“The video shows one side of the attack, the American dead, some photos were shot by an American soldier, but ISIS took them after the photographer was killed,” the Twitter user wrote, according to the Military Times.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement that it was “reviewing the post and determining the veracity of the tweet and the assertions that there is an associated video.”
In addition to that inquiry, AFRICOM is currently investigating the ambush that led to the deaths of 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers — Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, and Dustin Wright; and Sgt. La David Johnson. The soldiers were reportedly engaged in a joint mission with Nigerien forces when they were attacked.
“Bacha Bazi” – a.k.a. “boy play” – is a practice in which young boys are coerced into sexual slavery, sometimes dressed as women and made to dance. It was popular among the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in the years preceding Taliban rule. The centuries-old custom was abolished under the Taliban, a ban that carried a death sentence for those who broke the law. That ban was in effect from 1996 until after the 2001 NATO invasion when it resurfaced.
In Uruzgan province, in central Afghanistan, north of Kandahar, the custom affects many of the local police chiefs. It’s so deeply ingrained in the society there, Taliban insurgents use young boys coerced into the act in Trojan Horse attacks.
The boys infiltrate the ranks of the Afghan national police or are recruited by the Taliban with the promise of revenge. According to reports from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Afghan policemen say the boys are known to be commanders’ sex slaves and can move about freely. One teenager waited until all the policemen were asleep, then went on a shooting rampage. He allowed the Taliban into the base to finish off any survivors. Such attacks have been going on for two years. There have been many in the first six months of 2016, an indication of a Taliban tactic that seems to be working.
AFP reports all of the 370 Afghan police checkpoints have such sex slaves. The boys are recruited illegally and also used as fighters when necessary. Many policemen in Uruzgan will not work for a checkpoint that doesn’t have these young boys. Provincial governors have difficulty enforcing the laws against Bacha Bazi because the men jailed for it are needed to fight the war against the Taliban or because the leaders are complicit in the crime.
Though the U.S. Department of State considers the custom “culturally sanctioned male rape,” one U.S. Army Special Forces NCO, Charles Martland, was almost kicked out of the Army for trying to prevent the practice. Martland assaulted an Afghan police commander to prevent the commander from raping a young boy. He spent years in limbo before being allowed to stay in the Army.
Central government authorities are afraid to investigate local police commanders, considering the amount of power they yield. They fear the commanders will not allow anyone investigating them for Bacha Bazi crimes to leave their jurisdiction alive. When the UN raised the issue with the first Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his response was curt.
“Let us win the war first,” Karzai said. “Then we will deal with such matters.”
The Russian government-funded Russia Today (widely known as RT), produced a short documentary about the practice in early 2016.
An F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the “Black Lions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 launches off USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) flight deck during flight operations June 7, 2020. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
Flight operations on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier were cut back during recent at-sea trials after the new high-tech system that launches aircraft from the flattop’s flight deck went down.
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford‘s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, known as EMALS, broke June 2 during the ship’s biggest carrier air wing embark to date. The Ford’s leaders had just announced the carrier was underway when EMALS went down.
There were about 1,000 members of Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard the ship as the Ford ran post-delivery test and trials operations in the Atlantic. In a call with reporters the day before the EMALS went down, Capt. J.J. Cummings, the ship’s commanding officer, called the air wing embark a historic moment for the Ford.
The air wing qualified more than 50 fleet and student pilots, he said, and launched and trapped hundreds of flights from the flattop while operating at sea.
But the next day, the EMALS went down, according to a Navy news release that was issued late Sunday night. That “curtailed flight operations to some extent.”
“But the Strike Group, ship, and air wing team still accomplished significant goals scheduled for the Ford-class aircraft carrier,” the release added.
The root cause of the EMALS failure remains under review, said Capt. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.
“The fault appeared in the power handling system, during a manual reset of the system,” he said. “This section is independent of the high pulsed power section to launch aircraft and is not a safety of flight risk. The Navy is reviewing procedures and any impacts on the system.”
Any findings and corrective actions they take will be key to ensuring the Ford is ready to support the warfighter when it enters the fleet, Hernandez added.
The Navy has faced pressure from politicians — on Capitol Hill and the White House — on delays in getting several new systems running smoothly, including the EMALS. President Donald Trump once called the system the “crazy electric catapult” and said sailors he spoke to on the Ford complained it wasn’t reliable.
