Russia is looking to expand its amphibious assault capability by building two ships comparable to the large-deck, amphibious vessels common in Western navies.
According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the first of these vessels will begin construction in 2020, the second in 2022. The plan is for both ships to be in service by 2026. While the exact details of the ships are not yet available, this isn’t the first time that Russia has sought to add powerful amphibious assault capability to their arsenal.
Russia had hoped to acquire two such vessels from France, which built three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships in the 2000s. However, the deal was canceled when the ships were nearly ready for delivery in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Egyptians later bought the vessels with some help from the Saudis.
Most of these big-deck amphibious assault ships are capable of carrying a battalion of troops (usually marines) in addition to at least a dozen helicopters. In the case of the Russian vessels, the onboard helicopters will likely be a mix of Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters as well as Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, Ka-29 Helix troop-carrying helicopters, and Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning helicopters.
An aerial starboard bow view of the Soviet amphibious assault transport ship Ivan Rogov underway. (U.S. Navy photo)
During the Cold War, Russia did develop three unique amphibious vessels. However, these ships, Ivan Rogov-class amphibious vessels, have since been removed from active service. GlobalSecurity.org notes that these vessels could carry a battalion of Russian Naval Infantry and 25 tanks. We expect the new ship to have equal, if not greater capacities.
Watch the video below to learn more about Russia’s planned amphibious ship:
It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.
To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.
Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.
Do the salsa
We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.
Should you cut the cheese?
Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.
Friends don’t let friends…
Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.
Step up your game bro
The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.
Make it weird
If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.
Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.
President Donald Trump appears to have confirmed ending a CIA program to arm and train rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a post on Twitter criticizing a Washington Post report, the president said late July 14, ” The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.”
Trump didn’t specify what was wrong with report by the newspaper, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.
The Washington Post had reported Trump decided to end the aid almost a month ago after meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office. It was before the G20 Summit in Germany when met on July 7 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian government, which backs the Assad regime, has opposed the program, which was begun by President Barack Obama in 2013.
Officials said the CIA program will likely be phased out “over a period of months.” US ally Jordan, which has hosted training sites for the Syrian rebels, backs the move, according to the newspaper report.
The White House did not dispute the story last week.
A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.
On July 21, the leader of US special forces appeared to confirm the end of the program.
“At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, absolutely not a sop to the Russians,” Army Gen. Raymond Thomas said at a national security forum in Colorado. “It was, I think, based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we’re trying to accomplish, the viability going forward.”
He said it was a “tough, tough decision.”
“It is so much more complex than even I can describe, that’s not necessarily an organization that I’ve been affiliated with but a sister, parallel activity that had a tough, and some would argue, impossible mission based on the approach we took.”
After his speech, he told reporters he hadn’t confirmed anything and was referring only to “public reporting.”
Russian strategic bombers on July 5 struck the Islamic State group in Syria with cruise missiles, the military said.
The Defense Ministry said that Tu-95 bombers launched Kh-101 cruise missiles on IS facilities in the area along the boundary between the Syrian provinces of Hama and Homs. The ministry said three ammunition depots and a command facility near the town of Aqirbat were destroyed.
It said the bombers flew from their base in southwestern Russia and launched the missiles at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the target.
Russia has waged an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The Russian military has used the campaign to test its latest weapons, including long-range cruise missiles, in combat for the first time.
Meanwhile, a two-day round of Syria cease-fire talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, ended without conclusive results. The Syrian government and the opposition blamed each other for the failure to reach agreement.
The negotiations, brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, were to finalize specifics related to so-called de-escalation zones, including their boundaries and monitoring mechanisms. But the talks failed to produce a deal, with the parties agreeing only to set up a working group to continue discussions.
“We so far have failed to agree on de-escalation zones, but we will continue efforts to achieve that goal,” Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentyev said after the talks, according to Russian news reports.
Lavrentyev said that Russia plans to deploy its military police to help monitor de-escalation zones and called on Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet nations to also send monitors. He said police will have light arms to protect themselves.
Lavrentyev also noted that the involvement of the United States and Jordan would be essential for setting up a de-escalation zone in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.
Syria’s warring sides have held four previous rounds of talks in Kazakhstan since January, in parallel to the UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. Neither process has made much progress. A cease-fire declared in May, has been repeatedly violated.
The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.
Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.
The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.
The stricter qualification standards will also do away with the practice of using the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, to satisfy the annual qualification requirement, Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, told Military.com.
Alt. C is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters. At that short range, however, the trajectory of the 5.56mm bullet is extremely flat and unaffected by wind, making it easier to score hits, experts say.
Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training at Fort Benning.
“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Rowland said. “That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case.”
Army training officials at Benning have been spent the last two years validating the training strategy and course of fire for a new marksmanship qualification standard that is designed to better prepare soldiers for the current operational environment, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.
