Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.

That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.


Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.

At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.

The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.

Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.

“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”

The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Reestablishing air defense in Europe

The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.

During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.

Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.

But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.

In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.

Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)

The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.

“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”

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

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 10 edition)

Get your week started with the right intel:


Now: The most important battlefield innovation is not a weapon 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The commissary wants you to make these 10 game day recipes

We love the commissary for so many things: their low, low prices, the friendly baggers who maintain an excellent poker face when you can’t find your car, the guarantee that if you’re wearing something nice you’ll run into no one and the day you have on sweatpants while your kids are losing their shit, you’ll see everyone you know. Ah, the commissary.

And now, here are 10 more reasons to love this perk. They have game day recipes.


Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

1. Cheesy jalapeno turkey sliders

Cheese. Jalepeno. Turkey. What could possibly go wrong? These little bite sized beasts are small enough to eat with your hands and just large enough that they’ll offset (some of) the beers.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

2. Gouda turkey jalapeno poppers

In case your stomach wasn’t already on fire from the sliders, the gouda poppers promise to be a “smoky, tasty twist on typical poppers while using lower fat options.” Save the calories for the nachos.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

3. Slow cooker carnitas

Set it and forget it with this easy recipe that will surely impress your guests as much as a Mahomes comeback. Cook on low for seven hours or high for four, these lovely three pounds of meat are a gift that will keep on giving throughout the night.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

4. Pico de Gallo

If you’re feeling extra fancy, skip the store bought salsa and make your own. Since tortilla chips will almost definitely be on sale this weekend, give them the love they deserve with this easy to whip up dish.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

5. Chicken enchilada casserole

We love a good casserole. It says “I tried and I love you, but I just didn’t really have time to roll individual enchiladas.” This is a classic with enough spice to keep it entertaining but mild enough that even the whiny nephew who always seems to be there, will eat it.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

6. Chile chicken nachos

These bad boys are the real MVP. They take about 20 minutes to make and the glory you’ll receive will last a lifetime. You’re welcome.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

7. Caprese salad on a stick

Tomatos, mozzarella, basil. These look fancy but they are something your 2nd grader could put together (from experience). The nice pop of color adds a little balance and nutrition to all of the cheese things you’re going to have.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

8. Navy Chief’s bean peach salsa

No matter what branch you served in, this salsa is something you can get behind. With a sweetness from the peach but the spice from the jalapeños, you can eat this with as a dip, a topping on a steak or in your bed with a spoon like it’s ice cream. Like the baggers, we’re not here to judge.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

9. Make a MyPlate of nachos

We’re not sure about the name, but this is the healthier version of “real nachos.” With ground turkey, greek yogurt and whole grain tortilla chips, it’s sort of like the real thing. Sort of.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

www.commissaries.com

10. Chunky chicken chili

What game would be complete without chili? Put it on your hot dogs if you like the meat sweats or eat it topped with cheese and Fritos and sour cream. You can’t go wrong with chili and this is a winner.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is searching desperately for new fighter pilots

China’s navy needs Maverick and Goose — and many, many more fighter jocks for its growing carrier force.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is desperately searching for pilots to fill its carrier air wings as the country pushes to build a formidable carrier fleet.

The PLAN launched its 2019 pilot recruitment program Sept.15, 2018, with “the highlight of this year’s recruitment [being] the selection of future carrier-borne aircraft pilot cadets,” according to the Chinese military, which noted that as China’s armed forces shift from “shore-based” to “carrier-based” abilities, the PLAN intends to develop a pilot recruitment system “with Chinese naval characteristics that can adapt to carrier-borne requirements.”


The language appears to indicate a strategic shift from home defense to power projection on the high seas, thinking consistent with Chinese efforts to build an advanced blue water navy.

The lack of pilots trained for carrier-borne operations and combat has been a problem for China in recent years. “They don’t have a whole lot of pilots. Not a lot of capacity in that area,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to Business Insider in August 2018.

