This assessment of North Korea's missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous - We Are The Mighty
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This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile can strike targets across the US, according to US intelligence officials.


North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 ICBM for the second time July 28, demonstrating previously-unseen offensive capabilities. The missile flew for around 45 minutes, soaring to a maximum altitude of about 2,300 miles and covering a distance of roughly 600 miles.

Expert observers assessed that were the missile fired along a standard trajectory, it would have a range between 6,500 miles and 6,800 miles, putting most of the continental US within striking distance.

The Pentagon has not released information on the range of the missile, but two intelligence officials have confirmed that Pyongyang likely has the ability to launch an attack against cities across the US, escalating the threat, Reuters reports.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The missile test on July 28 performed better than the Hwasong-14 tested earlier last month. Experts and defense officials estimated that the first missile could hit targets at ranges somewhere between 4,600 miles and 5,900 miles, putting Alaska, and possibly Hawaii and parts of the West Coast, in range.

The improved performance might be linked to additional motors.

North Korean state media reported the test “confirmed the performing features of motors whose number has increased to guarantee the maximum range in the active-flight stage as well as the accuracy and reliability of the improved guidance and stability system.”

The missile may have featured second-stage yaw maneuvering motors, according to Ankit Panda, senior editor for The Diplomat. He added the North may have also increased the burn time for its engines.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Youtube Screenshot

After two successful ICBM tests, doubts remain about North Korea’s capabilities.

Russia, for instance, has yet to acknowledge North Korea even has an ICBM. After the July 4 test, Moscow claimed the North tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and they said the same after the July 28 test. It is unclear if Russia is being intentionally defiant or whether their outdated radar systems simply failed to detect the second stage of the ICBM.

There are also questions about whether or not North Korea has developed a reliable re-entry vehicle, a key step in the process of fielding ready-for-combat ICBMs and establishing a viable nuclear deterrent. Some also suspect that North Korea has not yet designed a suitable nuclear warhead for its missiles.

Several leading experts, however, assess the North has either already achieved these goals or will do so soon. The Pentagon expects North Korea to be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year, two years earlier than initially expected.

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Dog paratroopers jumped into combat on D-Day

Brian (military callsign “Bing”) entered service in World War II as a young family dog loaned to the British government; he served for about 18 months, jumping into Normandy and leading his fellow paratroopers across Nazi-held Europe and the Rhine River before returning to his civilian family after Germany’s surrender.


Bing jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the British 13th Parachute Battalion and two other airborne canines, Monty and Ranee. Bing, Montee, and Ranee were specially chosen and trained to jump from planes wearing parachutes designed for bicycles.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Bing the dog joined the British service in 1944 and jumped into Normandy later that year. (Photo: Jack1956 CC BY 3.0)

But Bing actually stumbled on his combat jump. He was supposed to be the “stick pusher,” the last one out of the plane. But he refused to jump into the flak-filled clouds over Normandy and one of the onboard jumpmasters had to throw him from the plane.

The 13th Parachute Battalion later found their dog hanging from a tree with two deep cuts to his face that they estimated were from German mortar fire.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Salvo the U.S. parachuting dog executes a jump during training in 1943. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Worse, Monty suffered severe wounds on D-Day that ended his involvement in the war and Ranee was lost soon after the jump. Bing stayed with the paratroopers and two captured German Shepherds (German by both breed and national service) who replaced Monty and Ranee.

Together, the dogs led the paratroopers during their advance across Europe, sniffing for minefields and other traps and pointing out probable ambushes.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Rob the Paradog was another heroic parachuting dog of World War II awarded the Dickin Medal. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Just like a pointer drawing a hunter’s attention to game, Bing would freeze up and point with his nose when he found a potential batch of Germans expected to make trouble for his paratroopers.

Other British forces, including the SAS (Special Air Service), took dogs on airborne operations — as did a small number of American troops.

After the war, Bing returned to his civilian life as Brian the family dog, but was recognized in 1947 with a Dickin Medal — an award for animal valor — bestowed by Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Bowhill. He lived to the age of 13 before dying in 1955.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why China’s J-20 can’t dogfight US stealth fighters

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet represents a massive milestone for Beijing’s armed forces and the first stealth aircraft ever fielded outside the US, but the impressive effort still falls noticeably short in some areas.

The J-20 doesn’t have a cannon and represents the only entry into the world of fifth-generation fighters that skips the gun, which has seen 100 years of aerial combat.

Enemy aircraft can’t jam a fighter jet’s gun. Flares and chaff will never fool a gun, which needs no radar. Bullets rip out of the gun already above the speed of sound and need not wait for rocket boosters to kick in.


