked out. While I didn’t have access to any hair loss products that worked, I learned rapidly that there was a benefit to being bald in the Marines.
Every Sunday, when all my buddies had to pull themselves out of bed and stumble into town to get haircuts, I slept in. While they waited in line for hours with everyone else, I went to the beach, downtown San Diego, bars and drove around enjoying my Sunday. On Monday morning, I grabbed my clippers, did a quick shave and headed to PT.
That being said, while hair loss is hair loss is preventable, there are options for when you lose your hair in the military. Some are good, some are… options.
Here are the 5 best haircuts you can get if you are going bald:Horseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, & LCpl Wilson sp… | FlickrHorseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, LCpl Wilson sp… | Flickr
1. Horseshoe (and reverse shoe)
Other than the stripes on your collar, nothing says you are salty than breaking out the old horseshoe cut.
If you are suffering from male pattern baldness, this is the cut to go with (assuming it is allowed). Just shave the sides and allow the bald spot to turn into the “landing strip” that a B-52 can land on. The cut isn’t for everyone, but if you are a senior enlisted that has been around the block and is saltier than the Dead Sea, this is the cut for you.
If you are a boot, this is not the way to go.Imitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | FlickrImitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | Flickr
2. Low and loose
Yup, you can have my travesty of a haircut and just go with it provided you aren’t actually bald yet like I was. For some of us, balding is just your hair slowly thinning away. While you can take steps to prevent baldness, you can also still rock your high and tight but with a little less on the top. The only issue you have to be aware of is the PONR (Point of No Return). If you have gone bald, there is a point where you just can’t fake the funk anymore. The low and loose works until you get to that point. Then you just have to move on.
3. Low reg with a combover
The Recon or low reg works great if you are starting to thin from the front. What was usually the haircut of choice for the high-speed guys or the guys who couldn’t wait to get out, the low reg is your path to still having a great head of hair. Just grow it out and comb it forward. It’s easy, leaves you with a full head of hair (for now), and helps cover up the receding hairline. The only downside: You might incur the wrath of a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major who may not like the hippie-style haircut you are sporting.Bruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | FlickrBruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | Flickr
4. Bruce Willis hold out
If you followed the career of Bruce Willis, you saw the gradual and dignified way he slowly went bald. No combover, no toupees, no hair plugs, no headbands (looking at you LeBron). He just slowly went bald and over the course of his career aged well. Now, the caveat to this is that he had a nice, even, slow receding hairline which for many of us, doesn’t happen. But if you are a John McClane type, you can just go gracefully without having to do much. But eventually Bruce had to resort to Plan B, which was…..File:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia CommonsFile:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Vin Diesel, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Gandhi, Common, Britney Spears (jk), and many others have shown us that bald is beautiful. Shaving your head is easy, saves you money, and might make you look more badass than you were before.
When I lost mine, I realized that I actually looked better bald than with hair. Luckily, I have a nice shaped head. If you don’t, then shaving might not be the best course of action and you need to find something else. But shaving your head saves you money on haircuts and shampoo, saves you time in the morning, makes you look hardcore and shows that you are ok with being who you are. If you got it, flaunt it.
Losing your hair isn’t easy regardless if you have time like Bruce Willis or lose it pretty fast like me. You can always find a great solution to hair loss like Xcellerate35, and you can also find confidence in rocking out a great style that makes you feel great both in and out of uniform.
Some time ago, when movies were still black and white and Second World War themes were frequently used in screenplays, seeing a soldier with the cigarette both on screen and in public wasn’t a rare occasion. The war was actually the moment when the relationship between the US military and tobacco industry has been established, mainly through advertising. Furthermore,cigarettes were a part of army rations and often used as a valuable trading currency.
After the war, the connection between armed forces and tobacco did not end as many young recruits started smoking soon after they joined the service. Besides being a matter of tradition and way of bonding, smoke breaks were sometimes used in “boot camps” as a form of reward and punishment system. Meanwhile, as it was proofed that smoking influence troop’s readiness and raise health costs, as predicted, the tobacco use was restricted in military facilities not designated as “tobacco use areas”. What could’ve not been predicted was that after 2011 the statistic will change and vape mods will be used rather than tobacco among military personnel.
