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The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
23 июля, 05:23

Everything You Need to Know about North Korea's Navy

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Kyle Mizokami Security, Asia It might be old but it can kill. The Korean People’s Navy—what North Korea calls its naval force—is one of the most unusual navies in Asia. Starved of funds by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, the country’s conventional forces have taken a backseat to the dream of an nuclear-tipped ICBM that can reach all of the United States. As a result, the KPN has devolved into an antiquated, ramshackle fleet . . . but one that may someday soon control nuclear weapons. The KPN consists of approximately sixty thousand personnel, including conscripts serving five- to ten-year military terms. In terms of personnel, the KPN is the smallest of the three services, approximately a twentieth the size of the Army and half the size of the Air Force. Organizationally, the KPA consists of a naval headquarters, two fleet commands, sixteen squadrons, two naval sniper brigades and scattered coastal-defense units on both coastlines. It also controls naval training centers, ports and logistics centers, and even controls shipbuilding for the fleets. The KPN operates between 990 and 810 vessels of Soviet, Chinese and North Korean origin. As of 2001, North Korea analyst Joseph Bermudez estimated 360 ships operated with the West Fleet (operating in the Yellow Sea) and another 480 operated with the East Fleet (facing the Sea of Japan.) A lack of funds for naval construction means many of those ships are probably still in operation today. The nature of the North/South Korea division and the relatively short range of the KPN’s ships means ships rarely, if ever transfer between the two coastlines. Read full article

23 июля, 05:22

How Japan Could Sink China's Navy in a War: Ramjet Missiles

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Kyle Mizokami Security, Asia Tokyo could really bring the thunder. A new anti-ship missile promises to give a tremendous boost to the Japan Self Defense Force's ability to deter naval aggression. The missile, known as XASM-3, can travel at speeds of Mach 3, evading missile defenses to sink enemy surface ships. The missiles will be a significant worry for China, whose navy will have to sail within range of the missiles in order to reach the North Pacific Ocean. Traditional anti-ship missiles such as the U.S.-made Harpoon and French Exocet use rocket motors and turbojet engines to fly at subsonic speeds. The missiles are collectively known as “sea skimmers” due to their ability to fly as little as fifteen feet above the waves. The advantage to this low altitude flight is that incoming missiles are hidden from targets by the curvature of the earth. The lower a missile flies, the shorter the detection range. A radar sixty feet off the ground can detect a sea skimming missile flying at thirty feet at a range of nineteen miles. Assuming a Harpoon missile flies at a height of ten meters, enemy air defenses will pick it up on their radars only in the last two minutes of flight, giving them little time to react. The use of subsonic sea skimmers was the status quo in the West until recently. Although new technologies had been developed such as the Soviet ramjet-powered P-270 Moskit missile, the Cold War ended before the United States, NATO and other allied nations could catch up. The lack of an enemy fleet during the 1990s further stalled missile development, and the emphasis on land warfare starting in 2001 meant that older missiles such as Harpoon soldiered on without a replacement in sight. Read full article

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23 июля, 05:19

China's Strategy in Asia Is Simple: Kick America Out

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Robert Sprinkle, Bradley Thayer Security, Asia China wants the United States to know its place, go home and stay there. China, manifestly formidable, is still typically analyzed as a “rising power” or an “emerging power,” one challenging “established powers.” Connoted by these terms is a ridiculously unhistorical image: China-as-parvenu. A longer look back may better name—and explain—what the world now sees. From the Portuguese in the sixteenth century to the Japanese in the twentieth century, Western and Westernized forces in Asia enjoyed an ever increasing advantage: firepower, first afloat and then also on land.​ Its invention of gunpowder and rocketry notwithstanding, China faced a firepower gap that had widened decisively by the 1830s. Yet China’s governments, native and assimilated, functioned competently enough as late as 1839, when the opium trade was being vigorously suppressed. Ironically, this very show of competence brought China into conflict with the drug-running British East India Company, whose own private forces, as supplemented by the Royal Navy, China could not match.​ China’s losses in the two Opium Wars, 1839–42 and 1856–60, were ruinous, shredding sovereignty and conceding to industrialized powers extraordinary territorial, mercantile and jurisdictional privileges. Arising in parallel, and largely in response, was the worst of all modern rebellions, the Taiping, 1850–64, a societal injury defying full recovery. The next century, while different, was not much better and was followed by the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, a denunciation not only of the “Four Olds”—customs, culture, habits, ideas—but of modernity, too.​ Opening in catastrophe and closing in catatonia, this 137-year stretch, from 1839 until 1976, was a dark age. The period since, from 1976 to the present day, has been a renaissance. Granted, this dark age was not without its brighter spots and this renaissance not without its darker ones, but the labels stick, and they instruct. From 1976 on, with Mao Zedong gone and with Asian states, most disturbingly Japan, prospering around it, China, rich in poverty, herded its ultra-low-wage workforce down the capitalist road and earned its way to the front rank of nations. China aggressively pursued trade, most surprisingly and most critically east-west trade, and from the proceeds of this trade accumulated the wealth it needed to finance its own development. Read full article

