US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

The United States has welcomed Japan’s planned introduction of a land-based variant of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, but there are growing calls in Washington for Tokyo to acquire strike capability to further boost deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.


American experts say the deployment of Aegis Ashore will be a significant step in strengthening Japan’s missile defense, but that even such an advanced platform is not perfect for interception, especially because North Korea is stepping up its ability to launch multiple missiles simultaneously.

“With North Korea demonstrating increasingly sophisticated missiles and threatening to sink Japan with nuclear weapons, Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe should consider making strike capability a top priority,” said Jeffrey Hornung, a Washington-based political scientist at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank.

In a meeting Nov. 6 with Abe in Tokyo, President Donald Trump underscored the “unwavering” commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan, including extended deterrence backed by the full range of US nuclear and conventional defense capabilities, according to the White House. Trump urged Abe to purchase more defense equipment from the United States.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Japan’s Prime Minister Abe (left) shakes hands with President Donald Trump during a visit Nov. 6, 2017. (Photo from White House Flickr.)

But it was not known if Abe and Trump discussed Japan’s potential adoption of strike capability, or what some refer to as “counterattack capability,” as the US envisages Tokyo acquiring the ability to undertake retaliatory strikes against an opponent’s missile facilities and supporting infrastructure, as opposed to first-strike capability.

Such capability would surely bolster security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and alliance management between the United States and Japan, a development that security experts say would be effective in deterring any kind of attack against the two countries.

Some argue the resounding victory by Abe’s ruling coalition in the Oct. 22 general election could stimulate debate in Japan about the possible pursuit of strike capability, especially as the Defense Ministry plans to draw up its next five-year plan for defense procurement and update the National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2018.

“Prime Minister Abe has the political capital and the reasoning to begin to talk more specifically about the need to prepare or consider counterattack capability,” said James Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, citing the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“I think the chance of that happening or that becoming a more high profile issue is greater now as a result of the election,” Schoff said.

Referring to the political stability in Japan after Abe’s victory, Hornung said, “Now the Abe administration can have a more long-term view about defense policies and what capabilities they want to acquire in the years ahead.”

Also Read: Here’s the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

Debate about Japan adopting strike capability gathered steam in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party following the simultaneous firing on March 6 by North Korea of four ballistic missiles — three of which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan — and Pyongyang’s announcement that the action was a drill simulating a strike on US military bases in Japan.

On Aug. 6, Abe said in a news conference that “at this point,” he was not considering acquiring such capability. North Korea, however, has continued to increase its bellicose threats and provocative acts against the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
(Photo from Rodong Sinmun.)

Pyongyang conducted intermediate-range ballistic missile launches over northern Japan into the Pacific on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15, as well as its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, with the detonation of what it said was a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Sept. 13, Pyongyang’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said, “The four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb” launched by North Korea, and that “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.” The committee issued a similar warning on Oct. 28.

With North Korea accelerating development of deliverable nuclear weapons that could reach as far as the United States, Pyongyang has suggested it could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean — a threat that prompted Japanese defense officials to speculate that a nuclear-tipped missile may fly over Japan.

Schoff and Hornung recommend that Japan pursue strike capability in “a modest form” so that it will not become too expensive. They also stress the need to make sure that such capability falls within Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, because the issue would be politically sensitive not only domestically, but to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Maj. Toru Tsuchiya (right), Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Japanese F-35A foreign liaison officer and Lt. Col. Todd Lafortune, Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin, F-35 acceptance pilot, shake hands Nov. 28 during the arrival of the first Foreign Military Sales F-35 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Schoff said the proposed measure, therefore, should not involve hardware such as long-range strategic bombers and attack aircraft carriers, but equipment like Tomahawk cruise missiles for Aegis-equipped destroyers and air-to-surface missiles that can be loaded onto new F-35 stealth fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force.

“You don’t want to spend your whole defense budget on this capability that you hopefully will never have to use,” he said.

Despite the likelihood that Seoul and Beijing would criticize Tokyo for “re-militarizing” itself with the proposed capability, Hornung said Pyongyang’s advancing military capabilities have “drastically changed the threat environment.”

“If the existing ballistic missile defense system has gaps, any means for Japan to strengthen its deterrence capabilities should be welcomed,” he said. “Japan no longer has the luxury to be complacent about its security threats.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China threatens US bombers with anti-aircraft drills

Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.

China’s drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.

Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.


China struggles with realistic training for its armed forces and has been criticized for overly scripted drills. Beijing’s lack of experience in real combat exacerbates this weakness.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
A B-52 Stratofortress

The US and Beijing frequently square off over the South China Sea, where Beijing operates in open defiance of international law after losing an arbitration against the Philippines in 2016. In late May 2018, the US military issued a stark warning to Beijing when a general reminded China that the US military has “has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China’s claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.