By the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly China’s carrier-based fighters, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Sept. 18, 2018.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

A J-15 fighter jet sits on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

(Photo by Zhang Lei)

Recruiters will travel across the country to 23 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions to find suitable navy aviators. “Some of the pilot cadets recruited in 2018 will receive the top and most systematic training as carrier-borne aircraft pilots,” a PLAN Pilot Recruitment Office official revealed.

Pilots selected and trained to fly carrier-based aircraft will fly the fourth-generation Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, the heaviest carrier-based fighter jet in operation today and the type of fighter that composes the carrier air wing for China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

The ongoing recruitment program, according to SCMP, marks the first time the Chinese navy has directly recruited pilots for the J-15, a problematic derivative of a Soviet prototype which has been blamed for several fatal training accidents. In the past, aviators from the navy and air force who were trained to fly other types of aircraft were pulled to fly the J-15.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

A J-15 ship-borne helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.

(Photo by Zhang Lei)

“Becoming a naval pilot is the best choice for those who want to become heroes of the sky and the sea,” the Chinese military stressed on Sept. 18, 2018, emphasizing the Chinese military’s interest in developing advanced power projection capabilities.

China is rapidly building an aircraft carrier fleet with one carrier already in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third in development, but China is still very new to complex carrier operations. Chinese Navy pilots successfully completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings in May 2018.

“An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Sept. 19, 2018.

In addition to a pilot shortage, China still struggles with power and propulsion, aircraft numbers and reliability, carrier launch systems, and a limited experience with carrier operations.

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

Articles

P-47 Thunderbolt versus P-51 Mustang: Which legend wins?

The P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang fought side-by-side with the Allies in World War II. They even divided the job of kicking Axis ass between them by the end of the war. The Mustang became known as an escort fighter, while the Thunderbolt took more of a role as a fighter-bomber.


That said, how would they have fared in a head-to-head fight? It might not be as fantastical as everyone thinks.

The Nazis captured several P-51s during World War II, usually by repairing planes that crash-landed. They also captured some P-47s. This means there was a chance (albeit small) that a P-47 and P-51 could have ended up fighting each other.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
The P-51 and P-47 sit side-by-side. (Photo by Alan Wilson via WikiMedia Commons)

Each plane has its strengths and weaknesses, of course. The P-51 had long range (especially with drop tanks), and its six M2 .50-caliber machine guns could take down just about any opposing fighter.

In fact, the P-51 was credited with 4,950 air-to-air kills in the European theater alone. During the Korean War, the P-51 also proved to be a decent ground-attack plane.

That said, the secret to the P-51’s success, the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, was also, in a sense, the plane’s greatest weakness. The liquid-cooled engine was far more vulnerable to damage; furthermore the P-51 itself was also somewhat fragile.

By contrast, the P-47 Thunderbolt was known for being very tough. In one sense, it was the A-10 of World War II, being able to carry a good payload, take a lot of damage, and make it home (it even shares its name with the A-10 Thunderbolt II).

In one incident on June 26, 1943, a P-47 flown by Robert S. Johnson was hit by hundreds of rounds of German fire, and still returned home. The P-47 carried eight M2 .50-caliber machine guns, arguably the most powerful armament on an American single-engine fighter.

The “Jug” shot down over 3700 enemy aircraft during World War II, proving itself a capable dogfighter.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
P-47 P-51 — Flying Legends 2012 — Duxford (Photo by Airwolfhound)

Which plane would come out on top in a dogfight? The P-51’s superior speed, range, and maneuverability might help in a dogfight, but the P-47 survived hits from weapons far more powerful than the M2 Browning — notably the 20mm and 30mm cannon on German fighters like the FW-190 or Me-109.

What is most likely to happen is that the P-51 would empty its guns into the P-47, but fail to score a fatal hit.

Worse, a mistake by the P-51 pilot would put it in the sights of the P-47’s guns, and the Mustang would likely be unable to survive that pounding.

All in all, we love ’em both, but we’d put money down on the Thunderbolt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Writing funny stuff on ammo is over 2000 years old

Do you have that buddy who scratches messages into his M4 rounds? Or maybe you’re the sailor who Sharpies “This one’s for you” onto JDAMs destined for a flight over the Gulf. Regardless, it turns out that you’re part of a tradition that dates back to a few hundred years before Jesus.

