China, Russia, Malaysia, and other nations are failing to curb sanctioned financial dealings and trade conducted by North Korea in their countries, according to a U.N. report.
A U.N. panel of experts on North Korea said these nations and others are failing to stop the Kim Jong Un regime’s efforts to fund its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. CNN received key sections of the report.
Their draft report was distributed to a U.N. committee overseeing North Korea sanctions compliance. It then goes to the Security Council.
In violation of U.N. sanctions, North Korean exported roughly $200 million in coal and other commodities in 2017, the panel said. Much of the regime’s coal and fuel shipments passed through Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Russian ports.
More than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions are operating in foreign nations, including Russia and China, the investigators said.
North Korea “is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the document stated.
Several dozen times over the past decade, the report said, North Korean weapons have been shipped to Syria to develop a chemical-weapons program.
Syria told the panel no North Korea technical companies are operating in the country, and the only North Koreans there are involved in sports.
A member country also reported that Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles, according to the report.
Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, and Burmese embassies in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the U.N. Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea after several weapons tests, including nuclear ones.
Corporal Legend, a mascot who has served as a Parris Island morale booster since 2011, passed away Sept. 17, according to a release from the depot.
The English Bulldog was found unresponsive and taken to the depot’s veterinary clinic where he was pronounced dead, according to the release. It states a funeral ceremony will be held on Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. at the depot’s mascot cemetery.
Cpl. Legend, the depot’s 20th mascot, was diagnosed with a heart condition earlier this year and placed on a limited work schedule pending his retirement, according to the release.
“Legend was a very relaxed dog, ” Lance Cpl. Alicia Stull, administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion along with Legend’s caretaker since August 2016, said in the release. “It taught me how to be more patient as a person, since he was a very laid back dog.”
As a moral booster, he participated in the motivational run on family day, the depot’s morning colors ceremony, and graduation, the release states.
Cpt. Legend enlisted in the Marine Corps on Nov. 4, 2011 and graduated from Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as an honor graduate, earning him meritorious private first class. He was preceded by Sgt. Archibald Hummer, who died in September of that year.
“Each time I left my room he would run behind me and look at me like I was never going to come back,” said Stull. “So I always took him with me wherever I went. He was like my baby.”
Opha Mae is set to take over the post as the depot’s first female mascot. She is currently in training with Platoon 4044, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion and is scheduled to graduate on Nov. 17, 2017.
“She is excited about anything or everything you put in front of her,” said Cpl. Cameron Philips, an administrative clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion. “She is very social and energetic; her people skills are why she will fulfill her new roll excellently.”
As COVID-19 spreads across the planet, humanity faces a difficult and deadly trial. Here in the U.S., the best science available predicts hundreds of thousands of Americans will contract the disease. Government officials have already reported that thousands of patients with COVID-19 have died and projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will eventually die from the virus.
Facing this grim diagnosis will bring out the best in the American people. Character is displayed under pressure. We’re under pressure, and America’s character is strong. We have the discipline and determination to do what is right for our families and communities, even when it is difficult. We have the caring and compassion to help those who are suffering. We have ingenious entrepreneurs and innovative tools – including the ability to gather and process large amounts of data.
And we have the wisdom to know that our character must guide how we use tools, including data-gathering tools, to help us overcome this monumental challenge.
Countries around the world are combatting the spread of coronavirus by collecting and using the location of peoples’ smartphones. This government use of location data – i.e., surveillance – appears to be a powerful tool in the fight against the disease, but also raises a host of privacy concerns. The U.S. shouldn’t blindly copy other countries’ practices. Instead, we can and should find ways to harness the power of big data to protect public health while also protecting the rights of all Americans.
Governments use location data to combat COVID-19 in two ways. They use it for “contact tracing,” to identify all the people a sick person has encountered. Most do this by assembling a massive database of the movements of every person, sick or healthy. South Korea has been especially aggressive on this front, collecting data from infected citizens’ credit cards, GPS systems, and cellphones to determine their location and interactions with other citizens. Singapore has created an app that collects information about nearby phones over Bluetooth, focusing on who the user has been near, rather than where. No comprehensive database of locations is required.
The other purpose for which countries are using location data is to enforce social distancing or quarantine requirements. The South Korean government mandates that quarantined individuals download an app that tracks their location, enabling the government to detect when individuals break their quarantine restrictions. Governments in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Russia also use smartphone apps, geofencing, and facial-recognition technology to enforcequarantine restrictions on individuals.
While we don’t have comprehensive data on the effectiveness of these various approaches, it does appear that digital surveillance can help governments “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19.
