Secuirty, AsiaMore than twenty years ago, a military confrontation in East Asia pushed the United States and China uncomfortably close to conflict. Largely unknown in America, the event made a lasting impression on China, especially Chinese military planners.
The People’s Liberation Army, unable to do anything about the American aircraft carriers, was utterly humiliated.
More than twenty years ago, a military confrontation in East Asia pushed the United States and China uncomfortably close to conflict. Largely unknown in America, the event made a lasting impression on China, especially Chinese military planners. The Third Taiwan Crisis, as historians call it, was China’s introduction to the power and flexibility of the aircraft carrier, something it obsesses about to this day.
The crisis began in 1995. Taiwan’s first-ever democratic elections for president were set for 1996, a major event that Beijing naturally opposed. The sitting president, Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang party, was invited to the United States to speak at his alma mater, Cornell University. Lee was already disliked by Beijing for his emphasis on “Taiwanization,” which favored home rule and established a separate Taiwanese identity away from mainland China. Now he was being asked to speak at Cornell on Taiwan’s democratization, and Beijing was furious.
Recommended: 5 Places World War III Could Start in 2018
Recommended: How North Korea Could Start a WarRead full article
Security,The U.S. Air Force’s original plan was for the F-22 to be its high-end air superiority fighter while the F-35 was designed to be primarily an air-to-ground strike aircraft, but one which could defend itself.
Key point: The answer is that the F-35 cannot match the F-22 as an air superiority fighter—it was never designed as such.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—which is built in three versions—recently completed its developmental test phase and is operational with the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy will soon join the ranks of JSF operators with the F-35C carrier variant, which is scheduled to become operational later this year or early 2019.
(This first appeared last year.)
The Navy—which refused to accept anything other than the final Block 3F configuration—is the last of the three services to adopt the aircraft, which the Marines adopted first in 2015 with the F-35B jump-jet variant. Meanwhile, for the Air Force, the F-35A conventional takeoff version is rapidly becoming its mainstay fighter. Indeed, with the production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor having been terminated at 187 aircraft and the Air Force seriously considering the retiring its Boeing F-15C Eagle fleet, the JSF might be pressed into the air superiority role. But how does the F-35 stack up against the F-22 as a fighter?
Recommended: The Fatal Flaw That Could Take Down an F-22 or F-35.Read full article
Security, AsiaThere was no good reason for the recent high seas incident between Seoul and Tokyo.
On December 20, 2018, following instructions from the government of the Republic of Korea, the Korean Coast Guard (KCG) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) went to the aid of a North Korean fishing vessel in distress in the East Sea (also known as the Sea of Japan). Aboard the vessel were four fishermen, one of whom had already perished.
The seas surrounding the Korean Peninsula is a very sensitive area where Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) overlap and maritime boundaries have yet to be agreed, resulting in confusion between national jurisdictions. This lack of clarity especially affects fishing activities.
The joint Search and Rescue (SAR) operation carried out by the ROKN and the KCG was in an area that Japan claims as its EEZ. The area is also a joint fishing zone that is shared by Japan and South Korea. The crew of the North Korean fishing vessel was successfully rescued by the KCG vessel Sambong (KCG 5001) with support from the ROKN KDX-1 class destroyer, Gwanggaeto the Great (DDG 971), and they were subsequently repatriated to North Korea through Panmunjom on December 22.
Also, on December 22, the Japanese government lodged a formal protest with the Republic of Korea (ROK) government, claiming that the DDG 971 had projected its STIR-180 tracking radar onto a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) P-1 maritime surveillance aircraft operating in the vicinity of the SAR operation.
There have been claims and counter-claims made since by the two sides, including a video released on December 28 in which the crew of the P-1 claimed to have received a radar warning alarm on their aircraft and to have had voice communication with ROKS DDG 971 through channel 12, the international communication system used in the high seas. Japan claims that a radar-lock targeted the P-1 and that this constitutes a hostile act. However, the ROK denies that a lock was obtained, and accuses the P-1 of flying dangerously low, within 150 meters of DDG 971.
A clear distinction should be made between maritime SAR operations and actual naval warfare in sensitive maritime domains.Read full article
Dalia Dassa Kaye
Security, Middle EastThe best way to marginalize and weaken Hezbollah is to help Lebanon succeed as a state, not to reduce Lebanon into a proxy front in a confrontation with Iran.