Yeah, we’re all comedians.


Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

(Air Force Master Sgt. Dave Nolan)

Writing messages on bombs, missiles, and other munitions is a common and long-standing tradition. After the 9/11 Attacks, messages of solidarity for New York and vengeance against al Qaeda and the Taliban started popping up on bombs headed for Afghanistan. Hussein and the Ba’ath party were favorite targets for graffiti over Iraq in the early 2000s.

More recently, bombs headed for Iraq and Syria have had messages for ISIS and Baghdadi, and messages supporting Paris were popular after the attacks in 2015.

Obviously, there’s about zero chance in Hell that anyone on the receiving end will actually read the messages. After all, the bomb casings will get obliterated when they go off. But it’s fun for the troops and lets them get a little steam out. Most service members will never fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw a grenade in anger.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

(Imperial War Museum)

So it can sometimes be hard for support troops to connect their actions to dismantling ISIS, defeating Saddam, or destroying al Qaeda. It helps the ordnance crews reinforce their part of the mission, and they can imagine their Sharpie-soaked pieces of shrapnel shredding enemy fighters.

But this tradition really dates back. In World War II, British troops designated bombs to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. And these Americans were hoping their bombs would be great party favors for the Third Reich.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

(U.S. Army Signal)

But the British museum has sling shot, the actual projectiles used in slings and slingshots, that have funny little messages carved into them. Messages like “Catch!” But, you know, the messages are written in Ancient Greek because they were carved 300 or so years before Jesus was born.

So if you ever get a chance to write one of these messages, do it. Just think of something pithy and fun, “Catch!” is old news by now.

Articles

Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

President Donald Trump again teased the prospect of placing a “big order” of F/A-18 Super Hornets to a cheering crowd at Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Friday.


“We are looking seriously at a big order” of F-18s said Trump to applause from the crowd at Boeing, the company that builds the F/A-18.

Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced in January that the military would “review” the F-35 program and possibly opt for more “advanced Super Hornets” instead of the F-35C, the Navy’s carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that continues to struggle.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

Trump continues to seriously explore the idea despite backers of the F-35 program have protested the notion that an updated F-18 can do the F-35’s job.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/Released

The advanced Super Hornet package offered by Boeing builds on the company’s reputation for delivering upgrades to the F-18, first built in the 1970s, on time and on cost.

This contrasts heavily with the Navy’s F-35C, made by Boeing rival Lockheed Martin, which has faced significant difficulties achieving readiness in the military.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would consist of a majority of F/A-18s into the 2040s. In fact, Boeing has contracts currently underway to update the F/A-18s.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gender revealed for the dog that helped take down ISIS leader

A White House official on Nov. 25, 2019, said that Conan, the military working dog that helped take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria in October 2019, was a female.

However, a few hours later, a White House official said the dog was in fact a male, adding to a debate that developed after President Donald Trump tweeted a photo of the dog after the raid.

Conan was awarded a medal and a plaque by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Nov. 25, 2019. Trump, Pence, and Conan walked out to the White House lawn, where the president described Conan as “the world’s most famous dog” who had an “incredible story.”


President Trump Brings Conan, Military Dog Injured In al-Baghdadi Raid, To White House | TIME

www.youtube.com

Trump, who referred to the dog with male pronouns several times, said he thought it was a good idea to “put a muzzle on the dog” because of its “violent” tendencies, though it was unmuzzled throughout the ceremony. The president’s remarks did not deter Pence, who petted Conan several times on her head.

There was speculation over Conan’s gender after Trump released her name and a photo of her in an abrupt tweet after the raid. But former military dog handlers and canine experts were still at an impasse, with some intensely examining the photo.

“I’ve seen the photo of the dog,” a former military dog handler told Business Insider after the raid. “And if you blow up that photo, it’s not a female dog — it’s a male dog.”