The flight of the B-52s, one of the US’s nuclear bombers, represented an escalation of the conflict, and came after China landed nuclear bombers of its own on the islands.

China’s coast guard and navy police the waterway and unilaterally tell its neighbors what activities they can undertake in the international waters.

The US maintains this is a threat to international order, but has struggled to reassure its regional allies that Chinese hegemony won’t win out against an overstretched US Navy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force secretary’s cry for help over a service under strain

The Air Force has over the past few years grappled with operational demands that have drained its resources and strained its personnel.


Wars in the Middle East, ongoing tensions in Europe and Asia, and budgetary issues are a few of the issues that confront a leaner Air Force.

In recent months, the service, which celebrates its 70th birthday on Monday, is looking at personnel and administrative shakeups to streamline the way it recruits, trains, and deploys.

“We are a service that is too small for what’s being asked of us,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Air Force Times at the end of August.

“We have readiness issues at home already, and if we were to have to continue next year, either on a continuing resolution that [keeps Air Force funding] flat from last year or, even worse, under a sequester … it would be devastating, and [it would take] years to recover from it,” she added.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Members of Air Force Special Operations weather teams participate in a training scenario on a CH-47 Chinook during Emerald Warrior at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on March 7, 2012. (USAF photo)

According to the Government Accountability Office, less than 50% of the Air Force’s units were at acceptable readiness levels. The highest-profile personnel issue facing the service may be its shortage of qualified pilots.

While the Air Force expanded its ranks during the 2016 fiscal year, as of April 2017 it was still short of its mandated 20,300 pilots by 1,555 — 950 of whom are believed to be fighter pilots. It also reported a shortage of 3,400 aircraft maintainers.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Wilson’s predecessor, Deborah Lee James, called the shortfall a “quiet crisis” in July 2016.

To reverse that trend and keep pilots in uniform, the service plans top boost pay and bonuses, ask retired pilots to return and bring more support staff to free fliers from administrative duties, increase the number of pilots it trains each year, and give personnel more say in their rotations.

The Air Force is also outsourcing some of its “red air” needs by bringing in outside pilots to play the role of rival aircraft. It is also converting mothballed F-16s into training aircraft for manned and unmanned exercises.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin

But pilots are not the only Air Force members who find themselves taxed by a high operational tempo.

Air Force Special Operations Command has borne the brunt of 16 years of military operations. About 1,200 AFSOC personnel are deployed to over 40 countries at any given time, AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb told Air Force Times. With only 14,461 active-duty officers and airmen in the the command, the scale of those deployments “can obviously create demands on them and their families,” Webb said.

“We have many airmen who have deployed more than a dozen times in the last 15 years. That’s a deployment rate our nation has not seen before,” Webb said, noting that his command has had to get waivers from the secretary of defense to allow more frequent deployments.

For regular airmen, demand is high as well. The pace of deployments was high in 2017 and is expect to remain the same in years to come.

“We can anticipate that the thickness of the training events and exercises that occurred in 2017 will be equally as thick in 2018, and we think those numbers of events are just about right,” Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, said on September 8.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
An Air Force Special Tactics airman surveys a remote landing strip in his offroad motorcycle. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

The more than 30,000 Air Force personnel in Europe now are enough to meet the service’s needs, Wolters said. Despite concerns about pilot shortages and the amount of downtime, he added, “We certainly have the right number of airmen in theater at this time, when you take into account the ones we rotate in on an episodic, periodic basis.”

The Air Force is also looking to fill gaps in its ranks of officers and enlisted personnel through promotions.

This month, it said 2,001 enlisted airmen had been picked for supplemental promotions, which are typically given to airmen who face extended temporary duty assignments or are deployed to work on contingency operations.

In December, the Air Force will also offer 100% promotion opportunities to officers at captain rank.

As long as they’re qualified, recommended for promotion, and have an unblemished conduct record, the promotion is assured.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician during a promotion ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California, Oct. 30, 2015. Following his promotion to senior airman minutes earlier, Stone was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant by order of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. According to Air Force Instruction 36-502, the chief of staff of the Air Force has the authority to promote any enlisted member to the next higher grade. Stone became the recipient of the rare honor following his heroic actions in August when he and two friends thwarted a potential terrorist attack on a train traveling to Paris. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

The sweeping promotion opportunity comes in response to mission demands requiring more field-grade officers, which includes majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. The Air Force is currently at 92% manning for field-grade officers and 74% manning for non-rated field-grade officers, who typically fill support roles.

“There have been no major changes to the Officer Evaluation System in nearly 30 years, but there have been significant changes to our force composition, mission, requirements and how our performance system reflects what we value in officers,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said in a release announcing the promotion opportunity.

Those promotions come as the service is also reviewing and implementing other changes meant to adjust the administrative burden faced by airmen, as well as the strain service puts on their personal life.

