Editor’s note: The following is an encore presentation of an Airman magazine story documenting an Operation Pacific Angel mission to build international partnerships. In 2012, an Air Force veterinarian, Lt. Col. Douglas D. Riley, partnered with Mongolian veterinarians to improve the health of the livestock which provides the country with much of its food.
Despite widespread poverty and malnutrition, Lt. Col. Douglas D. Riley believes Mongolia, with its vast amount of livestock, could be Asia’s “protein basket.” Of course to reach its potential and feed the continent’s many hungry people, changes have to be made.
That’s why the Air Force veterinarian has been visiting the country. To date, he’s made four trips to Mongolia, and on his most recent visit, Riley worked with Mongolia’s armed and border forces to show veterinarians how to produce healthier herds.
“What’s really ironic is that Mongolia, being part of Asia, sits in the poorest section of the world with the most malnutrition in the world,” said Riley, who’s assigned to the 13th Air Force Cooperative Health Engagement Division. “Yet Mongolia has the ability, with its livestock alone, to feed the vast majority of Asia through the protein in the animals if the animals and the ground were managed properly.”
The Department of Defense and Air Force interest in humanitarian operations in countries like Mongolia is to foster a more stable country, one more difficult to be infiltrated by terrorists. On the ground in Mongolia, Riley hoped his work assisted this effort.
13th AF/SGK International Health Specialist Lt. Col. Douglas Riley and a veterinarian with the Mongolian Border Forces try to coral a sheep for a hands-on class room exam in northeastern Mongolia near the Russian border.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)
“If we can find a way to build partnerships, maybe, just maybe, at the end of the day, we won’t have to worry about country or state-on-state war,” he said.
“Because we are so small a world now, through globalization and the ability to move from point to point, if we don’t find a way to tie ourselves together with an understanding, we are missing an opportunity that is far greater than any weapon we could create. We are missing an opportunity to tie societies together to better each other.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
India successfully tested the Agni 5 missile Jan. 18, moving it closer to joining the small group of countries with access to nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles.
This is India’s first successful test of the Agni 5 at its full range, the Indian Ministry of Defense said in a release. The test also marks a significant step in India’s military development amid tensions with China and Pakistan.
The missile test was conducted on an island off India’s east coast, flying for 19 minutes and covering more than 3,000 miles. It was the fifth such test and the third consecutive one firing the missile from a canister on a road-mobile launcher, the Indian Ministry of Defense said. All five tests have been successful.
The ministry said “all objectives” of the latest test were met and that it “reaffirms the country’s indigenous missile capabilities and further strengthens our credible deterrence.”
The Agni 5 is the most advanced in the Agni series, part of a program that began in the 1980s. It has a range of more than 3,100 miles and puts India among countries like the U.S., China, and Russia that have access to intercontinental ballistic missiles. The missile is also set for incorporation into India’s Strategic Forces Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear-weapons stockpile.
The three-stage missile is 55 feet long and is capable of carrying a payload of more than 1.5 tons, which is enough to carry “fusion-boosted fission warheads with a yield of 200-300 kilotonnes,” according to an editorial by Saurav Jha, the editor-in-chief of the Delhi Defense Review.
Heightened tensions with India’s neighbors
India is currently in a tense period of relations with its western neighbor, Pakistan, with which it has long had a contentious relationship. New Delhi has said it faces a threat from Pakistan’s development of a nuclear missile program of its own.
New Delhi and Beijing went through a protracted standoff over a sliver of land in the eastern Himalayas over the summer — the worst border dispute between the two countries in three decades. The number of face-offs between Indian and Chinese personnel in disputed areas on their shared border increased considerably in 2017.
China has criticized India’s development of the Agni 5 and expressed dismay about India’s growing defense ties with the U.S. and other countries in the region.
India has been boosting its military development over the past few years, largely in response to the growing Chinese presence in the region, which is home to heavily trafficked and strategically valuable shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean.
Beijing now has a presence at ports in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Djibouti, and has a growing relationship with the Maldives. China’s navy, its submarines in particular, is increasingly active in the Indian Ocean, especially around the Malacca Strait, through which the country passes about 80% of its fuel supplies.
With the Agni 5, New Delhi is now able to hit targets in most of China — including major cities on its east coast. The missile’s mobile-deployment capacity also makes it harder to track and boosts India’s second-strike capabilities. Its reentry vehicle may also mitigate ballistic-missile defenses being developed by China.