“We have visited various units across the Army, and we have tested and validated parts of it as needed,” Venable said.
Soldiers who have shot the new course “are doing very well at it,” Venable said.
“They appreciate the training that the training strategy provides, and they enjoy the course of fire because it’s more realistic,” she said.
The new qualification course is designed to use the current marksmanship ranges across the Army.
“It’s still 40 targets; it’s still 40 bullets,” Rowland said. “It’s the same targets that people have been shooting at for years.”
But the new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.
Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning.
The next milestone in the effort will come when Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, signs the new manual that will guide the marksmanship effort so it can be published and sent out to the active force, National Guard and Reserve, Venable said.
Once that happens, leaders throughout the Army will have time to provide feedback on any challenges they might face in putting the new qualification strategy into action.
“Units have 12 months from the time of publication to provide the Infantry School and the MCOE with feedback on their issues with implementation of the training strategy or the course of fire,” Venable said, adding the many of the ranges across the Army are likely to require some updating.
“At this time, we are not there with a hardcore implementation date. … We don’t know all the second- and third-order effects that the changes are going to produce.”
But one of the clearest differences of the new qualification standards is that Alt. C is no longer a valid qualification, Rowland.
“That is going to be a huge change for the Army,” he said.
Army units can still use Alt. C to extend their annual qualification rating by six months if a deployment or high operational tempo prevents them from going to a range and qualifying with the new course of fire, Venable said.
“In areas where they don’t have range access — let’s just say they are downrange and they are 250 miles to a primary range — units can use Alt. C because they can’t get a range. However, they have to have a general officer approve the use of Alt. C,” Venable said. “They still have to come back and shoot the [new] course of fire to qualify.”
Using Alt. C extends a soldier’s current rating of marksman, sharpshooter or expert, but it cannot change it, Rowland said.
“If you are marksman and you conduct a validation event [with Alt. C] and you get a perfect score — you are still a marksman; you are not expert,” Rowland said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.
He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.
The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.
“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”
Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.
This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.
But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.
With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.
Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.
The US military says it has killed three men who played key roles in developing, building, and modifying Islamic State drones.
Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon Sept. 28 that the three were killed in a series of US airstrikes in Syria in mid-September.
Dillon says two of the men were responsible for manufacturing and modifying commercially produced drones. The other man was described as a drone developer, who was killed when his research workshop near Mayadin, Syria, was hit by two airstrikes.
The Islamic State group has used drones for surveillance and to fire small weapons, in both Syria and Iraq.
Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works, and Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” Augie cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran story from his or her time in uniform.
In this episode David Burnell remembers the times when he was a Marine, and he learned to enjoy a self-made concoction of mac and cheese using the jalapeño cheese packet and spaghetti noodle pack from the MRE. Here’s the recipe that chef August cooked together for David:
Habanero Mac and Cheese w/ Truffle, Leek and 3 Cheeses
Inspired by MRE Jalapeño Cheese Packet and Spaghetti Noodles
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Tsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup AP Flour
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Half Half
1 Tsp. Sweet Paprika
1 lb. Conchiglie (or shell pasta)
1 Cup Shredded Gruyère Cheese
1 Cup Shredded English White Cheddar(sharpest available)
1 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
2 Tsp. Truffle Puree Preserves (or oil)
1 Large Leek
1 Large Habanero
2 Tbls. of Green Onion (for garnish)
Prepare the leek by splitting down lengthwise and soaking in cold water for 20 mins. Then shake out all silt from the leaves, discard the top, dark-green part and chop the rest.
Boil pasta in large saucepan of salted water until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to large bowl and dress with olive oil.
Seed and stem Habanero then julienne into tiny slices. Place into bowl of hot water and let steep for 1 hr (this removes some of the heat from the chili).
Make the cheese sauce by bringing a large saucepan to medium-high heat and melt 4 Tbs. butter. Add leaks and habanero and sweat for 5 mins.
Add flour and paprika and cook until no visible flour remains, about 2-3 mins. Whisk in milk and half half and large pinch of salt and bring to boil then simmer whisking out any lumps, about 4 minutes.
Add truffle puree and all cheeses and stir until smooth.
Once smooth, add pasta to sauce and mix until incorporated.
Add salt and pepper to taste and let stand 5 minutes before service.
Add pinch of sliced green onions for garnish and serve.
C-ARTS ushers in a new standard in mobile, interactive training, designed to meet the instructional needs and expectations of tech savvy Sailors, accustomed to learning through hands-on classes that exploit augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools.
The C-ARTS facility is located on the waterfront at NNS and also nearby Newport News Shipbuilding for Sailors assigned to PCU John F. Kennedy. Since December, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been conducting multiple underway test and training evolutions, as part of an 18-month phase of operations known as Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T), scheduled to continue through mid-2021. The crew on this first-in-class aircraft carrier are certifying fuel and on-board combat systems as well as exercising the flight deck, launching and arresting aircraft as part of critical aircraft compatibility testing. In preparation for these complex tasks, many Sailors have attended unique training courses, conducted at the C-ARTS facility.
“As the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years, Gerald R. Ford is integrating advanced warfighting technologies essential for air dominance in an era of great power competition,” said Downey. “Sailors can’t wait to receive training on these systems. C-ARTS provides the capability to bring high-velocity instruction to crews at the Sailor’s point of need.”
When the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System launched its first course in 2018, C-ARTS instructors guided technicians through the complexities of fiber optic cable repair. Since then, more than 500 Sailors have completed 17 courses logging more than 5,700 total classroom hours.
Interior Communications Specialist 1st Class Jessica Diaz, assigned to CNAL and the first billeted instructor assigned to the Ford Center of Excellence, participated in the C-ARTS ceremony demonstrating her training proficiency of the high-velocity learning opportunity for Sailors assigned to Ford-class aircraft carriers.
“As the lead instructor I am responsible for building curriculum that is both hands-on and interactive while utilizing the augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools,” said Diaz. “The training is currently tailored to the 29 new systems including the Advanced Weapons Elevators, Machinery Control Monitoring System, and Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System found on the Ford Class Carrier but there is unlimited potential to be used fleet wide.”
The 1,000-sq-ft reconfigurable classrooms offer “high-velocity” learning—integral to the Sailor 2025 concept of providing ready relevant learning at the sailor’s point of need. C-ARTS provides innovative tools for delivering the right training at the right time in the right way to crews in modern, spacious spaces—all in the shadow of the ships on which sailors serve.
As the Command Master Chief assigned to the future USS John F. Kennedy, Wright brings a credible amount of experience to the table. Having served on board the Enterprise, Nimitz, and Ford class aircraft carriers he is witnessing the warrior ethos today’s Sailors display.
“Technology is a vehicle that Sailors continue to benefit from,” said Wright. “I am happy to serve on a Ford-class aircraft carriers knowing that through C-ARTS we have brought the training to the Sailors on the waterfront. This form of high velocity learning will allow us to fulfill the vision of the Sailor 2025 concept in building warriors who serve at sea.”
The training site consists of two stand-alone, 53-foot trailers, which may operate either in pairs—with one unit providing an electronic classroom and the other a maintenance lab—or independently. Adjustable classroom configurations can accommodate 16 students, each training on two 24-inch touch screen monitors, with instructors teaching a single class or two classes of eight students. In the lab, eight students perform tasks from portable workbenches using 24-inch touch-screen monitors.
Delivering training at the Sailor’s point of need helps to mitigate impacts to Sailors’ work/life balance. In the case of the C-ARTS facility at Naval Station Norfolk, CVN 78 Sailors can walk 1,200 ft. from pier 11, where the CVN 78 is berthed. Two other units are also located at Newport News Shipbuilding, walking distance to Pier 3, where the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is under construction. A fifth 1,000-sq-ft classroom unit is planned to join the C-ARTS location at NS Norfolk in Spring 2021..
The U.S. Space Force‘s first commercial has a message for its new troops and potential recruits: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”
It’s the closing line in the 30-second commercial, which gives viewers a glimpse into what a Space Force job might look like. That could mean protecting U.S. satellites in ground operations centers, overseeing rocket launches to deploy satellites in orbit, or perhaps recovering the super-secret X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, according to the imagery seen in the video.
“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?’ Our job is to have an answer,” the commercial states as a young man sporting a fresh haircut looks up toward the stars.
“We would have to imagine what will be imagined, plan for what’s possible while there’s still impossible. Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer,” it says.
The commercial is the first promotional video for the new service, an effort to attract recruits to join the military’s sixth branch.
The opening of applications means the eventual, “physical act of [commissioning] into the U.S. Space Force,” Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, said April 23. Enlisted members would re-enlist directly into the Space Force, he said during a webinar, hosted by Space News.
“The window for airmen to volunteer to transfer to the USSF opened on Friday, May 1, and we have already received several hundred applications,” a Space Force official told Military.com on Wednesday.
The commercial also closely follows the full trailer for Steve Carell’s new Netflix comedy “Space Force” set to premiere on the streaming service May 29.
Sitting alongside Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett during a webinar Wednesday, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations and head of U.S. Space Command, remarked on Carell’s upcoming show.
“The one piece of advice that I would give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said during the chat, hosted by the Space Foundation. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”
Barrett added, “It seems to me that it’s just further evidence that space is where things are happening. Whether it’s Netflix or in the United States Pentagon, space is where things are happening.”
Speaking about the commercial, Barrett said she hopes it will inspire “Americans to find their purpose in the nation’s newest service.”
The top US general is on the Korean Peninsula as annual US and South Korean military exercises risk further increasing tensions with North Korea.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford said his visit to the region this week is aimed at reassuring allies South Korea and Japan, while building the military-to-military relationship with China in order to prevent miscalculations.
He met with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo August 14 in Seoul, and travels to China August 14 and Japan later in the week.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated in a Wall Street Journal opinion article posted late August 13 that the US goal is the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that it is up to North Korea to show its willingness to engage in good-faith negotiations.
“North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity, and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty, and isolation,” Mattis and Tillerson said. They also highlighted a need for China to use its “decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over North Korea.”
Meanwhile, senior US national security officials said August 13 a military confrontation with North Korea is not imminent, but the possibility of war has increased.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday North Korea’s push to develop a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, “… is a very serious threat and the administration is going to treat it as such.”
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, on ABC’s This Week program said “…We are not closer to war than a week ago, but we are closer to war than we were a decade ago.”
Dunford said the military’s “primary focus” is supporting the administration’s diplomatic and economic campaign to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, while preparing military options in the event that campaign fails.
“We’re all looking to get out of this situation without a war,” Dunford said, even as he stressed Pyongyang possessing nuclear weapons that threaten the United States and its regional allies is “unacceptable.”
“As a military leader, I’ve got to make sure that the president does have viable military options in the event that the diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign fails,” he added.
But some experts do not agree that Pyongyang’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is an unacceptable option. Richard Bush, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, said the Trump administration has “made a big mistake” by determining that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States is something to fight over.
“The bigger danger or focus should be ensuring that North Korea doesn’t use those capabilities,” Bush told VOA.
Dunford arrived at Osan Air Base plans to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-In and his South Korean military counterpart on Monday before traveling to China and Japan later in the week.
New military exercises to start
Annual exercises between the US and South Korean militaries, dubbed Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, begin later this month. North Korea has always condemned these exercises, and some experts fear these war games could increase hostilities from Pyongyang while irking Beijing, a key influencer of North Korea.
“If you have the current tensions and pile on top of that these exercises, it’s going to make for a much worse situation,” Joel Wit, who helped negotiate the 1994 US-North Korea nuclear deal that delayed North Korea’s nuclear program for almost a decade, told VOA.
A senior official with US Pacific Command, which overseas military activity in the region, said China will almost certainly propose to Dunford that the US and South Korea stop these exercises. However, the Trump administration would not agree to that proposal because it considers the exercises necessary for readiness in the event of an attack, the official added.
In the past, China has been reluctant to deny resources to North Korea in order to pressure Pyongyang to curb its nuclear weapons ambitions. But in the last few weeks, China has appeared to take measures to keep its bad-behaving neighbor in check.
Last week, China voted alongside a unanimous UN Security Council to impose strict new sanctions on Pyongyang in response to North Korea’s launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. Estimates say the new sanctions could cost Pyongyang $1 billion a year.
And on July 11, China’s Global Times Newspaper warned that China will not come to North Korea’s aid if it launches missiles threatening American soil and would only intervene if the United States strikes North Korea first.
Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst at RAND Corporation, noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping has held eight summit meetings with the South Korean president but none with the young North Korean leader, which he said “clearly suggests” that Xi “thinks Kim Jong Un is a lightweight and really not important.”
‘Locked and loaded’
The chairman’s visit comes just two days after US President Donald Trump warned in a tweet that military solutions were “locked and loaded” should North Korea act unwisely. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path,” Trump tweeted.
North Korean state media announced the country is drawing up plans to fire missiles near the US Pacific territory of Guam, as the US military continued preparations for a potential military response.
The United States has carried our several B-1B Lancer strategic bomber jet flights from Guam to the peninsula, with the last one carried out about a week ago. Japanese and South Korean jets have escorted the bombers at times.
The United States also has deployed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea that can shoot down short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Two of the system’s six launchers are fully operational, and President Moon has ordered consultations on the possibility of deploying the final four interceptors, which are already in-country. THAAD’s ability to take out missile threats has proven 15 for 15 in tests conducted since 2005, when the system began operational testing.
THAAD is also deployed on Guam, along with Aegis ships that have Standard Missile 3 interceptors used to destroy medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
The US mainland is defended from intercontinental ballistic missiles by ground-based interceptors located at Fort Greely, Alaska.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.
“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.
“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”
While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.
Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.
(Photo by JD Lasica)
“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”
In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.
“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.
The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.
The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.
“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.
He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.
The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.
The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.
SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.
Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.
Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.
NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.
While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.
He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.
A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”
The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.