Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated that Kyiv is seeking a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step toward joining NATO.
Poroshenko, in a post on Facebook on March 10, 2018, said a MAP was Ukraine’s “next ambition” on the path toward eventual membership in the 29-country Western alliance.
“This is what my letter to Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018 was about, where, with reference to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, I officially [set out] Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of the Alliance,” Poroshenko wrote.
A Membership Action Plan is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.
Poroshenko’s comments came after NATO updated its website to include Ukraine alongside three other countries — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia — that have declared their aspirations to NATO membership
“Countries that have declared an interest in joining the Alliance are initially invited to engage in an intensified dialogue with NATO about their membership aspirations and related reforms,” the NATO website said.
The next step toward possible membership is a MAP. But a NATO official told RFE/RL that the alliance has not changed its position on Ukraine.
“NATO’s policy remains the same,” the official said. “There has been a change in Ukraine’s policy, which the website reflects.”
Under former President Viktor Yanukovych, Kyiv said it was not interested in joining NATO. But Kyiv has sought NATO membership since the 2014 antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Moscow-friendly Yanukovych and ushered in a pro-Western government.
Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on June 8, 2017, passed a law making NATO integration a foreign policy priority.
In July 2017, Poroshenko announced that he would seek the opening of negotiations on a MAP with NATO.
Ukraine is currently embroiled in a war with Russia-backed separatists in part of its eastern regions that has killed more than 10,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since April 2014.
Since his fellow cadets stormed Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium three years ago after Army ended Navy’s 14-game winning streak, Ryan Velez had waited for his chance to play in the storied Army-Navy game.
Velez, now a senior safety from Fountain Hills, Arizona, finally saw action on special teams during last year’s 17-10 Army triumph in Philadelphia.
On Dec. 14, 2019, Velez can help the 5-7 Black Knights defeat Navy for the fourth straight time, and cement the 2020 senior class as one of the greatest in West Point’s history. Army takes on the No. 23 Midshipmen (9-2) at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field at 3 p.m. EST.
“This is like a season of its own,” Velez said of the Army-Navy Game. “That’s unlike any other games in college football … the opportunity to win a trophy and go to the White House. That’s something special. It’s surreal and something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Army Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken leads the team onto the field for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
A high school tailback, Velez moved to defense at West Point and played mostly on the scout team his freshman year. After switching to safety his sophomore year, he still couldn’t get on the field, but finally contributed to Army’s 11-2 campaign as a junior, seeing action in 11 of 13 games.
Velez worked harder in practice and studied diligently to learn the intricacies of both strong and free safety, earning the trust of his coaches.
This fall, Velez has become a leader on defense, recording 40 solo tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack in 12 games. Not bad for a player who spent most of his first two seasons on the bench.
“During that time it was hard,” he said. “Obviously taking a backseat, having a secondary role, that was one of those challenges I’ve had to overcome — fight through and I’m glad I did. It’s been a ride; it’s been a journey. I’m just very appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”
A 5-7 mark could seem disappointing for the Army football team after cruising to an 11-2 record last fall and the program’s best finish since 1958.
Records can be deceiving.
Army has proven it can still compete with the nation’s best. Despite the final scores, the results on the field have shown competitiveness.
In each of those seven losses, the Black Knights remained within striking distance, including a near-upset of No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Army forced overtime against the Wolverines before falling 24-21.
The Black Knights narrowly lost to service rival Air Force 17-13 in Colorado Springs Nov. 2, when the No. 25 Falcons stopped Army at the goal line with less than a minute in regulation.
During a 52-31 offensive shootout at Hawaii Nov. 30, Army trailed only 38-31 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Black Knights’ drive stalled after driving to the Hawaii 35-yard line and the Warriors scored the final two touchdowns.
“We played a really tough schedule, some really great competition,” Velez said. “All that stuff that happened in the past, that’s gut-wrenching. We can’t focus on that right now. We just got to focus on Navy, finishing out the season strong.”
Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, center, scores the final touchdown of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Army’s senior class, which has not lost in the annual rivalry game, hopes to complete a four-year sweep. Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins (706 rushing yards, seven TDs) and senior running back Connor Slompka (637 yards, eight TDs) lead Army’s No. 2 rushing attack. Hopkins has also thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but his time on the field has been limited by injuries.
Since head coach Jeff Monken took over, Army bounced back from a 2-10 mark in 2015, to go 21-5 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
That run includes a 70-14 trouncing of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing at No. 19 in the college football rankings during the 2018 season.
“We had a great senior class my freshman year,” Velez said. “We were able to end the streak. That was something that the whole Army itself was looking forward to, just ending that streak, being able to say we finally beat Navy. That senior class kind of gave us the ground rules for continuing that streak the past couple of years, giving us the formula to beat Navy so they set the example and … we hope to continue that this coming Saturday.”
The contest holds special significance for Velez, as his younger brother Ross, a freshman at the Naval Academy, will be pulling for the Midshipmen from the stands. Velez, whose great uncles served as enlisted troops in the Korean War and World War II, will become the first officer in his family when he graduates from West Point next spring. He said his parents, Roger and Evangeline Velez, will have torn allegiances when they attend this year’s game.
Army faces a No. 23-ranked Navy squad that handed Air Force one of its only two losses this season. Last season Army’s football team won a defensive struggle in frigid winter conditions. In 2018, Army carried a No. 22 ranking and 9-2 record heading into the game while Navy had weathered its worst season since 2002 at 2-9.
This fall, Navy enters the game as the favorite as Army failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2015.
Navy bounced back from its worst campaign to finish second in the American Athletic Conference and earn a bid to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State Dec. 31.
This season’s Army-Navy game features a matchup of the nation’s top two rushing offenses. The Midshipmen’s high-powered offense ranks No. 9 in the nation.
Navy quarterback Garret Lewis is sacked during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Senior QB Malcolm Perry leads Navy’s top-ranked rushing attack, as he has rushed for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and thrown for another 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.
While standing only 5-9, the elusive Perry has quickly become one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons and will test the Black Knights’ No. 30-ranked defense, which has struggled with consistency. Perry ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards.
Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers has made big play after big play for the Midshipmen, rushing for 637 yards on only 76 carries (8.4 yards per carry) and has 741 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns. Carothers scored five of those touchdowns in a 56-41 triumph over Houston Nov. 30, one shy of the conference record.
Velez said the Army defense carries a swagger, built from three consecutive victories and weathering a brutal schedule.
“We just have a calmness going into it, we know how to win,” Velez said. “It’s just a blood bath when we go out there. I think going in we have some confidence, we have some swagger. We know what it takes to win. At the end of the day, we just got to line up, be a tougher team and out-physical them.”
Navy still holds a 60-52-7 all-time lead in the contest, though Army has won the last three matchups.
While Army’s defense had been a stalwart force the previous two seasons, it has struggled at times this season. In 2018, the Black Knights boasted the nation’s 10th best defense, allowing only 17.7 points a game and 295.3 yards of total offense per contest.
This fall those numbers jumped to 337.8 yards allowed and the Black Knights fell to No. 30 in total yards allowed, and No. 33 in points allowed.
Senior cornerback Elijah Riley leads Army in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three), sacks (four) and ranks second on the squad with 73 tackles.
(West Point Athletics Department)
Honoring the past
Army will pay tribute to the 1st Cavalry Division, the first full unit of its kind to deploy to Vietnam. The division pioneered a new battle concept which used helicopters to mobilize large masses of soldiers.
The Black Knights will don green helmets that display the golden sabers to honor the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment.
The Midshipmen will wear a throwback classic 1960s-era uniform with gold shoulder stripes and a special paint design that resembles football helmets of the past.