“If there are hostilities, and if there are contingencies, then India has something which can deter China or at least make China think twice,” Nitin A. Gokhale, an independent national-security analyst in India, told The New York Times.
While some aspects of India’s missile development have faced setbacks in recent weeks, there have been significant advances in its missile technology as well.
In late November, India’s air force said it become the first air force in the world to successfully test an air-launched Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, after firing one of the 5,500-pound, two-stage missiles from a modified Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet at a sea target off India’s east coast.
The successful test in November gave India the ability to launch the missile from sea, land, and air.
The Brahmos, which is based on Russia’s P-800 Oniks sea-skimming cruise missile, was a joint project between New Delhi and Moscow. Russia provided 65% of the missile’s components, while India supplied the majority of the rest.
The Brahmos is reportedly able to carry a 660-pound warhead up to 250 miles, traveling at speeds up to Mach 3. That combination of speed, range, and explosive power makes the missile a threat to large surface ships, like aircraft carriers, as well as to fortified targets on land. Its speed and low altitude may also mean that anti-missile defenses, especially shipboard ones, would have trouble intercepting it. There is also speculation the missile could be modified to carry a nuclear warhead.
While officials did not specify the type of nerve agent used, a well-placed source told the BBC it was likely to be extremely rare.
Nerve agents are extremely toxic chemicals that effectively shut down communication between the brain and muscles — in other words, they stop the body from working. They are also very hard to make.
Here’s what you need to know about the deadly substances.
What are nerve agents?
Nerve agents can take the form of gas, aerosol, or liquid, and enter the body through inhalation, the skin, or the consumption of liquid or food contaminated with them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.
Symptoms include restlessness, loss of consciousness, wheezing, and a running nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Depending on the amount and method of administration, symptoms can take minutes or hours to occur, Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore said. When administered in high doses, nerve agents can suffocate victims to death within a couple of minutes, the OPCW said.
It’s not clear when the Skripals were exposed to the chemicals and how much was administered to them.
A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where the Skripals were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that the elder Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”
Another witness who saw the stricken Skripals later on said Yulia “looked like she had passed out” and Sergei “was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky.”
What was used on the Skripals?
The type of nerve agent used on the Skripals remains unclear. Investigators have identified it but are not making it public at this point, the BBC reported.
A source close to the investigation told the BBC the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which is believed to have been used in the Syrian war and used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995.
The Sun previously reported military scientists on the case as saying the pair might have been poisoned with a “hybrid” kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal commonly found in rat poison and insecticides. Detectives originally thought former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium in London in 2006.
How easy is it to make nerve agents?
The raw materials for nerve agents are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, the OPCW said. However, the chemical weapon itself is difficult to make.
Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain, told Business Insider: “Nerve agents are rare, tightly-controlled synthetic substances that do require specialised knowledge to manufacture, store and use safely.
“However, that knowledge isn’t beyond someone with a good Master’s degree in Organic Chemistry, say, and access to a good laboratory. Very difficult, but not impossible.”
Chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie similarly told The Guardian that manufacturing nerve agents require “fairly complicated chemistry,” and were “essentially impossible” to make at home.
“Nerve agents, such as sarin or VX, require some fairly complicated chemistry using certain highly reactive chemicals,” Guthrie said. “Small quantities could be made in a well-equipped laboratory with an experienced analytical chemist. To carry out the reactions in a domestic kitchen would be essentially impossible.”
Does this point to Russia?
Experts appear to differ over whether Russia was responsible.
Matt Tait, a former GCHQ officer, said the method of attack seemed “designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it.”
He told The Atlantic: “This is a very extreme form of killing in a way that is designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it. Nobody can be under any sort of illusions that this is some sort of run-of-the-mill killing. […]
“The clear message that they’re sending to both people who currently work for their intelligence agencies and also people who used to work for their intelligence agencies … they will make an example of you.”
Madeira disagreed. Just because nerve agents are rare doesn’t necessarily mean a state actor did it, he said.
“Simply using a ‘very rare’ nerve agent against Col. Skripal wouldn’t necessarily indicate Kremlin (or Russian) involvement,” he told BI. “This is why DSTL Porton Down [the UK Ministry of Defence’s science lab] and partner agencies are racing to ‘fingerprint’ the agent used, which will then allow them to narrow the list of potential sources right down.”
Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, told CNN that attacking an ex-spy with a nerve agent in Britain was an “outrageous affront to our security in Europe and our way of life.” He warned, however, that people should “exercise caution before jumping to any conclusions.”