Statistics and policy changes
According to the Department of Defense report presented in the year 2011, 24 percent of active duty personnel were smokers compared with 19 percent of civilians and 38 percent of the servicemen and women started smoking after enlisting. In the year 2015, studies showed that the number of troopers who are occasional smokers dropped by nearly half, since 2011 — down from 24 percent to 13.9 percent. Overall, the statistic also showed that since 2009 tobacco use rates have decreased in the US army, although it is possible that these numbers are also closely connected with the increased use of vape mode kits.
There are several reasons why these figures are going down, slowly but firmly. The decision to ban tobacco use entirely during recruit training, which was done at most training centers, was an important step in starting to modify the surrounding in order to change military-driven behavioral patterns and reduce tobacco use among service members. It also helped a higher percentage of smokers to quit at a rate higher than would be expected without the ban.Restrictive smoking regulations in military facilities seem to have a significant effect on cigarette consumption too. Enlarged efforts involving educational, motivational, and social changes such as stronger educational messages, including ones orientated toward changing social norms regarding smoking in the military, resulting in a decreased number of new smokers among recruits.
Some military policies which tolerated tobacco use to some point came under the spotlight and their alterations are taken under consideration.For example, starting October 2019 all Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities, which historically permitted smoking in designated areas, will be completely smoke-free, and this new policy will cover all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping. The policy change ends the use of designated smoking areas at VA hospitals and applies to everyone at VA facilities, including patients, visitors, volunteers, and staff. The fact that this and similar decisions cover vaping as well, shows that the number of army personnel who use e-cigarettes and vape mods significantly increased over the last few years.
Is vaping a new trend in the US army?
The rise of vaping among US troops occurred quickly. According to some researches, made since 2015, 11 percent of service members said they were daily e-cigarette users, while nearly 20 percent of junior enlisted ranks are current e-cigarette smokers. The Marine Corps and Navy have the highest percentage of those vaping among the service branches, at 16 and 14 percent,despite restrictions on e-cigarettes imposed by the Navy a few years ago.
Based on a study of 105 U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers made by University at Buffalo it seems that daily users often see e-cigarettes satisfying or even more satisfying, and less harmful, than cigarettes. According to researchers L.T. Kozlowski and G.G. Homish, perception of danger from e-cigarettes decreased as the frequency of use increased. One finding, related to the perception that participants have had toward vaping products showed that articles which were considered much more satisfying than cigarettes were also perceived as less dangerous than cigarettes.
Financially speaking, switching from smoking to vaping has probably a lot to do with prices of tobacco in military stores. As a result of increased efforts to encourage troops to quit, prices became higher and the sales of traditional tobacco have fallen. As opposed to that, starting with the year 2018, sales of vaping products nearly doubled. A chart that represents these numbers in sales, starting with the year 2013, has a very interesting line: from 2013 it was an upward trend with the peak in 2015, then sales decreased by nearly half till the end of 2017, and was trending up again in 2018.
Judging from the personal experiences shared anonymously by the military personnel vaping has been used to reduce stress while overseas, and after returning home. For some of them, it is a way of relating to flavors of being home which ease their mental strain and helps them to reduce the tension. In some units, smoking is forbidden so using e-cigarettes and mod vape is the only way to cope with the smoking habit.
It is important to underline that in most US army facilities vaping falls under the same rules as all other tobacco products, meaning vaping is only allowed in designated smoking areas. Also, it is necessary to point out that although the health effects of e-cigarettes are not yet known, they can contain chemicals that may cause harm to users and those exposed to secondhand vapors
1.Terry L. Conway, San Diego State University-Tobacco use and the United States military: a longstanding problem
2.The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)-Military Tobacco Policies: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
3.L.T. Kozlowski, G.G. Homish, University at Buffalo-Daily users compared to less frequent users find vape as or more satisfying and less dangerous than cigarettes, and are likelier to use non-cig-alike vaping products
About the author: Christina Matthews, the journalist who studies the latest news in the health industry. Now she studies the effects of smoking and vaping on health and reasons for such its popularity.
