How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.


But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.

“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”

Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.

“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers

A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.

“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.

But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.

“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes
Kim Jong-un next to the newest and most powerful missile in the North Korean arsenal, Hwasong-15. (Photo from Rodong Sinmun)

The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.

So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.

“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”

These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.

“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”

Also Read: This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.

“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”

He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”

But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.

A risky play for better diplomacy?

Some reports suggest Kim wants to use nuclear weapons to strong-arm South Korea into reunifying with North Korea. Lewis doubts this is true, though he says Kim is “insatiable” for power.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes
Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”

That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”

What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.

Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.

China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.

“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.

Also Read: This top-ranking Pentagon general wants to stick with the Iran nuke deal

“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”

But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.

“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.

His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.

But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.

“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes
North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.

“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”

He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”

But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army doubles firing range for artillery and rockets

The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.

Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.

Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer


The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.

The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.

(US Army photo)

Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.

During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.

Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.

“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.

GMLRS

The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.

The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.

To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

(US Army photo)

In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.

“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”

To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.

In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added

CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.

“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy’s newest aircraft carrier finally gets long-missing gear

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first-in-class aircraft carrier that’s been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators on Dec. 21, 2018, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said in January 2019.

That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has promised the elevators would be ready by the end of the carrier’s yearlong post-shakedown assessment summer 2018. Spencer staked his job on the elevators, which were not installed when the carrier was delivered in May 2017, well past the original 2015 delivery goal.


Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through its post-shakedown period after testing at sea.

The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer being briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. John J. Cummings, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator on the flight deck.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The testing and certification “focused on technical integration of hardware and software issues, such as wireless communication system software maturity and configuration control, and software verification and validation,” Couch said.

The Ford class is the first new carrier design in 40 years, and rather than cables, the new elevators are “commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors,” the Navy said in a news release. That change allows them to move faster and carry more ordnance — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute instead of Nimitz-class carriers’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.

The ship’s layout has also changed. Seven lower-stage elevators move ordnance between the lower levels of the ship and main deck. Three upper-stage elevators move it between the main deck and the flight deck. One elevator can be used to move injured personnel, allowing the weapons and aircraft elevators to focus on their primary tasks.

The Ford also has a dedicated weapons-handling area between its hangar bay and the flight deck “that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations” offering “a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft,” the Navy said.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, reviewing safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford’s weapons department.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

The upper-stage 1 elevator will now be used by the Ford’s crew and “qualify them for moving ordnance during real-world operations,” Couch said.

The amount of new technology on the Ford means its crew is in many cases developing guidelines for using it. The crew is doing hands-on training that “will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation,” the Navy said.

James Geurts, the Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told senators in November 2018 that two elevators had been produced — one was through testing and another was “about 94% through testing.”

The other 10 elevators “are in varying levels of construction, testing, and operations,” Couch said. “Our plan is to complete all shipboard installation and testing activities of the advanced weapons elevators before the ship’s scheduled sail-away date in July.”

“In our current schedule there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after [the post-shakedown assessment] is compete,” Couch said. “A dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Spencer during a tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

That timeline has particular meaning for Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian official.

The Navy secretary said at an event this month that at the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 8, 2018, he told President Donald Trump — who has made his displeasure with the Ford well known — that he would bet his job on the elevators’ completion.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said during an event at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” Spencer added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

An F/A-18F Super Hornet performing an arrested landing aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford on July 28, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson)

The weapons elevators have posed a challenge to the Ford’s development, but they are far from the only problem.

Trump has repeatedly singled out the carrier’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, which uses magnets rather than steam to launch planes. Software issues initially hindered its performance.

“They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out,” Trump told Time magazine in May 2017, referring to the new launch system. “You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

Spencer said he and Trump had also discussed EMALS at the Army-Navy game.