The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has outlined draft legislation that would allow Russian forces to shoot down civilian passenger planes within the country’s airspace.
The draft document placed on the government’s list of proposed legislation says passenger planes that cross into Russian airspace without authorization and do not answer warning signals or respond to warning shots can be shot down if they are deemed to pose a threat of mass deaths, ecological catastrophe, or an assault on strategic targets.
On November 30, 2020, the Navy announced the decision to decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). The Wasp-class amphibious ship suffered extensive damage during a fire while in port in July. The decision follows an extensive assessment of the ship after the fire.
As a landing helicopter deck amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard was an integral part of the Navy-Marine Corps team. She was capable of supporting a wide range of aircraft including the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk, UH-1Y Venom, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, AV-8B Harrier, MV-22B Osprey, and the new F-35B Lightning II. Her well deck also allowed her to support landing craft like LCACs, LCUs and LCMs.
The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned on August 15, 1998. From January 24 to July 24, 2000, she made the first WESTPAC deployment of any U.S. Navy vessel in the new millennium. The next year, she began her participation in the War on Terror with a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bonhomme Richard provided critical support to Marine Corps operations. She offloaded Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in Kuwait and went on to launch 547 combat sorties. Marine Attack Squadrons VMA-211 and VMA-311 delivered more than 175,000 pounds of ordnance launching from Bonhomme Richard‘s deck.
Additionally, the ship assisted in humanitarian operations. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Bonhomme Richard was detached from Operation Iraqi Freedom and sailed for Sri Lanka. The ship helped to airlift relief supplies to Sumatra, Indonesia. Following a port visit to Guam, the ship returned to the Indian Ocean. Helicopters from the Bonhomme Richard flew medical supplies and personnel into Indonesia and evacuated the wounded.
Tragically, a fire broke out on board the ship while in her homeport at San Diego during maintenance. At around 8:50 am, an explosion occurred on the ship. “It is a Class Alpha fire,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 commander, “meaning it was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials in a standard fire.” Despite not being accelerated by fuel or munitions, the fire was extensive. Firefighting effort were delayed because fire-suppression systems had been disabled due to the maintenance.
Finally, on July 16, the Navy announced that all fires on board had been extinguished. A total of 40 sailors and 23 civilians received minor injuries as a result of the fire. The fire was a “very, very serious incident,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday. 11 of the 14 decks sustained fire and water damage. Many sections of deck were warped or bulging and the ship’s island had been gutted by the flames. On July 31, nine sailors assigned to the Bonhomme Richard were meritoriously promoted for their actions in fighting the fire.
Although NCIS and the ATF questioned sailors following the fire, no charges were made and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Navy is also conducting investigations into safety standards to prevent future fires.
On November 30, the Navy announced that the Bonhomme Richard would be decommissioned. “We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.” In fact, the assessment concluded that it would cost the Navy over $3 billion and take five to seven years to restore the ship. The Navy also considered repurposing the ship. However, the associated costs were estimated to exceed $1 billion, as much or more than the cost of a new purpose-built ship.
At this time, the timeline for towing and dismantling is still being finalized. “Although it saddens me that it is not cost effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless businesses across the nation and around the world have been forced to close their doors, some for good. Nonprofits like the famous Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama have suffered even more.
As a result of the pandemic, attendance at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum and Space Camp has dropped significantly. Though Space Camp reopened following a four month closure, limited admission and a lack of international students forced the weeklong camp programs to close again.
(U.S. Space Rocket Center)
Overall, the organization has seen a 66% loss in revenue. Having exhausted all funding possibilities, the U.S. Space Rocket Center and Space Camp will be forced to close in October. To prevent this, the U.S. Space Rocket Center Foundation has started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of id=”listicle-2646867862″.5 million.
Founded in 1982, Space Camp uses the U.S. space program as the basis to promote math and science to children. The idea for the camp came from famed rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. While touring the U.S. Space Rocket Center in 1977, von Braun noticed a group of schoolchildren admiring the rockets and said to the museum director, “You know, we have all these camps for youngsters in this country—band camps and cheerleader camps and football camps. Why don’t we have science camps?”
While Space Camp is generally used to describe any sort of educational program relating to space, the camp actually offers a variety of programs for different ages and durations of visit. Space Camp is a six-day program for children ages 9-11 and features a curriculum designed to balance education and entertainment. Space Academy caters to children ages 12-14 and is also offered in six-day sessions. Advanced Space Academy (originally called Space Academy Level II) is designed for 15- to 18-year-olds and offers attendees one credit hour of freshman-level general science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Family Camp allows parents or guardians to attend Space Camp with their children aged 7-12 years.