While the F-22, the US’s fifth-generation stealth superiority fighter, can hold just eight missiles, its 20mm rotary cannon holds 480 rounds it can expend in about five seconds of nonstop firing.

The US’s other fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35, has already used its cannon in combat missions in Afghanistan.

But not every jet needs a gun, and not every jet needs to dogfight.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

The F-35B firing its gun pod in the air for the first time.

(Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann)

The J-20 doesn’t even consider dogfights

The J-20’s lack of a gun shows that the “Chinese recognize that being in a dogfight is not a mission that they’re building for,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-22 pilot and F-35B squadron commander, told Business Insider.

“They probably want to avoid a dogfight at all costs,” he continued.

Air-combat experts previously told Business Insider that the J-20 most likely couldn’t compete with even older US jets like the F-15 in head-on dogfights, but that it most likely didn’t need to.

The Chinese jet — with powerful sensors, long-range missiles, and a stealth design — poses a serious threat to US Air Force refueling, early warning, and other support planes. Tactically, beating back these logistical planes with J-20s could allow China to keep the US operating at an arm’s length in a conflict.

But it increasingly looks as if the J-20 would lose handily to US fighter jets in outright combat, and that may be the point.

According to Berke, guns only work to about 800 feet to score aerial kills.

“I’d rather have a missile that’s good to 800 feet that goes out to 20 miles than a gun that goes to 800 feet and closer but nothing else,” Berke said, adding, “Once you start getting outside of 1,000 feet, you can start using missiles.”

Because the J-20 wasn’t meant to be a close-in brawler, the Chinese ditched it, saving room and weight aboard the jet to allow for other technologies.

Also, the mission of the gun in air-to-air combat may be disappearing.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

The last US air-to-air-guns kill wasn’t exactly done by a fifth-gen.

(DVIDS)

The US started building the F-22 in the 1990s with a hangover from combat losses to air-to-air guns in Vietnam after fielding jets without guns and relying solely on missiles. The F-35 includes a gun because it has a broad set of missions that include close air support and air-to-ground fires.

“In air-to-air, the cannon serves one very specific and limited purpose only useful in a very predictable phase of flight, which is a dogfight,” Berke said.

“The Chinese probably recognize that [dogfights are] not where they want the airframe to be and that’s not the investment they want to make,” he continued.

“Utilizing a gun against a highly maneuverable platform is an incredibly challenging task,” Berke said. In World War II, propeller-driven planes frequently engaged in turning fights where they attempted to get behind one another and let the guns rip, and bombers flew with turret gunners covering the whole compass.

But today’s F-22s, J-20s, Su-35s, and other highly maneuverable jets give the guns an “extremely limited use” in combat, according to Berke.

Berke said the US most likely hadn’t scored an air-to-air-guns kill in decades.

A Business Insider review found that the last time a US plane shot down an enemy aircraft with guns was most likely the Cold War-era tank buster A-10 downing an Iraqi helicopter in 1991— hardly applicable to the world of fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

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

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Shia LaBeouf allegedly got hammered and told cops he was in the National Guard

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous


Actor Shia LaBeouf drunkenly told an Austin, Texas police officer that he was in the Army National Guard in an attempt at being let off the hook for public intoxication last Friday, according to police documents. He was not successful.

While allegedly jaywalking with two women on Sixth Street, LaBeouf was stopped after he crossed in front of the officer’s patrol car and raised his hand up as if was trying to stop traffic, according to the police affidavit.

From The Statesman:

The officer approached the star of the “Transformers” movie franchise and could smell a strong odor of alcohol, and noticed that “LaBeouf’s speech was slurred and thick-tongued and his eyes were glassy and dilated,” the affidavit says.

According to the document, LaBeouf told the officer that he “typically walks away because police had killed a friend of his.” But then he “became increasingly confrontational, aggravated, profane and verbally aggressive” with the officer during the encounter and called him a “silly man” three times, the affidavit says.

The officer reported LaBeouf as becoming aggressive and threatening throughout the encounter, until the 29-year-old actor pulled out his ace-in-the-hole: “Labeouf began stating he was a member of the National Guard and that Sgt. Jelesijevic needed to ‘do whatever the f–k you gotta do!” the affidavit reads.

At that point, Sgt. Jelesijevic did whatever the f–k he had to do: Arrested him for public intoxication.

