Everything you need to know about China's air force - We Are The Mighty
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Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

Articles

This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

A Chinese government spokesman said on Thursday that the US Army may have “brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” fueling a coronavirus conspiracy theory.


Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called attention to a comment on Wednesday from Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledging that some Americans who were said to have died from influenza may have actually died from COVID-19.

“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected?” Zhao wrote on Twitter. “What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

In a short thread on Twitter — a social media platform that’s inaccessible in China — Zhao demanded to know how many of the millions of infections and thousands of deaths during the latest flu season were actually related to COVID-19.

The US State Department summoned Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai Friday to protest the spokesman’s comments, Reuters reported, and the Pentagon sharply criticized Zhao’s remarks, calling them “false and absurd.”

The coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, and since then, the pandemic has claimed the lives of thousands of people, mostly in China.

As China has faced criticism, Chinese authorities have pushed back, suggesting that the virus may have originated somewhere else. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said in late February that “though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China.”

Zhao stressed the same point in a recent press briefing.

“No conclusion has been reached yet on the origin of the virus,” he told reporters, adding that “what we are experiencing now is a global phenomenon with its source still undetermined.”

One popular coronavirus conspiracy theory that has emerged in China is that US military athletes participating in the Military World Games in Wuhan last year may have brought the virus into China. There is, however, no evidence to support this accusation.

The Trump administration has laid the blame firmly at China’s feet. “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” the White House national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told reporters on Wednesday.

“It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” he added.

Geng Shuang, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said O’Brien’s “immoral and irresponsible” comments denigrated China’s efforts to fight the virus. He added that the US should focus on “international cooperation instead of trying to shift the blame.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy suspected of spying on a reporter in high-profile war crimes case

In a potentially unprecedented violation of privacy, a Navy prosecutor is suspected of spying on the media in an attempt to find leaks in a major war crimes case.

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher will soon stand trial for stabbing an unarmed ISIS militant to death in Iraq in 2017, as well as shooting two civilians. The Navy SEAL’s defense team recently brought forward allegations that the prosecution sent emails with embedded tracking software to 13 lawyers and paralegals affiliated with the case.

Emails were also sent to attorneys for Lt. Jacob Portier, who allegedly conducted a re-enlistment ceremony for Gallagher next to the body of the very ISIS fighter Gallagher is accused of murdering.


The emails sent by Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak contained an unusual image of the American flag with a bald eagle sitting atop the scales of justice, an image that had not appeared in previous emails.

While most of the recipients were members of Gallagher and Portier’s defense teams, one of these peculiar emails was sent to a Carl Prine, a reporter at Navy Times who has broken several important stories related to the case. Czaplak, according to Tim Parlatore, one of Gallagher’s attorneys, recently admitted to sending the emails before a military judge.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher.

(Facebook)

The emails with the tracking software are suspected to have been sent as part of an ongoing NCIS investigation into leaks to the media, as the case is covered by a gag order imposed by Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh. Still, certain sensitive documents have been leaked to the press.

“It is illegal for the government to use [the emails] in the way they did without a warrant,” Parlatore said to Military Times, parent company for Navy Times. “What this constitutes is a warrantless surveillance of private citizens, including the media, by the military. We should all be terrified.”

The Navy explained to Military Times that the media was and is not the target of the investigations. The embedded image in the email sent by the prosecution reportedly contained a “splunk tool,” a kind of cyber tool capable of facilitating external access to a compromised computer and the files stored within, although there is the possibility the tracking software in the emails may have been more benign.

The prosecution is suspected of pursuing IP addresses and other relevant metadata, information which can only be pursued with a subpoena or court order.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

While such behavior is decidedly unethical in the legal world, the targeting of reporters may be without precedent. “This is the first case I am aware of that something like this has happened,” Gabe Rottman, the director of the Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told Military Times. “If a prosecutor sent an email to a reporter with a tracking device intending to identify a leak, that is certainly concerning.”