WWC Global is a leading women and military spouse owned small business that supports the management and operational needs of government agencies. WWC was also one of the first businesses to focus on military spouse employment, over a decade before it became a hot topic.
In 2004, Lauren Weiner found herself living in Italy and unemployable, despite an impressive resume. She left her position with the White House to follow her husband on his Department of Defense civilian assignment in Italy, when she quickly discovered spouses were not eligible for most government civilian positions. A few weeks after her arrival in Italy, she signed up for a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast. She had no clue that tour would change the trajectory of her entire life.
After overhearing Donna Huneycutt asking the tour guide if she could get coffee before the bus departed, she decided to follow her to get some too. “We started talking on the way over there and became fast friends within five minutes,” Weiner shared. She quickly discovered that Huneycutt had left her job in corporate law to follow her husband to Italy, who was a Naval officer. She too was struggling with the lack of opportunities.
The pizza place in Italy where many meetings took place.
“We jokingly say that the company was started over coffee,” Weiner shared with a laugh. Huneycutt echoed her sentiment and added that “we owe MWR for the founding of the company” since they provided the tour where the two met.
“The initial mission of the company was to provide employment for Lauren and enough employment for me so I could get some child care assistance. Shortly after that, the mission of the company was to find as many talented military spouses as possible and match them with the critical needs within the Department of Defense,” said Huneycutt. “Then it evolved to finding qualified and outstanding people in different, under-tapped labor pools such as veterans, retirees and State Department spouses, aligning them with critical needs of the government. That mission still hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been doing this.”
When Weiner was asked if they had ever anticipated their company growing as large as they have, she laughed and quickly said, “Definitely not!” Weiner explained that Huneycutt initially just planned to incorporate the company for her and then go on to write a novel, but they received their first contract and then another came along. They found themselves hiring their first military spouse, a Harvard trained lawyer, Jeanne McLaine. She was only being offered paralegal positions at the base, despite her background and extensive experience. McLaine still works for the company today.
“I was told I could be a secretary. There was actually a policy against anyone who was a dependent applying for a position above a GS-9 at the base at the time … I was told I could not have a GS-13 or GS-14 job because I was a trailing spouse,” shared Weiner. “It was eye-opening and it was rough.”
By the end of their first year in business, they had seven employees. Weiner shared that she actually never wanted to grow over 50 employees, thinking it could cause them to “lose who we are.” But after a few years, they were well over that number. “The military spouse community is what built us in the first place and what supported us and sustained us,” shared Weiner.
Currently, over 74% of their employees are military spouses and/or veterans.
With their continued success, they are often asked what their next big plan or idea is. “We never want to lose sight of the things that led to our success. Our commitment to honesty and credibility have continued to open doors for us. We measure our accomplishments by the success of our clients and our staff. We will continue to do this in the future,” said Huneycutt.
Their firm is dedicated to leverage their expertise to serve their customers in various stages of policy design, exercise training, financial management, IT support and strategic management. Some of their clients include the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Agency for International Development.
“Our mission is and has always been to help make government more effective and efficient, because it impacts our own lives,” explained Weiner.
Initially, the response to their firm successfully obtaining and running these large government contracts was one of disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that they were awarded the work and that they could do it. Weiner and Huneycutt were often asked if they were “doing this as a side business” until they became mothers to children. Or, it was assumed their husbands had established the company, although their husbands have absolutely no role in it. “We changed the dynamic and the conversation, very quickly,” Weiner shared.
When Weiner was asked what advice she would give military spouses who want to start their own businesses, she offered, “Put your head down and do it. People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t and give you every reason why it won’t work. Do not believe them. It is really hard work and you have to work harder than anyone else, but you can do it,” she said.
Their hard work has paid off. They now boast over 24 locations and their employees span four continents and 13 time zones. In the last two years alone, their operations have tripled. All of that growth led to their newly announced name change from WWC to WWC Global. They’ve also redesigned their logo to incorporate their history of its founding in Italy and their first client: the U.S. Navy.