“I’m just going to put out an order — we’re going to use steam,” Trump said last year, referring to the legacy system used to launch aircraft on older carriers.
The Ford returned to port Sunday, and Hernandez said the crew was supported by a team of experts who developed an “alternative method to launching the air wing off” the ship.
The Ford has completed nearly 3,500 launches and recoveries using the EMALS. Hernandez called that quite an achievement, but added that it’s an insufficient number to draw conclusions about the system’s reliability.
“As flight operations on [the new carrier] continue, interruptions will be tracked, systematically reviewed and addressed with design and procedural changes aimed at achieving operational requirements for the rest of the Ford class,” he said.
James Geurts, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, said shipbuilders remain on the Ford, working to resolve problems with new systems. That includes getting all the Ford’s 11 weapons elevators up and running. Five are now working.
The Government Accountability Office noted the Navy’s struggles to demonstrate reliability of the Ford’s key systems, including the EMALS, in a recent report.
“Although the Navy is testing EMALS and [the advanced arresting gear] on the ship with aircraft, the reliability of those systems remains a concern,” the report states. “If these systems cannot function safely by the time operational testing begins, [the Ford] will not be able to demonstrate it can rapidly deploy aircraft — a key requirement for these carriers.”
An honorable carry ceremony July 27, 2018, at Osan Air Base, South Korea, transferred 55 boxes of remains believed to be of Americans missing in the Korean War. The boxes were received Aug. 1, 2018, in an honorable carry ceremony in Hawaii.
“We are guardedly optimistic the 1 August repatriation is the first tangible action of others, with which we will be able to account for more of our missing from the Korean War,” the director of DPAA, Kelly McKeague, said at today’s White House media briefing.
The August 2018 repatriation and homecoming was a “poignant manifestation” of the commitment secured by President Donald J. Trump and the pledge by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their June 2018 summit in Singapore, he said.
McKeague highlighted the return of a dog tag of Army medic Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel. “It was a sole personal effect returned by the North Koreans,” he said, adding that the return of the remains is the first step toward talks to resume joint field recovery operations. The dog tag was returned to McDaniel’s sons.
Joint recovery operations in North Korea were suspended in 2005 due to security concerns by then-President George W. Bush.
A United Nations Honor Guard member carries remains during a dignified return ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)
McKeague described the recovery effort as a humanitarian endeavor and said he is encouraged that the June 2018 summit and North Korea’s reaffirmation to resume recovery operations may lead to further cooperation. He said the contacts are being treated as military-to-military contacts.
The time it will take to match the remains to a service member will be DNA-intensive and take months or years, DPAA lab director John Byrd said.
“At no time did we expect there to be one body, one box. Nor did the North Koreans try to pitch it that way to us when we were in Osan,” Byrd said, citing as an example the return of remains over five years the 1990s.
“Out of those 208 boxes over those five years, we estimated, after DNA sampling, 400 individuals. Now from that, 200 were Americans,” he said.
Initial inspections indicate the recently returned remains are in moderate to poor condition and do not contain any remains of animals, Byrd said.
Sacred obligation to recover missing Americans
There are 7,700 Americans missing from the Korean War, McKeague said.
The DPAA mission is to search for, find and account for missing Defense Department personnel from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War and other recent conflicts. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts, with 34,000 believed to be recoverable, according to DPAA.
“The fact that the United States of America vigorously pursues the fullest possible accounting of our missing reflects our values as a nation,” McKeague said. “The sacred obligation, if not moral imperative, remains a high priority for the Department of Defense.”
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer named a future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in honor of U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, Navy Cross recipient, and former U.S. Senator from Alabama, Admiral Jeremiah Denton.
“Admiral Denton’s legacy is an inspiration to all who wear our nation’s uniform,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “His heroic actions during a defining period in our history have left an indelible mark on our Navy and Marine Corps team and our nation. His service is a shining example for our sailors and Marines and this ship will continue his legacy for decades to come.”
In 1947, Denton graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a test pilot, flight instructor, and squadron leader, and developed operational tactics still in use, such as the Haystack Concept, which calls for the dispersing of carrier fleets to make it more difficult for the enemy to find the fleets on RADAR.