“We strive across the command to encourage our airmen to achieve work-life balance,” said Webb, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command. “Air commandos are proud of what we continue to accomplish alongside our joint [special operations] partners, but we also know the importance of resiliency.”

US airmen “are doing some amazing things,” Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, the Air Force’s top enlisted man, told Air Force Times. But they’re also dealing with manpower shortages, a lack of funding and resources, a high operational burden, and a plethora of extra duties, all of which has inspired frustration and stress.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Staff Sgt. Leland Hastings, 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron, monitors the Raven-B, a four-by-four foot unmanned aerial system, through a laptop computer at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., Aug. 4. The 919th SOSFS brought the UAS to demonstrate its capabilities to other security forces units involved in a large field training exercise at the camp. The Raven-B has the ability to take photos, video in day or night, and even designate locations via an IR laser. It also provides coordinates, magnetic azimuths, and linear distances creating a birds-eye view to topographical map. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

“We can’t ask the world to calm down and not be so unstable,” Wright added. “Absent that, the best thing we can do to make our force more efficient and more effective and lethal is, with some of these additional requirements that we’ve levied upon them over the years, let’s slowly take them away, right?”

Wright said the Air Force is weighing the elimination with some performance evaluations and some units have pursued programs to improve mental health and resiliency. The Air Force has lost 62 airmen to suicide this year and looks set to match the 100 suicides seen in most years.

In addition to mental-health and professional-development initiatives, Grosso said the Air Force has started a broad overhaul of its personnel information technology systems.

The service’s personnel operations run on 200 applications using 111 different systems that date to the 1990s. Streamlining those operations will ease the manner in which airmen can handle personnel issues, like problems with paychecks that roughly 5,000 airmen deal with each month.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Grosso also said the service was looking at a two- to three-year overhaul of its performance management and evaluation systems.

“We’re not trying to speed through this,” Grosso told Air Force Times this month. “We need to get this right.”

The operational demands the Air Force faces look unlikely to ease in the near future. Despite a series of victories against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, partner forces there will need support going forward.

That, coupled with the potential expansion of Air Force duties in Afghanistan, will come as the US military faces heightened tensions in Eastern Europe and northwest Asia.

“Owning the ultimate high ground is continually going to be important as we go forward,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense News.

“Air superiority is not an American birth right. It’s actually something we have to plan for, train for, fight for and win,” he added. “I see it as nothing short of a moral obligation that when any soldier or airman hears a jet noise overhead, they don’t look up. They know it’s us.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA will fight flu, addiction, and poison on a genetic level

Protection against many common pathogens and environmental stressors is written into our DNA. Our skin responds to sun exposure. Our immune system mounts defenses when we get the flu. Our bodies inherently work to mitigate the potential for harm caused by these health threats. However, these intrinsic responses are not always quick, robust, or appropriate enough to adequately defend us from harm, which is why many people experience sunburn after intense sun exposure or suffer severe symptoms, even death, following exposure to the flu.


Military service members, first responders, and civilian populations face threats far more severe than sunburn and respiratory infections. Pathogens with pandemic potential, toxic chemicals, and radioactive materials can all quickly and powerfully overwhelm the body’s innate defenses. And though significant public and private investment has been focused on the development of traditional medical countermeasures such as drugs, vaccines, and biologics to guard against the worst effects of these health threats, current countermeasures are often limited in their effectiveness and availability during emergencies.

DARPA is looking to make gains beyond the status quo. Inspired by recent advances in understanding of when and how genes express their traits, DARPA’s new PReemptive Expression of Protective Alleles and Response Elements (PREPARE) program will explore ways to better protect against biological, chemical, or radiological threats by temporarily and reversibly tuning gene expression to bolster the body’s defenses against – or directly neutralize – a given threat.

“The human body is amazingly resilient. Every one of our cells already contains genes that encode for some level of resistance to specific health threats, but those built-in defenses can’t always express quickly or robustly enough to be effective,” said Renee Wegrzyn, the PREPARE program manager. “PREPARE will study how to support this innate resistance by giving it a temporary boost, either before or after exposure, without any permanent edits to the genome.”

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

The program will focus on four key health challenges as proofs of concept for what DARPA ultimately envisions as a generalizable platform that can be rapidly adapted to emerging public health and national security threats: influenza viral infection, opioid overdose, organophosphate poisoning, and exposure to gamma radiation.

“Each of these four threats are major health concerns that would benefit from disruptive approaches,” Wegrzyn said. “Seasonal flu vaccines, for example, are limited in that they try to hit a perpetually moving target, so circulating flu strains are often mismatched to vaccine strains. Programmable modulation of common viral genome sequences could potentially neutralize many more circulating viral strains simultaneously to keep up with moving targets. Combining this strategy with a temporary boost to host protection genes could change how we think about anti-virals.”

