The top U.S. diplomat in the Pacific told reporters this month strong anti-American statements by the president of the Philippines are more rhetoric than reality, calling them “colorful” and arguing there has been no substantive change in the military relationship with the U.S. ally in the Pacific.
In September, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte called for severing military ties with the U.S., saying he would end joint Philippine and U.S. counterterrorism missions in Mindanao and stop joint naval patrols in the South China Sea. More recently he has forged a closer relationship with China, saying his country was “separating from the United States” and would be dependent on China “for all time.”
But U.S. officials caution that Duterte has made no moves to sever its ties with the U.S. military and that what he’s saying in public doesn’t match his actions behind closed doors.
“I’m not aware of any material change in the security cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines,” said Assistant Sec. State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russell during an Oct. 12 interview with reporters in Washington.
“President Duterte has made a panoply of statements … the operative adjective is ‘colorful,’ ” he added. “But what that will ultimately translate to in terms of the ability of the Philippines to work with the United States on issues directly germane to its security and the regional and global challenges that it faces — from piracy to illegal fishing to disaster relief and counterterrorism — is a question that we don’t have an answer to just yet.”
No matter how strongly Duterte denounces the U.S. and its leaders in public, Russell added, the close historical bond between America and the Philippines is something that transcends the politics of the day.
“For our part, we love the Philippines. The relationship between Americans and Filipinos is as warm as you can get,” Russell said. “We’re very close with each other not only by these cultural and personal and historical ties but also by shared interests and by some common threats.”
Russell added that early conversations with the Philippine president, who assumed office in June, indicated he was committed to the U.S.-Philippine military and trade alliance.
But more recently, Duterte has begun to forge closer ties with China despite a decision in July by an international Law of the Sea tribunal that ruled in the Philippines’ favor against China’s control of certain sea lanes close to the island nation — a conflict Russell warned could have led to a war between Manilla and Beijing.
China has rejected the international court’s ruling.
On a recent trip to China, Duterte reportedly forged a $13 billion economic deal with Beijing, calling it the “springtime of our relationship” with China. The apparent shift away from the U.S. and toward the communist nation has caused alarm in some diplomatic circles in the U.S.
But Russell urged calm.
“There’s clearly increased dialogue” between China and the Philippines, Russell said. “In principle that’s a good thing. … As long as that dialogue is … consistent with international law.”
“There’s a lot of noise and stray voltage in the media,” he added. “But ultimately the decisions about the alliance operationally are going to be taken in a deliberate and thoughtful way.”
Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.
The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”
Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw
“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”
This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.
“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”
This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.
The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.
The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.
Green on blue attacks — used to describe attacks by Afghan soldiers on Coalition forces — are one of the many dangers our troops in the Middle East face every day.
These deadly morale-sapping attacks are difficult to predict and leave lasting negative trust issues between the locals — and American forces. As many as 91 incidents resulted in 148 Coalition troops killed and as many 186 wounded between 2008 and 2015.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Marine infantry officer turned Army Green Beret Chase Millsap, and our Navy corpsman smartass Tim Kirkpatrick share their experiences working with the locals. Millsap with the Iraqi Police and Kirkpatrick with the Afghan National Army. As you’ll listen, their experiences differ.
The Department of Defense was forced to issue an apology Sept. 21, 2019, after a tweet was sent out the day before suggesting the military was going to bomb millenials attempting to raid Area 51 into oblivion with America’s top bomber.
The offending tweet was posted on Sept. 20, 2019, by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDSHub), a DoD media service, in response to the “Storm Area 51” event, which was held the day the tweet was posted.
“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today,” the tweet read. The accompanying image was a B-2 Spirit bomber, a highly-capable stealth aircraft built to slip past enemy defenses and devastate targets with nuclear and conventional munitions.
Screenshot of the now-deleted tweet from the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.
The tweet received some immediate backlash online. “The military should not be threatening to kill citizens, not even misguided ones,” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, tweeted Sept. 20, 2019.