“If it is true that a government official included tracking software in an email to a reporter surreptitiously to find out who the reporter is talking to, that potentially exposes that reporter’s other sources in totally unrelated cases to government scrutiny,” he added.

In response to the alleged actions of the prosecution, Parlatore is filing a motion to dismiss the case, as well as a motion to disqualify Czaplak from prosecuting the case. It remains to be seen if there will be any legal backlash to deal with the suspected blow to press freedom.

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

Articles

US Defense Chief says nukes still ‘bedrock’ of American security

Defense Secretary Ash Carter kicked off a visit to DoD’s nuclear deterrence enterprise, telling airmen at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, that DoD will invest, innovate and sustain to rebuild that enterprise’s capabilities that remain the bedrock of U.S. defense strategy.


The secretary spoke at a hangar on the flightline of the base. He thanked the airmen at the base, and by extension, thanked the thousands of other technicians who man, maintain, guard and operate the bombers, ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines and the command-and-control systems around the world.

“As you know, everyone has their role to play,” he said, “and while each physical piece is important, it’s really the people who make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Launch Facility-4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base Calif. The Minuteman III ICBM is an element of the nation’s strategic deterrent forces under the control of the Air Force Global Strike Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lael Huss)

The secretary emphasized throughout his talk with the airmen that America’s nuclear deterrence is the bedrock of U.S. security and the highest priority mission in the Defense Department.

“Because while it is a remarkable achievement that in the more than seven decades since 1945, nuclear weapons have not again been used in war, that’s not something we can ever take for granted,” he said. “And that’s why today, I want to talk about how we’re innovating and investing to sustain that bedrock.”

Carter has a long history with the nuclear mission, working in the 1980s on basing for the MX missile system. He speaks from experience when he says the deterrence mission has both remained the same and changed.

“At a strategic level, of course, you deter large-scale nuclear attack against the United States and our allies,” he said. “You help convince potential adversaries that they can’t escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression. You assure allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible — enabling many of them to forgo developing nuclear weapons themselves, despite the tough strategic environment they find themselves in and the technological ease with which they could develop such weapons.”

The nuclear deterrent also provides an umbrella under which service members accomplish conventional missions around the world, the secretary said.

But the nuclear landscape has changed and it will continue to pose challenges, Carter said.

“One way the nuclear landscape has changed: we didn’t build new types of nuclear weapons or delivery systems for the last 25 years, but others did, at the same time that our allies in Asia, the Middle East, and NATO did not,” the secretary said, “so we must continue to sustain our deterrence.”

Russia has modernized its nuclear arsenal, and there is some doubt about Russian leaders’ strategies for the weapons.

“Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations underscore that a diverse and dynamic spectrum of nuclear threats still exists,” Carter said. “So our deterrence must be credible, and extended to our allies in the region.”

North Korea is building nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them, the secretary said. The North Korean threat spurs spending on missile defense in the United States and the deployment of systems to South Korea, he added.

“We back all of that up with the commitment that any attack on America or our allies will be not only defeated, but that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response,” Carter said.

India and China are behaving responsibly with their nuclear enterprises, the secretary said.

“In Iran, their nuclear aspirations have been constrained and transparency over their activities increased by last year’s nuclear accord, which, as long as it continues to be implemented, will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carter said. “The last example I’ll cite is Pakistan, where nuclear weapons are entangled in a history of tension, and while they are not a threat to the United States directly, we work with Pakistan to ensure stability.”

Despite the changes since the end of the Cold War, the nature of deterrence has not changed, the secretary said.

“Even in 2016, deterrence still depends on perception — what potential adversaries see, and therefore believe — about our will and ability to act,” he said. “This means that as their perceptions shift, so must our strategy and actions.”

A large-scale nuclear attack is not likely, the secretary said. The most likely scenario is “the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example by Russia or North Korea, to try to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis,” Carter said. “We cannot allow that to happen, which is why we’re working with our allies in both regions to innovate and operate in new ways that sustain deterrence and continue to preserve strategic stability.”