PREPARE requires that any treatments developed under the program have only temporary and reversible effects. In so doing, PREPARE diverges sharply from recent gene-editing research, which has centered on permanently modifying the genome by cutting DNA and inserting new genes or changing the underlying sequence to change the genetic code. Such approaches may cause long-lasting, off-target effects, and though the tools are improving, the balance of risk versus benefit means that these therapies are reserved for individuals with inherited genetic disorders with few to no other treatment options. In addition, some indications, including treatment of pain, may only require temporary solutions, rather than life-long responses.

The envisioned PREPARE technologies would provide an alternative that preserves the genetic code exactly as it is and only temporarily modulates gene activity via the epigenome and transcriptome, which are the cellular messages that carry out DNA’s genetic instructions inside cells. This would establish the capability to deliver programmable, but transient, gene modulators to confer protection within brief windows of time for meaningful intervention.

“Focusing only on programmable modulation of gene expression enables us to provide specific, robust protection against many threats at once, with an effect that carries less risk, is limited but tunable in duration, and is entirely reversible,” Wegrzyn said.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
A section of DNA

Success will hinge on developing new tools for targeted modulation of gene expression inside the body. Researchers must identify the specific gene targets that can confer protection, develop in vivo technologies for programmable modulation of those gene targets, and formulate cell- or tissue-specific delivery mechanisms to direct programmable gene modulators to the appropriate places in the body. Although the immediate program goal is to develop defenses against one of the four focus areas determined by DARPA, the ultimate objective of PREPARE is to develop a modular, threat-agnostic platform solution with common components and manufacturing architecture that can be readily adapted to diverse and emerging threats.

Research will be conducted primarily using computer, cell culture, organoid, and animal models to establish proof of concept. However, DARPA’s vision is to generate new medical countermeasures for future use in humans. As such, DARPA is working with independent bioethicists to identify and address potential ethical, legal, and societal issues.

By the end of the four-year program, DARPA aims for each funded team to submit at least one final product to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory review as an Investigational New Drug or for Emergency Use Authorization. Throughout the program, teams will be required to work closely with the FDA to ensure that the data generated and experimental protocols meet regulatory standards.

DARPA will hold a Proposers Day on June 13, 2018, in Arlington, Va., to provide more information about PREPARE and answer questions from potential proposers. For additional information, visit: https://fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-18-45/listing.html. Advance registration is required; please visit: https://events.sa-meetings.com/PREPAREProposersDay. A full description of the program will be made available in a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Army paratroopers jump from a perfectly good Chinook

Helicopters have long been valuable to the military for a bevy of reasons — perhaps most importantly because they expand where you can put troops down. For these versatile aircraft, landing zones can be just about any clearing that a helicopter can fit.

Sometimes, however, the best option may not be to land the helicopter at all. Why? For one thing, when a helicopter is touching down to drop off troops, it’s vulnerable. As it hovers in place, it is, for all intents and purposes, a sitting duck. So, when it’s time to put boots on the ground, a bird is sometimes better off delivering paratroopers.


The CH-47 Chinook is a very good fit for that mission. Boeing notes that this helicopter has a mission radius of 200 nautical miles, far enough to get some Rangers or Green Berets well behind enemy lines. A single helicopter can hold up to 55 troops (or 12 tons of cargo). And, to top it all off, its rear ramp is similar to those on the C-130 and C-17, both planes used by paratroopers

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with British, French, Spanish and Italian Paratroopers, board a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade CH-47 Chinook helicopter for an airborne operation at Juliet Drop Zone in Pordenone, Aviano, Italy.

(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)

One reason this is so valuable is that America has a lot of Chinooks. Between CH-47D/F and MH-47G helicopters, the United States Army has 483 Chinooks on hand with another 40 on order, making for a grand total of 523 airframes. By comparison, the United States Air Force has a total of 204 C-130H and 115 C-130J airframes on hand, with another 62 C-130Js on order. These accompany 60 MC-130H/Js on hand with another 43 on order. That’s a total of 484 C-130s.

For those unfamiliar with the whole “math” thing, 523 is greater than 484.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

From a C-130? No, these paratroopers came from a Chinook.

(U.S Army photo by Graigg Faggionato)

But how does one make a successful jump from a Chinook? Well, it’s actually not much different than jumping from a fixed-wing plane. Normal paratroopers will hook up a static line that will automatically open their parachutes. Free-fall parachutists can just run out the back ramp (again, just as you would from a fixed-wing plane).

Watch the video to below to see troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade carry out some practice jumps from a Chinook!

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10 Warthog drops bombs on Florida after hitting a bird

A US Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II out of Moody Air Force Base in Georgia accidentally dropped training bombs on Florida after hitting a bird, the 23rd Wing Public Affairs Office said in a statement.