“Conan was very badly hurt as you know, and they thought maybe he was not to recover,” Trump said Nov. 25, 2019, referring to injuries the dog received when she touched exposed electrical wires during the raid. “Recovered very quickly and has since gone on very important raids.”

Conan is a Belgian Malinois, the same breed used in the 2011 raid against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The dog is named after comedian Conan O’Brien, according to a Newsweek report.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The airman who inspired ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ just died at 79

Even though Robin Williams’ now-famous morning greeting doesn’t make people think of the real Adrian Cronauer, it does a pretty good job of representing who Cronauer was at heart. The former airman died at his Virginia home on July 18, 2018, after a long battle with illness.

While Cronauer’s trademark, “Gooooooooood Morning, Vietnam” is really how the airman opened his show on the Armed Forces Vietnam Network during his time in Southeast Asia, he always insisted Williams’ performance in the movie was more Robin Williams than Adrian Cronauer. The film is just loosely based on Cronauer’s account of his deployment, with a few striking similarities.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
Cronauer and Williams.


“If I did half the things he did in that movie, I’d still be in Leavenworth and not England,” Cronauer told Stars and Stripes during a stop at RAF Mildenhall in 2004.

When Cronauer left Vietnam, he was replaced by another broadcaster. The show’s name remained the same and Army Spc. 5th Class Pat Sajak opened the 6 a.m. show the exact same way, along with every other early morning DJ who would follow.

The 1987 film, Good Morning, Vietnam, came to America at a time when Americans were still struggling with the Vietnam War. It was a rare departure from the typically grim tales of loss, excess, and suspected POW sightings.

Adrian Cronauer would end up working in radio and television broadcasting for more than 20 years. After spending many years as a lawyer, Cronauer became special assistant to the director of the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in the Pentagon, the office dedicated to finding the missing from America’s foreign wars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An enormous family of 41 are all training at the same post

Enlisting in the Army with a childhood friend or relative is a generations-old practice meant to bring familiarity and comfort to an experience fraught with stress and uncertainty.


So, does signing up with more than one recruit further ease the difficulties associated with initial military training?

The answer is an emphatic “yes” as it relates to members of a Samoan family with a decidedly large footprint at Fort Lee. There are 41 of them enrolled in various Sustainment Center of Excellence courses here, twisting the old adage “strength in numbers.”

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
More than 30 members of an American Samoa family pose for pictures by contorting their faces and posturing for a traditional dance Nov. 8 at Thompson Hall. (U.S. Army photo by T. Anthony Bell)

“This is good for us,” said 30-year-old Spc. Joseph Tauiliili, assigned to Papa Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, and the oldest among relatives in various stages of advanced individual training. “We come from American Samoa, and we’re basically thousands of miles away from home. Seeing them by my side keeps me motivated every day.”

American Samoa is a U.S. territory and part of the Samoan Islands, an archipelago that also includes the independent nation of Samoa. It is located in the Pacific Ocean roughly 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii and a little over 2,000 miles northeast of New Zealand.

The Samoans in training here — first, second, third, and fourth cousins — hail from Poloa, an area near the capital city of Pago Pago. All are related to the same malietoa or chieftain. Their decision to join in close proximity was partly based on strong familial and cultural ties, said Pvt. Siiva Tuiolemotu, assigned to Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.

“We wanted to stick together in training,” the 20-year-old said, noting her country’s communal culture.

Most of the Samoans are training in the Unit Supply Specialist Course taught at the Quartermaster School. A few are enrolled in courses for other quartermaster military occupational specialties, and at least one attends the Ordnance School.

Also Read: This Army mother and son duo deployed together

American Samoa, which has struggled economically, boasts strong traditions of military service, said Tuiolemotu. In 2014, a local Army recruiting station was the most productive in the world, according to the Samoa News website. Still, kinship is what drives most to take the oath of service.

“The thing we care about is supporting our families,” she said. “If that means (sacrificing) our lives, yes, we have to fight for them.”

It also is legacy. Many of the Soldiers are the latest to uphold family traditions.