“There have been many milestones that have made me pause and reflect. One of my favorites is the work we have done to provide meaningful employment to 170 military spouses,” said Huneycutt.
“We were able to build this and we are going to continue to build it further,” said Weiner. “Every once in a while, I stop and go… wow.”
To learn more about WWC Global and what they do, click here.
He was a former Delta Force operator who’d taken a career turn into the shadowy world of “non-official cover” intelligence operations for the Army. He lived in the shadows — traveling around the world to build and maintain his cover as a businessman, with members of his former unit wondering where he’d gone.
But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the East European executed a daring mission on behalf of America’s top commando units, driving into the heart of Saddam Hussein’s power and surveilling his most fearsome tool of the Iraqi dictator’s oppression.
The stunning story of the East European is detailed in Sean Naylor’s book “Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command.” The operator is said to have been an original member of Delta Force and was on the ill-fated Eagle Claw mission to rescue American hostages in Tehran. Born in Eastern Europe, the elite commando was said to be a “funny, outgoing guy with a heavy accent,” Naylor writes.
The operator left the assaulter side of Delta and worked in the Training, Evaluation and Operational Research office of the unit, which among other things develops high-tech gadgets for Delta commandos to use on covert missions. Later, the East European descended into the shadowy world of a NOC.
These intelligence agents, Naylor writes, were playing a dangerous game. They could infiltrate countries where Americans dared not travel under a realistic cover, but if they were caught, they had no ready support and no diplomatic immunity like CIA officers do. The East European had traveled to Iran in hopes of recruiting military sources there and had even worked inside Iraq in the 1990s as part of the United Nations’ search for WMD. His cover was maintained by a U.S.-allied country in Eastern Europe, and he’d even had access to that country’s embassy in Baghdad, Naylor explained.
But it was after the attacks on 9/11, that the East European was given his most dangerous mission yet.
It was a typical drive from Amman to Baghdad for the American agent, but the vehicle he was driving into Saddam’s capital wasn’t typical at all. The SUV that would carry him into the city was bristling with surveillance equipment implanted by the National Security Agency. The super-secret listening devices were designed to capture cellphone and handheld radio traffic and send the signals back to the U.S. for analysis, Naylor writes.
The East European simply parked the SUV in front of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad and left it there. Military intelligence operatives hoped to get tips on Iraqi military positions just before the invasion and track the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein.
“If you were trying to establish every time that Saddam Hussein’s personal security detail drove around Baghdad, this was a way of doing that,” a Joint Special Operations command officer told Naylor. “The Iraqis were notoriously poor at OPSEC.”
After leaving the vehicle at Iraqi intel HQ, the East European walked the streets of Baghdad with a special GPS device, tagging targets in the Iraqi capital for airstrikes.
The East European pinpointed targets deep inside Baghdad for U.S. bombers during the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. (Photo from Democracy Now)
“Such missions entailed enormous risk, not only from the Iraqi security services if the agent was compromised, but from the bombing campaign itself,” Naylor wrote. “Protecting him required careful, up-to-the-minute planning of the airstrikes.”
So if it wasn’t the Mukhabarat that could bring death and destruction to the East European, it was American bombs.
The East European quietly exfiled from Iraq after the invasion and served several more years in military-related intelligence services. But that drive into the heart of Baghdad shows that the feats of Hollywood superstars like Jason Bourne aren’t entirely the stuff of fiction.
The Defense Department is looking to step up its development of hypersonic weapons — missiles that travel more than five times faster than the speed of sound — DOD leaders said at the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored “Hypersonics Senior Executive Series” here today.”
In 2018, China has tested more hypersonics weapons than we have in a decade,” said Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “We’ve got to fix that.”
Russia also is involved in hypersonics, Griffin said. “Hypersonics is a game changer,” he added.
If Russia were to invade Estonia or China were to attack Taiwan tomorrow, Griffin said, it would be difficult to defend against their strike assets. “It’s not a space we want to stay in,” he told the audience.