The Moody attack aircraft assigned to the 23d Fighter Group “suffered a bird strike which caused an inadvertent release of three BDU-33s,” 25-pound nonexplosive training munitions used to simulate the 500-pound M1a-82 bombs, the statement said.


The dummy munitions fell somewhere off Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs in northern Florida. The Air Force is apparently still looking for the bombs. The service has instructed anyone who comes across them to keep their distance, explaining that while the weapons are inert, they do have a small pyrotechnic charge that could be dangerous.

There were no reports of damage or injuries, and the incident is under investigation.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

A BDU-33 training munition.

(U.S. Air Force)

Birds are a serious problem for the US military, as they cause millions of dollars in damage a year. Since 1995, the Air Force has suffered more than 105,000 bird strikes that have cost the service more than 0 million.

This is not just an Air Force problem. Every branch of the armed forces has had run-ins with birds. In May, a bird reportedly banged up an F-35 stealth fighter to the tune of at least million.

Bird strikes have cost the military more than money, too.

From 1985 to 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base, a bomber base where the Air Force has deployed bird cannons to keep geese at bay.

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

Articles

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

The U.S. Air Force released test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III missile Feb. 25 in order to test the reliability of the Cold War-era, nuclear-capable weapons. The Minuteman III is an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.


“This is the second ICBM launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the past 5 days and while it may seem routine, a tremendous amount of effort is required to safely assess the current performance and validate the security of the nation’s fielded ICBM force,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander. “Our teams are made of dedicated Airmen who make a difference for the Air Force and the nation and I am proud to be a part of this team.”

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
A Minuteman III missile streaks across the sky in a 2013 test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The tested missile flew 4,000 miles over the Pacific to a test area in the Marshall Islands which opened up speculation that the missile test may have been a reminder to North Korea that the U.S. can hit it at any time. North Korea recently launched a failed satellite that some say was a camouflaged test of its own ballistic missiles and a threat to the U.S.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
A rocket lifts off from its launch pad in Musudan-ri, North Korea (DPRK State Media)

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the test was necessary to remind rival nations that the aging U.S. nuclear missiles are still very capable, but he didn’t mention North Korea.

“We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable,” he told journalists at the launch. “And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Photo: US Air Force via Wikipedia

Each Minuteman III missile can carry up to three nuclear warheads which each strike different targets. Each warhead packs a 300-500 kiloton yield, about 20-33 times the strength of the bomb that struck Hiroshima. The missile tested Feb. 25 carried a test version of the re-entry vehicles which steer nuclear warheads.

The Air Force has had to reduce its number of ICBMs to meet the requirements of the New START treaty which caps the number at 400 armed missiles and 50 unarmed reserves. The Minuteman III missile is the only U.S. land-based ICBM currently in service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to defer mandatory military service in Korea: Hit #1 on US Music Charts

BTS became the first Korean music act to have a #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when the English-language single “Dynamite” topped the charts in August. They achieved another milestone this week with “Life Goes On,” their second #1 hit and the first record sung mostly in Korean to top the American charts.

And yet, a dark cloud loomed on the horizon. All males in South Korea are required to enlist in the military and complete either 18 months (Army or Marine Corps), 20 months (Navy) or 21 months (Air Force) service. They can complete their obligation anytime after they turn 18 but must start by the time they turn 28.

BTS is so hot right now, bigger than the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC added together at their peak. They’re undisputedly the most successful Korean music group of all time. Not only does their music sell, they’re generating millions of dollars in sales of BTS-branded shirts, hats, posters, card games, pillows, mugs, dolls, phone accessories, puzzles, tote bags, candles and other merchandise too numerous to list here.

Jin (first names only, please) is the group’s oldest member at age 27 and he’s turning 28 on December 4, so the singer was faced with having to leave the group at the height of their international popularity to complete his military service. Fellow group member Suga will also turn 28 on March 9, 2021 so the crisis was real for the seven-member group.

The South Korean parliament wanted to take action but had a tight needle to thread here. How could they keep the country’s #1 cultural export going while not appearing to cater to the decadent lifestyles of international popstars?

Their solution was to pass a law that allows entertainers who have received a government medal for global cultural impact to defer their service for an extra two years until age 30. That gives Jin 730 more days to pursue his career before duty calls.

Jin has long acknowledged his commitment to service. In 2019, he told an interviewer, “As a Korean, it’s natural. And some day, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.”

BTS (also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates to English as Bulletproof Boy Scouts) has one of the most devoted fan bases in music history, rivaling the devotion that the Beatles or Michael Jackson inspired at their peaks.