There’s video. Of course there’s video (language warning):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWpmalSntYU

Articles

How a devastating fire in 1973 still affects veterans today

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous


The files were stored in cardboard boxes stacked on steel shelves lining the sixth and top floor of a large, rectangular federal building in a small, northwest suburb of St. Louis. They were packed so tightly within the thousands of boxes that, when the fire erupted, it burned so intense, so quickly, so out of control, it took the responding 43 fire departments more than two days to smother. When the smoke settled and the interior temperature cooled, the building’s staff found that up to 18 million of “the most fragile records in our nation” had been reduced to smoldering piles and puddles of ash.*

There was no motive, no suspect, and few clues. The person(s) responsible for destroying 80 percent of Army personnel records for soldiers discharged between 1 Nov 1912 to 1 Jan 1960 and 75 percent of the Air Force records of Airmen discharged between 25 Sep 1947 to 1 Jan 1964 (with surnames beginning with Hubbard and running through the end of the alphabet) has never been found.

The NPRC records fire is 42-year old news, yet even today it continues to impact the lives of our most sacred Veterans and their dependents and survivors.

How does an Army Air Forces bombardier from our Greatest Generation apply for VA healthcare and benefits without records of his service? What can be done for the fiduciary of an Army Nurse Corps Veteran looking for records to piece together his grandmother’s legacy? How does NPRC staff deal with the thousands of records requests from this time period it fields each year?

In the days following the fire, NPRC used experimental treatments to recover about 6.5 million burned and water-damaged records. Today, it has a preservation program, split between two teams (1 2), reconstructing what was recovered. This has proved helpful and hopeful for the many “treasure hunt” stories that occasionally surface in media profiles.

But, what about those whose records were not recovered?

You can help VA help NPRC reconstruct the damaged record. There is a specific request you must fill out that gives VA the authority to ask NPRC to reconstruct that file. This request provides information that allows the NPRC to search for other types of documents, such as individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers from the Adjutant General’s Office, Selective Service System registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office, as well as medical records from military hospitals (current Army list; current Air Force list), unit records and morning reports, and entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records, that would assist you with your VA healthcare access or compensation claim, or for valuable research on your family member’s service history.

When it comes to VA compensation, however, maybe you don’t have time to play detective. It is critical, in the request you send to VA, that you provide as much information as you can, including the units you were assigned to, as well as the name of the company, battalion, regiment, squadron, group, and/or wing.

VA will accept, as alternate sources for records, statements from service medical personnel, certified “buddy” statements or affidavits, accident and police reports, Employment-related examination reports, letters written during service, photographs taken during service, pharmacy prescription records, insurance-related examination reports, medical evidence from civilian/private hospitals, clinics, and physicians that treated you during service or shortly after separation, and photocopies of any service treatment records that you may have in your possession.

It is important to note that, although these details can significantly help, VA does not rely only on service treatment records when deciding claims for cases that are related to the 1973 fire.

While this can appear daunting, there is help available; VA encourages you to work with an accredited representative or agent if you need assistance. You can also request an attorney, claims agent, or Veteran Service Organization representative online.

The ramifications of this tragedy have been longstanding and well documented, and it couldn’t have happened to a more heroic group of Veterans at a worse time—when those files were needed most. Archaeologists two centuries from now are not going to magically dig up microfiche duplicates that were never created. Those records are lost to time. With NPRC’s assistance, VA is committed to ensuring that no eligible but affected Veteran goes without the benefits and services (or information) to which he and she have earned.

*In 2012, NPRC relocated to a new building housing 60 million records (from the Spanish-American War to about the year 2000) in 1.8 million boxes “in a climate-controlled warehouse with a constant temperature of about 35 degrees and with a relative humidity that never dips below 40 percent.”

Some information within this post has been sourced from outside, non-VA media. Each instance has been hyper linked to the original material.

Jason Davis served five years in the 101st ABN, including two combat tours to Iraq. He’s currently an M.A. candidate in Writing at Johns Hopkins University and serves as social media administrator for the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Articles

The cast of ‘Star Trek’ goes to the White House to say thanks to troops and families

On July 19, the stars of Paramount’s “Star Trek Beyond” joined First Lady Michelle Obama in hosting more than 100 service members, veterans and their families for an advance screening of the upcoming film.


The screening was a part of the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. The cast dropped in as part of their publicity blitz for the movie’s July 21 premiere. This was an exceptional screening for the cast, as the Star Trek franchise has always held members of the military and their families in high esteem.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Have you ever seen anyone so happy?