DOD is looking at air-breathing boost-glide hypersonics systems, the latter being used by China, Griffin said. The United States has the boost-glide system competency to get these developed today, he noted.
On the flip side, he said, the U.S. needs to develop systems to counter adversary hypersonics. The place to take them out is in their relatively long cruise phase, in which they don’t change course suddenly. It’s not a particularly hard intercept, he said, but it requires knowing they’re coming. Current radars can’t see far enough. “They need to see thousands of kilometers out, not hundreds,” Griffin said.
Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin.
(U.S. Army photo by Bryan Bacon)
The Western Pacific is a particularly difficult area, he noted, because “it’s not littered with a lot of places to park radars, and if you found some, they’d likely become targets.”
Space-based sensors, along with tracking and fire-control solutions, are needed in the effort to counter adversaries’ hypersonics, Griffin said, pointing out that hypersonics targets are 10 to 20 times dimmer than what the U.S. normally tracks by satellites in geostationary orbit. “We can’t separate hypersonics defense from the space layer,” he said.
Getting to production, fielding
Congress has given DOD the funding and authorities to move ahead with hypersonics development, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said, and the department wants competing approaches from industry.
Tough decisions lay ahead, he said in the development and engineering phase, operationalizing the technology and then in acquisition. Those decisions include how much to invest and how many hypersonics to produce. “Should it be tens of thousands or thousands?” he said.
Industry will respond, Shanahan said, but government needs to clear a path and help fuel the investments up front, as with the effort field intercontinental ballistic missiles decades ago.
DOD is not risk-averse, the deputy secretary said. “Break it,” he added. “Learn from the mistake. Move on. Break it again and move on, but don’t make the same mistake.” It’s much more expensive to do the analytics to prevent it from breaking than it is to break it, he said.
Developed by the Germans as early as 1939, night-vision goggles, or NVGs, have been a massive staple in the allied forces’ arsenal, enabling troops to conduct vital missions in the dead of night.
The optic devices produce exceptional images from very low-lit environments by identifying decreased levels of light and amplifying them through a specific set of lenses.
For years, the U.S. has used this sensitive technology to capture and kill enemies after the sun goes down. But, in recent events, Afghan officials have reported that Taliban insurgents have sacked three different checkpoints during a series of nighttime raids in the western province of Farah, killing approximately 20 police officers.
A German soldier holding a “Zielgerät 1229” night-vision scope, attached to his rifle.
Afghan officials have stated that the night-vision goggles the Taliban have been using appear to have Russian markings on them, but that theory has yet to be confirmed. This “evidence” has led Afghan authorities to believe that Russian officials have been arming the Taliban — an accusation the Russians deny.
Although implicated, Russia isn’t the only possible source for the NVGs. Since the Taliban regularly trade through Pakistan, the night-vision goggles may have been obtained there via the black market.
An inside look through a pair of night-vision goggles. (Screenshot from NightVisionGuys YouTube)
Multiple companies sell NVGs to civilians via hunting stores and, in some former Soviet countries, they’re available online. In fact, members of the Taliban terrorist network have been seen, on occasion, using U.S.-manufactured tactical equipment.
Although this isn’t enough information to implicate the Russians in aiding the Taliban, it’s not too far-fetched. Political analysts in Moscow revealed that the Russian government has lost their confidence in the U.S.’s approach to balancing the ongoing Taliban threat. This lack of uncertainty has caused the nation to reach out on its own to other various factions, which may include the Taliban.
A Navy warship is getting a laser five times stronger than the one the service has tested in the past, and officials say it could lead the way for more vessels to head to sea with similar weapons.
The amphibious transport dock ship Portland is being outfitted with a 150-kilowatt laser system. That’s a big power leap from the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, that the service field-tested on the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce about five years ago.
“Big things” are expected from the Portland’s new laser, Thomas Rivers, program manager for the amphibious warfare program office, said here at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.