(U.S. Space Rocket Center)
Following its success, other variations of Space Camp were developed including Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students and Deaf Space Camp. The U.S. Space Rocket Center Foundation also offers scholarships for children who have disabilities, financial needs or other disadvantages to be able to attend Space Camp.
There are also internationally licensed Space Camps including Space Camp Canada, Space Camp Belgium and Space Camp Turkey. Space Camp Florida and Space Camp California opened in 1988 and 1996 respectively, but both closed in 2002 due to financial difficulties caused by low attendance rates.
Throughout its 38 years of operation, Space Camp has educated and inspired thousands of young people to achieve great things. Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger attended Space Academy in 1989 at the age of 14 and became a NASA astronaut in 2006, the first Space Camp alumna to do so. Jasmin Moghbeli, a U.S. Marine Corps test pilot and NASA astronaut, attended Advanced Space Academy in 1998 at the age of 15. Annika Rose Vargas, who donated an incredible 0 to the GoFundMe, found her calling at Space Camp and pursued an engineering degree at UAH. A 0 donation from Sam and Clara Bailey came with a note attesting, “I would not be a UH-60M pilot without [Space Camp].”
(U.S. Space Rocket Center)
It’s not just Space Camp alumni and their family members donating though. One anonymous contributor said, “My grandfather, James Milton Willis, would have been 100 today. He worked on the first Saturn V Rocket. In honor of his birthday, I’m donating 0 to the Space and Rocket Center. Every time I look at that Saturn V Rocket, it reminds me of him. I don’t want Huntsville to lose this national gem.”
As of July 30, 2020, the 2-day-old GoFundMe has had nearly 6,000 donations and raised over 0,000 of its id=”listicle-2646867862″.5 million goal. This incredible outpouring of support is a testament to the positive impact that Space Camp has had on thousands of people who hope that it can continue to do so for generations to come.
Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.
The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.
One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.
Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.
While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.
Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.
The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.
Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds on Jan. 25, pushing humanity’s proximity to disaster at a symbolic and alarming two minutes to midnight.
The organization has adjusted the Doomsday Clock yearly since 1947. Though the Bulletin bases its clock’s position on multiple global threats, this year, it highlighted the bellicose behavior of President Donald Trump toward North Korea and his administration’s nuclear weapons posturing.
“To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin, said during a press briefing. It’s “the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday,” she added. “As close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.”
One of the Bulletin’s major concerns is about an “oops” moment of nuclear proportions involving the evolvingnuclear arsenal of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” the Bulletin said in a statement.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, echoed this concern in an interview with Business Insider earlier in January.
“I don’t think the North Koreans would ever deliberately use the nuclear weapons unless they thought they were being invaded; that we might invade them, or they might think — wrongly — that we were invading them,” said Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.
Here’s how Lewis and others think North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., and possibly Japan could stumble into a limited nuclear exchange.
The dangerous and fuzzy math of miscalculation
Lewis, who has deeply studied East-Asian nuclear history, and especially that of China’s, points out that the apparent growing competence of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs has likely made Kim and his advisors feel more secure on a day-to-day basis.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a greater risk of panic within the isolated nation — and a grievous error.
“It’s called miscalculation, where one side makes a calculation that war is inevitable,” Lewis said. “They don’t think that they’re starting a war, they just think they’re getting a jump on the other.”
War history is peppered with instances of miscalculation and preemptive attacks, including Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor during World War II.
“The Japanese thought that they would probably lose. So you think, ‘Why in the hell are they doing this?'” Lewis said. “They thought war was inevitable, and that their best chance of surviving was to go first.”
Lewis added this is the canonical case of miscalculation: “Where one side says, ‘I don’t want to do this, and I’m probably even going to lose if I do this, but I’m certainly going to lose if I do nothing. If I do nothing, I will certainly be attacked and I will certainly be destroyed. Whereas if I take this opportunity now, maybe I have only a 10% or a 20% or a 30% chance of getting out alive … and then he pushes the metaphorical button.”
The scenario that Lewis, the Bulletin, and others who watch North Korean tensions with the U.S. — as well as allies South Korea and Japan — deeply worry about is if Kim and his advisors incorrectly interpret military activity around the Korean Peninsula.