On Sept. 21, 2019, DVIDSHub deleted the troubling tweet and issued an apology. “Last night a DVIDSHUB employee posted a tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense,” the military media division wrote. “It was inappropriate and we apologize for this mistake.”
The “Storm Area 51” movement evolved from a Facebook post that went viral. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for the “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All” event, which jokingly called for people to overrun the remote Nevada air force base to “see them aliens.”
The event was ultimately canceled by the organizers due to safety concerns, although some people did show up and there were a handful of arrests.
The Air Force was taking the potential threat seriously though. “Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected,” Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said a few days prior to the event. “People deserve to have our nation’s secrets protected.”
Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan added that the service was coordinating its efforts with local law enforcement. “There’s a lot of media attention, so they’re expecting some folks to show up there. We’re prepared, and we’ve provided them additional security personnel, as well as additional barricades.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In January 2018, some Soldiers within the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii will receive new uniforms and a new set of boots as part of Program Executive Office Soldier’s continued testing and evaluation of the improved hot-weather combat uniform and jungle combat boot.
Keeping in line with the modernization and readiness initiatives set by Secretary of the Army, Dr. Mark T. Esper, and Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the new versions of combat uniforms and boots will allow Soldiers to better operate in hot, extremely hot, and hot/wet environments.
“Today’s Soldier must be ready to execute the mission in any operational environment,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, project manager with Soldier protection and individual equipment, during a Dec. 7 media roundtable here. “[We’re] providing a capability to Soldiers that may give them a decisive edge in that type of environment.”
Production is near competition on 65,000 uniforms and approximately 750 new boots that will be sent to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers in time for the upcoming Pacific Pathways exercise in February, according to Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for environmental clothing and footwear.
In March, PEO Soldier will then collect feedback from Soldiers and use that information to modify future versions of both systems, Ferenczy added.
Improvements to the combat uniform
To make the new uniform more breathable and lightweight, Ferenczy said that excess layers and seams, which often lock in heat and moisture, have been removed. Furthermore, the new uniform can be dried in 60 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes dry-time of the current uniform.
In addition, program officials have incorporated feedback and made changes to the uniform design from previous field tests. Changes include:
mandarin collar eliminated.
shoulder pockets open from top rather than sides.
zipper closures replaced by buttons.
breast and back trouser pockets removed.
crotch gusseted for better fit, prevent chafing or blowouts.
knee articulated for better maneuverability.
Moving forward, program officials will continue to evaluate other fabric compositions and uniform design elements through 2018, Ferenczy said.
Depending on the feedback received during the upcoming field test, and the requirements set by Army headquarters, a newer version of the hot-weather uniform could be requested and tested by the 25th Infantry Division around the same time next year.
Jungle Combat Boots Version 2
In addition to the new uniform, 25th Infantry Division Soldiers will have a chance to try out five versions of footwear that represent a “Version 2” of the jungle boot. These five variants are based on “Version 1” of the boot Soldiers field-tested earlier this year.
After field testing Version 1, Soldiers determined that they wanted a combat boot that was lighter and more flexible, and which also had less stack-height off the ground. Ferenczy said the five types of Version 2 jungle boots meet all those Soldier demands, while also remaining puncture-proof and quick-drying.
The Version 2 boots also provide increased traction in the mud. Furthermore, he said, all the Version 2 boots are better designed to not hold in any moisture, and incorporate larger-sized drainage vents on both sides.
Come January, the Version 2 boots — 150 from each of five manufacturers — will be distributed to 25th Infantry Division Soldiers to be field-tested until March. The goal is for this current evaluation of Version 2 boots, and subsequent feedback, to be combined into a final offering.
Berlin is known as the techno music capital of the world. Much to the chagrin of Detroit, where the style originated, the German city took the style and baked it right into their up-and-coming ’90s culture. How that happened has a unique history, including political events that allowed the city to flourish with its own thriving music scene.
Techno music as we know it wouldn’t exist today without the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German Democratic Republic. Here’s why:
When East Germany reunified with the West, there was a lull. A lull in government jurisdiction, in law enforcement, and in collecting assets. For years, large buildings that had disputed ownerships sat empty with no one keeping an eye on them and no one enforcing what took place within their walls. Because of this lack of order, young music fans were given the chance to thrive.