NATO is reexamining the nuclear strategy to integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence to deter Russia, he said.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the United States engages in formal deterrence dialogues with its allies Japan and South Korea, Carter said, “to ensure we’re poised to address nuclear deterrence challenges in Asia.”

Carter said the U.S. is taking steps to ensure that its nuclear triad — bombers, ICBMS and ballistic missile submarines — do not become obsolete.

“We’re now beginning the process of correcting decades of under-investment in nuclear deterrence,” the secretary said.

The Pentagon has underfunded its nuclear deterrence enterprise since the end of the Cold War, Carter added.

“Over the last 25 years since then, we only made modest investments in basic sustainment and operations, about $15 billion a year,” he said. “And it turned out that wasn’t enough.”

The fiscal year 2017 budget request invests a total of $19 billion in the nuclear enterprise, Carter said. Over the next five years, he said, plans call for the department to spend $108 billion to sustain and recapitalize the nuclear force and associated strategic command, control, communications, and intelligence systems.

The budget also looks to modernization, the secretary said. Plans call for replacing old ICBMs with new ones that will be less expensive to maintain, keeping strategic bombers effective in the face of more advanced air defense systems, and building replacements for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, the secretary said.

“If we don’t replace these systems, quite simply they will age even more, and become unsafe, unreliable, and ineffective,” Carter said. “The fact is, most of our nuclear weapon delivery systems have already been extended decades beyond their original expected service lives. So it’s not a choice between replacing these platforms or keeping them. It’s really a choice between replacing them or losing them. That would mean losing confidence in our ability to deter, which we can’t afford in today’s volatile security environment.”

While these plans are expensive, they are only a small percentage of total defense spending, the secretary said.

“In the end, though, this is about maintaining the bedrock of our security,” Carter said. “And after too many years of not investing enough, it’s an investment that we as a nation have to make, because it’s critical to sustaining nuclear deterrence in the 21st century.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The awesome way two enemies went off-script during peace talks

April 27, 2018’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in was planned down to every last footstep.

The two countries even did a joint rehearsal of their two leaders meeting, shaking hands, and walking around the grounds of the Demilitarized Zone using stand-ins to make sure every second was calibrated as best as possible for the world’s cameras.


But for a moment, Kim went completely off script.

After shaking hands with Moon and stepping across the border line into South Korea, Kim invited Moon to step back into North Korea with him.

The South Korean president’s residence, The Blue House, confirmed the moment was “unscheduled.” According to a spokesman, Moon asked Kim, “When do I get to visit the North,” to which Kim replied “Why don’t you just come over to the North side now?”

The sudden invite didn’t appear to worry Moon, who was seen laughing and talking with Kim, before the two paused for a handshake on the North Korean side.

At another point, Kim appeared to go off script again joking about the famous cold noodles he had brought in from Pyongyang, which is “far.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t say ‘far’ now,” he seemed to quickly backtrack.

But the two moments, however light-hearted, will probably be taken very seriously by the US intelligence community.

Kim is an incredibly secretive leader — he even travels with his own toilet to prevent his health being analyzed through his excrements — which means intelligence officials rely on any and all clues to understand how he thinks and operates.

Intelligence officials told Reuters that experts will closely watch the inter-Korean summit and analyze what Kim says as well as his body language.

The current profile of Kim focuses on his tendencies for ruthlessness as well as rationality. But inviting Moon on a surprise visit to the North could also hint at a tendency for spontaneity.

This could pose a problem for the Trump administration’s strategy for meeting with Kim.

Trump himself is incredibly spontaneous, often veering off-script in ways that can create awkward, and at times, offensive, moments with world leaders.

Having two leaders with a propensity for improvisation steer the US-North Korea summit could create a positive middle ground and help build a personal relationship between Kim and Trump.

Or there could now be twice the chance of something being done or said in error, spelling disaster for bilateral negotiations.