As tensions increase on the Israeli-Lebanese border following the discovery of Hezbollah-built tunnels last month and with President Donald Trump announcing a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, the possibility is growing that a confrontation with Iran may move from Syria to Lebanon. Lebanon is increasingly viewed within the prism of containing Iranian influence, mainly as an arena to pushback on Iran’s key nonstate ally Hezbollah. Countering Iran and Hezbollah is sure to be a key theme in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming visit to the region. But turning Lebanon into a new front against Iran would be a mistake.
Instead, American policymakers would be wise to engage Lebanon on its own terms. That is, as an important American partner and a rare example of a Middle East country with religious coexistence and a functioning democracy, albeit with the flaws and deadlocks inherent in a confessional political system. Yes, Hezbollah is a destabilizing influence within Lebanon and the region, but the best way to marginalize and weaken Hezbollah may be to help Lebanon succeed as a state, not to reduce Lebanon into a proxy front in a confrontation with Iran.Read full article
Varsha Koduvayur, David May
Security, Middle EastThis year saw a slew of activity from the Gulf states embracing Israel. What could 2019 have in store, particularly if the long-awaited Trump peace plan is released?
The trickle of outreach between Israel and the Arab Gulf states became a torrent in 2018. While an open partnership remains elusive, the unprecedented volume of activity bodes well for what 2019 could hold in store.
The biggest and most overt display of Israeli-Arab rapprochement came with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman in October, where he met Sultan Qaboos. Though former Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres made trips to Oman in the 1990s, this trip was much more visible and the first official visit since the Second Intifada. Soon after Bibi’s visit, Israel’s transportation minister arrived in the sultanate to speak at a conference.
Oman is not alone in warming up to Israel. In a significant move, Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa publicly backed Israel’s right to defend itself from Iran and its proxies, a call he reiterated when Israel discovered Hezbollah tunnels under its northern border in December. Recently, he supported Australia’s decision to recognize western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Elsewhere in the Gulf, the UAE reportedly hosted Israel’s chief of staff twice in late 2018, soon after the country hosted Israeli judokas and Israel’s minister of sports and culture—the first official state visit to the federation by an Israeli minister. Echoing the theme of firsts, the UAE became the first Arab country to play Israel’s national anthem at a sporting event.Read full article
Security, AsiaOr compete with.
“In July 2010, three SSGNs surfaced nearly simultaneously in Western Pacific and Indian Ocean waters, allegedly to signal U.S. displeasure over Chinese missile tests in the East China Sea.”
Nuclear powers rarely go to war with each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t threaten to do so.
Indeed, military posturing is an integral part of what Forrest Morgan, an analyst for the RAND Corporation, called “crisis stability.” In other words, “building and posturing forces in ways that allow a state, if confronted, to avoid war without backing down.”
(This first appeared several years ago.)
Long-range heavy bombers are some of the best forces for crisis stability, Morgan wrote in a 2013 study for the U.S. Air Force. Bombers are powerful, mobile and visible — perfect for signalling strength and intent.
On the other hand, the U.S. Navy’s submarine-launched cruise missiles are less effective — even counterproductive — for crisis stability … because they’re invisible most of the time.
“SLCMs could contribute to the instability,” Morgan wrote. “[T]he opponent’s anxieties might be magnified by the ability of SSGNs [cruise missile subs] to posture in stealth nearby.”
But Morgan pointed out one instance when the Navy’s Ohio-class SSGNs actually did help stabilize a crisis back in 2010 — a feat mostly lost to history.Read full article
Ted Galen Carpenter
Security, Middle EastThe naïve assumption of interventionists that U.S.-orchestrated forcible regime change would usher in new, democratic political systems was evident in Iraq, Libya and Syria.
The hostile reaction among most members of Washington’s political and media elites to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria involves several factors. One is simply a knee-jerk (largely partisan) rejection of any policy Trump proposes on any issue, foreign or domestic. Another is policy inertia that makes it difficult to dislodge a military commitment once undertaken. The United States still has military forces in such places as Germany, Japan and South Korea decades after the original rationales disappeared. Such inertia also helps account for the resistance to Trump’s planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Still another element in the case of Syria policy is the lobbying effort by foreign powers (primarily Israel and Saudi Arabia) determined to keep the United States heavily engaged in the Middle East.