They would host parties in these abandoned buildings, illegally, but with little consequence. An underground movement began where locations spread by word of mouth. The were multiple-day parties in industrial settings where there were basically no rules — sex, drugs, and dancing were all welcome. The only rule? Remain respectful to those around you.
Parties were first held through an underground scene, radios or flyers would provide instructions to call a number at a certain time, and the person receiving the call would provide the location of the party. Usually, a single party was held for a day or two at a location, then it was off to the next spot to avoid attracting too much attention.
Techno enthusiasts explored and found empty buildings across East Berlin where they could throw their parties. Factories, empty apartment buildings, former military sites, even condemned buildings. Most locations had been confiscated by Nazis, then sat empty while legal battles determined the property’s rightful owner. In the meantime, they fell into disrepair and served as the perfect locations for multi-day techno raves.
Before the fall
Before the fall of the wall, East Germans had their radio censored. Young people would travel near the wall where they could, on occasion, pick up radio signals from West Berlin’s freeform waves, including disco parties that were often broadcast. Some dance parties, few and far between, were hosted in East Germany. That, however, required an appeal to the government, which took months of red tape to become approved.
But once the wall was taken down, all bets were off. East Germans were now free to attend techno dance scenes. But they were soon outgrown, with the ability to only hold about 100 people at a time. A need emerged, and techno fans began creating their own parties. Finding bigger and bigger venues to fit their growing fan base.
A legal venture
Over time, these industrial buildings were transformed and turned into actual dance and music clubs. Eventually, it became a business, owned by the same people who were previously throwing parties illegally. Techno events were no longer on a pop-up schedule, but a certified brand. It’s worth noting that liquor or attendance permits weren’t yet enforced; the government was still working on regulating. There simply wasn’t infrastructure in place to check on a business’ paperwork. This allowed these non-experienced entrepreneurs to roll in more money early on, and brush up on their business chops as regulations were put into place.
Of course, over time, the disco scene in Germany became more regulated. With the government seeing it as an important part of tourism and city revenue, it provided support, allowing the town’s techno business to grow far quicker than in other countries (like Detroit). To account for a growing club scene, Germany did away with things like closing times (the clubs stay open all weekend) and dress codes (you might just a naked person dancing. Don’t be alarmed). There was also no “last call” for alcohol. Today, it continues to offer thriving nightlife opportunities to citizens and visitors alike, as well as providing huge profits for the city as a whole.
A retired Navy SEAL wounded in the search for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, testified about the harrowing firefight that ended his career.
Speaking at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing Oct. 25, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch choked up when describing how enemy combatants shot a trained dog that was with the team before shooting him just above his right knee.
“I really thought that I was going to die,” Hatch said.
Hatch walks with a limp after undergoing 18 surgeries to repair his leg.
The former Navy SEAL, forced to retire from the military after nearly 26 years of service because of injuries sustained while searching for Bergdahl, said he had known days before that the search was going to be hazardous.
“Somebody’s going to get killed or hurt trying to get that kid,” he recalled saying to his teammates.
Trump motion still pending
The hearing started with a surprise, as the judge, Colonel Jeffery R. Nance, said he was not yet ready to rule on the defense’s argument that recent comments by President Donald Trump had made a fair hearing impossible.
“I’m still considering it,” Nance said.
The defense has argued that the president seemed to endorse previous assertions, made when he was a presidential candidate, that Bergdahl was a traitor and deserved execution. As commander in chief, he is the superior officer of all the military officials responsible for disciplining Bergdahl.
Questioned by reporters last week about Bergdahl, Trump said he couldn’t say more on the case, “but I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
Last week, Bergdahl pleaded guilty at a court-martial hearing to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is expected to extend into next week.
The Constant Phoenix jet touched down at the air base in Okinawa on April 7, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
The aircraft was scheduled to arrive earlier, on March 24, but engine problems resulted in its delay.