It’s well known that many U.S. service members join the military to protect their country from its enemies and to serve a higher purpose. It’s a calling that’s drawn millions of Americans into uniform over the nation’s history.
But when the bullets start flying, most of those higher-minded motivations are stripped away, and it becomes about protecting that buddy at your side. It’s a bond unlike any other.
While often this camaraderie manifests itself in acts of courage during battle, it can also shine in private moments of tenderness and respect — even under life-threatening stress.
In episode one of National Geographic’s amazing series “Inside Combat Rescue,” there’s a short scene that shows this inseparable bond — one that many might miss as the action of a medical evacuation swirls across the screen.
As Special Forces soldiers load their severely-wounded comrade — the team’s medic — on the Black Hawk MEDEVAC, each takes a second to kiss their fellow soldier before he’s flown to a field hospital.
It’s in those few seconds — barely noticeable by most viewers — that the true bond between combat veterans is on display (the video is cropped to the specific scene).SnakeDog/YouTube
In January 2002, the Army revised their Combatives Field Manual (FM 3-25.150), which has been a fantastic training aid when it comes to teaching the Modern Army Combatives Program. It lays down the groundwork
literally, but without an instructor, there’ll be many gaps in instruction to fill.
Unlike many of the other documented skills in the Army, combatives is not something you can just read in a book — the actual FM isn’t any help either.
Combatives is a very aerobic activity that requires nearly every muscle in the body. Stretching is important before and after any exercise, yet the manual only covers five stretches and only one is not buddy-assisted.
1. The backroll stretch:
The point of stretching is to loosen up your muscles, not immediately throw out your back. Any sudden movements out of this one and you’re done.
2. The buddy-assisted hamstring stretch
A flaw in the “buddy-assisted” stretches is that the person assisting has no knowledge of what is helpful and what is hurting. They could push the stretcher to the point of injury or they could just do nothing at all. Not only is the risk of injury higher, it takes time away from what could be used stretching both combatants.
3. The buddy-assisted groin stretch
The same goes for the buddy-assisted groin stretch… except there are countless other methods to stretch your own groin that don’t involve outside help.
Basic ground-fighting techniques
Combatives lessons are broken down into three levels: one, two, and three (and technically four, but that’s a Master trainer course). Combatives level-1 is meant to get a soldier’s toes wet, but troops often come out thinking that their shrimp drills and mounting drills make them the toughest SoB in the bar.
4. The front mount and the guard
Much of the training revolves around learning these two positions. To the untrained eye, the person on top is always the one in control. While this is true for the front mount, the soldier on their back in the guard position actually has control of the fight. It all comes down to who has positive control of the other person’s hips and their center of balance.
5. Arm push and roll to the rear mount
The bread-and-butter of combatives level-1 is learning to switch between the various ground stances. However, much of this relies on your opponent giving you stiff arms (where the elbow is locked straight). In a controlled environment, it’s not a problem. In reality, fists fly too fast for you to grab them.
Advanced ground-fighting techniques
Stepping into level-2 doesn’t make you any more of a badass. You’ll still cover the same techniques, with maybe three or four new moves spliced in.
6. North-South Position
In this position, the person on the ground is in complete control. The problem with the North-South Position is that this an extremely ineffective hold. Placing your hands in the person’s armpits restricts their arms, but it still gives them the freedom to knee your head and punch your sides.
7. Captain Kirk
The objective of the Captain Kirk is to flip the opponent over you by hoping they bend down, give you stiff arms, and have moved their center of balance far enough forward for you to roll backwards.
The only applicable time for this is when a troop has watched too much WWE and is going for the Batista Bomb.