“He said, should we go back to steam? I said, ‘Well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS. We got the bugs out,'” Spencer said at the event in January 2019, according to USNI News. “It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space — it’s all to our advantage.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

23 memes to help you survive ‘Back to School’ in 2020

We brought you the best COVID-19 memes on the internet… and just when we thought we couldn’t make any more memes, or laugh at them for that matter, we realized the absurdity of trying to homeschool and work and exist and teach and cook and Zoom and do it all for the foreseeable future.

May the odds be ever in your favor, homeschooling parents. We’re sending you all our virtual vibes. And drink of choice.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

1. I dunno

Fake it ’til you make it, bud.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

2. All the options

Sometimes there are no good options.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

3. Scribble scrabble

Wear masks. But maybe not outside at recess. But maybe at recess. But not if you’re eating at your desk. But what if you’re eating at recess?

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

4. Hold your breath

You’ll probably only lose your voice though if the kids stay home.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

5. Poor Billy Madison

Nah, just put on Hamilton.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

6. Screen time 

To be fair, Netflix has some great educational programs. I mean how else would you teach business practices other than letting your kids watch Narcos?

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

7. Schedules are important

7:00: Kids console crying parents.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

8. Dwight!

No really, everything is fine!

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

9. ​90s kids 

To be fair, Zack Morris practically babysat us.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

10. Biology 

Hilarious but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

11. Pics

At least this kid has on pants.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

12. Wishes for fishes

Pour all your money into the fountains, people.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

13. Milton

Make sure your kids have a red stapler…

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

14. Smile!

We’ll never forget 2020. As much as we’d like to.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

15. Karma

Be careful what you make fun of!

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

16. Bart

There’s that growth mindset…

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

17. Fire

Nothing to see here.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

18. Gump

Where’s Jenny when you need her?

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

19. Plans

Homeschooling parents: Really putting the “win” in wine.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

20. Lisa

It’s been a long five months. No judgement here, Marge.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

21. Tiger King

We wanted to love it. We really did.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

22. *Shrugs*

But to be fair… who does?

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

23. Teachers

Well at least your kids will learn something about science as they watch you age…

Whether you’re sending your kids back in person in full PPE or prepping for virtual learning, we’re wishing all of your kids (and all of our teachers!) a great school year… and fast internet, well-lit makeshift classrooms and lots of patience. Here’s to you, parents and educators!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how Marine Corps mortar crews get explosive rounds to fall right on top of an enemy over 1,000 meters away

CAMP PENDLETON, California — US Marine Corps 60 mm mortar teams can drop explosive rounds on their enemies from over 1,000 meters away, and Insider recently had the opportunity to watch them do it.

During a visit to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Insider observed a mortar crew firing off multiple rounds using an M224 60 mm light mortar, which is a high-angle-of-fire weapon that can be drop- or trigger-fired.


The training was carried out as part of the latest iteration of Iron Fist, an exercise that involves various training evolutions leading up to a large amphibious assault.

Cpl. Kevin Rodriguez, an experienced mortarman who said he chose the mortar because he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, walked Insider through the ins and outs of firing a mortar and what it takes.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

60 mm mortars are typically handled by a crew of Marines.

Mortar crews have a gunner, an assisting gunner (squad leader), and an ammunition man. The crew is often supported by a forward observer and a fire direction center.

When they’re on the move, the three main crew members divide the weapon components, like the gun, the bipod, the sight, and the baseplate, among themselves with no one person carrying the entire weapon.

A crew can set up or tear down a mortar in two minutes.

In combat, the team works together to put fire down range. Standard operating procedure is that the fire direction center first passes range data to the gunner, who puts that into the sight and manipulates the weapon accordingly.

The ammo bearer then hands a prepared round to the assisting gunner, who drops the live round on command. Teams practice every day for months to develop a flawless rhythm.

The 60 mm mortar can be fired on the ground or in a handheld configuration.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

A lot of different considerations go into firing this weapon.

There is the gun. “You can breathe on it the wrong way, and it will be completely off,” Rodriguez told Insider.