There is one other reason for the entrenched resistance to ending the Syria mission: a reluctance to acknowledge the failure of any high-profile U.S. foreign-policy venture, regardless of the accumulating evidence. That unhealthy attitude goes back at least as far as the Vietnam War. The survival (and increasingly likely victory) of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is a graphic reminder that Washington’s strategy of forcibly ousting targeted secular dictators in the greater Middle East (what George W. Bush described as America’s “freedom agenda”) has been a fiasco. The architects of and cheerleaders for Washington’s regime change crusades stubbornly resist acknowledging how badly their cherished policy has flopped. In all three cases, though, it is clear that U.S. policy made already bad situations much worse.
The naïve assumption of interventionists that U.S.-orchestrated forcible regime change would usher in new, democratic political systems was evident in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Washington’s support for Iraqi dissident Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress suggested that U.S. objectives went beyond countering the threat of Saddam Hussein’s phantom weapons of mass destruction.Read full article
Security,“It’s about a network and that’s what gives us an asymmetrical advantage, so that why when I hear about an F-35 versus a J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant question.”
One area that the Chinese are almost certainly lacking is what Air Combat Command commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle once described to me as “spike management.” Fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35 have cockpit displays that indicate to the pilot the various angles and ranges from which their aircraft can be detected and tracked by various enemy radars.
“When we apply fifth-generation technology, it’s no longer about a platform, it’s about a family of systems,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters at the Pentagon on Aug. 10. “It’s about a network and that’s what gives us an asymmetrical advantage, so that why when I hear about an F-35 versus a J-20, it’s almost an irrelevant question.”
(This first appeared last year.)
Indeed, as Goldfein noted, the Air Force will likely to continue its focus on a family of systems approach where networking and the sharing of data are key instead of fixating on the performance of individual platforms. A direct comparison of the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the J-20—in Goldfein’s view—would harken back to the his days of flying the Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter—which was almost entirely cut off from outside contact when buttoned down to penetrate enemy airspace. “You’ll see us focusing far more on the family of systems and how we connect them together and far less on individual platforms,” Goldfein said.
While Goldfein used the Nighthawk as a comparison—he probably did not intend to suggest that the J-20’s systems are quite as basic as the 1980s-era F-117. While accurate information about the J-20 is scarce, there are indications that the Chinese aircraft is equipped with a phased array radar, a robust electronic warfare systems and an electro-optical/infrared sensor that is similar in concept to the F-35’s systems. However, while it is possible that the Chinese aircraft might have decent sensors—Air Force officials have suggested that the J-20 lacks the “sensor fusion” and networking to be as effective as the F-22 or F-35.Read full article
Security,Is that a problem?
Purchasing such a non-stealthy fighter would be a huge departure for the U.S. Air Force. Since 2002, the USAF has only bought fifth-generation fighters. This has made some observers skeptical of the idea that the U.S. Air Force is interested in such a plane.
Boeing is considering producing a new advanced version of its F-15 Eagle for the U.S. Air Force, according to various news reports.
Defense One was the first to report the news. On July 16, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber revealed that Boeing is “quietly pitching the U.S. Air Force” on the new F-15X model. Weisgerber noted that the company appeared to be trying to replicate the strategy it used to convince the Trump administration to purchase more F/A-18s.
(This first appeared last August.)
The Defense One report only had a few details about the ways in which the F-15X would differ from earlier models of the airplane.
“Dubbed the F-15X, the new variant of the venerable jet offers more modern flight controls, cockpit displays, and radar,” Weisgerber wrote, citing military and industry sources. He added that it would also pack more firepower, including two dozen air-to-air missiles.
On July 25, The Drive’s Tyler Rogoway provided a more detailed follow up about the proposed new jet. According to Rogoway’s sources, the idea for the more advanced F-15 did not originate from Boeing.
Instead, a year and a half ago the U.S. Air Force approached both Boeing and Lockheed Martin about fielding a new cost-effective aircraft to help reverse the shrinking size of the Air Force’s fleet.
