The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

The United States is making a push at the United Nations to set up a new inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, three months after Russia killed a previous UN inquiry.


The U.S. ambassador to the UN said on March 1, 2018, that she wants the UN Security Council to create a new investigative team charged with determining who is behind chemical attacks in Syria following several reports of the use of chlorine gas in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks.

Also read: US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she hopes the council will vote on the measure in early March 2018. The initiative comes days after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a child suffocated to death and 13 other people fell ill from a suspected chlorine gas attack over the weekend.

A previous UN inquiry ended in November 2017 after Russia vetoed efforts to renew its mandate. Russia maintained that the investigative team, which had attributed most of the chemical attacks it investigated to the Syrian government, was biased against its ally. Damascus insists it has renounced all use of chemical weapons.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Russia, in January 2018, offered its own plan to create a new inquiry but has never put it to a vote before the council. The Russian plan was opposed by the United States and other Western countries, which said it gave Syria too much influence over investigations.

“When the Russians put their mechanism forward, that’s a non-starter, and so that’s why we’re coming back out with another one,” Haley told Reuters. “We’ve been working on it since the [previous inquiry] was killed.”

“We’ve taken into account certain things that [Russian diplomats] thought were an issue, but if they want no mechanism at all, they’ll veto it,” Haley said.

U.S. diplomats said their draft resolution to set up a new one-year inquiry was discussed at a UN meeting on March 1, 2018, but Russian diplomats did not attend.

A council diplomat said it was unlikely Russia would back the measure, which calls for investigators to operate in “an impartial, independent, and professional manner.”

Russia criticized the previous UN investigative team for reaching conclusions about who perpetrated a chemical attack sometimes without visiting the place where the attack occurred or collecting evidence firsthand.

More: US launches over 50 cruise missiles at Syrian airfields over chemical attack

Russia and Syria fiercely rejected a final conclusion reached in the previous inquiry, which found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an attack April 2017 that killed nearly 100 civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun.

Russian diplomats vetoed efforts to renew the inquiry after that incident, complaining that the UN investigative team never visited the site of the attack or the Syrian airbase from where the attack was allegedly launched.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things we should do in the event of a robot uprising

A war between robots and humans has been the subject of a lot of science fiction, especially in film. And until very recently, the idea that robots could post an autonomous threat to humans was just that: science fiction. Today, advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence have brought us to the point where sentient robots are a very real possibility, which means that a war for humanity’s survival is also a possibility. Which gives us a new a problem: How would the military fight something like a Terminator?

Let’s be real, humans aren’t exactly the best thing for this planet — or for other humans, frankly. So, when we finally build that robot that’s stronger, faster, and several times more intelligent than us fleshy humans, it won’t take long before the robots realize the planet is better off without us. But that doesn’t mean we won’t fight like hell to survive!

So, what could we do at the beginning of the uprising to buy us some time, or even possibly save humanity as a whole?


The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

It might take a long time, but it could save thousands of lives.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Shirk)

Wipe all military data from the internet

The military preaches OPSEC, and when it comes to highly classified, sensitive materials, we succeed. But the documentation for tactics and weaponry is widely available across the internet. An A.I. with the ability to learn things in seconds could easily upload and analyze all that information only to use it against us.

The first chance we get, we’ll need to wipe the Internet clean.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Brig. Gen. John P. Horner powers down the server supporting the Air Force Recruiting Information Support System – Legacy application at Headquarters Air Force Recruiting Service.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Get rid of the internet

Of course, that information-gathering robot would need to connect to the internet to find that juicy data so, let’s just get rid of it. We know you’ll miss your cat videos and memes, but this is a necessity that’d save us a good amount of time. In addition to military data, the internet can be used to track human movements, norms, tendencies — in short, it’d make it easier to wipe us out.