Takedowns and throws
These are your finishing moves. During combatives level-1, almost no focus is put onto these… despite being the actual goal of the program.
8. Attack from the rear
One crucial step is missing from the illustration: Applying the force needed to the enemy’s fourth point of contact and lifting from their ankles. The illustration goes from “Get ready, get set…” directly to “finished.”
China just released a gallery of photos showcasing their airborne military might. The images depict Beijing’s domestically made jet fighters flying in impressive aerial formations. Some of the planes are fully armed.
China has been heavily investing in its military in recent years, developing high-end weapons systems and building landing strips for their aircraft in the South China Sea. Chinese president Xi Jinping has also been cracking down on alleged corruption in the military.
The photos were released not long before a September 3 military parade commemorating the end of World War II, itself part of a larger series of anniversary events that some observers have characterized as a nationalistic distortion of history.
These pictures, released by China’s state news service, Xinhuanet, reveal the extent of China’s domestic military aircraft development, a crucial element in its efforts to become Asia’s unquestioned military and strategic power.
The Chinese Chengdu JF-17 is a multi-role fighter introduced as an upgrade to the J-7, a reworking of the 1950s Soviet Mig-29.
The J-11s also are based on Soviet models — they strongly resemble the Sukhoi-30, which debuted in 1989.
Here’s what an armed J-11 looks like.
Here, J-11s fly in formation above the Chinese countryside.
Chinese J-11s fly in formation.
J-11 jets streak across the sky.
Here are two J-10s, multirole aircraft meant to replace the older J-7.
J-10s ascend in tight formation, using colored smoke to create a brilliant aerial display.
A view of the J-10s from the ground
This is a JH-7 “Flying Leopard,” a lightweight, twin engine fighter/bomber that was introduced into service in 1990.
Here’s the plane flying in formation.
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Hours before the Allied Forces hit the beaches of Normandy, courageous British and American soldiers entered France with parachutes and gliders to secure key bridges and enemy artillery positions. Their dangerous missions led the way for the D-Day invasion and ultimate victory in Europe. Wally Parr, Terance Otway and Bill True recount their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words.
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The Islamic extremists that ambushed and killed US Army commandos in Niger last week hadn’t operated in that area before, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11, referring to what officials believe was a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group there.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Tampa, Mattis said he rejected suggestions that rescue forces were slow to respond to the assault, noting that French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes. But he said the US military is reviewing whether changes should be made to these types of training missions in Africa.
“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” said Mattis. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr
US Africa Command has launched an investigation into the attack that will review what went wrong and whether additional security or overhead armed support may be needed for some of these missions.
American officials have said they believe the militants belonged to a tribal group that previously may have been tied to al-Qaeda or other extremists, but more recently re-branded themselves as IS. The officials said they do not believe the militants were fighters who came to Niger from outside the region. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Three Army commandoes and a soldier were killed a week ago when dozens of militants ambushed them during a joint patrol with Niger troops. The US and Niger troops were in unarmored trucks.
Mattis and other officials haven’t said how long it took to evacuate the troops, including several US and Niger forces who were wounded. One US Army soldier was missing for nearly two days before he was finally found by Niger troops around the area where the attack happened.
According to US officials, details about the exact timeline for the rescue effort are still unfolding. The troops were evacuated by French aircraft.
Army special forces have been working with Niger troops for some time, and that training effort has been increasing in recent years.
They are often working in remote locations well beyond what the US military likes to call the “golden hour.” That one-hour standard for medical evacuation was set during the peak war years in Iraq and Afghanistan and was aimed at getting wounded troops out within an hour of their injury, making it more likely they will get the treatment needed to survive.
Mattis praised the quick response of the French and Niger support forces.
“The French pilots were overhead with fast movers with bombs on them ready to help, and helicopters were coming in behind,” he said adding that Niger forces with French advisers also responded to the attack, which took place attack about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.
The US and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed. There were about a dozen US troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission.
US officials have described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows. The soldiers got out of their trucks, returning fire and calling in support from the French aircraft.