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

popular

6 things in video games that work nothing like real combat

Obviously, video games are nothing like the real world. No one is going to give you 100 gold coins to go clear a bunch of rats out of a dungeon and no one is impressed by your ability to roll on the ground to get places faster.

Where this division between real life and gaming hits the hardest is in the military. Think about it — not once has a recruiter tried to tell you about the “quest reward” that is the GI Bill. On the bright side, there are a lot less people screaming that they’ve done unspeakable acts to others’ mothers — so there’s that.

These are six video game tropes that are completely detached from reality.


Everything you need to know about China’s air force

Usually, waiting for your vision to stop going red indicates a concussion…

First-aid kits

Most games have one of two types of healing: Either you just hide behind a rock for a few seconds and you’re perfect or you run over a first-aid kit and it immediately feel better You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t how it works on an actual battlefield.

There are entire occupations in the military dedicated to delivering aid to wounded troops. The cold reality is that just throwing a first aid kit at someone isn’t going to get them back to 100%.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

It’s probably for the best. A laser could get set off by anyone: friend, foe, or civilian bystander.

Claymore mines

For some reason, claymore mines in video games are always set to go off when someone walks in front of the little lasers attached to the front.

In real life, mines like those do exist, but they aren’t used on the battlefield. Laser tripwire mines are highly discouraged by the Geneva convention. Typically, real claymore mines are detonated with a wire and switch.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

Even in the apocalypse, any weapon you find works perfectly.

Perfectly working weapons

No matter what wide assortment of weapons and firearms the game presents to the player, every weapon will always work perfectly. You never have to clean them, maintain them, or deal with many of the issues that plague actual weapons.

Cleaning weapons is a daily routine for combat arms troops. But even if the weapon is at peak cleanliness, they may still suffer a failure to feed, load, or eject, which takes a troop out of the fight temporarily. It’d be nice for immersion if the gamer had to perform SPORTS on a disabled rifle, but it definitely wouldn’t be any fun.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

Older games tended to be a lot more straightforward with their orders.

Operation Orders

In a sense, there are briefings in video games. While the mission loads up, players are told what to do and then sent off to play. If they don’t like a mission, they can usually just skip it — or disregard orders and play it however they see fit.

Declining a mission from someone who outranks you or putting your own “creative twist” on an objective to it is a surefire way to incur administrative action — especially if your idiotic move has terrible consequences for someone else.

It’s also much harder to do a 360 No-Scope in real life, so don’t try it at home, kids.

“Running and gunning”

In multiplayer games, when a match starts, players set out with a singular objective of outscoring the other guys. This means that everyone plays the fun role of the badass who runs around the map shooting fools in the face.

Actual missions are set up differently and broken down into many different tasks. Your security element is often away from the fight and watching what the enemy is up to, the support element makes sure things go according to plan, and even the assault teams you’d expect to be doing the badass stuff often are given a single task like, “just watch this one particular window.”

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

Thankfully, helicopter pilots don’t give a damn if you’ve gone on a 7-kill streak or not.

Fair fights

Video games try to give everyone an equal and competitive chance at winning. Developers spend months fine tuning a game before launching it to make sure every player is given the same chance as the next. In a perfect, competitive environment, the only variable is skill.

There’s no way in Hell that U.S. troops would willingly fight on the same level as their enemy. Sure, there’s always going to be that one tool who complains about the Geneva Convention “holding us back,” but in the grander scheme of things, it really doesn’t. U.S. troops kick an unbelievable amount of ass — and they do so with bigger guns, better technology, and more rigorous training.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of November 15th

So, in weird military news, the former range director and several others at Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks have pleaded guilty to an insane amount of bribery. And I don’t mean your run of the mill “here’s twenty bucks. Say I shot a perfect 40/40” either. I mean, he received antique sports cars, diamond earrings, and a nice arsenal of firearms in kickbacks to help squeeze through lucrative government contracts.