The previous Star Trek film, “Star Trek Into Darkness” was dedicated to The Mission Continues, an organization dedicated to helping troops as they return home from war. It featured cameos from several veterans dressed as Starfleet officers in the film’s final scenes. Members of the cast also showed the first film of the Star Trek reboot series to active-duty service members in Kuwait.

At the White House, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, and Karl Urban were humble in their brief introductions to the film and the First Lady. The actors joked that the veterans made better actors than the Hollywood stars.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

In her remarks at the screening, the First Lady highlighted the important role that military families — especially the children of service members — play in allowing active duty servicemen and women to do their jobs. She ended with the Vulcan salute and a heartfelt “May the force be with you!” (wrong movie, of course) to the delight of the crowd.

 

For the cast, the screening was a small way to thank service members and their families. They also seemed a little star struck themselves; Urban interrupted Pine’s speech with an excited “We just met the first lady!” Pine referred to them as “a bunch of 8-year-olds” while touring the White House.

Pine, Pegg and Urban stuck around after the showing for photo ops and to say thank you to the veterans and their families.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Simon Pegg with Coast Guard veteran and WATM contributor Mary-Elizabeth Pratt

“Star Trek Beyond” premieres in the U.S. on July 21.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Things you can do outside while social distancing

One of our biggest saving graces during the pandemic is the opportunity to catch some fresh air! Whether you’re cooped up at home with kids or are working overtime to fill a need for essential employees (or both!), catching that fresh vitamin D is good for the body.

In fact, going outside can boost your mood and jumpstart your immune system; it can reduce pain and all the scents can do wonders for your endorphins. But don’t take these scientific reasons into account all on their own, experience the outdoors for yourself and keep everyone busy during the pandemic.


Here are 6 things you can do while social distancing:

Go on a walk

Simple, easy, and done with minimal planning. Steer clear of any neighbors, of course (especially if you live on post or in tight quarters), but now is the perfect time to get in your steps! Explore your neighborhood and find areas you’ve never visited or just breath in that fresh oxygen while taking a few laps around the block. Repeat as needed.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

Have a picnic

You’re eating at home anyway, so why not take the party outside? Lay down a blanket to keep the bugs at bay, then enjoy some fun and breezy meals out in the yard. Repeat as weather allows.

Go on a scavenger hunt

These lists are swarming the Internet, so luckily you won’t have to work hard to find your objectives. Whether you’re taking kids or are looking for a more sophisticated list of items, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get creative outdoors.

Don’t forget the neighborhood bear hunt either.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

Bust out the old fashioned games

Tag, Frisbee, wiffle ball and more will turn into family favorites during the pandemic. Your family is already in close quarters, so don’t fret about a few passings of the ball.

However, don’t be afraid to be firm with neighbors and let them know they can’t join. Hellos from a distance remain kosher, but passing objects between households is a strict no-no.

Go for a drive

Weather not going your way? For the days you need a change of scenery, head to the car. This is a great time for an automated car wash (don’t forget to Lysol any buttons that need to be pushed), or a cruise to somewhere new.

Roll down the windows and feel the breeze while everyone jams to favorite tunes.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

Sit and talk

Weeks ago this might have sounded boring, but today, it’s a nice change of pace! Sit with your morning coffee, FaceTime a friend, let the kids play and simply enjoy being outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and endorphins. Take advantage of this easy but proven mood booster!

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How China’s navy rapidly modernized to rival the US’s

A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.


In fact, China’s military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.

By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.

Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world’s two biggest economies, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of “salami-slicing,” or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.

However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn’t have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.

In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific, if left unchecked.

China’s naval mission

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy recruits | Xinhua

Those who observe China’s specific modernization goals, as well as their expressed intents in their actions, have determined that the PLAN’s mission most likely focuses on the following goals:

1. To possibly curb Taiwan’s continued attempts at independence militarily.

2.  Asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea and generally exercising more control over the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars of trade passes every year.

3.  Enforcing China’s assertion that it has a legal right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive economic zone, despite the protestations of their neighbors in the region.

4. Defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication with military and trading partners.

5. Usurping the US as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and promoting China as a major world power.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Ballistic missiles

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
The DF-21D rolls through China’s 2015 military parade. | William Ide via Wikimedia Commons

China’s DF-21D “Carrier Killer” ballistic missile is the cause of much concern for US naval planners. The missile has a tremendous range of about 810 nautical miles, far beyond the range of a US aircraft carriers’ highest-endurance planes, effectively denying them the luxury of lurking off China’s coast in the Western Pacific while in striking range.