“The North Koreans, when they write official statements about what their nuclear posture or doctrine is, the phrase they use is ‘deter and repel.’ So ‘deter’ means deter,” Lewis said, noting that the country’s nuclear arsenal is becoming its primary deterrent for conflict. “But ‘repel’ means if the deterrent fails, and the United States launches an invasion, they will use nuclear weapons to try and repel the invasion — to try to destroy U.S. forces throughout South Korea and Japan, rather than letting the United States … build up an invasion force and then roll in.”
Lewis says the trigger to such a crisis has become more likely with the election of President Trump and his use of bellicose tweets and statements targeting Kim.
Let’s say we’re doing a large military exercise with South Koreans, which always — to the North Koreans — looks like preparations for an invasion, where you’re flooding forces in,” Lewis said. “If that occur against a crisis, where the North Koreans actually think an invasion is likely, and the Trump says something that they misinterpret, you might get into spot where it’s not that they wanted to use the nuclear weapons, but they concluded an invasion was likely, and this was their last best chance to repel. And that’s what scares the shit out of me.
The move would likely trigger a powerful U.S. military response. To illustrate the consequences of a return attack, consider a different and “best-case” scenario of limited conflict with North Korea, where the U.S. and its allies try to neutralize Kim’s nuclear and conventional weapons — and no nukes are used.
“[Suppose] in the space of, say, three hours, we could destroy all of the 8,000 to 10,000 hardened sites of North Korean artillery that Seoul, South Korea, is in range of,” Kori Schake, who studies military history and contemporary conflicts at the Hoover Institution, said on a Nov. 17 episode of the Pod Save The World podcast. “Even in that [scenario] — which would be a level of military virtuosity unimaginable — you’re still probably talking 300,000 dead South Koreans.”
Other estimates suggest millions could die, since Seoul (South Korea’s capital) and its 25 million residents, including tens of thousands of U.S. forces, are just 35 miles from the North Korean border.
How to step back from the brink
Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said Thursday that there is still time to turn back the clock.
“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said.
The Bulletin makes a few recommendations to ease tensions with North Korea and avert a nuclear disaster:
First and foremost, it said: “U.S. President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea, recognizing the impossibility of predicting North Korean reactions.”
Second, the U.S. should preemptively open military and diplomatic lines of communication with North Korea — not to signal weakness, but to show “that while Washington fully intends to defend itself and its allies from any attack with a devastating retaliatory response, it does not otherwise intend to attack North Korea or pursue regime change.”
And finally: “The world community should pursue, as a short-term goal, the cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. North Korea is the only country to violate the norm against nuclear testing in 20 years. Over time, the United States should seek North Korea’s signature on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — and then, along with China, at long last also ratify the treaty.”
Paradoxically, Lewis says the advent of a proven and substantial North Korean nuclear arsenal itself could open communications channels and opportunities for diplomacy.
The deterrence it provides could prompt the U.S. and its allies to relax military activity and reduce the chances of a deadly mistake.
“That is generally a good bargain, but if it goes wrong, the consequences are tremendous,” Lewis said.
On the other hand, Lewis said, North Korea could use its deterrence “and spend it on being awful” by “sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises” and continuing its history of horrifyinghuman-rightsabuses.
“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive. But we should wait and see,” Lewis said. “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to order nearly five times as many fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighters as originally planned to replace older fighters, strengthen Russian airpower, and give Russia a fighting chance in competition with its rivals.
“The 2028 arms program stipulated the purchase of 16 such jets,” Putin said during last week’s defense meeting before announcing that the Russian military had “agreed to purchase 76 such fighters without the increase in prices in the same period of time.”
The Russian president said a 20% reduction in cost had made the purchase of additional fifth-gen fighters possible. Improvements in the production process are also reportedly behind Putin’s decision to order more of the aircraft.
He added that a contract would be signed in the near future for the fighters, which he said would be armed with “modern weapons of destruction,” according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency. Such weapons could include the R-37M long-range hypersonic air-to-ar missile, an advanced standoff weapon with a range of more than 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, Russian media reported.
The new Su-57s are expected to be delivered to three aviation regiments. Those units, the Russian outlet Izvestia reported May 20, 2019, include regiments in the three main strategic regions in the northwest, southwest, and far east. The report said only the best pilots would be trained on the aircraft.
Seventy-six of these fighters is a particularly tall order for the Russian military, which has had to cut orders for various programs, such as the T-14 Armata main battle tank, over funding shortages. Right now, Russia has only 10 Su-57 prototypes, and fighter development has been moving much slower than expected.