The WC-135 jet has been deployed before to Japan and has been carrying out missions in the region since October 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.
The aircraft previously found radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test during previous missions.
North Korea continues to allocate more than 15 percent of its national budget to defense expenditures, according to Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
“In order to handle the critical situation of the nuclear threat and endless war provocations of the United States and its followers, we will apportion 15.8 percent of all spending to defense expenditures, in order to strengthen the self-defense and pre-emptive capabilities centered around our nuclear armed forces,” Pyongyang stated April 12.
But North Korea also revived its foreign affairs committee during a meetings of its Supreme People’s Assembly the second week of April, a possible sign Kim Jong Un may be willing to take a step back from escalating tensions with the United States.
The skies above the United States and its allies aren’t just an intelligence battleground anymore, they’re also a big business arena. Some of the world’s top aircraft designers are looking to get their designs airborne with America’s most top secret missions.
Today, Sweden’s air forces are flying nondescript, ulta-secret spy missions in what appear to be the swankiest luxury aircraft on the market. In April 2021, Sweden flew a pair of luxury airplanes off the coast of Russia, where Russian military signals and radar were highly active.
It looked like a luxury private jet that could have belonged to any corporate officer from anywhere in the world. The converted Gulfstream IV was nothing of the sort; it was filled with the latest and greatest in signals intelligence collection equipment.
This isn’t the first time Sweden has employed its sleek fleet of Gulfstream spy planes over the past few years. They’ve been seen flying around Syria and the Mediterranean Sea. Sweden isn’t alone in employing them – other governments are bringing a demand for converted luxury aircraft.
According to Reuters, the market for selling special mission business jets to intelligence agencies is worth more than $3 billion worldwide. Using converted luxury aircraft is apparently a lower-cost alternative to converting larger passenger planes or military aircraft.
One defense and military analyst believes the shift is coming from the advanced listening and intelligence systems. As they get smaller and more powerful, the size of the aircraft needed to house them also gets smaller.
These special missions can vary from passive radar detection, communications interception, and early-warning systems. Countries from South Korea to France to the Israel Defense Forces are looking for more inexpensive ways to continue these missions using advanced equipment and smaller planes.
A private corporate jet can cost anywhere from $20 million to $60 million, the Reuters report says. Conversion to a spy plane with the latest technology could run state actors upwards of another $200 million.
The new demand for smaller aircraft is a boon to the private aviation industry, according to industry executives, who saw a drop off in demand from the civilian sector. A focus on military conversion means the companies will be more dedicated to that sector.
Although using luxury private aircraft as spy planes is a tradition that dates back to the Cold War, the breakthroughs in signals intelligence technology mean that smaller planes can be as effective as larger ones in singular “special mission” roles. The only threat to this new, emerging marketplace for corporate aircraft: special mission drones.
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be a slightly cheaper alternative for some countries looking for so-called “special mission aircraft,” but they aren’t that much cheaper. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV will still run about $130 million.
But converted executive aircraft are a good investment. The U.S. military purchased a number of Grumman Gulfstream I planes in the early 1960s, converting many to long-range command and control aircraft. They remained in service until 2001.
When the time comes to get out of the house and hit the road for a few days to reach a safe place, what do you take with you? What if you lived in Washington D.C. and need to get to your cousin’s house in Charleston, West Virginia, among the throngs of frightened masses choking the roadways and buying up all the supplies during a natural disaster? A simple answer is a bug out bag.
Bug out bags are just what the name implies — bags you and your family can grab at a moment’s notice and bug out of the area. A bug out bag can get you through a few days by itself, but it’s a temporary means to an end. The water and food will eventually run out so you have to pack one in a methodical manner that meets your expectations and criteria. When prepping bags, it’s important to keep in mind a few things:
What is the threat? What are you running from? Where are you running to?
What is the environment? A bug out bag for a family living in the Everglades is not going to look much like a bug out bag for a family living in Anchorage. Determine what it is you need the most of — water, heat, food, etc?