The Air Force wanted a plane that was “cost-effective both in terms of operation and acquisition, very low-risk, and most of all, it would need to be non-disruptive to the larger F-35 procurement initiative.” This would complement rather than help replace some of the F-35s.Read full article
Security,Russia’s military may no longer be using it, but the AK-74 serves a curious purpose elsewhere in contemporary Russian society: schools. It was mandatory for many Soviet schoolchildren to fieldstrip and assemble AK-74’s within a certain timespan.
Born into a poor peasant family amid the Bolshevik seizure of power, young Mikhail Kalashnikov aspired to become a poet. Instead, he fought as a tank commander in the Second World War and went on to design one of the most iconic firearms of the modern world: the AK-47. The first Kalashnikov rifle left a gargantuan legacy that is still unfolding to this day, but its many successors and variants are not without a footprint of their own.
The 1970s AK-74 is particularly noteworthy as the first major Kalashnikov revision, as well as the Red Army’s standard-issue rifle during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Almost five decades after its inception, here are five little-known facts about the AK-74.
1. The AK-74 continues to be circulated in staggering numbers.
The Kremlin is currently phasing out the AK-74 and its AK-74M variant in favor of the modernized AK-12 and AK-15 rifles, but a staggering eighteen million AK-74’s remain in circulation across the world. A chunk of that comes from official production licenses purchased by Soviet-aligned countries like Bulgaria and former Soviet nations like Azerbaijan.
Many more are unauthorized, less reliable reproductions that remain popular across Central Africa and in parts of Latin America. Yet others, like North Korea’s Type 88 rifle, are thinly rebranded copies made without a license.
2. Russian schoolchildren are taught to assemble AK-74’s.
Russia’s military may no longer be using it, but the AK-74 serves a curious purpose elsewhere in contemporary Russian society: schools. It was mandatory for many Soviet schoolchildren to fieldstrip and assemble AK-74’s within a certain timespan. In homage to this tradition, schools across Russia continue to hold that exercise in the form of competitions.
3. The AK-74 was the first Kalashnikov variant to experiment with a smaller round.Read full article
Security, EuropeHow worried should the U.S. Navy be?
The Russian Navy is on track to deploy up to 32 of its “Poseidon” thermonuclear drones across four submarines, according to Russian state media.
Citing a military insider source, TASS reported earlier this week that "Two Poseidon-carrying submarines are expected to enter service with the Northern Fleet and the other two will join the Pacific Fleet. Each of the submarines will carry a maximum of eight drones and, therefore, the total number of Poseidons on combat duty may reach 32 vehicles."
Poseidon is an underwater drone weapon, armed with a 2-megaton nuclear or conventional payload that can be detonated “thousands of feet” below the surface. This is meant to generate a radioactive tsunami capable of destroying coastal cities and other infrastructure several kilometers inland.
Poseidon can remain submerged at up to one kilometer, travels at a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour, and is programmed to execute three-dimensional evasive maneuvers in response to interception attempts.
When unveiling Poseidon at his March 1st weapons address, Russian President Vladimir Putin was especially keen to stress the drone’s maneuverability: “We have developed unmanned submersible vehicles that can move at great depths – I would say extreme depths – intercontinentally, at a speed multiple times higher than the speed of submarines, cutting-edge torpedoes and all kinds of surface vessels.”
While the full range of Poseidon-compatible submarines has not yet been revealed, the TASS report confirmed that one of Poseidon’s first fittings will be the Project 09851 Khabarovsk submarine. Oscar II-class submarines will also fit Poseidon "after their appropriate upgrade," though it isn’t clear how many Oscar-II vessels will be repurposed to this end. TASS asserts that the each of these submarines will be able to carry and deploy up to 8 Poseidon drones.Read full article
Security,The Navy program, called Next-Generation Air Dominance, has moved beyond a purely conceptual phase and begun exploration of prototype systems and airframes as it pursues a new, carrier-launched 6th-Gen fighter to emerge in 2030 and beyond, service officials explained.
The Navy is currently analyzing air frames, targeting systems, AI-enabled sensors, new weapons and engine technologies to engineer a new 6th-Generation fighter to fly alongside the F-35 and ultimately replace the F/A-18.