The DF-21D uses a range of sensors to adjust its course during firing. This means that it can hit a moving target at sea in sub-optimal conditions and presents difficulties to any missile trying to intercept it. The DF-21D can deliver a high-explosive, radio-frequency, or even cluster warheads, which all but guarantee a kill, even against a formidable target such as a US aircraft carrier.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarines

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
China’s Yuan-class attack submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s submarine fleet continues to undergo a modernization push that focuses on “counter-intervention” tactics against a modern adversary. The force has acquired 12 of Russia’s Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and launched no fewer than four new classes of indigenously made submarines, all of which are vastly more capable than the Cold-War era vessels they’re replacing.

The PLAN has launched two diesel-electric (Song and Yuan class), and two nuclear classes (Jin and Shang class). But the Shang class was stopped after only two hulls were produced, which led the DOD to speculate that the PLAN may be exploring an updated version of this class.

As the DOD states:

Over the next decade, China may construct a new Type 095 nuclear powered, guided-missile attack submarine (SSBN), which not only would improve the PLA Navy’s anti-surface warfare capability, but might also provide it with a more clandestine, land-attack option.

Additionally, the Jin class can be armed with 12 JL-2 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which, given the submarine’s range, could potentially hit any of the 50 states in the US from locations in the Pacific.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Submarine capabilities

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
A graph showing the relative difficulty of detecting different classes of Chinese and Russian submarines. | Congressional Research Service

The PLAN’s Russian-bought submarines remain some of the most capable in the fleet. Eight of the 12 Kilo classes (presumably the newer ones) carry the Russian-made SS-N-27 Sizzler cruise missiles, with a range of over 180 miles.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Cruise missiles

The PLAN possesses a large, varied inventory of cruise missiles. Some of their most capable missiles are Russian made, like the SS-N-22 Sunburn and the SS-N-27 Sizzler, but their indigenously made missiles are also rated highly.

China’s YJ-18 cruise missile goes into a supersonic-sprint phase when approaching a target, making it harder to stop. Other rangy platforms like the YJ-62, fired from surface ships, and the YJ-12, that can be fired from bombers, complicate the US’s naval plans with their versatility.

Source: Congressional Research Service

The Liaoning

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
China’s carrier Liaoning. | PLAN

The PLAN’s sole carrier, the Liaoning, has been referred to as a “starter” carrier, as its limited range and capabilities have made it primarily useful as a training craft. Having an aircraft carrier allows the PLAN to test carrier-launched aircraft and carrier-strike-group procedures in a realistic way.

The Liaoning has a displacement of about 50,000 tons and can support about 30 aircraft. US Nimitz-class carriers double both of those figures, and also provide catapults to launch planes with heavier weapons and fuel loads, increasing their range.

As the Liaoning is conventionally powered, and not nuclear-powered like the US carriers, it’s ability for long-range power projection is greatly diminished.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Future carriers

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
By late October 2015, with the installation of the 7.5-meter tall hangar below the soon to be flight deck, it’s pretty certain that this hull is going to be China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. | Congressional Research Service

China is thought to be making rapid progress toward building additional aircraft carriers. Little is known of China’s future carriers, but they will most likely also feature the ski-jump platform of the Liaoning.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Carrier-based aircraft

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

With the help of the Liaoning, the PLAN has succeeded in fielding the J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based aircraft.

The J-15 is modeled after Russia’s Su-33 “Flanker,” just as much of China’s military hardware borrows from Russian designs. On land, the J-15 has a range of about 745 miles, but launching the plane from a ski-jump-style carrier platform means that it cannot carry as much fuel, and therefore has a reduced range. Only eight production J-15s are known to be flying at this time.

It has been previously reported that the PLAN seeks to create a short takeoff, vertical-landing plane for carrier-based use in the future. However, they still lack carrier-based reconnaissance plane like the US’s E-2 Hawkeye.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Land-based aircraft and drones

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Kevin A. McGill | Wikimedia Commons

The PLAN’s Air Force has been steadily developing new aircraft for “missions including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and, in the not too distant future, carrier-based operations.”

The PLAN has been replacing their aging Chengdu J-7 variants and Shenyang J-8B/Ds with 24 Su-30MK2s, which were purchased from Russia in 2002.

Additionally, the PLAN has a licensed copy of Russia’s Tu-16 Badger bomber, the H-6 Badger, of which they likely have 30. The bombers are escorted by JH-7 Flounder fighter/bombers.

The PLAN, like most modern navies, is also pouring money into drones.