How much can you and your family carry? If you’re a big guy and can carry a lot, then by all means find a large rucksack and maximize it. But if you have kids (who should all be carrying their own bags), take their capabilities into account and pack accordingly.
Be redundant. That old cliché “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true of bug out bags. Let’s say you and your family are crossing a stream and one bag gets lost down river. If that bag had the only Epi Pen for your allergic son, you’ve just made your situation worse.
I have three kids and packed each of them a bag according to how much they can carry and what they would need to survive in the Northern Virginia area for 5 days with no assistance. Our area has a lot of natural water sources, so I’m not overly concerned with finding water. All three bags have the following basics:
2. Five days of meals
For food preparation, I have included a small folding stove, a canteen cup, and 2 cans of camp fuel or heat tabs is great for boiling water for freeze dried meals.
One set of steel utensils or a multi-use eating tool is a must.
3. Fire making materials
4. Items to keep you warm and dry
6. First aid kit
Make sure you include basic meds and specific meds for each particular person. Each bag has a travel container of Neosporin, Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, Orajel, Blistex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Gold Bond, insect wipes, sun block, and a protective mask. One of my sons requires an inhaler and an Epi Pen, as well.
Hygiene is more important than you think. Besides fighting off bacteria and infections, a basic cleaning can raise your morale. Each bag should have a small travel pack of toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, baby wipes, tissues, a cloth, and hand sanitizer. Add other items as needed.
7. Tools and Weapons
A few more miscellaneous things:
Toss in a whistle with a compass, a deck of cards, a notepad, a signal mirror, a signal flag, a NIOSH approved face mask, and a watch that doesn’t need a battery. A small survival manual is a good idea if you can find one.
Include three pairs of underwear and socks per person. If you can fit a change of clothes, do so.
As for basic communications, everyone has a cell phone nowadays, which is good and bad. They provide immediate communications, but the networks they rely on can be knocked out easily. Backup comms are a must. A simple battery operated radio with a limited range in each bag provides short range comms and most importantly, can help avoid family members getting separated.
I keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on the outside of my ruck so it can be accessed easily. If I’m injured, I want my kids to be able to get to it and treat me without having to dig through the ruck. I also keep my ammo on the outside for easy access.
I carry a small tent and, just to be safe, I put an extra set of my son’s prescription meds in my ruck. I keep my ruck in the car because I’d rather have it with me at work and on vacations than sitting in my basement where it doesn’t do anyone any good. Also, if I find myself in a survival situation (snowstorm, car failure, zombie apocalypse, etc) I’m ready.
There are a lot of companies that sell pre-packed bug out bags that are a great start, but I encourage you to customize them to your situation and environment. I highly recommend my friend Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response website.
On July 7, 1917, the British Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was formally established, allowing women to directly support the war by serving in France.
Due to labor demands, women were already working in weapons and munitions factories throughout Britain, but the establishment of the WAAC meant females could officially enlist in the army to perform non-combat support tasks — for a smaller salary than their male counterparts…
The harsh conditions in the factories contributed to dozens of deaths from poisoning, accidents, or explosions. Nonetheless, women weren’t deterred from doing their part. By 1917, the campaign to approve the formation of the WAAC meant that women could aid in the war effort more directly by fulfilling roles such as cookery, mechanics and clerical work, freeing up men to serve in the trenches.
By the summer of 1917, women were serving in France on the war front, even if they were restricted to menial work. The female volunteers were prohibited from becoming officers, but did rise in the ranks as “controllers” or “administrators.”
By the end of World War I, nearly 80,000 women wore the uniform as non-combatants, significantly contributing to the Allied war effort against the Central Powers in the three British women’s forces — the WAAC, the Women’s Relief Defense Corps and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.
For decades, submarines have been patrolling and protecting America’s ships with honor as they operate deep down below the sea’s surface. Functioning as the “Silent Service,” these vessels have come a long way with their vast array of technological advances and undersea stealth.
But the concept goes back as far as the Revolutionary War, though how it got to the level of today’s technology is a wonder given the dangers of plying the ocean’s depths.