22 июля, 22:01

How the U.S. Navy Is Waging War on ISIS

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Nolan Peterson Security, From aircraft carriers.  USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Mediterranean Sea—During the early days of World War II, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a memorable comment about British pilots’ defense of their homeland from Nazi Germany. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” Churchill said in an August 1940 speech. Seventy-seven years later, U.S. Navy aviators and sailors have their own singular burden to bear as they support Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In this war, a single misstep born of a split-second decision during combat operations—both in the air and at sea—could cost hundreds of innocent lives, or perhaps even precipitate a shooting war between the U.S. and Russia. “You’re always on guard,” Lt. Brandon Rogers, call sign “Barf,” an F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter pilot aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, told The Daily Signal. “We train for both the predictable and unpredictable,” Rogers said. “There’s always a threat, it’s just a matter of whether it’s your time to get engaged or not. We’re engaging the enemies on the ground constantly; it’s just a matter of time before you’re next.” The Daily Signal was aboard the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier during combat operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. As the Islamic State, the terrorist army also known as ISIS, loses territory, the myriad military forces arrayed against it are converging. The battle space, consequently, is increasingly crowded, and U.S. forces and the local groups partnered with them on the ground are more frequently brushing up against the Russian and Syrian regime militaries. Meanwhile, at sea in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. warships supporting Operation Inherent Resolve are interacting with the Russian navy in ways not seen since the Cold War. “As the area gets more and more constricted, as Russian forces and pro-regime Syrian forces as well as U.S. forces and forces that the U.S. backs start moving tighter and tighter into other areas, then that deconfliction will have to be worked out,” Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Carrier Strike Group Two, told The Daily Signal in an interview. Read full article

22 июля, 17:36

Exclusive: An Inside Look at USS Gerald R. Ford (America's Newest Aircraft Carrier)

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Dave Majumdar Security, We should know--we toured it.  Ford seems to be delivering on the promise of a more efficient carrier that will take naval aviation into the future. Ford—which is based on the Nimitz-class hull form—restores weight and stability margins by reconfiguring the ship’s interior, though she displaces roughly 100,000-tons just like the CVN-68 class (Indeed, one officer noted that while a sea, Ford is much more sporty than the Nimitz thanks to her prodigious horsepower and reconfigured interiors). But more importantly, Ford adds improved survivability measures while reducing manning and maintenance requirements. If all of Navy’s projections are realized, the service will save $4 billion in total ownership costs over the life of the ship. The United States Navy will commission the first of a new generation of aircraft carriers into service today. The future USS Gerald R. Ford ​(CVN-78) will represent the future of naval aviation and will be the most advanced and capable aircraft carrier ever built. With Ford’s imminent commissioning ceremony coming up later this month, the Navy invited The National Interest to preview the mighty warship and see the new vessel’s technology firsthand on July 10. Even at first glance, PCU Gerald R. Ford is an impressive sight even as she was moored pierside at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia next to older Nimitz-class carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)—one of America’s oldest flattops, USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Immediately noticeable is that Gerald R. Ford’s island is not only smaller than that of the Nimitz-class carriers, but that the structure is set further astern by about 140ft and slightly further starboard. Moreover, unlike regular fleet carriers, the brand-new Ford is still in pristine condition and sports a gold-painted anchor—a badge of honor noting that she has an exceptionally high crew retention rate. Read full article

22 июля, 15:17

Is North Korea's ICBM Really a Hoax?