“Most of my siblings are in the military, and I’m the youngest, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” said 25-year-old Pfc. Vasait Saua, Whiskey Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion.

Pvt. Talalelei Ames said his parents also spent time in uniform, and his father is a retiree. Enduring long periods of separation while they served, he said his military ties were not strong, but that has changed since he took the oath.

“Wearing the uniform makes me feel I am more connected to them,” said the 19-year-old. “I think it’s pretty awesome. I never had this much fun in my life and never had this much responsibility. Now, I know what my parents went through to protect the country.”

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
Regional map, showing the islands of American Samoa in relation to Western Samoa and other points of interest. (Image from U.S. National Park Service)

The question of whether the Samoans are a close-knit clan or a loose group of relatives was answered during a recent photo session. The Quartermaster School’s Sgt. Maj. Micheal Lambert, who organized the gathering, said there were smiles, hugs, and kisses reminiscent of a family reunion. To top it all off, they postured as if performing a traditional dance complete with contorted facial expressions

“They are definitely a family,” he said.

At some point during their training, the Samoans must face an inherent component of Army life — family separation. The sheer number of Samoans wearing uniforms, however, along with the richness of Samoan culture is comforting in light of the prospect, said Tuiolemotu.

“I’m the first one who will leave the group,” she said, noting a pending Fort Riley, Kansas, assignment. “I’m not worried because there are a lot of us out there. I’m bound to meet another relative somewhere. That’s for sure.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why a Trump deal with North Korea is bad news for Iran

Of the three charter members of the “Axis of Evil” – Iraq, Iran, and North Korea – Iran may be the last man standing, thanks to the guys with the crazy hair – Kim Jong-Un and Donald J. Trump.

The Iranian leadership’s special blend of messianism, self-pity, and paranoia has fueled its hegemonic push West, through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and meddling in the territory of its neighbors, Yemen and Afghanistan. This makes sense in the regime’s House of Leadership, while it husbands its nuclear weapons development capability for another day, thanks to the “Iran nuclear deal” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it undercuts Iran’s need to attract foreign investment to revive its deteriorating economy.


Despite the surprise election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Iran’s leadership no doubt hoped the opportunity for contracts for U.S. companies, read Boeing, would be too good to pass up despite candidate Trump’s disdain for the JCPOA, which he called “the worst deal ever.” And in May 2018, after delaying for over a year and giving the U.S. Congress or the other JCPOA partners an opportunity to fix the agreement, Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the “horrible one-sided” JCPOA.

On the other side of the world, North Korea’s hereditary leader, Kim Jong-Un, had a face-t0-face meeting in Singapore with Donald Trump, who had only recently derided him as “Rocket Man.” Kim has visited Beijing several times to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and made a historic trip to the Panmunjom truce village where he met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stepped over the border into South Korea, the first North Korean leader to do so.

What does Iran have to do to get some respect?

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

There may not be much Iran can do because North Korea has one thing Iran lacks: neighbors who want a peace process to succeed and can brandish the appropriate carrots and sticks.

Iran’s neighbor Iraq is key to Iran’s regional strategy due to its location and large Shia Muslim population, but Iran’s involvement increases Iraqi Sunni anxiety, leaving them open to manipulation by outside forces; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have neither the financial or political heft to improve Iran’s economy or its security situation; Turkey, a regional competitor, will likely bide its time as Iran’s isolation continues; in the Southern Caucasus, secular Azerbaijan is wary of its militant neighbor, and Armenia is a shambles and hardly able to help itself much less anyone else. And across the Persian Gulf lies Saudi Arabia, anxious to take down its regional rival as its ambitious young ruler looks to reshape its economy and society.

Iran’s remaining partners in the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, European Union, Russia, and the United Kingdom – are distant from the consequences of any regional instability and are primarily motivated by trade opportunities.

North Korea lives in an entirely different neighborhood. To its North are China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council and, in China’s case, a diverse, growing economy – the world’s second largest. To the South is South Korea, home of the world’s eleventh largest economy and a vibrant exporter of cultural and technology products. Across the Sea of Japan is, well, Japan, a leading technology exporter and home of the third largest economy.