The Su-57’s chief developer argued late last year that the Su-57 was superior to US stealth fighter jets, a claim met with skepticism by most independent experts.
Su-57 stealth fighter at the MAKS 2011 air show.
Russia’s Su-57 fighters, as they are right now, largely rely on older fourth-generation engines, and they lack the kind of low-observable stealth capabilities characteristic of true fifth-generation fighters, such as Lockheed Martin’s highly capable F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
That is not to say the Russian fighter does not have its own advantageous features, such as the side-facing radar that gives it the ability to trick the radar on US stealth fighters. And it is possible, even likely, that the Russian military will make improvements to the aircraft going forward.
Should Russia follow through in purchasing 76 Su-57s, its military would still trail far behind those of the US and its partners with respect to fifth-generation airpower. As of February 2019, there were 360 F-35s operating from 16 bases in 10 countries, according to Bloomberg. The US also possesses 187 F-22s, arguably the best aircraft in the world.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Everyone remembers their oath of enlistment ceremony, but how many people can say theirs was truly out of this world? Tomorrow, over 800 soldiers participating in a ceremony spanning more than 100 locations around the country will be able to say theirs was. What makes this ceremony so special? It’s being administered by Army astronaut Col. Andrew Morgan from the International Space Station.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to partner with Space Center Houston to recognize future Soldiers across the nation with a truly unique experience,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, USAREC deputy commanding general in a press release. Michaelis will facilitate the ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan. “This is the first event of its kind and will allow us to show the nation the breadth and depth of opportunities the Army offers today’s youth.”
According to USAREC, Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. He is an emergency physician in the U.S. Army with sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine and was selected to become an astronaut in 2013.
Morgan is also a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and also has served as a combat diver. He’s clearly conquered land and sea, and now space. He’s completed seven spacewalks and one flight to the International Space Station. In addition to the enlistment ceremony, he’ll be sharing his stories and experiences with program attendees on a 20 minute live call from outer space.
Michaelis said, “We need qualified and innovative people to help us continuously adapt to the changing world. The young men and women who will begin their Army story with the incredible experience with Col. Morgan are part of our future. They will perform the traditional jobs most people associate with the Army, like infantry and armor, but they will also take on roles many people don’t realize we do – highly technical and specialized careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The oath of enlistment ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan will stream live on NASA TV, DVIDS, and U.S. Army Facebook and YouTube pages beginning at 12:50 pm eastern time. We’re over the moon about this event.
The U.S. Military Academy has unveiled its football uniforms for the 2016 Army-Navy game, and they’re awesome tributes to the All American paratroopers and glider troops of World War II.
The dark gray jerseys are adorned with patches, unit crests, and mottoes of regiments that fought within the 82nd “All American” Airborne Division during the invasions of Normandy, Italy, and Holland.
The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment — sometimes known as the Red Devils — is one of the units honored by the new football jerseys. (Screenshot: YouTube/GoArmyWestPoint)
The U.S. Army began experimenting with Airborne operations in 1940 by forming a test platoon. Over the course of World War II, paratroopers and glider soldiers were asked to test and develop airborne tactics and equipment in combat, jumping behind enemy lines or onto the flanks of friendly units to disrupt attacks or quickly reinforce vulnerable elements.
The 82nd Airborne Division fought primarily against the Germans during the war, though they faced some Italian units during fighting in that country.
The 82nd Division is the only full airborne division left in the U.S. military. Most airborne forces have been deactivated since the peak of fighting in World War II. Other previously airborne units — most notably the 101st Airborne Division of “Band of Brothers” fame — have transitioned to other missions.
Russia and China are near-peer competitors and the United States must benchmark military capabilities against these possible threats, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said at Duke University on Nov. 5, 2018.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a standing room only audience that the two-plus-three strategy gives civilian and military leaders the framework they need to prioritize personnel and resources.
The rise of China and Russia represent the return of great power competition and the American military must respond to this challenge. But the United States still is concerned about North Korea, Iran and violent extremism, he said.
This does not limit officials, he said. The best guess is that these threats are most likely, but there could be other threats that rise and must be addressed.
Preparing against challenges
“Our assumption is if we prepare against one or some combination of those challenges, then we’ll have the right inventory of capabilities to deal with the unexpected,” the general said. “But clearly, as we do our planning we think of the unexpected in addition to these five challenges.”