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Uzi Rubin Security, Or is it the real deal?  The Hwasong-14 missile that arched over North Korea on July 4 was hailed by its leader as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), “capable of reaching anywhere in the world.” The announcement sparked headlines across the world, prompting frantic diplomatic activity and launching a flood of comment and analysis. This should not be surprising: while most of Kim Jong Un’s missile tests in the last couple of years had only regional implications, the debut of an incipient ICBM has global ones. A nuclear-tipped, global range ICBM in North Korea’s arsenal could change the balance of power not only in East Asia, but the entire world. As a result, the question of what this missile really was, and what it could or couldn’t do, is being fiercely debated between diplomats and analysts. Was it a hoax? Was it a propaganda ploy? Or was it a true ICBM, or at least a precursor to an ICBM? These questions impact directly on the global policies of the major powers – hence the frantic effort to solve the mystery. Let’s examine the three theories aired to date. The View from Moscow:  Russia maintains that the July 4 flight involved nothing more than a garden variety medium range missile that reached a modest altitude of 535 km, stayed in the air 14 minutes, and splashed at a distance of 510 km. This data, attributed by the Kremlin to its recently modernized Missile Attack Warning System, stands in sharp contrast to North Korea’s claims that their missile demonstrated ICBM level performance, reaching an altitude of 2802 km, flying for 37 minutes and splashing down at a distance of 955 km. North Korea’s claims are backed by the Japan, the U.S., and South Korea, each with their own long range radars that can detect and track North Korean missiles. It, therefore, stands to reason that their endorsement of North Korea’s claims is more trustworthy. So why did the Russians go on a limb on this issue? Two possibilities: either their Missile Attack Warning System is myopic, or they needed to downplay the July 4 test out of political expediency. The latter is more likely. Trivializing the North Korean achievement provides Russia with an excuse for blocking UN censure of its client while at the same time rebuking that same client for excessive bluster, which rocks the boat of Russia’s power game in East Asia.     Read full article

22 июля, 15:07

Hypersonic Weapons: Everything You Need to Know About the Ultimate Weapon

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Kris Osborn Security, Who will get them first?  The US wants to stay in front of China with hypersonic weapons able to travel at five-times the speed of sound and destroy targets with a "kinetic energy" warhead. The Air Force and Australia fired an experimental hypersonic weapon into the Australian skies -- traveling at speeds faster than one-mile per second, a Pentagon report said. "This was just the latest in a series of tests of the HiFIRE 4, which was also tested in Hawaii and Norway in 2012. While the designed speed of the hypersonic missile is faster than that of sound, its advantage lies in its enhanced maneuverability and smooth flight path, which is much harder to track than that of traditional missiles," the Pentagon report said. This test is all part of an aggressive Air Force effort to accelerate hypersonic weapons development, following findings from a recent service report identifying Russian and Chinese ongoing hypersonic weapons testing. A recent Air Force Studies Board report identified that the U.S. is not alone in its quest for this increased speed The report said that China and Russia are already flight testing hypersonic weapons, and several other countries have shown interest in pursuing many of the underlying technologies for hypersonic flight.   “We must push the boundaries of technology in every area," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a statement. "Our adversaries aren’t standing still. They are looking for every advantage they can get.” Describing the trajectory of hypersonic technology in terms of “stair steps,” Air Force Chief Scientist Geoffrey Zacharias said incremental progress will require decades of continued technological development. While unmanned hypersonic surveillance flight is on track for the 2030s, launching recoverable hypersonic drones is not expected be possible until the 2040s, Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior. Air Force weapons developers expect to operate hypersonic intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance drones by the 2040s, once scientific progress with autonomy and propulsion technology matures to a new level. The advent of using a recoverable drone platform able to travel at high altitudes, faster than Mach 5, will follow the emergence of hypersonic weapons likely to be operational in the mid-2020s. Read full article

22 июля, 14:58

Imagine This: The Air Force Considered Turing the A-10 Warthog into a Nuclear Bomber