I get that GS-12 contractors make far more than an E-9, but you’d think someone would have noticed that the retired Sergeant Major is now rolling up in a souped-up ’69 Ford Galaxie overnight. Like, I’m pretty sure all of those stupid internet training videos the military makes us do twice a month specifically point out that this is a red flag.


But honestly. The dude took over $700,000 in bribes, and I bet the range still worked like sh*t. Or that’s at least my excuse whenever the 50M target won’t go down when I swear I shot that motherf*cker… Anyways, here are some memes.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via First Meme Div)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Not CID)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via ASMDSS)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Private News Network)

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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This is how Gen. Dunford is working on ‘difficult issues’ with China

The top US military officer told his Chinese counterpart August 15 that the US and China have “many difficult issues” to work through, during a visit that comes amid tensions over North Korea’s missile program, Taiwan, and China’s claims in the South China Sea.


Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the remarks at the opening of a meeting with Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department.

US officials say Dunford’s visit aims to create a mechanism for improving communication between the sides, especially on sensitive issues such as North Korea. Dunford and Fang signed an agreement committing the sides to that goal, with the details to be discussed during talks in Washington in November.

Fang said Dunford’s visit was a key part of efforts to expand dialogue between the US and China as agreed by President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, when they met earlier this year.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
People’s Liberation Army Gen. Fang Fenghui. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.

To that end, China has arranged a series of important meetings and visits to help Dunford “know more about our military, (boost) our cooperation, and build up our friendship,” Fang said.

Dunford responded that the US considered the meetings important to making progress on areas of disagreement, without citing any specific examples.

“I think here, we have to be honest — we have many, many difficult issues where we don’t necessarily share the same perspective,” Dunford said.

“I know we share one thing: We share a commitment to work through these difficult issues,” he added, saying that with the guidance of political leaders “we are going to make some progress over the next few days.”

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

This is the highest-level meeting between the two countries’ militaries since Trump and Xi met in Florida in April.

The US delegation will be flying to the northeastern city of Shenyang on August 16 to observe an exercise staged by the People’s Liberation Army’s Northern Theater Command. Fang cited the event as being among the measures aimed at building mutual trust and understanding.

While the sides agreed several years ago to establish a hotline between the Pentagon and China’s defense ministry, that mechanism has never gone into operation. US officials say they’ve attempted to use it, but that the Chinese side has never answered their requests.

The Chinese and US militaries have joined in naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii and other limited multinational drills mainly aimed at dealing with humanitarian disasters. They’ve also tried to improve mutual trust through agreements on dealing with unexpected encounters at sea.

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US Navy and Republic of Singapore ships in the South China Sea. US Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 3rd Class Angela Henderson

Despite those, China deeply resents the presence of the US Navy in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety.

Last week, China expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” with the US over the Navy’s latest freedom of navigation operation in which a warship sailed past one of China’s man-made islands.

Dunford is visiting South Korea, Japan, and China after a week in which Trump said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the US.

In a phone call with Trump on August 12, Chinese President Xi said all sides should avoid rhetoric or action that would worsen tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Minneapolis increases funding by $6.4M to hire more police officers

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted for $6.4 million in funding to increase the size of the city police department. Police officials requested the extra funding eight days earlier, explaining the force had effectively lost more than 200 officers in the months since the death of George Floyd caused protests across the city. 

Former officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is scheduled for trial March 8. Three other former officers will face trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Currently 638 officers are available to work in the city of Minneapolis, despite the department’s having 817 officers on payroll. Sixty officers have retired or resigned since the beginning of 2020, and more than 150 are on extended leave for a variety of reasons, including post-traumatic stress following the unrest last summer.

The plan was approved unanimously, despite some members of the City Council previously pushing for large-scale structural changes in the police department. 

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Minneapolis Police Department officers protect a fire truck near the 3rd Precinct from rioters after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Photo by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

In late January, three City Council members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder — introduced the Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment. This would create a Department of Public Safety and eliminate the police department, replacing it with a Division of Law Enforcement made up of “licensed peace officers” within the new department.