“They’re just putting it on the ship now,” he said. “… And this may be the beginning of seeing a lot more lasers coming onto different ships.”
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland.
The laser will give the Portland the firepower to take out drones and small boats, Rivers said. It’s also equipped with a camera that brings new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he added.
When the LaWS was tested in 2012, a Navy video showed how it could target small aircraft or boats without using bullets.
A video of a demonstration of the 30-kilowatt system being tested on the guided-missile destroyer Dewey showed the laser closing in on an unmanned aircraft off the coast of San Diego. That drone quickly caught fire and slammed into the ocean.
The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
Sailors and Marines could find themselves needing to fight their way to shore in the Pacific and other theaters. Crews aboard amphibious ships that carry Marines could also need to fight as they sustain forces on the ground and as they head back out to sea, said Frank DiGiovanni, deputy director of expeditionary warfare.
That’s what has some Navy officials talking about arming amphibious ships with offensive capabilities, Rivers said. Typically, the focus has been on defensive capabilities and survivability.
But looking at ways to arm them in the future “is not off the table,” he added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit with laser beams from fishing boats during military exercises in the South China Sea in May 2019, an analyst who was observing Australia’s operations said.
Euan Graham, an Asian security expert at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, was observing the Royal Australian Navy’s operation from on board the HMAS Canberra, a helicopter docking vessel, and said that Australia’s helicopters were being targeted with lasers from fishing boats.
Graham posited that the boats where the lasers originated could be Chinese: “Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia?”
Graham noted to CNN that: “It’s no secret that the broader thrust of China’s approach in the South China Sea is to try to make life difficult for foreign aircraft and warships there.”
China claims the South China Sea, despite competing claims and legal disputes from other countries in the region.
He said that it was unlikely to be fishermen using lasers to warn the helicopters away as there was little chance that a helicopter and a boat would be on course to collide.
“That makes sense for collision of vessels, but obviously there is no direct threat from aircraft to vessels in the South China Sea,” he said. “The maritime militia is, I think, not beyond argument as a tactic which is employed deliberately.”
Reports in 2018 said that more than 20 attacks with lasers were made against US military pilots in the East China Sea between September 2017 and June 2018.
Graham told CNN that he did not witness the lasers first hand, but pilots told him that they were repeatedly targeted.
He said in the post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that the Australian navy was “followed at a discreet distance by a Chinese warship for most of the transit, both on the way up and back, despite the fact that our route didn’t take us near any feature occupied by Chinese forces, or any obviously sensitive areas.”
The HMAS Canberra at sea in 2016.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea as its own despite protests and legal battles with other countries in the region. It is a key transportation route for nations in the region, and contains oil and gas reserves. China has staked its territorial claims in recent years by creating manmade islands in the area, some of which are home to airfields.
Graham said said that radio communications between the Chinese and Australian navys was “courteous” during his time with the operation.
Australia’s military was conducting its Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 exercise, which concluded this week. The 11-week operation brought the military to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia to share disaster relief expertise.
Officials from Australia’s military told CNN that they were looking into Graham’s claims.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced a sweeping buildup of America’s Navy to oppose the rising threat from China, calling for more ships as well as the adoption of new technologies and doctrines.
Speaking at the Rand Corp. on Wednesday, Esper called for the US Navy to increase its fleet size from today’s 293 ships to more than 355 by the year 2045 as part of a comprehensive modernization plan called “Future Forward.” This revamped naval force will comprise a bigger fleet of smaller ships, including surface ships and submarines that are unmanned, manned, and autonomous. The buildup will also comprise additional unmanned, carrier-based aircraft.
In addition to that quantitative increase, which will cost tens of billions of dollars, Esper is also calling for the Navy and Marine Corps to adopt new warfighting technologies and doctrines to counter novel threats from China.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks at Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California, Sept. 16, 2020. DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando, courtesy of DVIDS.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon published a report underscoring that China now wields the world’s largest navy with some 350 ships and submarines at its disposal. Beijing aims to complete its crash-course military modernization program by 2035, with plans to field a “world-class” military by 2049, Esper said. To that end, China is building new aircraft carriers, unmanned submarines, and missile systems and is expanding its nuclear arsenal.