There is the round. Mortar crews can set it to burst in the air, explode on impact, or detonate a few seconds after impact, giving it the ability to penetrate a bunker.

Then there is figuring out exactly how to get the round to the target, and that involves different range calculations, as well as considerations like temperature, wind speed, and drift, among other things.

Weather is also an important factor. Rain, even light rain, for example, can result in wet charges, making a misfire or the firing of a short round more likely and risking a friendly-fire situation. There are covers to help protect the weapon and the rounds from the elements.

There are two different methods Marine mortar teams use to effectively target an enemy.

Range calculations are estimations at best. An experienced mortarman can eyeball the distance to his target, but it tends to take a few shots to get rounds falling in the right spot.

The quickest and most effective targeting approach is called bracketing. Mortar crews fire behind or in front of a target and then split the distance in half until rounds are coming down on the target.

Or, as Insider watched a crew do at Camp Pendleton, Marine mortar crews can use creeping fire to target an enemy, inching closer to the target with each round. This is not as fast as bracketing and requires more rounds, about five or six.

But creeping fire can be a pretty good option when you’re dealing with a lot of dead space, terrain features that make range estimates harder.

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A close-up shot of the three main crew members as the round exits the tube.

US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Robert Kuehn

A mortar section usually has three guns delivering damage to a large area.

Mortars set the conditions for other units by keeping bigger threats at bay.

The mortar crews are tasked with “taking out the bigger targets, or at least keeping their heads down long enough for the machine guns to start suppressing enemies,” Rodriguez said. “The [other infantry units] are more the cleanup. They can move from one place to another.”

During the training at Camp Pendleton, the mortars practiced pinning down light armor while crews with M240 machine guns put fire on targets from a nearby ridge.

The mortars and the machine guns cleared the way for several infantry squads to maneuver into position. Each mortar round has a casualty radius of about 25 meters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now building its third aircraft carrier

China is working on a third aircraft carrier, one expected to be much more technologically advanced and powerful than its predecessors, the Department of Defense said in its new report on China’s growing military might.

China has one carrier — the Liaoning — in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Formerly a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, this vessel is the flagship of China’s navy.


China is believed to be close to fielding its second aircraft carrier, the country’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier. This new ship recently completed its fifth sea trial, and the Pentagon reported that this vessel will “likely join the fleet by the end of 2019.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Type 001A, China’s first domestically produced carrier.

While based on the Liaoning, the second carrier is slightly bigger, creating the potential for a larger carrier air wing, most likely consisting of the J-15 “Flying Sharks,” with which the Liaoning sails. Like the Liaoning, the Chinese navy’s newest carrier will use a ski-jump-assisted short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery (STOBAR) launch system to sortie aircraft.

Incorporating this new aircraft carrier into the fleet will be a major milestone, but that achievement may be overshadowed by a more impressive achievement in just a few years, the Department of Defense said in its latest report.

“China began construction of its second domestically built aircraft carrier in 2018, which will likely be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system,” the Pentagon said in its annual report to Congress on military and security developments involving China. “This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.”

Catapult launch systems are much more effective than the ski jumps, which tend to put greater strain on the aircraft and tend to result in reductions in operational range, payload size, and ultimately the number of flights the onboard aircraft can fly.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

A J-15 taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.

“The new one is something that might be a little more interesting, a little more compelling,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told Business Insider. “If the third carrier does have some catapult-assisted launch system, that will be a huge step forward for China.”

“They would very quickly have moved closer to what current technology is,” he added. “That’s something that very few countries can do. That would put China in a very elite status.”

It is unclear if the catapult launch system will be steam-powered, like those on the US Nimitz-class carriers, or electromagnetic, like the catapults on the Ford-class carriers. It is also unclear whether or not the new Chinese carrier will be conventionally powered or nuclear-powered, like those of the US. China has expressed an interest in the latter, but the country may not have overcome the developmental hurdles to building one.