On July 18, 1965, Denton was shot down over North Vietnam and spent nearly eight years as a POW, almost half in isolation. During an interview with a Japanese media outlet, Denton used Morse code to blink “torture,” confirming that American POWs were being tortured. He suffered severe harassment, intimidation and ruthless treatment, yet he refused to provide military information or be used by the enemy for propaganda purposes.
Read Admiral Jeremiah Denton POW in North Vietnam TORTURE Morse code
In recognition of his extraordinary heroism while a prisoner-of-war, he was awarded the Navy Cross. Denton was released from captivity in 1973, retired from the Navy in 1977 and in 1980 was elected to the U.S. Senate where he represented Alabama.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis response to sea control and power projection. The future USS Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously, and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.
The ship will be constructed at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss.. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots.
When A1C (Ret.) BJ Lange enlisted into the Air Force Reserve on his 35th birthday, he didn’t expect he’d fall in love with being a medic about as much as he didn’t expect he’d be diagnosed with cancer, get retired, and discover Stand Up comedy as a means to fight depression. But, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program helped him serve in a different ways.
BJ Lange is no stranger to being in the limelight, but how did this retired E-3 go from hosting Spring Break to teaching comedy classes for the Air Force?
Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF
Like most military veterans, BJ attributes his interest to service to his military family and his years of volunteer service as a public affairs officer and aircrew in Civil Air Patrol (USAF Aux). Even with a flourishing Hollywood acting career underway, BJ felt he “needed to do it before he spent years wishing he had” so he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve with the 452 AMDS at March ARB, CA – a decision that likely saved his life and provided an unexpected avenue of continued service.
While on orders at Lackland AFB, TX in 2016 BJ was diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and recovery. He thought this was all over, unfortunately BJ’s MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) proved unsuccessful, and against BJ’s wishes, he was placed on TDRL (temporary medical retirement) in July of 2016. However, this was a blessing in disguise. Aside form likely saving BJ’s life, BJ was enrolled into the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) a DoD congressionally mandated program (AF’s akin to Army’s AW2, USMC’s WWR, Navy Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor) for wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families.
Although apprehensive because he was not combat wounded and mainly dealing with invisible wounds, BJ attended his first AFW2 CARE event at JBLM in August of 2016 and soon discovered the camaraderie, service, and pride he had lost so that his healing could begin. He took to the adaptive sports getting him on the high performance track and soon found himself completing their mentor and ambassador programs to help others coming into the fold. Unfortunately, in July of 2017 just one year in remission, BJ’s cancer relapsed into his lymph nodes, and he had to undergo weeks of radiation therapy leading him to become very sick, but BJ didn’t let that stop him – even after doctors pulling his medical clearance which meant he couldn’t go to Air Force Trials at Nellis AFB the following year. This led to another very rough period of BJ’s life full of depression, anxiety, and physical pain.
Though BJ’s chances of competing at the next Warrior Games (and subsequent Invictus Games) looked low another door opened. BJ expressed his interest in teaching his one-true love, improvisation. Specifically applied improv. Dr. Aaron Moffett, PhD., resiliency program manager and sports psychologist for AFW2, jumped on the chance, and in July 2018 BJ, who had already begun teaching the Improv For Veterans Program at The Second City Hollywood, became the Air Force Wounded Warrior’s comedy coach teaching hundreds of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their caregivers how to use improv comedy as an applied resiliency tool. In July BJ will be teaching at Ramstein AB Germany as well as Scott AFB, IL in August.
Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF
“When fellow wounded warrior Maj. Stacie Shafran called to ask if I wanted to come to Warrior Games, I jumped at the chance to be there with my brothers and sisters” Lange said. Lange was asked to attend the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa to use his hosting experience during competitions via Facebook Live and other social media outlets as well as co-hosting the Fisher House Family Program for athletes and their families with fellow Air Force Wounded Warrior 1Lt (Ret.) Rachel Francis. “I can’t think of a better way to use my talents then to help share the stories of my fellow wounded warriors and the program that has and continues to help me heal”. Lange hopes to be able to compete next year at Warrior Games and go onto Invictus Games although sharing laugh via improv comedy games is just fine with him as he embarks on one-year in remission from relapse.
After blowing a UK-imposed deadline to answer for the attack, which UK experts assess used a Russian-made chemical weapon, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman warned the UK not to threaten nuclear powers.