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Joseph Trevithick Security, Well, at least briefly.  Fast-moving fighter jets would have trouble escaping the aftermath of these massive explosions. On a nuclear mission, the Air Force expected its fighter pilots to fly toward their targets at altitudes greater than 30,000 feet before lobbing bombs at the enemy. With the bombs flying in an upward arc onto the target, the method would hopefully give the aircraft enough time to fly clear of the blast. But it’d still be a close call. The slower A-10s probably wouldn’t make it. Despite what the Pentagon and senior Air Force leaders might say, the A-10 Warthog is far from “single-purpose airplane.” But dropping nuclear bombs might be one of the things the low- and sl0w-flying attackers actually can’t do. But the Air Force once briefly considered the idea. In December 1975, Secretary of Defense Bill Clements wanted to know how much it would cost to modify F-15 and F-16 fighter jets so they could carry atomic weapons. Two months later, the Air Force sent back data on what it would take to upgrade those two types of aircraft—or the A-10—with nukes. “For your information, we have also provided similar cost data on the A-10 aircraft,” states an unclassified memo War Is Boring obtained from the Air Force Historical Research Agency. “The estimated cost to make 275 A-10s nuclear-capable is $15.9 million.” The total amount—equivalent to more than $65 million today—would cover developing and testing the required equipment, and installing it on the Warthog fleet. The flying branch’s calculations included systems needed to support B-43, B-57 and B-61 bombs. At the time, these three bombs were the standard nuclear weapons for aircraft in the U.S. military. If a shooting war broke out in Europe, America’s NATO allies would have gotten access to these weapons, too. Newer versions of the B-61 remain in service today. Obviously, the Air Force never ended up arming the A-10s with nukes. But Clement’s desire for more nuclear-armed aircraft is hardly surprising. During the Cold War, the Pentagon expected to use nuclear bombs, artillery shells and missiles to fend off a Soviet invasion of Europe. Read full article

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22 июля, 14:47

The U.S. Navy Is Turning Its Nuclear Attack Submarines into Cruise Missile Boats

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Dave Majumdar Security, A smart strategy.  The United States Navy has test fired a pair of Tomahawk cruise missiles from USS North Dakota (SSN-784), the first Block III Virginia-class submarine. Unlike previous Virginia-class SSNs, the Block III version dispenses with 12 individual tubes for cruise missiles and replaces those with a pair of large diameter Virginia Payload Tubes. With the new configuration, each VPT will carry six missiles in a canister that can be swapped out—but the new system initially had some teething issues. Those issues have been resolved, leaving the Navy with a launch system with few parts and which should be more reliable while also allowing for future growth. "As the Navy continues to modernize its subs, Raytheon continues to modernize Tomahawk, keeping this one-of-a-kind weapon well ahead of the threat," Mike Jarrett, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems vice president, said in a statement.   "Today's Tomahawk is a far cry from its predecessors and tomorrow's missile will feature even more capability, giving our sailors the edge they need for decades to come." The VPT is in some ways the harbinger of the future. The Navy is currently developing the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), which would add a roughly 84-foot hull section to the Virginia-class boats containing four 87-inch missile tubes. Each of those four tubes could then carry seven additional Tomahawk cruise missiles in Multiple-All-Up-Round Canisters (MACs). That would afford each submarine the capacity to carry 28 additional Tomahawks—bringing total missile capacity up to 40 weapons. In the future, those tubes could be used to carry different payloads. Read full article

22 июля, 05:44

Russia Is Building Laser-Armed Nuclear 'Combat Icebreakers'