China is focused on building a world-class military, and a key part of China’s military-modernization program is building power-projection platforms, such as increasingly capable aircraft carriers. The country still has a ways to go to catch up to the US Navy, which has 11 modern aircraft carriers in its arsenal.

China’s third carrier is expected to be completed and operational by 2022.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Awesome photo captures F-35 transitioning from sub-sonic to supersonic

The photograph in this post shows a U.S. Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) “Salty Dogs” during a test flight. Released by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, the image was taken as the stealth aircraft, carrying external AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles), flies transonic: indeed, what makes the shot particularly interesting are the schlieren shock waves that flight test photographers captured as the JSF transitioned from sub-sonic to supersonic.

Schlieren imagery is a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique, used to visualize supersonic flow phenomena: a clear understanding of the location and strength of shock waves is essential for determining aerodynamic performance of aircraft flying at supersonic speed in different configurations, for improving performance as well as designing future jets.


“Schlieren imaging reveals shock waves due to air density gradient and the accompanying change in refractive index,” says the NASA website that published an extensive article about this particular kind of photography few years ago. “This typically requires the use of fairly complex optics and a bright light source, and until recently most of the available schlieren imagery of airplanes was obtained from scale model testing in wind tunnels. Acquiring schlieren images of an aircraft in flight is much more challenging. Ground-based systems, using the sun as a light source, have produced good results but because of the distances involved did not have the desired spatial resolution to resolve small-scale shock structures near the aircraft.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

This schlieren image of a VX-23 F-35C flying transonic shows the shock waves generated by the stealth aircraft.

(US Navy photo by Liz Wolter)

Noteworthy, while schlieren imaging dramatically displays the shock wave of a supersonic jet (image processing software removes the background then combines multiple frames to produce a clear picture of the shock waves) change in refractive index caused by shock waves can also become visible when aircraft move at speed much lowen than transonic, as shown in photographs taken in 2018.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

A T-38C passing in front of the sun at supersonic speed, generating shockwaves.

(NASA)

Here what I wrote last year about a crazy cool image of an F-35 flying through the famous Star Wars canyon taken by photographer Jim Mumaw:

At speed lower than the transonic region, air flows smoothly around the airframe; in the transonic region, airflow begins to reach the speed of sound in localized areas on the aircraft, including the upper surface of the wing and the fuselage: shock waves, generated by pressure gradient resulting from the formation of supersonic flow regions, represent the location where the air moving at supersonic speed transitions to subsonic. When the density of the air changes (in this case as a consequence of shock waves) there is a change in its refractive index, resulting in light distortion.

Generally speaking, shock waves are generated by the interaction of two bodies of gas at different pressure, with a shock wave propagating into the lower pressure gas and an expansion wave propagating into the higher pressure gas: while the pressure gradient is significant in the transonic region, an aircraft maneuvering at high-speed through the air also creates a pressure gradient that generates shock waves at speed much lower than the speed of sound.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. warship headed to Sea of Japan to challenge Russia

The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer Dec. 5, 2018, to challenge Russia in the Sea of Japan.

The USS McCambell “sailed in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea enjoyed by the United States and other nations,” US Pacific Fleet spokesperson US Navy Lt. Rachel McMarr told CNN.

The Russian Navy’s Pacific Fleet is headquartered in the eastern port city of Vladivostok, located in Peter the Great Bay, the largest gulf in the East Sea/Sea of Japan.


Pacific Fleet stressed to CNN that Dec. 5, 2018’s freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) was “not about any one country, nor are they about current events,” adding, “These operations demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the Sea of Japan, as in other places around the globe.”

The US Navy regularly conducts FONOPS in the South China Sea, much to China’s displeasure. The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancelorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Dasbach)

Two days later, the US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos — through the Taiwan Strait. Both the South China Sea FONOP and the Taiwan Strait transit, which occurred just days before a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, drew criticism from Beijing.