The UK also possesses nuclear weapons, but Russia has more firepower and newer nuclear systems than any other nation and has frequently taken to threatening its neighbors and bragging about its capability to end life on Earth.
Additionally, Russian state TV broadcaster Kirill Kleimenov went on Russia’s popular Channel One to make veiled threats and insinuations that politically motivated murders in Britain would continue.
“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said. “It’s very rare that those who had chosen it have lived in peace until a ripe old age.”
Outside of military threats, Russia has said it would respond in kind if the UK moves to expel Russian diplomats or scraps the media license for RT, a Russian-funded media organization.
“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response. International news outlets in Russia already operate under heavy scrutiny and cannot spread their news freely to the Russian people.
If Britain chooses to acknowledge the attack as having been carried out by Russia on its own soil, it can invoke Article 5 within NATO and trigger a response, possibly war, from the 29-member alliance.
But Russia stands accused of killing 15 former spies on UK soil, and experts tell Business Insider it’s unlikely the UK will go to war over the nerve agent attack.
Earlier this year, a French publisher had to issue an apology after a huge social media backlash emerged against their undergraduate-level history textbook which claimed that the attacks on 9/11 were “orchestrated by the CIA.” “This phrase which echoes conspiracy theories devoid of any factual basis should never have been used in this work,” the publisher said. “It doesn’t reflect the editorial position either of Ellipses publications or the author.”
Despite the incredible oversight of the publisher, it’s worth noting that the French have stood in solidarity with the United States in remembering 9/11 with a temporary memorial on its 10th anniversary. However, other nations across the free world have erected permanent memorials. After all, 9/11 began the War on Terror that freedom-loving countries have been fighting for 19 years. Here are some memorials that stand out.
(Dr. Avishai Teicher—Public Domain)
1. 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza—Jerusalem, Israel
Opened in 2009, the 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza is a cenotaph remembering and honoring the victims of the attacks. It measures 30 feet tall and is made of granite, bronze, and aluminum. A piece of melted steel from Ground Zero forms part of the base on which the monument rests. The names of all the victims, including five Israeli citizens, are embedded on metal plates and placed on the circular wall. It is also the first and only monument outside of the United States to list all the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks.
(Memoria e Luce)
2. Memory and Light—Padua, Italy
Inaugurated on the 4th anniversary of the attacks, Memoria e Luce, as it’s known in Italian, was a gift from the United States to the Italian city of Padua. It features a six meter long, twisted steel beam recovered from Ground Zero. The structure in which it is housed mimics an open book and is reminiscent of the facades of the Twin Towers. The book is also open in the direction of the Statue of Liberty, further cementing the relationship between our two nations.
(SINCE 9/11 Charity)
3. Since 9/11—London, England
Throughout the War on Terror, Britain has been one of our strongest allies in combating those who wish harm on the West and the free world. Located at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, the memorial sculpture was a gift from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the United Kingdom. It is made entirely out of steel recovered from Ground Zero. The memorial is cared for by the SINCE 9/11 charity. Founded on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the charity’s focus is educating British students on 9/11 to “ensure that the legacy of 9/11 is one that builds hope from tragedy.”
4. Twin Towers and Lost Dogs Monument—Ontario, Canada
Located in the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society Park, this stone sculpture represents the Twin Towers. The towers rest on a pentagonal base and honors both the human and canine rescuers who took part in the search and rescue effort following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The memorial is particularly dedicated to a Yellow Labrador police canine named Sirius who died in the collapse of the South Tower. The plaque on the memorial reads, “This plaque honors the devotion and bravery shown by the many K-9 police units during the search, rescue, and recovery of victims of these attacks. Their heroic deeds will not be forgotten.”
5. Donadea 9/11 Memorial—Donadea, Ireland
Dedicated in 2003, the Donadea 9/11 Memorial was crafted by a local stonemason and sculptor. The structural representation of the Twin Towers features the names of victims inscribed on the stone. Though it serves as a memorial to all 9/11 victims, it is dedicated to Irish American firefighter Sean Tallon, whose father was born in Donadea. Tallon was a Corporal in the USMC Reserves and probationary firefighter at Ladder 10, the fire station directly across from the World Trade Center. He was one of the first people on scene when the first plane hit and was killed when the towers fell.
After 9/11, Americans swore that we would never forget. The beautiful and touching memorials listed here show that good people around the world won’t forget either.