But when governments use these tools, they do so at the cost of their citizens’ privacy. This tradeoff is not surprising. Because information about people is useful for many purposes, tradeoffs between privacy and other values are common. Privacy values often clash with openness, competition, and innovation. But rarely are the tradeoffs so dramatic.
Calibrating these tradeoffs in advance is difficult. There is evidence that existing U.S. privacy laws hindered the use of valuable medical information, slowing the initial response to the virus. Specifically, university researchers in Washington state were delayed by weeks in their efforts to repurpose already-gathered patient data to study the growing COVID-19 pandemic. This is one reason laws that restrict private sector use of data should allow beneficial uses, including using data to improve health and save lives.
But even when fighting real, tangible harms like death and disease, unwarranted government surveillance without due process unacceptably threatens liberty. That’s why our Constitution and our values limit what government can do even when pursuing important goals. These privacy-protecting institutions are our country’s antibodies against government overreach and abuse.
Fortunately, we don’t have to give up our liberties to use big data tools in the fight against COVID-19. Rather than assemble giant databases of personal information like South Korea or China has, U.S. government public health experts should use anonymized location data not linked to individuals. Such data can help researchers assess how well populations are practicing social distancing, identify hotspots of activity that raise the risk of spreading the disease, and study how the disease has spread. (Reports indicate that health officials are already using anonymized mobile advertising data for these purposes and some private companies are offering free-to-use tools to help decisionmakers). We should also explore decentralized approaches to contact tracing, like the Singaporean app. Civic-minded individuals who want to volunteer their data for research purposes should be encouraged to do so, perhaps through public education campaigns.
In any case, U.S. health officials must protect our privacy by ensuring that any data collected for use in this current health crisis isn’t repurposed for other government uses. And both businesses and governments involved in this effort must tell the public how data is being collected, shared, and used.
The U.S. has the world’s best innovators in using data to improve Americans’ lives. We can, and should, empower those innovators to fight the spread of COVID-19 consistent with our strong American values and character.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.
“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.
The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.
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The bodies of two old helicopters sit uncovered on Bob Fritzler’s property. They tower over him as he walks by them on his way to his large garage.
He had to use a giant trailer to haul them out to his farm with his truck. He imagined it felt a lot like driving a semi. He doesn’t worry much about what the weather might do to the old birds outside. He’s just using them for parts.
Fritzler’s real treasure sits in that large garage on his land near Keenesburg. He’s working to restore a U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky H-34 helicopter, which was flown during Operation SHUFLY, a Marine helicopter operation that primarily ferried troops in Vietnam between 1962 and 1965. Fritzler said it was one of the first helicopters built to drop off troops in combat.
Back then, Fritzler said, helicopters were a huge game changer for Marines. Pilots could drop soldiers off anywhere. Before, they relied on ships, which required a coast.
Fritzler, now 82, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years. He flew the helicopter when he was a pilot. Several other squadrons flew it, too. He hopes to fix it up and eventually put it into the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Fritzler went to a Marine reunion a couple years ago. There, he met Gerald Hail from Oklahoma who restored old planes back to flyable conditions. Hail invited him out to fly and Fritzler accepted. While out there, Fritzler noticed the H-34.
“I saw bullet hole patches,” Fritzler said. “I knew I could count over 100 bullet holes.”
The bird had aged, with much of the Marine Green paint had worn down to the aluminum. Fritzler’s old squadron number had been painted over with a different squadron’s number, but he still recognized the helicopter as the one he flew.
“I had a real love affair with it,” Fritzler said.
He asked Hail if he could buy it from him so he could restore it. Hail said he’d think about it. About a month later, Hail called Fritzler and told him he’d donate the helicopter if Fritzler would fix it up.
Fritzler’s been working on the restoration project here and there for a couple years. He has experience fixing up machines. He grew up on a farm in Windsor and spent much of his life making farm equipment run again. He thinks that made him fairly handy.
But it’s a lengthy process. It takes time to track down parts that are no longer in production. He bought an old blue and white Marine helicopter for the parts. The previous owner had it certified for commercial use and used it to lift large air conditioning units. Fritzler bought an old Army helicopter, too.
“Both of these (helicopters) are pretty complete,” Fritzler said. Now he just has to figure out which parts the H-34 needs and which ones to take from the others.
He’s not a teenager anymore, either, Fritzler said, so his energy has a limit.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I bit off more than I could chew,” Fritzler said. “I’ve had some help from other guys.”
He works on it for a couple hours a day, sometimes more. He’s mostly working on deconstructing old pieces and finding the new ones to replace them.