The “Drebbel,” the “Turtle,” and the “Nautilus” were all early versions of submarine technology that never quite got underway. But it wouldn’t be until Confederate Naval Secretary Stephen Mallory authorized the construction of the CSS H.L. Hunley to break the blockade of their southern ports that sub-surface warfare really came into its own.
After completion, the Hunley measured 40-feet long, 4-feet high, and 42-inches wide tightly housing a crew of eight men who had to power the vessel by hand cranking the propeller and steer through the ocean’s dark waters.
During its first testing phase in the fall of 1863, the CSS Hunley failed and sunk killing five crew members. The sub was recovered, but sank again and killed all eight crew, including co-inventor Horace Hunley, later that same year.
Although considered a dud, the Hunley’s commanders still believed in its worth and resurrected the sub from the water for the second time.
It wouldn’t be until Feb. 17, 1864, where the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic and soon after plunged toward the ocean’s floor for a third time killing all of its crew — a real death trap.
These days, it seems like countries don’t invade each other like they used to. It just seems like they’d rather do small, covert raids or just outright overthrow a hostile government.
Countries do still invade one another. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006. Israel invaded Lebanon that same year. America invaded Iraq because… well, just because. But the world’s most recent invasions weren’t really conducted with the idea of actually annexing territory.
Still, there are plenty of powder kegs out there: India vs. Pakistan, Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, or China vs. all of its neighbors. And then there’s the Korean Peninsula – the most volatile country vs. country situation in the world.
After almost 70 years of animosity, a constant state of war (there was never a real end of the war, only an armistice… and North Korea pulled out of that in 2013), and the continued acts of violence between the two, here’s a situation that could blow up at any time.
It’s actually that threat of widespread mutual destruction that keeps the conflict from boiling over. The 1950-1953 Korean War was a disaster for both sides, and that fact is largely what drives North Korean military policy. It’s what keeps the people supporting the regime: animosity toward the U.S. and South Korea.
North Koreans either remember the war firsthand or through the stories from their grandparents. Fighting between North and South Korean forces was particularly brutal and as a result, there is no reason to believe either side would pull punches today.
“Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984.
Both countries have significant military power. South Korea has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, with 3.5 million troops. North Korea has 5 million troops with another 5 million who can fight in a protracted war. The North Korean Songun policy means the military comes first in terms of food, fuel, and other materials before any are given to the population at large. Mandatory conscription (for a 10-year enlistment) means that most North Koreans have some form of military experience.
The North also boasts 605 combat aircraft and 43 naval missile boats, but the (North) Korean People’s Air Force’s most numerous fighter is the subsonic MiG-21, which first debuted in 1953. Their latest model is the aging MiG-29, and it dates back to the 1970s. And they’re all armed with Vietnam War-era ordnance.
In terms of military technology, North Korea’s pales in comparison to the South. South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
The South’s GDP is 50 times greater than the North’s and they spend almost five times as much as North Korea on defense. Since it can’t keep up in traditional combat arms, the North is beefing up its unconventional warfare capabilities, including chemical and nuclear weapons, along with the ballistic missiles to deliver them. It can’t deliver the weapons by air because their antiquated air forces would be easy pickings for the U.S. F-22 Raptor squadron on the Peninsula.
The North is also hampered in terms of alliances. During the Korean War, the Korean Communists were pushed all the way to the Yalu River. It was only after the Chinese intervened with massive manpower and materiel that the Communists were able to form any kind of counterattack. Chinese intervention for the North these days is questionable at best, given its extensive overseas economic ties.
In fact, it might even be in China’s best interest to invade North Korea itself, to give a buffer zone between China and a collapsed North Korean government or worse, U.S. troops right on the border.
Whereas South Korea maintains a tight alliance with the United States, who has 30,000 troops of their own stationed there, 3,800 in Japan, and 5,700 on Guam, along with significant air and naval forces in the region.
A North Korean attack on the South would give the north a slight advantage in surprise and initiative… for a few days. Allied forces will respond instantly, but the North will still have the initiative.