Military analysts say North Korea doesn’t have either the capability or the intent to attack US bombers and fighter jets, despite the country’s top diplomat saying it has every right do so.
They view the remark by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and a recent propaganda video simulating such an attack as tit-for-tat responses to fiery rhetoric by US President Donald Trump and his hardening stance against the North’s nuclear weapons program.
By highlighting the possibility of a potential military clash on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea may be trying to create a distraction as it works behind the scenes to advance its nuclear weapons development, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Another possibility is that North Korea is trying to win space to save face as it contemplates whether to de-escalate its standoff with Washington, he said Sept. 26.
Speaking to reporters before leaving a UN meeting in New York, Ri said Trump had “declared war” on his country by tweeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer.” Ri said North Korea has “every right” to take countermeasures, including shooting down US strategic bombers, even when they’re not in North Korean airspace.
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
The US frequently sends advanced warplanes to the Korean Peninsula for patrols or drills during times of animosity. Last weekend, US bombers and fighter escorts flew in international airspace east of North Korea to the farthest point north of the border between North and South Korea that they have in this century, according to the Pentagon.
Hours after the flights Sept. 24, a North Korean government propaganda website posted a video portraying US warplanes and an aircraft carrier being destroyed by attacks. The video on DPRK Today, which was patched together from photos and crude computer-generated animation, also included footage of North Korean solid-fuel missiles being fired from land mobile launchers and a submarine. The North was clearly trying to claim it has the ability to conduct retaliatory strikes against US attacks, said Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.
(stimmekoreas | YouTube)
Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current senior analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said it’s highly unlikely North Korea has the real-world capability to match Ri’s words. North Korea’s aging MiG fighters won’t stance a chance against much more powerful US fighters escorting long-range bombers. And while North Korea touted in May that it’s ready to deploy new surface-to-air missiles that analysts say could potentially hit targets as far as 150 kilometers (93 miles) away, it’s questionable how much of a threat the unproven system could pose to US aircraft operating far off the country’s coast, Moon said.
It’s also unclear whether North Korea would be able to even see the advanced US warplanes when they come. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing on Sept. 26 that the North’s inadequate radar systems failed to detect the B-1B bombers as they flew east of North Korea.
The last time North Korea fired on a US aircraft was in 1994 when it shot down a US Army helicopter around the heavily armed inter-Korean border, killing one of the pilots and capturing the other. The surviving pilot said after his release he was pressured by North Korean officials to confess that the helicopter had crossed into North Korea. In 1969, a North Korean fighter jet shot down an unarmed US reconnaissance plane and killed all 31 crewmembers on board.
It’s highly unlikely North Korea would attempt a similar attack now, experts say. Amid tension created by the North’s nuclear weapons tests and threat to detonate a thermonuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean, such an attack would pretty much guarantee retaliation from the United States that could lead to war, Cha said.
“The most obvious reason Ri made those comments was because North Korea simply can’t tolerate such high-profile insults to its supreme leadership,” Cha said. It’s also possible that the North is trying to fan concerns about a potential military clash in the region now so that it can win room to save face later when it tries to de-escalate, he said.
“If Kim Jong Un ever offers a moratorium on his missile tests or makes whatever other compromise, he could say he made a big-picture decision to reduce military tension in the Korean Peninsula,” Cha said. He said Ri’s comments also allow China and Russian to restate their calls for a “dual suspension” of North Korean weapons tests and displays of military capability by the US and South Korea.
The Trump administration’s stance on North Korea has been hardening in recent months as the North has been stepping up the aggressiveness of its nuclear and missile tests. It conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it said was a thermonuclear weapon built for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It tested two ICBMs in July, displaying their potential ability to reach deep into the continental United States. North Korea has also fired two powerful midrange missiles over Japan in recent weeks.
Trump in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked, which prompted Kim to pledge to take the “highest-level” action against the United States. Ri then said North Korea might conduct the “most powerful” atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, but added that no one knew what Kim would decide.