“Some estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023,” according to the DOD.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Surface combatants

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

Much like the submarine program, the PLAN’s fleet of surface combatants has grown rapidly since 1990, with the purchase of four Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia and the launch of 10 new classes of indigenously built destroyers and frigates, as well as a new class of corvettes.

US naval planners consider several of the newer frigate classes to be nearly as capable as Western models, and note that shipboard air defense have notably improved in the newer classes.

China’s coast guard, which it wields as a sort of paramilitary force for enforcing their maritime claims, has also benefited from a large number of new cutters.

The newer ships have sophisticated radar and missile capabilities across the board, and future vessels are expected to truly rival the systems used by the US.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Amphibious ships

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
An unconfirmed conceptual rendering of a possible design for China’s Type 081 amphibious-assault craft. | Global Times Forum

According to the DOD:

China has built four large YUZHAO class amphibious transport docks, which provide a considerably greater and more flexible capability than the older landing ships, signaling China’s development of an expeditionary warfare and OTH (over the horizon/long range) amphibious assault capability, as well as inherent humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and counter piracy capabilities.

The Yuzhao class vessels carry helicopters as well as two Russian-designed Zubr class cushioned landing ships, the largest military hovercraft of its kind.

However, after conflicts in Africa, the PLAN was unsatisfied with the firepower aboard the Yuzhao class and reportedly thought to create a new vessel, the Type 081 (pictured above).

Source: Congressional Research Service

Floating sea bases

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
A notional artist’s rendering of a very large floating structure. | Liang Jun, People’s Daily China

Perhaps one of the more novel ideas being explored by the PLAN is very large floating sea bases. Only in the concept stage currently, these floating bases could host airstrips, barracks, docks, helipads, or security bases across their massive proposed 2-mile-long surface.

But experts on the topic speculate that these platforms would have ample peacetime uses, like supporting offshore oil rigs or even tourist destinations with duty-free shops.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Nuclear and EMP capabilities

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
China’s Jin class-ballistic-missile nuclear-powered submarine. | Congressional Research Service

The DOD cites Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, as saying the following:

China’s military is developing electromagnetic pulse weapons that Beijing plans to use against US aircraft carriers in any future conflict over Taiwan, according to an intelligence report made public on Thursday [July 21]…. The report, produced in 2005 and once labeled “secret,” stated that Chinese military writings have discussed building low yield EMP warheads, but “it is not known whether [the Chinese] have actually done so.”

China also possesses a nuclear triad, or the ability to launch nuclear-armed warheads from submarines, land-bases silos, and bomber aircraft.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Maritime surveillance and targeting systems

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

China’s development and deployment of advanced and long-range radars in the South China Sea is well documented.

The PLAN can use these sensors, which “reportedly include land-based over-the-horizon backscatter (OTH-B) radars, land-based over-the-horizon surface wave (OTH-SW) radars, electro-optical satellites, radar satellites, and seabed sonar networks,” to guide their ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as more conventional forces.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Naval cyber warfare

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Wikimedia Commons

China’s military writing does not specify how they would use cyberwarfare in a naval conflict, but it should be assumed that network warfare would be part of any sea battle. The PLAN is known to have invested heavily in cyberwarfare.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Limits and weaknesses

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Lamar Salter

Though the PLAN has made major strides toward modernization and world-power status, they still lack in the following four key areas:

1. Joint operations with other parts of China’s military,

2. Antisubmarine warfare,

3. Dependence on foreign suppliers for some ship components,

4. Long-range targeting.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Conclusion

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Public domain

The PLAN and the other branches of China’s massive military have made impressive progress in modernizing they forces, but they still lag behind in some key areas.

The US Navy, unlike the PLAN, has commitments around the world. Currently two carrier-strike groups are stationed in the Mediterranean as the fight against ISIS rages on and Russia continues to threaten NATO territory and personnel.

The US would face extreme difficulties in abandoning their posts worldwide to focus on the Pacific, whereas China would leverage every possible dimension of warfare (psychological, informational, legal, cyber, conventional, and possibly even nuclear or electromagnetic) to assert their dominance in their immediate region.

However, the US has a built-in advantage that the Chinese cannot hope to design or buy — alliances. Through the US’s solid support of democratic and Western-leaning nations in the region, they have built a network of strong and determined allies that can band together against a rising authoritarian power like China.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Japan Self-Defense Force, and US Armed Forces united to conduct an amphibious landing exercise at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim during Exercise KAMANDAG 3 on Oct. 12, 2019.

The ship-to-shore maneuver, which was the culminating event of two weeks of combined training focused on assault amphibious vehicle interoperability, marked the first time the AFP conducted a multilateral amphibious landing with its own AAVs.