Those fans may not be too happy about the compromise, since athletes like soccer player Son Heung-min (now playing in the English Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur) and more than a few classical musicians have been exempted altogether from service for their contributions to South Korea’s image around the world.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes
Elvis Presley in Germany (Wikipedia)

Maybe BTS can keep the hot streak going and the government will grant a new waiver in two years. Or maybe Jin and Suga will complete their service and return triumphantly to their careers just like U.S. Army veteran Elvis Presley did back in 1960.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military identifies 2 sets of Korean War remains from July

The US has successfully identified two American service members from among the remains North Korea returned in July 2018 as part of the agreement signed by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

“We will notify the family first,” John Byrd, the director of scientific analysis at the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency explained to Reuters Sept. 10, 2018. The two US service members, who were identified through DNA analysis and historical documents, are believed to have died in late 1950 in an area near the Chongchon River, where US forces suffered heavy losses during the Korean War.


The fight where the two service members likely died was characterized as a “huge battle,” as an estimated 1,700 missing US troops are suspected to have fallen there.

“One of the reasons that we were able to identify them so quickly [was because their remains] were more complete than usual so it gave us more to look at and narrow down the identity with,” Byrd told The Wall Street Journal. One of the deceased is presumed to be African-American.

The condition of some of the remains is decidedly better than that of others.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

The honor guard assigned to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command move a flag-draped case from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

Researchers and analysts at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii have so far sampled 23 of the 55 sets of remains returned in late July 2018. The US military estimates that more than 7,000 US troops who lost their lives during the Korean War remain unaccounted for. The US is still in talks with North Korea on the return of additional sets of remains of US war dead.

A United Nations Command delegation led by US Air Force Major General Michael Minihan met with North Korean officials at Panmunjom Friday to discuss “military-to-military efforts to support any potential future return of remains,” AFP reported Sept. 11, 2018.

The return of the remains is probably the most visible and concrete achievements of the president’s summit with the North Korean leader, as denuclearization talks appear to be at an impasse. Despite setbacks in the nuclear negotiations, North Korea has maintained its moratorium on weapons testing, has toned down its rhetoric, and attempted to downplay the threatening nature of its arsenal, as was evidenced by its decision not to feature ICBMs in its most recent military parade.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

What we know about the B-2 emergency landing in Colorado

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made an emergency landing on Oct. 23, 2018, at the Colorado Springs Airport following an unspecified inflight incident.

A number of local photographers have posted photos of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac at the joint use civilian/military airport located about 12 miles from downtown Colorado Springs.

An Air Force statement from Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, 509th Bomb Wing commander, read, “Our aviators are extremely skilled; they’re trained to handle a wide variety of in-flight emergencies in one of the world’s most advanced aircraft and they perfectly demonstrated that today.”


Numerous media outlets and local news reports have said the two crew memberson board the aircraft were not injured in the incident.

The incident is unusual since there are only 18 known B-2s currently in operation with one additional aircraft allocated for dedicated testing purposes (and one crashed 10 years ago). The 18 operational aircraft are flown by the historic U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

The unit is descended from the 509th Composite Group, the only aviation unit in the world to operationally employ nuclear weapons in combat using B-29 Superfortresses during the 1945 airstrikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flies overhead after returning from a local training mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

The 509th Bomb Wing and its Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit are critical U.S. strategic strike assets. The loss of one aircraft, even if temporary, reduces the global precision low-observable strike capability by 5.5%. Because the aircraft have previously initiated ultra-long range strikes directly from their home base at Whiteman AFB, this reduction in capability is noteworthy.

Social media posts on Facebook shared parts of what is claimed to be radio communications from local air traffic control facilities during the incident. In the recordings, the controller is heard saying, “There is another issue with the aircraft coming in, they are unable to change radio frequencies”. The same tape also says the local fire department at the airport was called.

The B-2 was initially directed to runway 17L but actually landed on runway 35R, a runway at 6,134 feet of elevation that is 13,500 feet long, the longest runway available at Colorado Springs Airport.


B-2 Stealth Bomber emergency landing in Colorado Springs

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The tower controller in the audio relays that, “I’m just relaying through Denver Center, all of the information, but as far as I now it is just the number 4 engine out”. Tower control finally says that he is unable to talk to the aircraft and is going to use a light gun to signal the aircraft, “But I am unable to talk to them. I’m just going to give them the light gun.” What appears to be an additional controller in the communications says, “No, they were unable to switch radio [frequencies] to me. I could only give them the light gun.”

Emergency response team on scene provided the pilot with oxygen, according to the reports but the reason for administering oxygen is unclear and subject to speculations.

On the other side, analysis of the (unusual) back shots of the aircraft: the U.S. Air Force usually prevents shorts at the rear of the aircraft.

“Photos taken of the B-2 on the ramp in Colorado show the aircraft’s auxiliary air inlet doors open on the left side and closed on the right. This is unusual. We don’t know if the right-side inlet doors were stuck closed during landing — they are open during terminal phases of flight — or if the left side failed to close upon shutting down,” Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone noticed.