Retired Army General James Marks estimates they would have that initiative for four days at most. When the first war was launched across the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ wasn’t quite as defended as it is today. No one was expecting the attack and the bulk of U.S. forces had been withdrawn to Japan.
Today, an assault across the 38th parallel (the North-South border, along which the lines are divided) is tantamount to slow, grinding, probably explosive death.
North Korea will open with artillery and rocket fire from positions on the North slopes of the mountains just across the border. The North has the world’s largest artillery force with 10,000 pieces in their arsenal. The bulk of these forces are at the border, with much of the rest around Pyongyang and near Nampo, the site of their electricity-producing dam.
It is likely that the South Korean capital of Seoul, just 35 miles from the border, would be the first target and would be devastated in the opening salvos. With the artillery on the North side, hidden in the mountains, there would be little warning of an attack and U.S. and South Korean air forces would have trouble penetrating the North Korean air defenses.
Air operations would be tricky because the North keeps tight interlocking lines of antiaircraft guns and surface-to-air missile systems. Pyongyang itself is a “fortress.” North Korean special operations forces would be inserted via submarines along both coasts and through tunnels dug under the DMZ (many have been found in previous years).
The North would also activate sleeper agents in the South to direct missile and artillery fire. South Korean intelligence estimates up to 200,000 special operators are in the North Korean military, trained to fight Taliban-like insurgencies.
The U.S. air assets in the area will establish air superiority over the region, destroy air defenses, attempt to take out the artillery and missile batteries, and then destroy Northern command and control elements.
Allied airpower will target infrastructure like bridges and roads, especially the unification highway linking the capital at Pyongyang with the border, to keep Northern forces from being able to move effectively inside their own country. The U.S. would also make humanitarian air drops outside of major cities to draw noncombatants out of the cities and make targeting regime figures much easier.
After the conventional fighting, the question is if North Korea will use its nuclear weapons. It is estimated to have up to eight weapons and ballistic missile technology capable of reaching U.S. and South Korean forces in the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and all the way to Guam.
However, experts cannot confirm that the North has ever successfully used a warhead on any of its missiles. If the North does use its nuclear arsenal, nuclear retaliation from the U.S. isn’t a forgone conclusion, especially if U.S. forces have the opportunity to destroy most of the North’s nuclear weapons.
A recent Pentagon war game against the fictional country of “North Brownland,” a country whose dynastic family regime had nuclear weapons that had to be recovered during a regime collapse, found that U.S. troops didn’t fare well in retrieving those weapons. V-22 Osprey aircraft were cut off from the rest of the allied forces and surrounded by the enemy.
The result was the United States would have to fight through the countryside to the North’s estimated 100 nuclear-related sites. In all, it took the U.S. 46 days and 90,000 troops to secure those weapons.
In the end, the North – despite some early successes – would lose. They would be able to inflict massive devastation with conventional weapons in Seoul and near the border areas. The toll on civilians would likely be massive if they used their biological and chemical stockpiles, and even more so if they used the nuclear arsenal. Special forces would likely detonate their nukes in the border areas for fear of being caught trying to move South.
The U.S. would quickly establish air superiority while ground forces bypassed the heavily defended DMZ area. Once the artillery and missile batteries were taken out, the advanced technology, mobile armor, helicopter support, and airpower would quickly overwhelm the large infantry formations and their associated WWII-era tactics. The hardest part of subduing North Korea would be unifying the Korean people and taking care of the North’s backward and likely starving populace.
The hardest part of subduing North Korea would be unifying the Korean people and taking care of the North’s backward and likely starving populace.
The U.S. and South Korean governments might want to just keep the North at bay instead of overrunning the government completely. A 2013 RAND Corporation research paper estimated the cost of unification to be upwards of $2 trillion dollars. This is not only to pay for the
This is not only to pay for the war but for food for the population and the restoration of all the infrastructure the Kim regime neglected over the past sixty-plus years. Gen. Marks believes the North and South will continue to only use short, contained attacks on each other, making a full-scale war unlikely.