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Michael Peck Security, What more is there left to say? More details are emerging about Russia’s trump card for control of the Arctic: laser-armed, nuclear-powered “combat icebreakers.” In addition to a warship-sized array of weapons, the 8,500-ton Ivan Papanin–class vessels will mount powerful lasers that can cut through ice—and possibly through enemies as well. They will join a fleet of forty existing Russian icebreakers. The United States is now down to two, even as the United States, Canada and other nations are focusing on the Arctic, where melting ice offer the lure of fresh mineral deposits and new commercial shipping routes. The first of these icebreakers was laid down in April, according to Russian news site Sputnik News. “The multipurpose vessel is conceived as an all-in one Navy warship, icebreaker and tugboat,” measuring 361 feet long, and with a speed of sixteen knots and a range of six thousand nautical miles. The Ivan Papanin–class ships, also known as Project 23550, will be fitted with a “modular armament suite,” Russian defense-industry sources told Jane’s 360 in April. Sputnik News cites a Russian analyst who claims that “in addition to radio-electronic equipment and its heavy-duty hull, Project 23550 icebreakers will include the ability to deploy missile weapons…The Kalibr-NK [cruise missile] system’s launch containers can be placed comfortably on the ship behind the helicopter landing pad. A total of eight launchers can be deployed onboard.” The same analyst also raises an intriguing possibility: an Ivan Papanin–class icebreaker could “rescue an intruder vessel that's been caught in the ice, and tow it” to another location. This suggests that these Russian icebreakers won’t necessarily sink vessels deemed to illegally be in Russian territory: if those ships are stuck in ice, the icebreakers will tow the hapless intruder back to a Russian port to stand trial. Read full article

22 июля, 05:40

Dunkirk: Everything You Need to Know Before You See the Movie

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Sebastien Roblin Security, A battle like no other. Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk inspired new attention to the famous evacuation by sea, in 1940, of four hundred thousand British troops under harrowing air attack. Had that evacuation failed, the United Kingdom would have been deprived of a land army to oppose Nazi Germany. But before Dunkirk, British and French troops fought desperate last stands in the channel ports of Calais and Boulogne that bought vital time for the evacuation in the Belgian Port. The situation grew so desperate at Boulogne that Allied destroyers were forced to blast their way into and back out of the harbor, using naval guns to duel with tanks, field guns and even snipers while evacuating panicky mobs of British soldiers. How did the British Expeditionary Force fall into such dire circumstances in the first place? Twelve days earlier on May 10, 1940 the German tanks and paratroopers of Army Group B smashed through Holland and Belgium in an apparent effort to bypass the Maginot Line’s fortifications on the Franco-German border. The British and French were expecting exactly such a flanking maneuver, and their own elite units surged north to tackle the Germans in Belgium, while French second-line infantry divisions continued to man the Maginot Line defenses. At the hinge of the Allied mobile response force to the north and the static Maginot Line to the south lay the Ardennes Forest, which the French considered impassable to tanks and artillery due to the combination of defense wooded terrain with the natural barrier of the Meuse River. But the French had underestimated German combat engineers’ efficiency at building bridges and roads, as well as the mobility of tanks and the ability of Luftwaffe bombers to substitute for artillery support. On May 12, the Panzer divisions of Army Group A smashed through the lone French infantry division defending the Ardennes in the Battle of Sedan, aided by overwhelming air support. The French had no reserves to counter the armored spearhead of the XIX Panzer Corps, led by the brilliant Heinz Guderian. Guderian reached the French coast on May 20, and was poised to turn north to crush British and French elite forces in a pincer. Read full article

22 июля, 05:39

Billions Could Die If India and Pakistan Start a Nuclear War

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Zachary Keck Security, Asia Forget North Korea. This is the real nuclear threat. With the world’s attention firmly fixated on North Korea, the greatest possibility of nuclear war is in fact on the other side of Asia. That place is what could be called the nuclear triangle of Pakistan, India and China. Although Chinese and Indian forces are currently engaged in a standoff, traditionally the most dangerous flashpoint along the triangle has been the Indo-Pakistani border. The two countries fought three major wars before acquiring nuclear weapons, and one minor one afterwards. And this doesn’t even include the countless other armed skirmishes and other incidents that are a regular occurrence. At the heart of this conflict, of course, is the territorial dispute over the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the latter part of which Pakistan lays claim to. Also key to the nuclear dimension of the conflict is the fact that India’s conventional capabilities are vastly superior to Pakistan’s. Consequently, Islamabad has adopted a nuclear doctrine of using tactical nuclear weapons against Indian forces to offset the latter’s conventional superiority. If this situation sounds similar, that is because this is the same strategy the U.S.-led NATO forces adopted against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In the face of a numerically superior Soviet military, the United States, starting with the Eisenhower administration, turned to nuclear weapons to defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack. Although nearly every U.S. president, as well as countless European leaders, were uncomfortable with this escalatory strategy, they were unable to escape the military realities undergirding it until at least the Reagan administration. Read full article