North Korea’s neighbors have significant security concerns: China wants to stop North Korean refugees escaping across its border and to be able to mitigate the increasing stress in its relations with the Kim regime. South Korea is interested in threat reduction and family reunification; Japan can’t move out of range of the North’s missiles, so would like the missile and nuclear weapon programs to end. And the U.S., with 28,000 troops and numerous family members in the South, is fully invested in both denuclearization and a peaceful end of the Korean War, which started sixty-eight years ago in June 2018.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

Chinese president Xi Jinping

If war broke out again on the Korean Peninsula, the effect would worldwide and immediate as South Korea is a vital part of the global supply chain for high technology equipment. And it’s unlikely someone else could quickly pick up the slack: it is estimated that the replacement cost of the display manufacturing capability of Samsung and rival LG will top billion. In the words of one analyst, “If Korea is hit by a missile, all electronics production will stop.”

So a major conflict in Asia will damage economies worldwide; more trouble in Iran’s neighborhood, short of stopping all oil exports from the Persian Gulf, is Page 3 news.

President Trump probably looked at Iran and North Korea and correctly concluded that North Korea was the greater strategic threat to the U.S. and must be dealt with first. The North has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can soon reach the U.S. mainland, even if it now lacks warhead re-entry capability and terminal guidance technology. But Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” was then amplified by Pyongyang’s neighbors who have their own economic and political heft and who want the North to denuclearize and join the world economy.

Iran is a noisy, regional menace but is being countered in part by aggressive economic sanctions which, coupled with the regime’s economic mismanagementand corruption, are doing more damage than a subversion campaign sponsored by the U.S. and its allies. But that’s probably going on, too.

Kim signaled he was taking the country in a new direction in 2016, at the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, where he emphasized his policy of “byungjin” — or “simultaneous pursuit” — equating economic growth and the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. His likely goal is to announce significant economic growth at the 8th Workers’ Party Congress in 2022.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

Kim Jong Un

(KCNA)

In April 2018, Kim “declared victory on the nuclear front“, allowing him to focus on the economy – and to be publicly responsible for the success or failure of his policies.

Shortly after Trump’s return from his meeting with Kim, U.S. media reported North Korea had increased nuclear production at secret sites. Was Trump snookered by Kim as some observers hoped? Possibly, but Kim likely wants to maximize production of nukes and missiles, so he has more to trade when trading day arrives. He also needs to keep the military-industrial complex busy and motivated as he prepares for years of difficult negotiations with the U.S. and his neighbors.

Indeed, strategists at Korean conglomerate Samsung think North Korea is “already past the point of no return,” and the economy will overtake the military as the regime’s means of survival. If so, regime insiders will want to be rewarded for their fidelity, as visions of mobile phone licenses and mining concessions dance in their heads. Though North Korea is a long way from mass politics, economic success will enable Kim to solidify his popular base as a counterweight to regime insiders.

In fact, Kim may be ahead of his cadres in the new politics game. In 2017, in a national broadcast, he admitted “My desires were burning all the time, but I spent the past year feeling anxious and remorseful for the lack of my ability,” a startling admission from someone the subject of a pervasive personality cult. And Kim and Trump know a picture of two men shaking hands is enough to start a political reordering.

Where is Iran in all this? As part of North Korea’s denuclearization, the U.S. will insist on implementing the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program in conjunction with monitoring by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. CTR was the way to prevent “loose nukes” – preventing the “proliferation of WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] and related materials, technologies and expertise from former Soviet Union states.”

The U.S. will demand to know the extent of North Korea’s cooperation with Iran (and Syria and Pakistan, for that matter). The information won’t come cheap, but it will allow the U.S. and its partners to identify new key weapons development officials and facilities, and to attack the transport networks and financial systems that support Iran’s WMD program. And those same networks probably support Iran’s program of terror and subversion, most of it directed against Iran’s neighbors, so political and security progress in Asia may pay dividends in the Middle East.