China has also repeatedly criticized US Air Force bomber overflights in the region.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise in the wake of apparent Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov, where Russian vessels rammed and fired on Ukrainian vessels before capturing the ships and their crews, and US plans to withdraw from the Cold War Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a response to Russian violations.

NATO has accused Russia of developing weapons in violation of the treaty, and the State Department has warned Russia that it has 60 days to return to compliance or the treaty is finished.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Dec. 5, 2018, that if the US withdraws from the 1987 treaty, Russia will begin developing the very nuclear weapons prohibited by it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says he would impose tariffs on oil imports if Russia, Saudi Arabia fail to cut

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump said he would “absolutely” impose tariffs on oil imports if Russia and Saudi Arabia cannot reach an agreement to cut crude oil production.

“If they don’t get along, I would do that. Very substantial tariffs. I would absolutely do that,” Trump said on April 5 during a press conference, adding that he wanted to protect the U.S. oil industry, the world’s largest by production.


How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Tariffs would hurt Saudi Arabia and Russia, who are among the largest exporters of oil to the United States.

Global oil demand has fallen by about 20 million barrels a day, or one-fifth, due to the coronavirus pandemic, sending oil prices to their lowest in nearly 20 years.

The sharp price decline threatens to bankrupt higher-cost U.S. oil producers and wipe away thousands of American jobs tied to the industry, officials and analysts have said.

Trump has been seeking to broker a production cut agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the second- and third-largest oil producers, following their fallout last month.

Riyadh announced on March 7 that it would ramp up oil production by about a fifth to slightly more than 12 million barrels a day after Moscow rejected its offer to have OPEC+ cut output by 1.5 million barrels a day.

OPEC+, an alliance of 23 oil production nations, is led by Saudi Arabia and Moscow.

The price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia added to pressure on the oil market caused by the unprecedented destruction in global demand resulting from nations around the world imposing quarantines.

Trump tweeted on April 2 following calls with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia that the two nations would cut production by at least 10 million barrels a day. Trump was likely referring to cuts by OPEC+, not just the two nations, analysts have said.

Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Saudi Arabia called for an extraordinary meeting of OPEC+ members for April 6. However, after Riyadh and Moscow exchanged barbs over who caused the price war, the meeting was pushed back to April 9.

Russia has said it is willing to cut 1 million barrels a day as part of a global production-cut agreement that includes the United States.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Unlike Russia and Saudi Arabia, whose oil industries are largely state-owned, the U.S. industry is comprised of private companies and Washington has little power over output.

However, the glut is threatening infrastructure as storage capacity in the United States quickly fills up. Texas, which accounts for 40 percent of U.S. production, will hold a hearing about possible output cuts on April 14 to deal with the crisis in the state.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia condemns British plan for new military bases

Moscow has condemned Britain’s plans to build new military bases in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, saying Russia is prepared to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies are threatened.

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph in December 2018 that Britain could establish the new military bases “within the next couple of years” after the country leaves the European Union.


Williamson said the expansion would be part of a strategy for Britain to become a “true global player” after Brexit.

He did not specify where the bases might be built. But the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson.

Speaking on Jan. 11, 2019, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Maria Zakharova said Williamson’s comments were baffling and warned that such plans could destabilize world affairs.

“Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world…statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counterproductive, destabilizing, and possibly of a provocational nature,” she was quoted as saying by TASS.

Russia has military bases in several former Soviet countries. It also operates military facilities in Syria and Vietnam.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA is giving its $1 billion Jupiter mission a critical new lease on life

For the past two years, NASA’s Juno probe has studied planet Jupiter like no spacecraft before it.

The $1 billion mission has peeled back the giant planet’s thick cloud layers, searched for an elusive core, and returned dazzling images of colossal storms and chaotic cloud bands.

But all good things must come to an end, and Juno is no exception.