The Navy program, called Next-Generation Air Dominance, has moved beyond a purely conceptual phase and begun exploration of prototype systems and airframes as it pursues a new, carrier-launched 6th-Gen fighter to emerge in 2030 and beyond, service officials explained.
“Some important areas of consideration include derivative and developmental air vehicle designs, advanced engines, propulsion, weapons, mission systems, electronic warfare and other emerging technologies,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Lauren Chatmas told Warrior.
A formal Analysis of Alternatives, expected to complete this year, is weighing the advantages of leveraging nearer-term existing technologies such as new variants or upgrades to cutting edge weapons, sensors and stealth configurations - or allowing more time for leap-ahead developmental systems to emerge.
The current analysis follows a now-completed Initial Capabilities Document detailing some of the sought-after requirements for the new aircraft, or “family of aircraft,” Chatmas explained.
Anticipated decisions about a 6th-Gen fighter balance themselves upon the as-of-yet unknown maturity of various promising new weapons and technologies nearing a threshold of operational possibility.Read full article
Security, Asia"The DPRK’s growing arsenal will provide its regime with multiple options to employ its nuclear weapons," the RAND report warns.
By 2020 North Korea could possess as many as 100 nuclear warheads.
That's the startling conclusion of a January 2019 report from RAND, a California think tank with close ties to the U.S. military.
"North Korean provocations and threats have created an unstable environment on the Korean Peninsula," RAND's report explains. "North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles increases the possibility of their use against regional states, furthering instability across the region and beyond, thus affecting vital U.S. interests."
To deliver its nukes, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the regime in Pyongyang calls itself, is building up a large stockpile of rockets of varying ranges.
"The DPRK’s growing arsenal will provide its regime with multiple options to employ its nuclear weapons," the RAND report warns.
North Korea possesses more than 650 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting cities throughout South Korea, Japan and eastern China," the think tank noted. "If successfully mated with nuclear weapons, these missiles will allow the DPRK to hold military bases and population centers in northeast Asia at risk."
And if Pyongyang succeeds in developing a long-range rocket, it could also target Guam, Hawaii, Alaska and the northwestern continental United States.
With an arsenal of up to 100 nuclear warheads and a wide range of rockets to deliver them, Pyongyang could pursue a nuclear-war strategy that might actually work, RAND explained in its report.
"The DPRK could explode one or more early in a conflict as a warning, while reserving a salvo of 20 to 60 weapons to attack military targets like troop concentrations, air bases and seaports," the think tank posited.
"This would leave enough for a final salvo of 30 to 40 weapons to threaten attacks against cities in South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and—if they develop the delivery means—targets in the United States."Read full article
Security,"Avangard launches atop a rocket before separating and gliding toward its target at an altitude just below the upper limit of the atmosphere and a velocity 20 times the speed of sound or faster. No existing U.S. missile defense system can target a vehicle moving that fast at such a relatively low altitude for a strategic weapon. But some think otherwise--that's the problem.
Russian president Vladimir Putin is right. The Kremlin's new, nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle can defeat any U.S. defense.
The real danger, however, is that some senior U.S. officials seem to believe American defenses such as the U.S. Navy's SM-3 and the Army's Ground-Based Midcourse Defense missile-interceptor can stop a weapon such as Avangard.
Bad advice could encourage a reckless U.S. president to pursue a risky foreign policy while wrongly taking comfort that the Pentagon's missile-defense systems protect the United States from nuclear retaliation.
That's the latest warning from Ted Postol, a scientist and nuclear-weapons expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Statements made by Vladimir Putin clearly and unambiguously indicate that he understands that U.S. missile defenses currently have no capabilities to deal with existing Russian ballistic missiles, yet alone something like a hypersonic-like vehicle."
"What concerns Putin is that U.S. political and military leadership is so out of touch and so politicized with regard to the missile defense issue that a future president might actually think that they could get away with striking Russian nuclear forces and then using missile defenses to defend against a straggling Russian counterattack," Postol explained.
Avangard launches atop a rocket before separating and gliding toward its target at an altitude just below the upper limit of the atmosphere and a velocity 20 times the speed of sound or faster.
No existing U.S. missile defense system can target a vehicle moving that fast at such a relatively low altitude for a strategic weapon. "We don't have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us," U.S. Air Force general John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in March 2018.Read full article