Sometimes when Fritzler looks back on his life as a pilot, he wonders if he really did all the things he remembers. It was a long time ago. He did two tours in Vietnam and did some airline flying, too. But his last flight in the cockpit was more than 20 years ago.
“I still love to fly,” he said.
He might not be able to pilot planes anymore, but this may be the next best thing.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has three aircraft carriers in some degree of completion, but on Sept. 25, 2019, China launched a new kind of flattop — the first Type 075 amphibious assault ship.
The still unnamed ship was put in the water at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai, the China Daily reported. A military expert told The Global Times that the launch “marked the beginning of a new era in the development of Chinese naval surface ships.”
The ship is not yet ready, as the ship still needs to be fitted with radar, navigation, electronic warfare, and other critical systems and go through sea trials before it can become operational, but Wednesday’s launch is an important step toward the fielding of China’s first amphibious assault ship able to transport dozens of aircraft, as well as ground troops and military vehicles — forces needed to mount a seabone raid or invasion.
The launch follows the recent appearance of photos online showing a nearly-completed ship, leading observers to conclude that a launch was imminent.
The Type 075, the development of which began in 2011, is expected to be much more capable than the Type 071 amphibious transport docks that currently serve as the critical components of the Chinese amphibious assault force.
“Compared with China’s Type 071, the new Type 075 can accommodate more transport and attack helicopters and, in coordination with surface-effect ships [fast boats to deploy troops], could demonstrate greater attack capabilities [than the Type 071], especially for island assault missions,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert, told the South China Morning Post prior to the launch.
Unlike the Type 071, currently the largest operational amphibious warfare vessels in the PLAN, the Type 075 is longer and features a full flight deck.
With a displacement of roughly 40,000 tons, the ship is noticeably larger than Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer, which Japan is in the process of converting to carry F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, but smaller than the US military’s Wasp-class and America-class amphibious assault ships, vessels the Navy and Marines have been looking at using as light aircraft carriers.
Details about the capabilities of the Type 075 ships and the Chinese navy’s plans for them are limited, so it is unclear if China would eventually equip its 250-meter amphibious assault ships with aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing abilities.
China does not currently have a suitable jump jet like the F-35B or AV-8B Harrier II for this purpose, but older reports indicate the country is looking into developing one.
The launch comes just days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when China is expected to show off its military might. At least two more amphibious assault ships are said to be in the works.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
At the Office of Naval Research’s annual Science and Technology Expo on July 21 in Washington, DC, a development team from Rutgers University demonstrated the unusual quadcopter, which can swim at depths of up to 10 meters, then seamlessly launch to the surface and soar into the air.
The drone, developed with sponsorship from the Office of Naval Research, shows promise as a tool for mine countermeasures and port security, to name a few possibilities.
There’s also interest from the special operations community, said Dr. Marc Contarino, vice president of technology for the program. It carries a 360-degree waterproof camera, making it well-suited for security and bridge and ship inspections, among other missions.
“Special ops have not told us exactly what they want. But we know for special ops, it’s all about speed and not being detected,” Contarino told Military.com. “So we’re building our system to be as fast as possible.”
While current prototypes are not much larger than a typical commercial quadcopter, Contarino said there are plans to build a six-foot-diameter model capable of carrying the 30-pound payload the Navy wants for its mine countermeasure mission. That UAV will be able to operate in waves of three-to-five feet and in 30-mile-per-hour winds, he said.
Developers have already put the Naviator through its paces in real-world conditions, launching the drone from the Delaware Memorial Bridge over the Delaware River and from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
“Since we’re a Navy sponsor, I tried to find the biggest boat I could to showcase it,” Contarino said.
When a Phase Two development contract begins for the Naviator in 2018, Contarino said the team plans to expand its operational envelope, including work to develop a model that can operate at depths of up to 30 meters, and development of pressure-resistant features that could support much greater depths.
Whether the Naviator spends more time underwater or flying over it depends entirely on the mission.
“[It acts as if] air is a fluid, water is a fluid, and it doesn’t care,” Contarino said. ” … So we think the Navy really likes it because it does the air, the surface, and the underwater mission.”
New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.
For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.
Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.
“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.
Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.
The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.
But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.
“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.
Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.
According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.
“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”
The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.
Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.
While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.
“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.
Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.
Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.
In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.
When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.
Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.
It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.
Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.
Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.
It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.
Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.
After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.
Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.
It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.
To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters via video link, Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessey said local, state, and federal cooperation has been outstanding.
The general spoke from outside North Carolina’s operations center and said the effort allowed state and local officials to identify the capabilities needed as the storm approached, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Northcom to integrate them into the broader federal response.