The drill’s success validated the multinational forces’ ability to conduct complex, synchronized amphibious operations, and it reaffirmed the partnerships between the Philippines, Japan and the United States.


This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

“It’s a major challenge taking three different elements with different backgrounds and bringing them together to execute one goal,” said Philippine Marine Sgt. Roderick Moreno, an assistant team leader with 61st Marine Company, Force Reconnaissance Group.

“It was definitely a learning experience, but every year we participate in KAMANDAG, we get more in tune with our allies.”

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles participate in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles approach shore during an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, October 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Today was about effectively coordinating with our allies from the Philippines and Japan,” said US Marine 1st Lt. Malcolm Dunlop, an AAV platoon commander with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

“AAVs representing each country maneuvered simultaneously to conduct a movement up the beach. It’s crucial that we know how to do things side by side, so that in the face of serious military or humanitarian crises, we can work together to overcome the challenges that face us.”

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and amphibious assault vehicles ashore after an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

US forces have been partnering with the Philippines and Japan for many years, working together in many areas to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Training efforts between the AFP, JSDF, and US Armed Forces ensure that the combined militaries remain ready to rapidly respond to crises across the full range of military operations, from conflict to natural disasters.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

US Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Weldon scans his surroundings during an amphibious exercise as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Although the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force normally participates in KAMANDAG, this was my team’s first time working with the Filipinos and the Americans together, and it went well,” said Japanese Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Itaru Hirao, an AAV crewman with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, ARD Training Unit.

KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan. KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Manirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy veteran recounts island-hopping in the Pacific after D-Day

Julius Shoulars is 94 and resides in a cozy second-floor apartment in a Virginia Beach retirement community.

During an oral-history interview, he recounted his service in the US Navy as a coxswain during WWII with the 7th Naval Beach Battalion during the D-Day invasions. He later went island hopping in the Pacific aboard an attack transport and returned to Norfolk after serving in both theaters of war.

He started off with, “Well, I got a letter from Uncle Sam saying to report to Richmond.” It was 1943, and the Maury High School graduate reported for screening.


While seated in a room with other recruits, he recalled that, “they asked for 30 volunteers for the Navy and I raised my hand. In the Navy, you get three square meals, a clean bed to sleep in and water to take a shower each day.”

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

Julius Shoulars, a 94-year-old US Navy veteran, recalls his service during WWII as a coxswain who took part in the D-Day invasion and fought across the Pacific.

(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)

Training took him to Camp Sampson, New York and Camp Bradford, Virginia. Bradford was on the Chesapeake Bay, and he recalled mustering at the commandeered Nansemond Hotel in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.

At Bradford, “we were assigned to an experimental outfit called a Naval Beach Battalion. We were issued paratrooper boots, Army jackets, Army pants, Army helmets, and Navy underwear.”

His parents resided in Norfolk, and he visited often. With a smile, he recalled that a friend of his had joined the Army, and left his girlfriend, Ruby back in Norfolk. He was instructed not to talk to her, “but by hell I did. You had to be a fool not to.” This blossomed into a relationship that endured.

By January 1944, they crossed the Atlantic. In England, he recounted, “you know the phrase over here, over paid and over sexed. I think somebody made that up.”

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

An LCM landing craft, manned by the US Coast Guard, evacuating US casualties from the invasion beaches, brings them to a transport for treatment on D-Day in Normandy, France June 6, 1944.

(U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives)

At the “end of May 1944, we were transported to ships taking part in the invasion. We headed out on the 6th aboard anything that would float, even fishing boats from England.”

On the morning of June 6th, 1944 at H-hour, troops hit the “blood red” beaches of Normandy, in an operation that liberated Europe.

While crossing the English Channel, he recalled that, “some of the men were happy, some were anxious, some were sad, some were scared to death. I felt it was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do, so why cry or be joyful; just take it.”

His unit was attached to the 29th Infantry Division, who took Omaha Beach on June 6-7, 1944. Nearly a month was spent there directing landing craft, clearing obstacles, moving supplies, and clearing and burying the dead; a solemn task he recalled with tears in his eyes.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

Shoulars, seated, recalls his service as a coxswain assigned to the 7th Naval Beach Battalion, which went ashore during D-Day in June 1944.

(US Navy photo by Max Lonzanida)

His unit headed stateside, and a period of leave was spent in Norfolk with his parents and girlfriend, before joining the crew of the newly commissioned USS Karnes (APA-175) on the West Coast.