NATO does not want “a new Cold War” with Russia, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the end of a four-day parliamentary assembly of the alliance.
“We are concerned by…[Russia’s] lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises,” Stoltenberg said on October 9 in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.
He mentioned the Zapad exercise that Russia held with Belarus in September, which brought thousands of troops close to NATO’s eastern members and caused concerns about Moscow’s intentions given its military interference in Ukraine.
At the same time, Stoltenberg said: “Russia is our neighbor…. We don’t want to isolate Russia; we don’t want a new Cold War.”
He said the 29-member alliance has stepped up jet patrols over the Black Sea in “response to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.”
Romanian and Bulgarian pilots have conducted air exercises in the Black Sea in recent months, designed to reassure NATO members after Russia’s interference.
Russia occupied and seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and backs separatists in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine.
At the end of the parliamentary session in Bucharest, NATO also announced the launch of a new multinational force in Romania, its latest move to protect its eastern flank and to check a growing Russian presence in the Black Sea.
Initially, a small force composed mostly of troops from 10 NATO states including Italy and Canada as well as host Romania, the land, air, and sea deployments are expected to complement some 900 U.S. troops already in place separately throughout the country.
“Our purpose is peace, not war,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told the session.
“We are not a threat for Russia, but we need a long-term NATO strategy; we need dialogue from a strong position of defense and discouragement,” he said.
The United States Postal Services has been in the news lately as they, just like the rest of us, are feeling the impact of the economy. Now, there’s a way to support everyone’s buddy the USPS and a cause more than worthy of your support: PTSD.
In late March, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, issued the following statement after House Democrats introduced a stimulus package with emergency funds to save the Postal Service from imminent bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus crisis:
“The Postal Service is in need of urgent help as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House. Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America’s help, and we must answer this call.”
According to the Postal Service, it is facing a potentially drastic direct effect in the near term on mail volumes and could be forced to cease operations as early as June.
A halt in Postal Service operations could have grave consequences across the country. For example, the Postal Service delivered more than a billion shipments of prescription drugs last year, and that number is expected to grow rapidly as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
These negative effects could be even more dire in rural areas, where millions of Americans are sheltering in place and rely on the Postal Service to deliver essential staples.
In addition, more than 25% of votes cast in recent elections are distributed through the mail and are critical to America’s democracy.
The resources included in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, would:
provide a billion emergency appropriation;
eliminate the Postal Service’s current debt; and
require the Postal Service to prioritize medical deliveries and allow it flexibility to meet crisis conditions.
So, how can you help? Buy stamps. And, for 10 cents more than a regular stamp, you can buy a “Healing PTSD” stamp. The additional cost is diverted to fundraising efforts for veterans with PTSD. The photo depicted is by Mark Laiata and is an illustration of a green plant sprouting from the ground, covered in fallen leaves. The image is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, growth and hope.
“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semi-postal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman on the service’s board of governors, said in a press release issued when the stamp was introduced in December. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”
If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.
China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.
According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.
The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.
In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.
When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).
That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.
However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.
The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.
“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.
The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.
They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.
The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.
Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020.
Close to a dozen vessels from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy spent an hour making repeated “dangerous and harassing approaches” near American ships operating in international waters on Wednesday, according to Navy officials.
The 11 vessels carried out the aggressive moves in the Persian Gulf, Naval Forces Central Command said in a news release. The U.S. ships, including four Navy vessels and two Coast Guard, were conducting joint operations with ArmyAH-64EApache attack helicopters, the release states.
Video of #IRGCN vessels conducting dangerous harassing approaches on U.S. naval vessels in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.pic.twitter.com/zL9VKQ0eiQ
The Iranian vessels came within 10 yards of the Coast Guard’s Island-class cutter Maui and within 50 yards of the expeditionary mobile base Lewis B. Puller.
“The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” the Navy’s news release states, adding that the dangerous passes increase the risk of miscalculation and collision.
Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels cross the bows and sterns of U.S. Military ships while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020.
The provocations came about two weeks after the U.S. moved a carrier strike group out of the region. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed the Middle East earlier this month.
It had been operating in the region with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, a rare move for the Navy which hasn’t had multiple strike groups in the region for years. The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group remains in the area.
In the Wednesday statement about the unsafe maneuvers, Navy officials said U.S. naval leaders are trained to remain vigilant and professional. But, they added, “our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”
The other U.S. ships involved in the episode were the Navy destroyer Paul Hamilton and coastal patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, along with the Coast Guard cutter Wrangell. The crews have been operating in the region since March.
“The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response,” the release stated.
About an hour passed before the vessels responded to bridge-to-bridge radio queries, “then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them,” the release added.
In October 2006, a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric submarine capable of carrying torpedoes and antiship missiles surfaced within firing range of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.
“Some navy officers interpreted it as a ‘Gotcha!’ move,” journalist Michael Fabey wrote in his 2017 book, Crashback. It was “a warning from China that US carrier groups could no longer expect to operate with impunity.”
Almost exactly nine years later, China again demonstrated its growing naval prowess, when a Kilo-class diesel-electric attack sub shadowed the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near southern Japan.
One defense official told The Washington Free Beacon that the sub’s appearance “set off alarm bells on the Reagan,” though there was no sign of threatening behavior.
The US still “owns the undersea realm in the western Pacific right now and is determined” to maintain it, Fabey told Business Insider in a February 2018 interview. But “China has grown — in terms of maritime power, maritime projection — more quickly than any country in the region,” he added. “The growth has been incredible.”
That expansion has prompted similar moves by its neighbors, who are asking whether China will abide by or remake the rules of the road.
‘Armed to the teeth’
Since 2002, China has built 10 nuclear subs: six Shang I- and II-class nuclear-powered attack subs — capable of firing anti-ship and land-attack missiles — and four Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile subs, according to a 2017 US Defense Department assessment.
“China’s four operational JIN-class SSBNs represent China’s first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent,” the assessment notes. Documents accidentally posted online by a Chinese shipbuilder also revealed plans for a new, quieter nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a separate “quiet” submarine project.
The brunt of China’s undersea force, however, is its diesel-electric subs. It has access to 54 diesel-electric subs, but it’s not clear if all of them are in service, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which said China’s current operational diesel-electric fleet was likely 48 subs.
The Defense Department believes China could have about 70 subs by 2020. While it looks unlikely to build more nuclear subs by then, adding 20 Yuan-class diesel-electric subs “seems to be entirely reasonable,” IISS says.
That expansion would require more investment in training and maintenance, but diesel-electric subs are potent, Fabey said.
“The submarine force [China is] putting out there is substantial, and partly because they have a lot of diesel-electrics and nuclear forces,” he told Business Insider. “Those diesel-electrics especially are … armed to the teeth. They’re armed with antiship missiles that really can give anyone, including the US forces, serious pause.”
China’s subs are also stretching their legs.
In May 2016, a Chinese nuclear-powered attack sub docked in Karachi, Pakistan — the first port call in South Asia by a Chinese nuclear attack sub, according to the Defense Department. (Chinese subs previously made port calls in Sri Lanka, much to India’s chagrin.)
In January 2017, a Chinese attack sub returning from anti-piracy patrols in the western Indian Ocean stopped in a Malaysian port on the South China Sea, over which Beijing has made expansive and contested claims. A Malaysian official said it was the first time a Chinese sub had visited the country.
In January 2018, a Chinese Shang-class nuclear-powered attack sub was detected in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea— the first confirmed identification of a Chinese sub that area. That wasn’t the first unannounced maneuver by Chinese subs in the East China Sea, but those islands are disputed, and Japan protested the sub’s presence in that zone.
“You’re seeing Chinese submarines farther and farther and farther away” from China, Fabey said. “Chinese subs now make routine patrols into the Indian Ocean … This is a very big deal, just in terms of what you have to think is out there.”
‘Driving the Chinese absolutely crazy’
The US Navy has roughly 50 nuclear-powered attack subs. But many are aging, and the Navy’s most recent force-structure analysis said 66 attack subs were needed.
US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, head of Pacific Command, has said his command has half the subs it needs to meet its peacetime requirements. Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, has also said maintenance backlogs could hinder efforts to deploy additional subs in the event of a conflict.
A sub shortfall was expected in the mid-2020s, as production of new Virginia-class attack subs was reduced after production of new Colombia-class ballistic-missile subs started in 2021. But the Navy has said US industry can continue to build two Virginia-class subs a year, even after starting to build one Columbia-class sub a year in 2021.
The 2018 budget included also money for increased production of Virginia-class subs — which are “the creme de la creme,” Fabey said.
China’s neighbors are also racing to add subs, looking not only for a military edge, but also to keep an eye on their turf.
Diesel-electrics are relatively cheap, and countries like Russia and China are willing to sell them, Fabey said. “So you have this big proliferation of diesel-electric subs, because with just the purchase of a few diesel-electric subs, a nation can develop a strategic force.”
“All those countries, they’re the home team, so they don’t need to have nuclear subs necessarily to go anywhere [and] project power,” he said. “They want to just project power in their little neighborhoods, and that’s why diesel-electrics are so amazingly good.”
“When you go and you go down to the thermals, the different layers of the ocean, it becomes very hard to detect subs … and you shut off everything except for electric power — it puts out less of a signal than a light bulb would,” Fabey added.
Between 2009 and 2016, Vietnam bought six Russian-made Kilo-class subs. That force “is driving the Chinese absolutely crazy,” Fabey said, “because China can no longer just operate in the Gulf of Tonkin, for example, at will.”
Japan is also growing its navy, which had 18 subs in early 2016. In November 2017, it launched its 10th Soryu-class diesel-electric sub, and in March 2018 it commissioned its ninth Soryu-class sub. Those subs have air-independent propulsion systems that allow them to remain submerged for up to two weeks. They also have quieting technology, can carry torpedoes and antiship missiles, and excel at navigating tough seascapes.
Indonesia, which had two subs as of spring 2017, is looking to add subs that can operate in shallow coastal waters. In August 2017, it commissioned its first attack sub in 34 years — a diesel-electric capable of carrying torpedoes and guided missiles and of performing anti-surface and anti-sub warfare.
In early 2017, Indonesia was working with or in talks with South Korean, French, and Russian shipbuilders to acquire more subs. (Jakarta has since reduced its original requirement for 12 new subs by 2024 to eight.)
Taiwan, whose efforts to buy foreign subs to join its four aging subs have been thwarted by China, announced a domestic sub-building program in spring 2017.
India already more than a dozen subs in active service. The country’s first domestic nuclear-powered ballistic-missile sub, INS Arihant, was commissioned in late 2016, after a seven-year development process. The next Arihant-class sub, INS Aridaman, was poised for launch in late 2017. India’s latest sub, the diesel-electric, first-in-class INS Kalvari, was commissioned in December 2017.
The next two Kalvari-class subs, built by a French firm, have already arrived. The six and last Kalvari-class sub is due to join the fleet in 2020. In July 2017, New Dehli contacted foreign shipyards with a request for information about building its next six nonnuclear subs.
India’s efforts have been plagued by delays, however. The Kalvari was supposed to be delivered in 2012 but was four years late. Mistakes have also set India back — the Arihant, for example, has been out of service since early 2017, when it flooded because a hatch was left open as it submerged.
India has expressed considerable concern about Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean, which includes submarine patrols, as well as its efforts to court countries in the region.
Beijing has sold subs to Bangladesh, which has bought two, Pakistan, which has bought eight, and Thailand, which may buy up to four.
Countries buying Chinese subs rely on China’s naval officers and technicians for support and maintenance — which extends Beijing’s influence.
“I believe that’s a counter to the increasing encroachment by Chinese forces,” Fabey said of India’s naval activity
“What the two countries have established on land, they’re now looking to establish in the ocean, India especially,” he added. “It’s not about to let China encroach just willy-nilly.”
All these countries are likely to face challenges developing and maintaining a sub force, Fabey said, pointing to the case of Argentina’s ARA San Juan, a diesel-electric sub lost with all hands in the South Atlantic last year. But subs are not the only military hardware in demand in East Asia, and the buildup comes alongside uncertainty about the balance of power in the region.
Apprehension about China’s growth has been tempered by increasing economic reliance on Beijing. And the current and previous US administration have left countries in the region, including longtime allies, unsure about what role the US is willing to play there.
“Everyone out in Asia is on one hand scared of China, and the other hand, they need China for trade,” Fabey said. “Also there’s a real sense of, ‘China’s right here, America’s on the other side of the world.'”
“And there’s a sense of reevaluating China,” he added, “because if you don’t have the 500-pound gorilla from the West, then you’ve got to worry about the 500-pound dragon in the East a little bit more.”