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, during a discussion with students in Duke’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
He said ensuring overmatch against these threats is not easy and the sources of strength for the U.S. military is what nations concentrate their capabilities on. In the U.S. case, one source of strength is the network of allies and friends around the world. This helps another source of strength and that is the ability to deploy forces and capabilities anywhere in the world and then sustain that effort.
Both Russia and China have developed capabilities that would negate some of these advantages, the chairman said. Russia is doing its level best to chip away at the North Atlantic alliance. China is trying to separate the United States from allies in the Pacific region, like Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines.
What complicates this is two new domains of defense: space and cyberspace. Russia and China are developing combat capabilities in both domains and the United States has to defend these areas, the general said.
This is not a return to the Cold War, Dunford told Peter Feaver, a professor of political science and the founder of the Duke Program on American Grand Strategy. “Competition doesn’t have to be conflict,” the general said, “but we now have two states that actually … can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all domains.”
This does not mean that Russia or China are enemies of the United States, Dunford said, and he stressed that American diplomats need to continue engaging the countries. But, as a military leader, the chairman said he has to deal with capabilities, not intents.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at Duke University, during a discussion with students in Duke’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
In Europe he tells his Russian counterpart that “what you’re seeing in our posture, what you’re seeing the increased forces that we have put in Europe, what you’re seeing in the path of capability development that we are on is in order to deter a conflict, not to fight,” the general said.
These developments are “largely reacting to what we have seen over the last 10 years, which is a significant increase in the development of [Russian] maritime capability, modernizing their nuclear enterprise, cyberspace, and space capabilities and in the land domain,” he said.
Dunford added, “Over all domains, Russia has made a concerted effort to increase their capabilities, and we are responding to them.”
The challenges are different in the Indo-Pacific region, he said. The U.S. goal is to follow the rule of law that has benefitted the region since the end of World War II. The U.S. government would like to see China acquiescing to these rules and not trying to replace them.
“In order for us to have a free and open Indo-Pacific, in order to have China comply with international law and standards as they exist or seek to change them in a legitimate venue, what it will take is a collected multilateral response,” Dunford said. “One of the things we work on very hard is to develop a group of like-minded nations that will seek to have a coherent, collective response to violations of international law.”
He added, “To the extent that we are able to do that, we will be able to manage the situation in the Pacific peacefully.”
A roundup of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries:
Iran says the COVID-19 illness has killed 129 more people, a single-day record high for one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
During a televised news conference on March 16, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur appealed to the public to drastically curb outings, especially intercity trips.
“Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempts to travel to any province,” Jahanpur said.
The deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran’s first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease sparked by the coronavirus.
Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a 78-year-old member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country’s supreme leader, is the latest of several Iranian officials to have died, local media reported.
Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.
Iran has the third-most registered cases after China and Italy.
Tehran Province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.
The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Tehran coming next with 96.
The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took its total to 1,023.
There are suspicions that the outbreak in the Islamic republic — whose government is known for its opaqueness and censorship — is far worse than authorities are admitting.
President Hassan Rohani on March 16 urged Iranians to stay home for the Norouz holiday celebrations on March 20 and to avoid traveling over the festive period.
Police are to begin checking the temperature of drivers, Rohani said, adding to a raft of measures that include the closure of schools, universities, and Iran’s most sacred site.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has canceled his annual Persian New Year’s speech in the city of Mashhad, planned for March 21.
Russia says it will ban the entry of foreign nationals and stateless people to May 1 in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The government said on March 16 that the ban, starting on March 18, won’t apply to diplomatic representatives and some other categories of people.
Russia has reported 93 cases of the virus so far, but no deaths.
Earlier in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new measures in the Russian capital, including prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10, and closing schools and universities from March 21 until April 12.
Sobyanin also asked elderly people to stay home.
A subsidiary of Russian Railways Rail said service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia would be suspended as of March 17.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russia’s “unnecessary” decision to close the border between the two countries in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“There must be no unnecessary moves that might complicate already uneasy relations between the two nations,” he said on March 16 during a meeting with officials in Minsk.
The Russian government said the restrictive measures against Belarus, announced earlier in the day, were “prompted by special circumstances and are absolutely temporary.”
Belarus has reported 36 cases of coronavirus so far, but no deaths. Russian authorities have confirmed 93 cases, and no deaths.
Belarus, heavily reliant on Russia for cheap oil, has been at odds with Moscow over oil prices for months. The dispute is part of wider political discord between the two countries over forming a union state.