NASA planned to destroy the tennis-court-size robot by plunging it into Jupiter’s clouds sometime after July 2018. The rationale is similar to the Cassini probe’s recent demise: Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may be habitable to alien life, so carefully and deliberately ending the mission would prevent Juno from accidentally crashing into that moon. This would keep Europa’s ocean — which may have twice as much water as exists on Earth — from getting contaminated by any earthly microbes stuck to Juno.

However, the probe’s fiery end is now pushed back by at least three years to July 2021, according to NASA sources. Scientific work on the mission will continue through September 2022.

The extension is critical to one of Juno’s primary objectives. The probe has been mapping Jupiter as it orbits the gas giant with infrequent close passes called perijoves. Juno builds this map slice-by-slice using a suite of different instruments, including ones that record data about Jupiter’s gravitational field.

But due to lingering trouble with Juno’s propulsion system, by July 2018, the team will have completed only 14 of the 32 perijoves that it needs to finish mapping Jupiter.

Why Juno needs an extension to finish mapping Jupiter

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes
Au00a0diagram of Jupiter’s orbits.
(Scott Bolton / Southwest Research Institute)

Spending too much time in Jupiter’s powerful radiation field can damage sensitive electronics. As a result, Juno orbits the planet on a highly elliptical path that keeps the probe mostly out of harm’s way, yet regularly zooms it over the cloud tops for detailed observations.

When Juno arrived in July 2016, mission managers had the spacecraft orbit Jupiter once every 53.5 days. In October 2016, they planned to fire up the probe’s engines and speed Juno’s orbits to once every 14 days — until the team discovered some sticky valves in the engine’s plumbing. NASA ultimately decided to play it safe and not risk using the engines, delaying Juno’s mapping pace nearly four-fold.

“During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit,” Rick Nybakken, Juno’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a 2017 press release. “The bottom line is a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno’s science objectives.”

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes
A map of Jupiter made by merging partial Juno and Cassini spacecraft imaging data.
(Björn Jónsson)

One representative told Business Insider that the agency hasn’t “put anything out yet about that” when asked about the extension.

“NASA is close to being able to announce a decision on the possibility of continuing the Juno mission at Jupiter,” another representative said in an emailed statement. (NASA declined to provide additional information.)

Extending Juno’s flight will help the probe finish mapping Jupiter — a project that primarily focuses on the planet’s gravitational field. That data may reveal what is going on deep inside the giant yet mysterious world.

“It is very exciting for us to be able to complete the mission pretty much as it was originally proposed, except with longer orbits,” Frederic Allegrini, a staff scientist at Southwest Research Institute who works on the Juno mission, told Business Insider.

If Juno stays operational and productive over the next few years, NASA might again decide to keep flying the probe around Jupiter beyond July 2021.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a current Army helicopter you may have never seen

While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.


How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

(New Jersey National Guard Mark Olsen)

There are a few reasons why you may not know much about the Lakota. First, there aren’t very many of them. While the Army has over 2,000 Black Hawks, there are less than 500 UH-72 Lakotas. And a new purchase of less than a dozen UH-72 airframes can trigger news coverage. Meanwhile, even the expensive and relatively niche Apache fleet boasts over 650 birds.

But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.

But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)

And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.

It first flew in 2006, making it the youngest helicopter in the Army’s fleet. It has two engines that supply over 1,400 shaft horsepower to the main rotor over 36-feet in diameter. The main and tail rotors are intentionally set higher than normal above the ground so that, when the helicopter is on the ground, it’s still relatively safe to load patients, passengers, or cargo into the side or rear doors.

This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.

It can reach a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet, pretty close to the Black Hawk’s 19,000 feet ceiling. Though, again, that’s largely thanks to all the gizmos the Lakota doesn’t need for its peacetime missions. The newest Black Hawk has way more power at over 3,600 shaft horsepower, more than 2.5X the Lakota’s.

All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.

But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.