“Our Department of Defense anticipated that we would need things like search and rescue, we would need … the high-water vehicles, [and] helicopters and vertical lift to transport things back and forth,” he said. “That was exactly what we needed to have, and we had them pre-positioned and pre-postured, and the plan is now actively part of the response.”
He said the cooperation and communication on the federal side has been incredibly strong, “as has the coordination and collaboration from the state ops centers and FEMA and us.”
About 13,000 service members are participating in the effort, with 8,000 being National Guardsmen. With Florence’s dissipation, the concern goes from the storm itself to the flooding. Streams and rivers throughout the region have broken their banks and flooded vast swaths of land. A drone video released early today shows what looks like a river, but actually is Interstate 40 – a major east-west highway.
Michael Ziolkowski, a field operations supervisor for the National Disaster Response K-9 Unit, and a woman rescued by local emergency personnel and U.S. soldiers assigned to the 127th Quartermaster Company, check the well-being of a rescued kitten in Spring Lake, N.C., Sept 18, 2018.
(Army photo by Spc. Austin T. Boucher)
“We are still concerned over the next 48 hours about the rising flood waters and how that can have a separate, but nonetheless equally important, impact to the local area,” O’Shaughnessey said.
Officials are watching flood gauges and assessing what will be needed if communities are isolated or people need to be rescued. “We are well-postured to augment the state force that has been actively engaged,” the general said. “I would say my overall assessment of the DoD response has been outstanding, and the key to that has been the coordination with the state – from the first responders to the state National Guard, and tying directly in with them.”
Both states activated their dual-status commanders, giving officials one point of contact for military help. “They both have forces under their command that allows them to synchronize their governors’ efforts with FEMA’s efforts and the Department of Defense,” he said.
This step, just days after US and Russian bilateral negotiations for a ceasefire fell through, shows the depth of Russia’s commitment to Syrian President Assad, who has shown a ferocious willingness to use chemical and banned weapons against his own people since the war started in 2011.
But the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense batteries pose a serious question about US and coalition military capabilities versus the Russians.
Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, went as far as to say that “all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,” referring to the US’s fifth generation stealth aircraft, the F-22 and F-35.
While the US fields the greatest Air Force in the world, the capabilities of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 air defense systems in Syria represent a very real challenge to the US’s ability to operate in those zones without being shot down.
“Konashenkov is absolutely right – ‘stealth’ as ‘invisibility’ is just amateurs’ invention, not a technical term.”
However, according to Sutyagin, some of the Russian capabilities also fall in the category of speculation rather than hard capability.
For instance, as advanced as Russian surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are, and they are really quite advanced, they still face very real limitations.
Russian “air defense systems are designed to intercept high flying targets at a maximum range of about 250 miles,” said Sutyagin. While this does pose a threat to US and coalition aircraft operating normally in the region, the missile defense can be outfoxed, as they less optimal against low flying planes or missiles.
Even though the Russian systems have great radar range and capabilities, in the real world obstacles abound, and that makes it very hard to get a clear picture of real world air spaces.
The Russian missile defense systems sit on trucks, ready to be positioned wherever needed in a specific region. Some reports indicate that Russian crews can get the missile battery up and running within 5 minutes of parking the truck. Additionally, the mobile missile batteries present an ever changing target, and a puzzle that incoming aircraft must solve anew each time they enter the air space.
But they battery is still just a truck on the ground. Parking it on a hilltop makes it visible. Parking it in a valley severely limits the range due to natural obstacles. So just as the US fantasy of “invisible jets” doesn’t completely pan out when the rubber hits the road, neither does the Russian fantasy of a 250 mile air defense zone.
Indeed to flesh out this idea of the Russians, they’d need to operate Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACs), or planes that carry large radars and can survey battle spaces free from obstructions on the ground, which Sutyagin says Moscow does not currently have in Syria.
But who would come out on top?
According to Sutyagin, stealth US planes like the B-2, F-22, and F-35 could knock out Russian SAM sites in Syria, but not without a fight.
“Yeah they can do it. In theory they can do it because they will be launching stand off weapons,” said Sutyagin, referring to long range missiles as “standoff weapons.”
“The tactics of these low visibility planes as they were designed originally was to use the fact that detection range was decreased so you create some gaps in radar range and then you approach through gap and launch standoff weapons,” said Sutyagin.
At this point, Russia’s “defenses will inevitably detect it, but maybe too late,” said Sutyagin, who emphasized that firing a missile doesn’t always mean a hit, and detecting a missile doesn’t always mean an intercept.
“There is no 100% reliability, but still it will be much more difficult” for Russian SAM sites to intercept missiles fired from US stealth aircraft that can get up close and personal and locate the site first. “If the standoff weapon is also low visibility,” the chances only improve, according to Sutyagin.