As of Oct. 24, 2018, plane spotters in the area have since reported the B-2 is “gone”. The aircraft was not seen departing the airport so it is probable it has been moved discreetly to an indoor hangar.

On Feb. 26, 2010, a somehow similar incident occurred with a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber forward deployed in Guam. The aircraft aborted a takeoff with an engine fire. The official USAF spokesperson for the incident at the time, then- Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, characterized the incident as “minor”. A subsequent report published on Jan. 6, 2014, in “War Is Boring” by writer David Axe went on to reveal the B-2 involved in that incident received more than minor damage. It took over two years to return the aircraft to operational flying condition.

Each of the B-2 spirit fleet aircraft has a name designated by state. In the case of the Feb. 26, 2010 incident, the aircraft involved was the “Spirit of Washington”, aircraft number 88-0332. The photos from Oct. 24, 2018’s incident may show aircraft number 89-0128, the “Spirit of Nebraska” being involved in Oct. 23, 2018’s emergency landing.

The future of the small and crucial B-2 fleet will certainly be influenced by the ability to maintain existing aircraft and repair any aircraft damaged in normal operations.

As the B-2 fleet continues to age and remain exposed to normal operational attrition the new, secretive B-21 Raider is expected to assume the low-observable strategic strike mission as it comes on line as early as 2025. Basing options for the B-21 Raider were announced earlier this year and could include Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives ” to base the new B-21 bomber. These facilities already host strategic bomber assets including the B-1B Lancer long-range, supersonic heavy bomber.

The B-1B is also expected to be phased out in conjunction with the introduction and operational integration of the B-21 Raider. The plans for the B-21 Raider fleet include significantly more aircraft than the operational B-2 Spirit program with some estimates suggesting as many as “100-200” B-21 Raiders could be built. The unit cost of the B-21 could be half the single aircraft cost of the B-2 partially because the B-21 Raider will share the Pratt Whitney F135 engine with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s military aviation is quickly getting stronger

China continues to emerge as the most dynamic region for defense program development and introductions among the superpowers. In October 2018, photos of their aircraft carrier development and preparations for ongoing sea trials have surfaced; their advanced interceptor claiming to have low-observable capability has reemerged with a new camouflage scheme in an operational unit; they have flown a new long range flying boat amphibious aircraft and shown a new armed, long range remotely piloted aircraft. There are even frequent reports (some of those have been denied already) of a new low-observable strategic heavy bomber ahead of the U.S. unveiling of their new B-21 Raider long range stealth bomber.

All of this new development continues the conversation about China expanding military ambitions beyond their borders in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and even South and Central America. These ambitions add to their ongoing power projection in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.


Perhaps the most significant development is the potential return to a strategic nuclear role for the PLAAF, China’s air force. China’s air delivered nuclear capability has reportedly advanced recently after it was abandoned in the 1980s when China only had air delivered nuclear gravity bombs.

In a Sept. 6, 2018 feature on TheDiplomat.com, analysts Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran reported that, “The PLAAF once again has a nuclear mission, although we don’t know what that is”. The analysts suggested that an air launched ballistic missile may be an emerging technology China is developing. The missile, thought to be a new version of the CJ-20K long range cruise missile, currently has the capability to strike targets at a range of 1,080 nautical miles (2,000 kilometers) with a conventional warhead after being launched from China’s legacy Xian H-6K heavy bomber.

For the first time ever in early May 2018, the PLAAF flew Xian H-6K heavy bombers to the disputed Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago. The Paracel archipelago, also called “Xisha” by the Chinese, is a disputed chain of low-lying islands in the South China Sea. Although China has maintained a military presence there since 1974 when they forcibly evicted Vietnam, the Taiwanese and Vietnamese both still lay claim to the islands. A Pentagon statement from U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the May landing of Chinese heavy bombers in the island chain is evidence of “China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=662hEb84goE
China’s Navy Deploys New H 6J Anti Ship Cruise Missile Carrying Bombers

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The 2018 edition of China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, will take place from Nov. 6-11, 2018. Photographers already at the show venue have shared a feast of interesting images in social media including photos of the Chengdu J-20A “Mighty Dragon” in a completely new operational camouflage scheme.

The Chengdu J-20As seen at the show are claimed “fifth generation” twin engine, single seat air superiority fighters with a distinctive canard, delta wing and twin tail configuration. They are reported to be operated by the172th Brigade based at the FTTB (Airbase) at Cangzhou according to expert analyst Andreas Rupprecht who maintains the Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook and publishes a series of authoritative reference guides about Chinese military aircraft (and many others) through Harpia Publishing.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

Several J-20A Mighty Dragons arrived ahead of the Zhuhai Airshow with brand new paint schemes.