He served 18 months on the Karnes, “island hopping” in the Pacific for a total of 76,750 miles. This took him to Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, Eniwetok Atoll, Ulithi, Subic Bay and Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, among other ports of call while transporting cargo, evacuating the wounded, and transporting service members.

After the Japanese surrendered, the Karnes made its way back to San Francisco. He boarded a train back to Norfolk and was discharged. One of the first things he did was get married, and “eat a 30-cent hamburger at Doumars.”

Doumars on Monticello Avenue was where he first met Ruby. They didn’t want to get married during the war, for fear of making Ruby a widow. They got married upon his return home and spent 66 years together before she passed in 2013.

As for the friend who instructed him not to talk to her, Julius recalled that, “well, me and him never spoke again.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army offers to repay soldiers’ college loans if they go infantry

The U.S. Army is offering to pay off student loans of up to $65,000 or to give $15,000 bonuses to recruits willing to sign up for the infantry.


The Army has been offering increased financial incentives to attract recruits to take on one of its most physically challenging jobs since it missed its recruiting goal in fiscal 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

“There’s a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army,” Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. “It’s us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals.

“Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships,” he added.

To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.

“The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers,” Markley said. “This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field.”

Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to ,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Gear porn: This suppressor is not for the faint of heart

Liberty Suppressors has released a new silencer for those of you who want to go large and do it quietly. And when we say large, we mean it.


Introducing the Goliath for .458 SOCOM.

The Goliath was probably named for the big-assed Philistine from Gath, though it could be someone’s nickname from chubbybunnie.com. Rated for supersonic ammunition, it’s intended to suppress the noise you make when you’d normally be going loud with the modern descendent of the old Trapdoor Springfield bullet.

It’s 10 inches long, 2 inches in diameter, and built with a titanium core and tube. It dresses out at just 20 ounces.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
The Liberty Cans multi-cal family. (Photo: Liberty Cans)

Liberty says the Goliath meters at a “…mere 132.2 [decibels] (including First Round Pop) providing an average sound reduction of over 21 [decibels].” We haven’t tested it ourselves — at least not yet — but since we’re fans of the .458 round and shooting suppressed, we reckon it’s worth a further look.

Liberty sez, and we quote,  “The Goliath is not for the faint of heart! Created for the mighty 458 SOCOM, this silencer not only stands up to the size of its name, but also the size of it’s caliber. But don’t think this giant is a clumsy oaf. With an end cap and core made of Grade 5 titanium and a tube made from Grade 9 titanium, the Goliath is a heavyweight hitter in a featherweight class.”

This weight savings really comes in to play when perched on the end of a hog hunter’s rifle of choice. Taming both the noise as well as the recoil of the 458 cartridge, the Goliath keeps you after game all night, instead of home early with tired shoulders and ears. When it comes to 458 SOCOM, it pays to have a giant on your side.”

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
All hail Goliath. (Liberty Cans)

MSRP on the Goliath (the silencer, not anybody on Chubby Bunnie) is $999.

Liberty Suppressors is a family owned business based in the Peach State, last of the original Thirteen Colonies. They’re known for their work with monolithic core silencers, offering cans from calibers from .22LR to .300 Ultra Mag.

You can find ’em online at libertycans.net, should you be so inclined.

You can watch a great Liberty Cans gear porn flick here.

Here are the specs (you’re welcome):

Goliath .458 SOCOM: 450gr Sub-Sonic in an 11 in. AR-15, Baseline unsuppressed 163.1dB. Suppressed shot 1, 137.3 db. Shot 2, 130.5 dB; Shot 3 131.5 dB, Shot 4 130.6 dB, and Shot 5 is 130.9dB.

Caliber: 458 SOCOM

Length: 10″

Diameter: 2″

Material: Titanium tube, core, and rear cap / Stainless Steel Thread Inserts

Weight: 20 OZ.

Approx. DB Overall: 132.2 dB (including First Round Pop)

Approx. DB Reduction: 31 – 33 dB

Finish: C-Series Cerakote

Mounting Type: Direct Thread, 5/8-24 and 5/8-32 Inserts Included

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS on the run, Iraqi guns turn toward each other

Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.


With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.

Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
A Kurdish peshmerga soldier takes the lead during urban combat maneuvering training held near Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2015. Army photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden.

Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.

Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.

That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee Meeting, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.

“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.

“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.

“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Referendum fallout

While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.

“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.

The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Kurdish pershmerga soldiers securing an oil field in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo from Voice Of America.

The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.

“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.

Outside players

Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.

“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.

Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.

Also Read: Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.

“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.

This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.

Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”

While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.

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