Instead of closing the Russian-Belarusian border, Lukashenka said, “our dearly beloved” Russia should help Belarus beef up security against coronavirus at its border with Poland, which he called “our common union-state border.”
The Belarusian leader also said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone soon.
Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under a 1999 unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.
Serbian election authorities have delayed general elections scheduled for April 26 until after the end of a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Republican Election Commission said it decided to “temporarily suspend the elections process during the state of emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak,” in a statement on March 16.
Preparations for the elections will be resumed after the state of emergency is revoked, according to commission Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic.
The Balkan state has so far recorded 57 coronavirus infections. There have been no fatalities, but two patients are in serious condition, health authorities say.
Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15 in a bid to prevent the rapid spreading of the epidemic, shutting down schools and universities.
In announcing the decision, President Aleksandar Vucic said in a televised address that from March 16 the military would be guarding state hospitals, while police will be monitoring those quarantined or in self-isolation for 14 or 28 days.
Those who violate quarantine may face jail terms of up to three years, he warned.
Serbia also announced it was closing its borders to foreigners coming from the worst-hit countries.
Vucic, however, said the border-entry ban did not apply to people from China, praising Beijing for helping Serbia amid the COVID-19 crisis.
He criticized the European Union for allegedly failing to provide adequate support.
After Vucic’s address, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told state TV that borders will be open only “for Serbians, foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals with residence permits.”
Five more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uzbekistan, bringing the total to six, the government’s Telegram channel dedicated to the disease said on March 16.
Four of the six individuals are members of one Uzbek family returning from France, the government said in a separate statement.
Uzbekistan early on March 15 had reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.
Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.
The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.
Kazakhstan had already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.
Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.
Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.
The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic that as of early March 15 had infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800.
The Armenian government has declared a monthlong state of emergency to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
The National Assembly discussed the move for several hours, and none of the three parliamentary factions raised any objections or proposed any amendments.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told lawmakers that Armenia would have to hold its referendum on constitutional reforms, originally planned for April 5, after the state of emergency ends.
“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place during a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” he said.
Armenia reported 17 new coronavirus cases on March 16, bringing the total number of cases to 45. One patient is said to have recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.
Armenia and Russia have agreed to suspend passenger flights between the two countries for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Armenian government press service said on March 16.
The decision was made during a phone conversation between Pashinian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin.
All Armenian educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with Iran – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak – and Georgia are closed.
Georgia will close its borders to foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.
Irakli Chikovani, the spokesman of the prime minister, said Georgian citizens who wish to return to the country will be able to do so, using Georgian Airways flights.
Georgia has registered 33 cases of the new coronavirus.
Afghanistan reported five new cases on March 15, bringing the total number of registered cases in the country to 16.
Officials in Kabul said that all of those infected are Afghans who have recently returned from neighboring Iran.
The officials said up to 15,000 Afghan migrants workers and refugees are returning from Iran on a daily basis.
Pakistani President Arif Alvi is on an official visit to China on March 16-17 to hold meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and other top officials, Alvi’s office said in a statement on March 15.
The statement said the visit aims at “further solidifying historic bonds” between the two countries and described China and Pakistan as “the closest friends and staunch partners.”
It also pointed out that the visit comes as China is “engaged in efforts to contain” the spread of the new coronavirus, which has affected 157 countries and territories since it was first recorded in Wuhan, a city in central China.
It’s Alv”s first official visit to China, a strategic partner and major investor to Pakistan’s economy.
Pakistan on March 16 announced 41 additional cases of infection with the coronavirus after 41 more cases were confirmed in the Sindh region, bringing the total tally to 94.
Dozens of people quarantined at the Pakistan-Iran border protested what they called the poor hygiene in the camps.
The quarantined include religious pilgrims who are now returning from Iran.
President Klaus Iohannis has declared a state of emergency for 30 days to fight the spread of the disease.
During the state of emergency, schools will be closed; prices for medicine, fuel, and utilities are frozen; road and air traffic could be banned; and borders may be closed if necessary.
Romania has 158 registered cases.
One Romanian citizen — a woman in her 80s — died last week in Italy from COVID-19, the illness sparked by the virus.
Bulgaria banned entry on its territory of citizens from 15 countries with large coronavirus outbreaks, including five EU member states, as of March 18, the Health Ministry said.
Exceptions will be made for citizens with permanent or long-term permits to stay in Bulgaria and their family members.