(Hunter Chen Photos via Twitter and Facebook)

Rupprecht noted that two of the J-20A aircraft wore serial numbers 78231 and 78232. He also pointed out that the aircraft previously had an angular “splinter” style camouflage scheme but now have a new, rounded pattern camouflage livery.

In conjunction with the timing of the Zhuhai Airshow, Rupprecht’s Harpia Publishing has just released their latest reference book, “Modern Chinese Warplanes: Chinese Air Force – Aircraft and Units”.

Other unique aircraft photographed arriving at Zhuhai for the 2018 China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition include a unique J-10B prototype aircraft number ‘1034’ modified to with a special thrust vectoring engine nozzle. The modification is likely a test version according the Andreas Rupprecht that has been retrofitted onto the existing WS-10 jet engine.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

A unique new version of the J-10B with thrust vectoring arrived at Zhuhai Airshow early this week.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

China’s naval aviation program also arcs forward into a rapidly developing and ambitious future with their aircraft carriers. On Oct. 28, 2018, the new, unnamed Type 002 aircraft carrier sailed away from its construction and maintenance facility at Dalian, China for its third sea trial. Andreas Rupprecht observed on his Modern Chinese Warplanes page on Facebook (Author’s note: this page is worth “Liking”) that the ship’s flight deck had been cleaned and possibly prepared for flight deck trials during this current shakedown cruise.

Of equal interest is a photo that surfaced on Google Earth that is only a few weeks old, taken on Sept. 22, 2018, showing the two Chinese aircraft carriers sitting side-by-side in their maintenance and construction yard in Dalian. Dalian is a modern, rapidly growing port city on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

Two Chinese carriers in the Dalian Shipyard.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Video of the new AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat making its first ever waterborne take-off and landing were posted to YouTube on Oct. 20, 2018. The impressive four-engine turboprop aircraft is intended for the long range maritime patrol, reconnaissance, search and rescue mission. It is said to be capable of operating in sea state 3 conditions, or waves as high as 6.6-feet (2 meters). With its projected range of 2,796 miles (4,500 km), the AG600 flying boat can reach the contested islands in the outlying regions of China’s sea.

Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water

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In addition to global power projection in their own interests, an aim of China’s emerging new military aviation push is the export market. In early October 2018, the sale of 48 new Wing Loong II armed, remotely piloted aircraft to Pakistan was announced.

According to analyst Shaurya Karanbir Gurung of India’s Economic Times in a story published on Oct. 10, 2018, “The Wing Loong II is an improved version of the Wing Loong 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Falling in the category of Medium Altitude Long Endurance, it is manufactured by the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. The UAV has been developed primarily for People’s Liberation Army Air Force and export. The concept of the Wing Loong II was unveiled at the Aviation Expo China in Beijing in September 2015.”

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All About Wing Loong II: Pakistan’s New Drone From China | Urdu | Hindi |

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And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, news about an entirely new, long range low observable Chinese heavy bomber has surfaced. According to some reports, the program is claimed to be significantly advanced in its development. The Hong-20 is tipped as China’s new long-range strategic stealth bomber. Official Chinese media has released concept images of the aircraft after teasing shapes earlier in the year in what appeared to be a direct parody of a video touting the upcoming U.S. bomber, the B-21 Raider.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

A rendering of what China claims is the new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Modern Chinese Warplanes on Facebook photos)

Defense World.net reported that, “The Hong-20 official unveiling could be slated for next month’s Zhuhai Air show though there is no confirmation of it as yet.” The report went on to reveal that Russian media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta claimed the Hong-20 bomber has been under development at the Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute in China since 2008.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

Conceptual artwork from earlier this year of new Hong-20 low-observable long range bomber.

(Andreas Rupprecht/Rupprecht_A on Twitter)

Many casual observers of China’s defense and aviation programs have been cynical of China’s ability to produce truly advanced high-end, reliable new military technologies that may compete with western technology. Because of lingering dogma about China’s mass manufacturing being comprised largely of knock-offs from western technology mimicked quickly at lower cost and lower quality by legions of near-slave laborers, this mistaken stereotype has lingered. Anyone who has visited China recently knows this country has vaulted into a new era of economic, technological and now, military development. Given that China is the country that invented gunpowder and revolutionized warfare, any country that underestimates China’s new capabilities does so at their own peril.

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

Articles

112-year-old veteran and his secrets to life will make you smile

When Richard Overton fought at Pearl Harbor, he was already 35 years old. But the Army veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II is still alive and, as America’s oldest known living veteran at 112 years old, has a lot of wisdom to share.


He still lives on his own, walking around his home and driving when he needs to. He even downs whiskey, smokes cigars “the healthy way,” and takes his lady friend out on a regular basis.

Watch the video below to get some life lessons from Overton. The documentary was filmed when he was 109 years old (his birthday is May 11th):

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

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

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