In response to these public safety concerns, the police department will update its hiring application with questions about city residency, advanced degrees in fields such as criminology and social work, and volunteer activities. The city will post these newly funded openings this week and hopes to have new officers starting this summer.

On Saturday, a demonstration took place near the former location of the police department’s 3rd Precinct, which was burned by violent protesters in May 2020. Organized by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local groups who support replacing the police department entirely with a Department of Public Safety, the activists were collecting petition signatures for the plan in hopes of getting it on the election ballot this fall.

“We’re hoping to change the culture, we’re hoping to change the structure,” demonstrator Julia Johnson told KTSP Eyewitness News.

According to Yes 4 Minneapolis spokesperson Corenia Smith, the organization has received a $500,000 grant from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

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Watch USMC footage of artillery strikes on ISIS in Syria

US Marines have been on the ground in Syria since March, when a detachment from an amphibious task force arrived in the country, where they joined US special-operations forces to support US partner forces.


The Marine units deployed to Syria included elements of an artillery battery that can fire 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers.

The military has already released footage and photos of Marines in Syria firing their howitzers in support of local coalition partners during their advance on Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital in northwest Syria.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

“The Marines have been conducting 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Coalition’s local partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the Defense Department said at the time that footage was released.

During the first week of July, the US military released the first footage of Marine artillery units striking an ISIS target on May 14, destroying what the Defense Department called an ISIS artillery position in support of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The M777 howitzer has a range of 15 to 25 miles, and the artillery units in Syria have moved at least once to support the ongoing fight against ISIS there, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in April.
“The fight evolves, so they’re moving to where they can best provide support based on the capability of the weapons system,” Neller said. “The commanders there understand the capability, and they’ll reposition them as required in order to provide the fire support and other effects they need to do to make the campaign successful, ultimately.”

Marine artillery units previously deployed to Iraq to support the fight against ISIS there were set up in a fixed position — though they came under fire just hours into their deployment in March 2016.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.)

US forces in Syria are aiding local partner forces in what Defense Secretary James Mattis has called an “annihilation campaign,” seeking to surround and destroy ISIS fighters — foreign fighters in particular — “so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another,” Mattis told reporters in May.

Mattis “asked me and the military chain-of-command to make a conscious effort not to allow ISIS fighters to just flee from one location to another,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Defense News in June.

“Our commanders on the ground have tried to meet that goal of annihilating the enemy in order to mitigate the risk of these terrorists showing up someplace else.”

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)

Fighting to retake Raqqa has already begun, and over 2,000 ISIS militants are thought to remain there.

US special-operations forces are already working with Arab and Kurdish partners to vet and train a force to secure the city during and after the effort to oust ISIS. Questions remain about how Raqqa and the surrounding area will be secured, as well as about how territory wrested from ISIS around Syria will be divided among the various factions operating in the country.

The US-led coalition and its partner forces have already come into conflict with Syrian pro-regime forces, which are backed by Iran and Russia. Southeast Syria near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders has been a flashpoint for these confrontations, though a local ceasefire has recently gone into effect there.

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How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.


But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.

Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.

But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.

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Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.

In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.

If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.

The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Moscow rally 24 December 2011. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”

To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.

“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”

Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Russian President Putin and former US President Obama’s relationship was contentious, to say the least. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.

Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.

The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army wants robot attack tanks and ground war drones

The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.

Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.

“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.


Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division explain the capabilities of the multipurpose unmanned tactical transport.

“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible. You are talking about shifting terrain and changing enemy movements,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.

Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.

In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.

Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.

AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.


The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.

“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.

Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Peter Romines launches the unmanned aircraft system drone.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Melissa K. Russell)

It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.

In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.

“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.

CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.

Everything you need to know about China’s air force
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates learns how to operate an unmanned ground vehicle.
(DoD photo by Cherie Cullen)

The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.

The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing this year, Army developers said.

“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.

David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.

“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.

The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.

“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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