Additionally, Russian SAM sites in Syria have a limited magazine capacity.
“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles. They will fire these against 16 targets (maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio) but to prevent the target from evading you always launch two… but what if there are 50 targets?”
This limitation explains why Russia deployed the S-300 battery to Syria when they already have the more advanced S-400 stationed there.
According to Sutyagin, it takes “40-50 minutes to reload launchers.” The SAM sites are then unarmed, with their positions exposed and they’re “not well prepared to meet another threat.”
What it comes down to
So the US could overwhelm Russian defenses. Or Russia could shoot down US fifth-generation aircraft over Syria. What it comes down to, according to Sutyagin, is training.
Sutyagin says that overall, the situation is “very complicated” and that there is “no easy solution to suppress air defense, but there are opportunities.”
Each combat scenario brings unique challenges and opportunities that may benefit one side or another. Generally, there is reason to believe that the pilots of US fifth-generation aircraft are among the best in the world, and that they would have the edge in almost every situation.
Indeed, Sutyagin says that the US’s airborne capabilities put them in a better situation than the US was in during Vietnam, when Russian SAM sites shot down many US planes.
Though the details of the how US F-22 Raptor pilots would engage an enemy SAM site are classified, a pilot with the program recently told National Interest’s Dave Majumdar that the F-22 pilots are confident they could prevail.
But jets and SAM sites fight battles on air, over seas, and on land — not on paper.
“If American pilots will be not experienced in their fifth-gens, they will be shot down. If they are brilliant, operationally, tactically brilliant, they will defeat them,” concluded Sutyagin.
China looks set to beat the US to the punch on a naval railgun — which the US has spent more than $500 million and a decade on — by deploying the game-changing weapon on a navy ship.
But the complicated railgun doesn’t even have to work to succeed, as it looks as if Beijing’s doing this to embarrass Washington.
The US Navy started work on a railgun in 2005. For years, the Navy struggled to reign in the wild technology that allows a railgun to fire a projectile at such high velocity that it will make a devastating impact without an explosive charge.
Some grounded tests of the Navy’s railgun produced fantastic imagery, but it remains far from battle-ready and may never be fielded on a warship.
Citing people with knowledge of a US intelligence report, CNBC reported in June 2018 that China had been working on its railgun for seven years and was just another seven from deploying a working model on a ship.
It’s “pretty obvious that China is working towards that goal, and probably faster than the US is,” Melodie Ha, who’s part of the Center for a New American Security’s Asia-Pacific Security Program, told Business Insider.
“It’s very possible that they will mount a working railgun on a ship” by 2025, Ha said. But everything is not always as it appears with the Chinese military.
A railgun doesn’t even really make sense
(U.S. Navy photo)
Instead of gunpowder, pure electricity powers the railgun’s projectiles. But despite the lack of explosives, railgun projectiles still cause fireballs, because the round travels so fast that the air and metal itself combust under the immense friction. This indicates the massive amount of electricity needed to fire the railgun — a big problem for China, or any warship.
Additionally, the Chinese would have to clear the same engineering and operational hurdles that have kept the US from mounting the railgun on a ship. Railguns produce a lot of heat and have a short barrel life. After rapid-fire shots, the gun barrel might be susceptible to dangerous warping. And aiming a railgun that can fire at targets as far as 100 miles away — and from a warship that’s rocking in the seas — also poses serious challenges.
Strategically, it’s also unclear how the railgun fits into naval warfare. The US, China, and Russia all have hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile programs designed to thwart existing defenses, and they generally have higher accuracy and much greater range than the railgun.
And if the railgun’s barrel melts after a few shots, why bother?
“As long as the US can launch a second strike, if the Chinese can’t knock down the second missile, then what’s the point?” Ha said.
China’s railgun has a reported range of only 124 miles — so by the time the railgun could strike a target, the Chinese ship would already be in range of US missiles.
The real purpose behind the railgun
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
A railgun doesn’t make sense in today’s warfighting environment, but it makes perfect sense for another mission of China’s navy: embarrassing the US.
“In terms of Chinese maritime grand strategy, it would fit in their entire plan,” Ha said, adding that railguns are “next-generation technology” and that China wants to “prove to the US and the entire world that they are technologically advancing.”
China’s opaque system has shrouded the new railgun prototype in mystery. If China were to place one of these mysterious, next-generation guns in the South China Sea, it would have beaten the US to the punch on a major technological advance and projected a unique kind of power unmatched by the West.
At a time when the US and China are battling to see whose vision of the future can win out, it makes sense that Beijing would try to shame Washington by winning this leg of the arms race.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.