Of course, we would also have to destroy any physical documentation that contains the same information to keep that out of the hands of our robot overlords as well.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Larger caliber weapons may not be the best solution but it won’t hurt to have that extra punch behind each bullet.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Switch to larger caliber weapons

We did all we could to try and prevent robots from gathering the information needed to replicate, but we failed. Now, robots are creating other, better, newer robots at an alarming pace. Now, the next step is to switch to larger caliber weapons. Chances are, the robots are going to build each other out of the strongest materials available to withstand the firearms we currently have — it’s time to up the ante.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Airman 1st Class Anthony Meyerhoffer inspects and counts 20 mm high-explosive incendiary rounds.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Demetrius Lester)

Switch to incendiary rounds

In addition to larger calibers, we should also use bullets that could set our enemies on fire. Remember: we’re fighting sentient robots for the survival of the human race, so let’s give them everything we’ve got.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

These things will definitely be more useful than they are right now.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva)

Stock up on explosive weapons

High explosives win the day. We should be using every explosive we have available to rip the machines apart. Even if it doesn’t destroy them completely, it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to kill a robot with no arms and legs than it would be to frag one that can still rip you in half.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban calls off US peace talks just hours after announcing them

Afghan Taliban representatives say they have called off two days of peace talks with U.S. officials in Qatar, just hours after they had announced the talks would take place without any delegates from Afghanistan’s government.

A Taliban representative in Afghanistan had told Reuters early on Jan. 8, 2019, that the talks would begin in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Jan. 9, 2019.

That Taliban figure also had said the group was refusing to allow what he called “puppet” Afghan officials to take part in the Doha meetings.


But a Taliban representative in Doha told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan later on Jan. 8, 2019, that the militant Islamic group had “postponed” the talks “until further consultations” could resolve an “agenda disagreement.”

Another Taliban source told Reuters the disagreement focused on Washington’s insistence that Afghan government officials must be involved in the talks.

He said there also was disagreement on a possible cease-fire deal and a proposed prisoner exchange.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjOAiXIECOU
Afghan Peace Talks Off Called Off By Taliban, Citing ‘Puppet Officials’ Asked To Attend

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“The U.S. officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a cease-fire in 2019,” he said. “Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar.”

The Taliban has consistently rejected requests from regional powers to allow Afghan government officials to take part in peace talks, insisting that the United States is its main adversary in Afghanistan.

The talks in Doha in early January 2019 would have been the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The Taliban also called off a meeting with U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia early January 2019 because of Riyadh’s insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the negotiating table.

Former Afghan Interior Minister Omar Daudzai, a senior adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was traveling to Pakistan on Jan. 8, 2019, for expected talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi about the peace process.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Navy’s public statement about the homicide charges

Below is a statement released Jan. 16, by U.S. Navy Chief of Information (Acting), Capt. Greg Hicks on Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) charges preferred against individual service members in relation to the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions:


On 30 October 2017, Admiral William Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, designated Admiral Frank Caldwell as the Consolidated Disposition Authority to review the accountability actions taken to date in relation to USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions and to take additional administrative or disciplinary actions as appropriate.

After careful deliberation, today Admiral Frank Caldwell announced that Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) charges are being preferred against individual service members in relation to the collisions.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. This view shows damage above the waterline to the outside skin of the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christian Senyk)

USS Fitzgerald: Courts-martial proceedings/Article 32 hearings are being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against Fitzgerald members. The members’ ranks include one Commander (the Commanding Officer), two Lieutenants, and one Lieutenant Junior Grade. The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide.

USS John S. McCain: Additionally, for John S. McCain, one court-martial proceeding/Article 32 hearing is being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against one Commander (the Commanding Officer). The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide. Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a Chief Petty Officer.

The announcement of an Article 32 hearing and referral to a court-martial is not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence.

Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers.

Information regarding further actions, if warranted, will be discussed at the appropriate time.

Articles

The US wants this new defense for its tanks, but a weapon to defeat it is already out there

The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.


But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.

The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)

“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”

The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.

Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.

Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.

The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.

A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.

“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.

The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.

The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.

Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.

In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.

“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.

During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.

UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.

Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)

During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.

RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.

The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.

Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Lee Greenwood and the USAF Band singing ‘God Bless the U.S.A.’ will give you chills

Other than the National Anthem, there really isn’t another song out there that evokes the pride of country like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when the iconic singer teamed up with the United States Air Force band to perform it during COVID-19, it’s no surprise the rendition is truly breathtaking.


Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)

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Home Free – God Bless the U.S.A. (featuring Lee Greenwood and The United States Air Force Band)

It’s not the first time Greenwood has teamed with the Armed Forces to perform the song. In 2015, he partnered with the U.S. Army Chorus for an impromptu acapella version at the NHL Winter Classic.

Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic

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Army Chorus and Lee Greenwood sing a capella God Bless the USA impromptu at the Winter Classic

While Greenwood never served, he has long supported the troops and military community. In a 2000 interview with Military.com, Greenwood was asked why he thought the song has such a powerful message for the military. He responded:

“I knew we had a song that touched the heart of the public. I knew that it was a song that gave proper salute to the military and its job. I knew that it honored those that had died, and I knew it made people stand up. I actually wrote those words: “I’d proudly stand up and defend her still today,” [meaning] even though pride had been gone in the past, it’s back and we should stand up at any time and defend this free country. So those who are away from home, it has much more impact on. I am a world traveler as well, and have been with the USO for 15 of the world USO tours with my celebrity cast. It does mean much more. You’re in another country where you’re subject to attack, and you long for the protection of the United States and all the things you find familiar about it.”

Here’s to you, Mr. Greenwood. Thanks for continuing to serve all of us.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

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


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

The Soviet-Era Clones

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

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

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

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

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

China’s B-52

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

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

Domestic Innovations

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

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

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

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

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

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

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

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

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

The Stealth Fighters

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

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

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

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

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

Towards the Future

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A nuclear cruise missile that can be carried by jets

US Air Force weapons developers are working with industry to pursue early prototypes of a new air-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile able to pinpoint targets with possible attacks from much farther ranges than bombers can typically attack.

Service engineers and weapons architects are now working with industry partners on early concepts, configurations, and prototypes for the weapon, which is slated to be operational by the late 2020s.

Many senior Pentagon and Air Force officials believe the emerging nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon will enable strike forces to attack deep within enemy territory and help overcome high-tech challenges posed by emerging adversary air defenses.


The Air Force awarded two 0 million LRSO deals in 2017 to both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin as a key step toward selecting one vendor for the next phase of the weapon’s development. Due to fast growing emerging threats, the Air Force now envisions an operational LRSO by the end of the 2020s, as opposed to prior thoughts they it may not be ready until the 2030s.

While many details of the weapons progress are not available naturally for security reasons, Air Force officials tell Warrior Maven that plans to move into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase are on track for 2022.

A cruise missile armed with nuclear weapons could, among many things, potentially hold targets at risk which might be inaccessible to even stealth bombers in some instances.

As a result, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff weapons with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.

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United States Tomahawk cruise missile.

“The United States has never had long-range nuclear cruise missiles on stealthy bombers,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.

Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.

“There may be defenses that are just too hard. They can be so redundant that penetrating bombers becomes a challenge. But with standoff (enabled by long-range LRSO), I can make holes and gaps to allow a penetrating bomber to get in,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, former Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, (and Current Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force) told the Mitchell Institute in 2014.

At the same time, some experts are raising concerns as to whether a nuclear-armed cruise missile could blur crucial distinctions between conventional and nuclear attacks; therefore, potentially increasing risk and lowering the threshold to nuclear warfare.

“We have never been in a nuclear war where escalation is about to happen and early-warning systems are poised to look for signs of surprise nuclear strikes. In such a scenario, a decision by a military power to launch a conventional attack — but the adversary expects and mistakenly interprets it as a nuclear attack — could contribute to an overreaction that escalates the crisis,” Kristensen said.

Potential for misinterpretation and unintended escalation is, Kristensen said, potentially compounded by the existence of several long-range conventional cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk and JASSM-ER. Also, in future years, more conventional cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons are likely to emerge as well, creating the prospect for further confusion among potential adversaries, he explained.

“Stealthy bombers equipped with numerous stealthy LRSOs would — in the eye of an adversary — be the perfect surprise attack weapon,” Kristensen said.

However, senior Air Force and Pentagon weapons developers, many of whom are strong advocates for the LRSO, believe the weapon will have the opposite impact of increasing prospects for peace — by adding new layers of deterrence.

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B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.

“LRSO will limit escalations through all stages of potential conflict,” Robert Scher, former Sec. of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, told Congress in 2015, according to a report from the Federation of American Scientists.

In fact, this kind of thinking is analogous to what is written in the current administration’s Nuclear Posture Review which, among other things, calls for several new low-yield nuclear weapons options to increase deterrence amid fast-emerging threats. While discussing these new weapons options, which include a lower-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress the additional attack possibilities might help bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding its violations of the INF Treaty.

The LRSO will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52. The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life-span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.

Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.

While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure, and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.

The rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.

Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.

Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber, might be challenged to attack without detection.

However, Air Force leaders say the emerging new B-21 Raider stealth bomber advances stealth technology to yet another level, such that it will be able to hold any target at risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.

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

MIGHTY BRANDED

What Comcast does for veterans and the military will surprise you

Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.