And time is of the essence, as the media recently uncovered the possible use of Danske Bank Estonia in Tallinn to finance weapons deals between North Korea and Iran. North Korea was the focus of the news cycle two weeks ago, but if its future disclosures lag media reporting, it will be continually reacting to disclosures about its money laundering and use of the informal transportation sector and for no benefit.

And the U.S. must not forget the Iranian people – they are a key audience (aside from swing voters in the 2020 U.S. elections). They should be the target of news reports on economic progress in North Korea as their economy continues to stagnate so they, and the young especially, can ask why their leaders can’t get the world’s respect and engagement. To underline what happened, they should be reminded that Trump traveled to Asia – Kim’s neighborhood – to meet him.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s invocation of “resistance” will be increasingly threadbare if Iranians’ quality of life deteriorates as additional sanctions bite and China stops taking Iran’s calls.

Kim Jong-Un, Ali Khamenei – they’ve both done awful things, but now we’ll see who’s the transformational leader with his eyes on the future.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

WW2 vet dies while visiting country from which he fought 71 years earlier

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
Marvin Rector visiting the Battle of Britain museum shortly before his death. (Photo: Susan Jowers)


Ninety-four-year-old Melvin Rector had one last item on his bucket list: He wanted to return to England where he’d served as a B-17 crewman. So earlier this month he hopped on an airliner and flew across the Atlantic to a place where he’d come of age 71 years earlier.

As reported by Florida Today, Rector was scheduled to visit his former base RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk but started the tour at the Battle of Britain Bunker in the Uxbridge area of London that first day.

“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” said Susan Jowers, 60, who first met Rector when she served as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.

As he walked out, Rector told Jowers that he felt dizzy, according to Florida Today. Jowers took hold of one of Rector’s arms while a stranger grasped the other.

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe
Rector at his radio operator console aboard at B-17 during a bombing raid. (Photo: Rector family archives)

Rector died quietly there just outside the bunker. When the locals found out about it, they made sure his memory was honored appropriately.

“They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,” funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. “We wanted it to be as special as possible.”

Though no one knew him, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and historians in London attended and participated in the funeral with military honors.

“He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers said. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.”

U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell told ITV he thought he and a few other U.S. military personnel would be the only ones to attend the funeral, but was surprised.

“The representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army that I saw here was phenomenal,” he said.

A funeral service for Rector, a father of six, is set for 11 a.m. June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida. Jowers told Florida Today that his remains were being repatriated on May 31.

Jowers, who said Rector became like a father to her after their first meeting in 2011, summed up his passing with this thought: “He completed his final mission.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Marvel stars respond to Spider-Man leaving the MCU

Spider-Man has officially been booted out of the MCU, and the Marvel stars are just as upset as we are. Earlier this week, it was announced that Sony and Disney were unable to reach a new deal on the new films, so Tom Holland’s Spider-Man would no longer be a part of the Marvel Universe. Fans are heartbroken over the news, and it looks like MCU actors Jeremy Renner and Ryan Reynolds are equally torn up.

Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the Avengers franchise, called Sony out in an Instagram post last night. “Hey @sonypictures we want Spider-Man back to @therealstanlee and @marvel please, thank you. #congrats #spidermanrocks#? #please,” the actor wrote alongside a photo of himself as Hawkeye.


Even if Disney is technically to blame for the decision (they wanted a 50/50 co-financing agreement), fans were quick to cheer Renner on. “YES!!! Thank you for speaking up Renner!! #savespidermanfromsony” one user commented.

Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds also chimed in to support Spidey after a fan tweeted at him and Tom Holland: “Can we get a Spiderman Deadpool movie now?” Reynolds responded: “You can. But you can only see it in my heart.”

This was clearly too soon for heartbroken fans, as the replies are full of crying gifs and teary emojis. Some fans are even begging Reynolds to somehow step in and reverse the decision. “RYAN U HAVE MORE POWER THAN ANY OF US PLEASE DO SOMETHING” one Twitter user replied.

It’s likely that even Reynolds’ clout won’t change Spidey’s fate at this point, but as Spider-Man taught us: with great power comes great responsibility.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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