“I want to make clear that China cannot match the United States when it comes to naval power. Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the [People’s Republic of China] years to close the gap when it comes to our capability on the high seas,” Esper said, adding: “Ship numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story.”
However, the secretary said the US needs to invest in new technologies — artificial intelligence, or AI, in particular — to maintain its qualitative edge over China’s growing military might.
“Today, we are at another inflection point, one where I believe unmanned technologies, AI, and long-range precision weapons will play an increasingly leading role. The US military, including the Navy, must lean into that future as the character of warfare changes,” Esper said.
Royal Australian navy, Republic of Korea navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and United States Navy warships sail in formation during the Pacific Vanguard 2020 exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Sept. 11, 2020. Official Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force photo by Lt. Mark Langford, courtesy of DVIDS.
Esper said that the US faces threats from both Russia and China. But the secretary also underscored that, in the long run, China was the bigger strategic threat to America’s global dominance, as well as an existential threat to the US homeland.
“Clearly when you look at Russia compared to China, China’s vast population, its resources, it’s this strength, the dynamism of its economy, we see that as a … much greater long-term challenge,” Esper said.
The Pentagon has created a Defense Policy office on China, and established a China Strategy Management Group. Esper said he had instructed the National Defense University to dedicate half of its coursework to China. And all military services have made China the overarching threat guiding the direction of their training and other educational programs.
“These are just a few of our efforts to focus attention on our priority theater, the Indo-Pacific,” Esper said. “Not only is this region important because it is a hub of global trade and commerce, it is also the epicenter of great power competition with China.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the Dambusters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 195 launches from the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on the Philippine Sea, Sept. 12, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Samantha Jetzer, courtesy of DVIDS.
The Pentagon needs to reform its acquisitions program, tighten its budget, and build up its industrial base to sustain the long-term effort necessary to counter China’s rise. Such an endeavor will be difficult to justify, however, in the absence of a conflict, many experts say.
Nevertheless, earlier this year, the Navy awarded a 5 million contract to purchase the first ship of a new class of guided missile frigates — with an option to purchase nine more totaling nearly .6 billion.
“This is the first new major shipbuilding program the Navy has sought in more than a decade,” Esper said, adding that trials are ongoing on a 132-foot-long trimaran drone called the Sea Hunter, which can autonomously patrol for enemy submarines for more than two months at a time.
Esper’s quarter-century naval buildup, while ambitious, pales in comparison with what the US was able to accomplish during World War II.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the day of the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the US into the war, the US Navy mustered 790 total ships. During the period from 1941 to 1945, US shipyards produced thousands of new vessels. Total US Navy ships numbered 6,768 by August of 1945, according to Pentagon records. That number dropped to 1,248 by June 1946.
To defeat the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan ordered a peacetime naval buildup from 530 to 597 ships in the period from 1980 to 1987.
“We must stay ahead; we must retain our overmatch; and we will keep building modern ships to ensure we remain the world’s greatest navy,” Esper said.
Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.
Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.
They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.
Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”
Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.
‘Enough to kill tens of millions’
Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.
Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”
“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.
Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.
James H. Anderson, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, spoke about the 2019 Missile Defense Review at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. He noted that the strategy covers the Defense Department’s three lines of effort: lethality, partnership and reform.
Here are his main points:
China and Russia are developing advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that can potentially overcome United States defenses. North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching the U.S. and could be armed with nuclear warheads. And, Iran’s space program could accelerate development of an ICBM system that might be able to reach the U.S.
2019 missile defense review goal
Diplomacy and deterrence are the primary strategies to protect the nation, deployed forces and U.S. allies from missile attacks. Should that fail, the U.S. is developing a layered missile defense system as well as offensive capability.
The ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee gold crew returns to its home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Jan. 11, 2019, following a strategic deterrence patrol.
(Photo by Bryan Tomforde)
• Upgrade existing radars and sensors
• Increase the number of ground-based interceptors by 20 to 64, along with developing a new kill vehicle for the GBI
• Develop small, high-energy lasers that can be fitted on unmanned aerial systems
• Arm F-35 Lightning II aircraft with tracking capabilities and possible missile intercept at the early boost stage
• Increase the Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped destroyers from 38 to 60
• Improve space-based sensors to detect and track missiles
• Conduct a feasibility study of space-based missile intercept capability
• Conduct a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA test against ICBMs by 2020
• Leverage the SM-6 for both defensive and strike operations.
A Standard Missile 3 Block IIA launches from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, Dec. 10, 2018, during a test to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in space.
(Photo by Ryan Keith)
To address regional threats and protect partners, Anderson said the U.S. will deploy additional terminal high altitude area defense, Patriot and Aegis Ashore platforms.
In turn, partner nations are building up their air and missile defenses, with the possibility of integrating them with U.S. systems. For example, he noted that NATO has an operational Aegis Ashore site in Romania. A second site, to be operational in about a year, is being built in Poland, which will house SM-3 Block IIA missiles. Denmark and the Netherlands have sea-based radar systems that can locate missiles.
DOD must adopt processes and cultures that enable development and procurement of missile defense systems in a streamlined and cost-effective manner, Anderson said.
“We must not fear test failure, but learn from it and rapidly adjust,” he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ready to talk to the US about abandoning his country’s nuclear arms and pursuing peace with South Korea, according to the South Korean president’s office, the Blue House.
After a historic meeting between South Korean diplomats and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea is apparently open to denuclearizing, with Kim himself reportedly expressing a willingness to talk to the US about the touchy subject — something unthinkable mere months ago.
North Korea also said it would suspend provocations like nuclear and missile tests during negotiations, the Blue House said March 6, 2018.
“Chairman Kim said that even denuclearization could be among the agenda items for talks between North Korea and the US,” a Blue House spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. “What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all.”
“Kim also didn’t specify anything special from South Korea or other countries in return for the North coming to dialogue but expressed an intent to be treated seriously as a counterpart for talks,” he added.
Under Kim, North Korea wrote the possession of nuclear weapons into its constitution, and it has bitterly opposed any efforts to rid the country of its weapons. The US has maintained that it will denuclearize North Korea whether by force or by diplomacy, making the subject of denuclearization the major roadblock toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since 1994.
“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yong, the director of South Korea’s National Security Office, who attended the latest meetings, said, according to Yonhap.
“In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South,” he added.
The news follows a year packed with white-hot nuclear threats and increasingly provocative nuclear and missile tests carried out by North Korea. The US put together the harshest sanctions package ever against the country and increased its military posture, with President Donald Trump making some overt threats.
But even as the US has applied what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” approach, South Korea, under the new leadership of a more engagement-minded liberal political party, extended olive branches to Pyongyang by including the North in the Pyeongchang Olympics and holding talks that thawed relations.
North Korea reverses course
North Korea appears to have changed its tone after repeatedly declaring its nuclear arsenal nonnegotiable and reserving the right to attack US forces stationed in South Korea.
North Korea has talked about denuclearization before, but promises fell through before implementation. South Korean and US officials have repeatedly said verifiable denuclearization would need to take place before larger discussions over peace or reunification of the Koreas could happen.
Yonhap reports that the groundwork has now been laid for Kim to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in what would be Kim’s first meeting with another head of state.
North Korean media reported on March 5, 2018 that Kim wanted to “write a new history of national reunification” and would “rapidly take practical steps” toward creating peace between the two countries, which have technically been at war since 1950.
North Korea had previously refused to engage with the US as long as international sanctions and the US military in the region applied pressure to Kim’s government.