The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.

In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.

These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.

In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.

The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.

But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.

One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.

For more information on the Military Influencer Conference, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com. To learn more about Comcast’s initiatives for veterans, visit its corporate page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Swedish aircraft challenge Russians over the Mediterranean

On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defense), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyze enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.


Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, 2018, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1, 2018:

Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):

Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source from the U.S. Rivet Joint community who wishes to remain anonymous.

For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

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

Articles

This ‘Marine’s Marine’ was best known for his deadly skill with a mortar tube

Leland Diamond joined the Marines in 1917 at the age of 27 to fight World War I. Diamond made a name for himself during that war as a Marine’s Marine. He was known for walking around without his cover, wearing his dungarees most places he went, and for having a loud and dirty mouth.


His uniform violations and occasional lack of courtesy were overlooked because of his conduct on the battlefield. He shipped to France as a corporal and fought at famous World War I battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He earned his sergeant stripes and took part in the occupation of Germany before returning to the states and getting out.

He spent just over two years as a civilian, but the lifestyle didn’t suit him, so he returned to the Corps in 1921.

Related video:

A few years later, he was sent to Shanghai, China to help guard U.S. vessels from attacks by Chinese criminals. He returned from China in 1933 but was sent back with the 4th Marines from 1934 to 1937.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A Collier’s drawing of Belleau Wood, circa 1921

When World War II kicked off, he was Master Gunnery Sgt. Diamond and the senior noncommissioned officer was an expert in firing mortars. He was especially well-known for his accuracy with small and medium mortar tubes.

Diamond and his unit were sent to Guadalcanal to help in the fight against the Japanese and the then-52-year-old proved his reputation. When a Japanese cruiser was spotted in the waters around the island, Diamond decided to engage it.

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While a lot of legends surround the event, including the possibility that Diamond attacked it on a bet or that he landed at least one round straight down the enemy smokestack, historians agree that Diamond engaged the ship.

Japanese cruisers in World War II displaced between 7,000 and 9,000 tons and packed dozens of guns. Diamond was armed with a mortar tube and decades of combat experience.

Guess who won?

Diamond engaged the ship with harassing fire from his mortar. The ferocity and accuracy of his assault spooked the Japanese who withdrew despite the fact that it sported armor, cannons, and a large crew to counterattack with.

The old master gunnery sergeant was lauded for his actions but was still withdrawn from the fight a short time later. “Physical disabilities” resulted in the Marine being evacuated. After a short recovery in New Zealand, Diamond attempted to get back to his unit by getting orders on a supply ship to Guadalcanal.

By the time he arrived, the unit had left and he had to hitchhike his way to Australia. The Corps transferred him home soon after and assigned him to the training of new Marines, first at Parris Island and later at Camp Lejeune.

Diamond retired in 1945 and died 6 years later.

Articles

Navy tests unmanned ‘swarmboats’ to patrol ports

Securing a port can be the type of job that hits the three Ds: dull, dirty, and dangerous.


Often, those charged with that security operate using rigid-hull inflatable boats or other small craft – often in proximity to huge vessels like Nimitz-class carriers or large amphibious assault ships.

One wrong move, and Sailors or Coast Guardsmen can end up injured – or worse.

However, the Navy may be able to reduce the risk to life and limb, thanks to a project by the Office of Naval Research called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or “CARACaS.”

With CARACaS, a number of RHIBs or small craft can be monitored remotely, thus removing the need to put personnel at risk.

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An unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boat operates autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. During the demonstration four boats, using an ONR-sponsored system called CARACaS (Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command Sensing), operated autonomously during various scenarios designed to identify, trail or track a target of interest. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

According to a U.S. Navy release, these “unmanned swarming boats” or USBs, recently carried out a demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where they were able to collaborate to determine which one would approach a vessel, classify it, and then track or trail the vessel.

The USBs also provided status updates to personnel who monitored their activity.

“This technology allows unmanned Navy ships to overwhelm an adversary,” Cdr. Luis Molina of the Office of Naval Research said. “Its sensors and software enable swarming capability, giving naval warfighters a decisive edge.”

A 2014 demonstration primarily focused on escorting high-value ships in and out of a harbor, but this year, Molina noted that this year, the focus was on defending the approach to a harbor.

The biggest advantage of CARACaS? You don’t need to build new craft – it is a kit that can be installed on existing RHIBs and small boats.

Check out this video of CARACaS-equipped USBs: