Posts Tagged ‘F-16’

Nasrallah: Hezbollah doesn’t want war with Israel, but will ‘assuredly win’ one

May 26, 2018

Terror leader says Israel behind Thursday night airstrikes in Syria, which reportedly hit targets belonging to Lebanese group

Times of Israel
May 25, 2018

File: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen during an election campaign in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

File: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a broadcast speech through a giant screen during an election campaign in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah does not seek war with Israel, but would “assuredly win” if such a war were to break out, leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday, a day after reports claimed the Jewish state bombed Hezbollah military targets in Syria.

Nasrallah was speaking to mark 18 years since Israel pulled its forces out of southern Lebanon.

The terror organization’s leader said it did not fear war with the Jewish state. “Threats and scare tactics have no effect on us,” he said.

He spoke of the group’s advances since the 2000 withdrawal. “The weapons Hezbollah had before the Israeli pullout were minor and incomparable to those it possesses today.”

Nasrallah blamed Israel for the Thursday night strike on a military airport in western Syria. He did not confirm reports that the targets of the attack were munitions depots belonging to Hezbollah.

“The enemy is always in our skies,” he said. “Yesterday, from Lebanese airspace, it attacked in Syria.”

Nasrallah also spoke of recent US efforts to impose harsher sanctions targeting the group’s funds.

“The goal is to dry up funding for the resistance,” he said. “Some of our funding may be hurt as a result, but I tell America, the Israeli enemy and their agents: You misunderstand the resistance and its people…they think we’re Iran’s mercenaries, that they’ll stop our funds and we’ll stop operating.”

The US has been imposing sanctions on the group for decades. However, a new wave last week appears to be more serious about targeting the group’s top leadership as well as businessmen and companies that Washington says are funding the organization that is heavily involved in Syria’s seven-year war, providing strong military backing for President Bashar Assad’s forces.

On Thursday night the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the strikes at the Daba’a military airport were most likely carried out by Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the attack.

The Daba’a air base, also known as al-Qusair air base, and the surrounding area are known to be a stronghold for Hezbollah and Iran-backed militias. It was also reportedly struck by Israel in skirmishes against Syrian and Iranian forces on May 10.

A Syrian military source told state media that the incoming missile attack was intercepted. This is a common claim by SANA, including in cases where the outlet later acknowledged that strikes hit their target.

Earlier on Thursday night, Lebanese media outlets reported that Israeli jets were flying through the country’s airspace. Syrian media outlets reported that S-200 anti-aircraft missiles were fired during the attack on the air base.

On Wednesday, a senior Israeli Air Force official issued a stern warning to Syria, telling the country that if its air defense systems fired on Israeli jets, they would be targeted in return.

“All batteries that fire on Israeli aircraft will be destroyed. All batteries that do not fire on us will not be destroyed,” the senior officer told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Thursday night’s reported airstrike came two weeks after a major skirmish between Israel, Iran and Syria. On May 10, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s al-Quds Force launched 32 rockets at Israel’s forward defensive line on the Golan Heights border, Israel said. Four of them were shot down; the rest fell short of Israeli territory. In response, over the next two hours, Israeli jets fired dozens of missiles at Iranian targets in Syria and destroyed a number of Syrian air defense systems.

For years, Israel has been waging a quiet campaign against Iranian interests in the country. That campaign came to light and stepped up considerably in February, when an Iranian drone carrying explosives briefly entered Israeli airspace before it was shot down and Israel launched a counterattack on the T-4 air base in central Syria from which the drone had been piloted.

During the aerial bombardment, an Israeli F-16 was shot down by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile, prompting the air force to launch a second round of strikes, this time against Syria’s air defenses.

Last month, Israel conducted another strike on the T-4 air base to destroy a recently delivered Iranian advanced anti-aircraft system, killing at least seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including a senior officer.

Iran immediately vowed revenge, and the Israeli military has set out to thwart those attempts at reprisal by targeting Iranian weapons systems in Syria, in an effort dubbed “Operation Chess.”

Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent military entrenchment in Syria and is prepared to take military action to prevent such a presence. Recent weeks have also seen the IAF stepping up its efforts to keep Iran from carrying out reprisals against Israel for an airstrike on April 9, according to Israeli officials.

“We’re not doing this because we’re aggressive, but because we constantly have to be actively defending the State of Israel,” the officer said. “This is the only thing preventing offensive measures by Iran.”

A moment before an Israeli missile destroys a Syrian SA-22 air defense system on May 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

In addition to conducting military operations to thwart Iranian efforts, the army this week also appeared to be turning to public threats, both overt and somewhat more subtle, against Iran and its allies.

On Tuesday, IAF chief Amikam Norkin revealed that Israel had used its F-35 fighter jets to conduct airstrikes in Syria, making it the first country in the world to use the fifth-generation aircraft operationally, a hint to Iran of Israel’s operational capability.

Norkin also made the announcement while standing in front of a picture of the stealth aircraft flying in the skies over Beirut — which Iran’s main proxy, Hezbollah, calls home.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel “will not let Iran establish military bases in Syria, and we will not let Iran develop nuclear weapons,” during a visit to a conference of foreign air force officials at the Tel Nof air base in central Israel.

“The Israeli Air Force plays a crucial role in implementing this policy and it has done so consistently and effectively now for the past several years,” Netanyahu said.

Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report


Japan’s new advanced fighter may be based on existing foreign design

March 8, 2018


TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan is seeking proposals for a new advanced jet fighter based on an existing Western aircraft and wants American and British cooperation to help kick-start development of the project, which is estimated to cost around $40 billion, three sources said.

 Image result for X-2 Shinshin, Photos

FILE PHOTO: A prototype of the first Japan-made stealth fighter X-2 Shinshin, formerly called ATD-X, takes off to mark its maiden flight at Nagoya Airfield, also known as Komaki Airport, in Toyoyama town, Aichi prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 22, 2016. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS/File Photo

Japan this month issued a third request for information (RFI) to defense companies, seeking proposals for the new aircraft, dubbed the F-3. Unlike the first two requests, this one went only to foreign companies in the United States and Europe, with a separate, more detailed document delivered to London and Washington, according to the sources, who have direct knowledge of the requests.

“Japan expects specific proposals for designs based on existing aircraft,” said one of the sources. The two previous RFIs did not attract any detailed proposals, he added.

The requests for a design based on existing aircraft and the separate documents sent to the British and U.S. governments have not been previously reported.

The sources declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Existing airframes Japan could use include the F-35 Lightning II stealth jet built by Lockheed Martin Corp or Boeing Co’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; and the Eurofighter Typhoon, manufactured by a European consortium including BAE Systems Plc.

Japan’s last domestically produced jet fighter, the F-2, which entered service in 2000, was built jointly by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Lockheed Martin based on the U.S. F-16 multi-role fighter. As Japan’s leading fighter maker, MHI, which built the World War Two-era A6M Zero, would anchor the Japanese share of the F-3 project.

“We are considering domestic development, joint development and the possibility of improving existing aircraft performance, but we have not yet come to any decision,” a Ministry of Defense representative said.

Building Japan’s next-generation fighter based on a foreign aircraft already in service could save money, but come at the expense of advanced features like stealthy shaping. Neither the Typhoon nor Super Hornet are designed to be near-invisible to radar.

“Boeing is very interested in working with the U.S. and Japan governments in order to collaborate with Japanese industry on the next fighter program,” a Boeing spokesman said.

Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems, Britain’s largest defense company, were not immediately available for comment.

Japan’s approaches to the U.S. and British government come as Washington considers its replacement for the F-22 Raptor. Britain, which has sought closer security ties to Japan, including cooperation on developing other defense equipment, may eventually need a fighter to succeed the Typhoon.

Japan, which is buying the radar-evading F-35 stealth jet to modernize its air defenses in the face of growing Chinese military strength, wants to introduce a separate air superiority fighter in the 2030s to help deter intrusions into its airspace.

Japan has so far struggled to come up with its own design for a new aircraft, raising a question mark over the country’s first jet fighter program since the F-2.

Japan will need begin preliminary talks with Washington soon if it wants to include anything substantial about the F-3 in the new five-year defense equipment plan, which begins in April 2019. Details on that plan will be released at the end of the year, another of the sources said.

Although some defense ministry officials and lawmakers have lobbied for a domestically made aircraft to help sustain Japan defense companies hurt by increased spending on U.S. gear, finance officials have questioned whether that is cost effective.

Opting for international cooperation should lower the cost of a new jet by expanding the number of users, spreading the unit cost beyond Japan’s air force.

Mitsubishi Heavy tested a prototype stealth jet in 2016, the ATD-X or X-2, which cost the Japanese government $350 million to develop.

Reporting by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Gerry Doyle


Japan’s Scraps Domestic Development of 5th Generation Stealth Fighter Jet

Japan’s Ministry of Defense Acquisition Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) is expected to discontinue work on a domestically designed fifth-generation fighter jet due to budgetary concerns and critical capacity shortages in the country’s military aircraft industry, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports on March 5.

Japan’s Ministry of Defense will purportedly not seek funds for the development of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ experimental fifth-generation fighter technology demonstrator X-2 “Shinshin” (formerly the ATD-X) when requests by agencies and ministries are compiled this summer for the fiscal 2019 defense budget.

As of this writing, Japan’s MoD has not publicly commented on the March 5 report.

The decision to scrap the program was not unexpected for Japan defense watchers. As I explained in July 2016, Japan had three options for procuring for the new aircraft: “First, develop an indigenous air superiority fighter. Second, partner with a foreign defense contractor and license-produce a new aircraft. Third, import or upgrade an existing platform.” The first option now appears to have been nixed.The X-2 prototype was intended to serve as the basis for the development of Japan’s first indigenously designed fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, designated the F-3. Japan is now expected to collaborate with the U.S. defense industry and other international partners to either jointly develop a next-generation stealth fighter jet or purchase jets directly from a foreign vendor.

Interestingly, U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin has been involved with the F-3 program in some unknown capacity and is a possible candidate for a future collaborative partnership. The recent news that Japan is interested in procuring at least 20 additional ready-to-fly F-35A stealth fighter jets from Lockheed Martin could be a first sign of an emerging Japan-Lockheed Martin partnership in that regard.

“The follow-up order of 25 F-35As could perhaps be part of a Japanese strategy to convince Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government to share fifth-generation aircraft technology with Japan’s defense industry,” I speculated last month. “Japan now, in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and other international partners, could aim to build a (pricier) domestic variant of the F-22.”

Japan originally intended to procure Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor, but the U.S. government refused an export license, forcing Japan to initiate its own stealth fighter jet program in the 2000s. The Japanese MoD plans to induct up to 100 fifth-generation fighter jets by the 2030s. A contract, estimated to be worth over $40 billion, was initially expected to be awarded this summer, but there has been no official progress report on the tender so far in 2018 and the decision will most likely be postponed.

According to various sources, the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is also interested in purchasing the F-35B – the U.S. Marine Corps variant of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter capable of vertical or short takeoffs and vertical landings without requiring a catapult launcher. JSDF would deploy the aircraft on Japanese islands skirting the East China Sea and aboard Izumo-class helicopter carriers, which will make the acquisition of such platforms a politically sensitive subject in Japan.

After F-16 Shot Dow, Israel Says This Is a Serious Iranian Attack on Our Territory — “Iran is responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty”

February 10, 2018

Israeli army says prepared for all scenarios after Iranian drone shot down and Israeli strikes in Syria ■ Israeli F-16 downed, pilots safe

Missile contrails seen in Israel during overnight strike in Syria
Missile contrails seen in Israel during overnight strike in Syria

Israeli army spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said Saturday morning that Iran has carried out “a dangerous attack on Israeli territory” after an Iranian drone was shot down over Israeli territory. According to Manelis, Israel struck deep in Syrian territory, targeting the trailer from which the drone was launched.

skip – strike

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According to the Israeli army, Syrian anti-aircraft missiles targeted an Israeli F-16, prompting the pilots to eject. The plane went down in northern Israel. The two pilots were taken to the hospital in stable condition.

Israeli F-16 crash site, today
Israeli F-16 crash site, today

Syrian anti-aircraft fire triggered rocket sirens in northern Israel, first in the northern Israeli town of Beit She’an and later in the surrounding areas and Golan Heights. “As part of the country’s defenses, sirens were activated but there was no danger for the residents of Beit She’an,” Manelis said.

The Syrian army and rebels in the Syrian Golan Heights are currently exchanging heavy fire.


Israel intercepts Iranian drone, jet shot down by Syria

February 10, 2018


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Syrian anti-aircraft fire shot down an Israeli jet on Saturday, the military said, after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria and struck an Iranian target there.

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Israeli security forces walk next to the remains of an F-16 Israeli war plane near the Israeli village of Harduf, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Herzie Shapira

Footage from northern Israel showed what appeared to be white aircraft debris scattered on the ground.

It was one of the most serious incidents involving Israel, Iran and Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war almost eight years ago.

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Israele F-16 jet burns after crash in Israel. Credit Ella Dagan

“A combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian UAV that was launched from Syria and infiltrated Israel,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

“IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the #UAV into Israeli airspace. Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter.

Image may contain: one or more people, tree, outdoor and nature

A picture taken in the northern Israeli Kibbutz of Harduf shows the remains of an Israel F-16 that crashed after coming under fire by Syrian air defences Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian state media cited a military source as saying Syrian air defences had opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base and hit “more than one plane”.

“The Israeli enemy entity at dawn today conducted a new aggression against one of the military bases in the central region. Our air defences confronted it and hit more than one plane,” the unidentified military source said.

Israeli media said the jet crashed in northern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a rare visit to the Israel-Syria front on Tuesday and warned Israel’s enemies not to “test” its resolve. He did not mention by name Iran or its Lebanese militia ally, Hezbollah, both main players in Syria’s civil war.

Netanyahu has been cautioning against any attempt by Iran to deepen its military foothold in Syria or construct missile factories in neighbouring Lebanon.

Israel has seen spillover violence from the Syrian civil war. It has opened fire at times to foil what it deemed deliberate cross-border attacks and has struck suspected Hezbollah arms shipments around 100 times in Syria during the civil war.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Additional reporting by Tom Perry in BEIRUT; Editing by Paul Tait

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Israeli F-16 fighter jet shot down amid Syrian air operation

February 10, 2018

Syrian anti-aircraft fire shot down an Israeli fighter jet on Saturday and Israel struck an Iranian target that had launched an unmanned aircraft into its airspace from Syria. (AFP)

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT: Syrian state news agency SANA said on Saturday Syrian air defences were responding to a “new Israeli aggression”.

State television stations also said that sounds of explosions believed to be from Israeli attacks were heard in the Damascus countryside.
Syrian anti-aircraft fire shot down an Israeli jet on Saturday, the Israeli military said, after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone launched from Syria and struck an Iranian target there.
“IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has targeted the Iranian control systems in Syria that sent the #UAV into Israeli airspace. Massive Syrian Anti-Air fire, one F16 crashed in Israel, pilots safe,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter.
Israeli media said the jet crashed in northern Israel.
Syrian air defences opened fire in response to an Israeli act of “aggression” against a military base on Saturday and hit “more than one plane”, Syrian state media cited a military source as saying.
“The Israeli enemy entity at dawn today conducted a new aggression against one of the military bases in the central region. Our air defences confronted it and hit more than one plane,” the unidentified military source said.

South Korea, U.S. kick off large-scale air exercise amid North Korean warnings

December 5, 2017

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea and the United States launched large-scale joint aerial drills on Monday, officials said, a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced missile as part of a weapons programme that has raised global tensions.

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U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, deploy during Exercise Vigilant Ace 18 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, December 3, 2017. U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Franklin R. Ramos/Handout via REUTERS

The annual U.S.-South Korean drill, called Vigilant Ace, will run until Friday, with six F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to be deployed among the more than 230 aircraft taking part. The exercises have been condemned as a provocation by the isolated North.

F-35 fighters will also join the drill, which will also include the largest number of 5th generation fighters to take part, according to a South Korea-based U.S. Air Force spokesman.

Around 12,000 U.S. service members, including from the Marines and Navy, will join South Korean troops. Aircraft taking part will be flown from eight U.S. and South Korean military installations.

South Korean media reports said B-1B Lancer bombers could join the exercise this week. The U.S. Air Force spokesman could not confirm the reports.

 Image result for North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy, photos

FILE PHOTO: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy on its 70th anniversary, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 13, 2017. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS.

The joint exercise is designed to enhance readiness and operational capability and to ensure peace and security on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. military had said before the drills began.

The drills come a week after North Korea said it had tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever in defiance of international sanctions and condemnation.

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The South Korean army’s K-55 self-propelled artillery vehicles take part in a military exercise near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Pyongyang blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for raising tensions and warned at the weekend the Vigilant Ace exercise was pushing tensions on the Korean peninsula towards “a flare-up”, according to North Korean state media.

North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called Trump “insane” on Sunday and said the drill would “push the already acute situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war”.

The North’s KCNA state news agency, citing a foreign ministry spokesman, also said on Saturday the Trump administration was “begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula”.

North Korea regularly uses its state media to threaten the United States and its allies.

Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Paul Tait

Cost of Taiwan’s ageing Mirage jets in spotlight again as fighter goes missing

November 9, 2017

Island struggling to maintain more expensive French aircraft amid budget squeeze, observers say

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 10:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 9:48am

Taiwan’s air force grounded all of its Mirage jets after a single-seat Mirage 2000 disappeared from the radar 34 minutes after take-off on Tuesday night from a base in Hsinchu across the Taiwan Strait from Fujian province during a routine training exercise, air force deputy commander Lieutenant General Chang Che-ping said on Wednesday.

“The military will continue searching day and night until the pilot is safely rescued. There is no so-called golden 72-hour limit,” Chang said, referring to the window for finding a pilot alive.

The pilot, Ho Tzu-yu, joined the air force more than a decade ago and had 227 hours of flight time in Mirages, but there was no indication Ho had ejected, the Central News Agency reported.

It is the sixth major accident involving Mirages since Taiwan bought 60 of the aircraft from France two decades ago. In that time, 10 per cent of the jets have crashed.

Military analysts said a lack of maintenance on the aircraft might be a major cause of the crashes, as more of the island’s shrinking defence budget was earmarked for US weapons.

Beijing-based military observer Zhou Chengming said the accident exposed Taipei’s focus on US systems at the expense of the more costly French jets.

“It is sacrificing the higher cost of upgrading and maintaining Mirage fighters because of its limited military budget,” Zhou said.

 The French jets are reportedly more expensive to maintain than US and Taiwanese equivalents. Photo: AP

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force also considered buying some of the jets in the 1980s but abandoned the idea after realising that it did not have the capacity to transfer French technology to make them itself at the time, Zhou said.

Beijing later opted for Soviet technology and developed its own versions of Moscow’s MiG-29 and Su-27.

Taiwan also developed its own F-CK-1 indigenous defence fighters in the 1980s with the help of the United States but shelved the project after it bought more advanced US F-16s and the Mirage fighters.

But calls have grown over the past decade for Taipei to decommission the Mirages because they are expensive to maintain and need to be replaced.

Taipei will spend nearly NT$13 billion (US$430 million) upgrading its 144 F-16s in the next five years, but a squeeze on the defence budget means nothing has been set aside for Mirage upgrades. In all, the island’s defence budget is equivalent to just 1.84 per cent of the island’s GDP, the lowest proportion in four years.

 Taiwan bought 60 of the Mirage jets in the 1990s. Photo: EPA

In December, Taiwan’s then deputy defence minister Lee Hsi-ming dismissed suggestions that the Mirages should be decommissioned but acknowledged that the parts and supplies needed to maintain them were more expensive than those needed for the indigenous aircraft and the F-16s.

Earlier, Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Asian Defence, cited a Taiwanese air force source as saying that the cost of Mirage spare parts was on average at least double that for the F-16.

And Mirage 2000-5 fighters used up to 1.5 times as much fuel as F-16s, he said.

Former Taiwanese defence minister Andrew Yang Nien-dzu said Taiwan’s security strategy was defensive rather than offensive and it had the aircraft it needed.

“The mainland has more warplanes in both quantity and quality than Taipei, but Taiwan’s air force has never wanted to compete with the PLA Air Force,” Yang said. “Taiwan is small and the number of warplanes it has now is enough to safeguard our territory in case of attack.”

Australia Suspends Air Strikes in Syria: Government — Escalation of Hostilities — Russia and U.S. in Ugly Debate Over Airspace Management

June 20, 2017

SYDNEY — Australia said on Tuesday it was suspending air strikes into Syria following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia’s subsequent threat against U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement.

Russia said on Monday it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country’s conflict in 2011.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)


© ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE/AFP/File | Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation after refuelling from a KC-30A on a mission over Syria. Australia has temporarily halted air missions following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces


Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence, via European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April.

The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war.

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“The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. President Trump has allowed military commanders more say in conducting operations against the Islamic State, urging them to surround the militants in their strongholds and “annihilate” them.

Russia’s warnings could turn out to be posturing. The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after Mr. Trump ordered April’s missile launch — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. But in the complicated and quickly unfolding situation in Syria, even bluster can risk an unintended showdown.

“Anytime we have multiple armed forces working in the same battle space without de-confliction, there is a dangerous risk of things spinning out of control,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was the United States representative to NATO until January. “Tactical incidents on the ground or in the air over Syria can be misunderstood and lead to miscalculation.”

American military officials rushed to de-escalate the situation, saying they hoped Russia could be persuaded to keep using the hotline.

“This is a delicate couple of hours,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday afternoon. He added that the United States would work both diplomatically and militarily “to re-establish de-confliction.”

But the latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry was particularly stark. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” said the Defense Ministry statement, which stopped short of declaring that the targets would be shot down.

The Pentagon also vowed to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The downing of the Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, the first time the American military had shot down an enemy plane since an F-16 took down a Soviet-era MIG-29 during the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, was the latest in a series of confrontations between the United States and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

One previously undisclosed confrontation followed a drone attack on June 8 on American-supported Syrians patrolling alongside their coalition advisers. The weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, though American officials said they do not know who directed it.

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Obama’s $5 Trillion Dollar Gift to China: The South China Sea? — America’s position in Asia is quite grim

December 7, 2015


In this screen capture from U.S. Navy-released video, sailors conduct flight operations aboard a Navy P-8A Poseidon over the South China Sea on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. SCREEN CAPTURE FROM U.S. NAVY-RELEASED VIDEO

In this screen capture from U.S. Navy-released video, sailors conduct flight operations aboard a Navy P-8A Poseidon over the South China Sea on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. SCREEN CAPTURE FROM U.S. NAVY-RELEASED VIDEO

ByHarry J. Kazianis
The National Interest

Yes, President Obama should surely be congratulated for “doing something” in the South China Sea. But those somethings, a strategically confusing freedom of navigation operation (or maybe innocent passage?) near Subi Reef and now a B-52 flight near the Spratly Islands, is proof positive of how bungled the so-called “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia has become. In the end, while Washington’s challenge to Beijing’s adventurism in the South China Sea is surely needed, such actions may be too little, too confusing and too late.

The facts are obvious—America’s position in Asia is quite grim. Short of kinetic conflict (think war), and if current trends are not altered—by say a Chinese economic collapse or somehow American policy in Asia changing dramatically in the next few months—Washington will not be able to stop Beijing from eventually dominating the South China Sea. Put bluntly: there is no good way to put the proverbial slices back on the salami. And almost all of the blame rests on President Obama’s shoulders.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547) moors alongside the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao during a port visit associated with the last RIMPAC Exercis

Obama, The “Pivot” and the Makings of a Disaster

It never had to be this way. The Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia was suppose to be the start of a welcomed reboot of U.S. foreign policy—a move away from the black hole of national security nightmares known as the Middle East and towards the economic opportunities and challenges of the future in the Asia-Pacific and wider Indo-Pacific region. And for all the promise, all the photo-ops, all the speeches, the pivot has fallen flat—while China is now poised to gain mastery of the South China Sea, a waterway that moves over $5 trillion dollars of seaborne trade ($1 trillion of which is U.S. goods) per year.

Where Did It Go Wrong? Enter Scarborough Shoal

If the pivot to Asia was to achieve one thing, and one thing only, it would be to support and reinforce existing alliance structures while at the same time help shape China’s peaceful rise—and restrain any ideas of altering the status quo. If the pivot were truly conceptualized in this way, at least in theory, anytime Beijing undertook an aggressive action, especially an action that could alter the status quo, Washington would ensure that China’s coercive moves were restrained in some way. So if we are to pick a starting point where the pivot went from grandiose words to meaningless slogans it was Washington’s failure to stop Chinese actions at Scarborough Shoal, well within the Philippines’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As Ely Ratner, now a senior adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, explained in these very pages back in 2013:

After weeks of discussions, demarches and negotiations, U.S. officials in mid-June brokered what they thought was a deal for a mutual withdrawal. Exhausted, outnumbered and lacking viable alternatives, Manila withdrew its remaining ships under the facing-saving auspices of an oncoming typhoon. China, on the other hand, failed to comply with the agreed-upon deadline and retained its maritime vessels at the shoal, where they remain today on near-constant patrol.”

Ratner goes on to conclude:

“Scarborough Reef was a tactical victory for China, but it also revealed Beijing’s formula of exploiting weaker states, dividing multilateral institutions and keeping the United States on the sidelines. To stem the dangerous trend of mounting Chinese assertiveness in its near seas, Washington should focus on building partner capacity, strengthening regional institutions and ultimately making clear to Beijing that the “Scarborough Model” will no longer be cost-free.”

Sadly, we did not take Mr. Ratner’s advice.

Admiral Wu Shengli

How Does America Regain the Initiative?

There is no way to undo the damage that has been done from the Obama Administration’s failure to at least attempt to restrain China’s aggressive actions over the last several years. Such actions—Beijing essentially declaring the South China Sea sovereign territory on various occasions, an ADIZ in the East China Sea, oil rigs off of Vietnam’s coast, island building in the South China Sea that could limit the time honored tradition of freedom of navigation and the militarization of these islands etc.—are slowly undoing the status quo in Asia. As Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation noted in a recent op-ed, Washington seems to be retreating in the South China Sea and indeed sending a message that America essentially accepts Chinese actions.

While things look grim, there are ways to limit the damage and get Beijing to think twice about further actions going forward. It’s time to make clear to China that if they are hell-bent on changing the status quo, America does not have to respect its so-called “core interests” either. As I wrote back in May on RealClearWorld:

“If Beijing wants to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, it should know its actions will have repercussions across the region—even in the areas it holds most dear…

For example, if Taiwan wishes to enhance its own military with progress toward new conventional submarines, or by purchasing updated F-16 or even F-35 aircraft, Washington should help. America could even float the possibility of large arms sales agreements with Vietnam and the Philippines as a way to level the playing field. Washington could also speak out to a much greater extent on human rights abuses in China – specifically in Tibet and Xinjiang. Regular invitations to the White House for the Dali Lama and Chinese human rights activists would certainly get Beijing’s attention.”

America clearly has many tools at its disposal when it comes to raising the costs of Chinese coercive actions in Asia that could work as a restraint, but will this administration use any of them before it’s too late?

Harry Kazianis is the outgoing Executive Editor of The National Interest. Mr. Kazianis also serves as Senior Fellow (non-resident) for Defense Policy at theCenter for the National Interest, Senior Fellow (non-resident) at the China Policy Institute as well as a Fellow for National Security Affairs at The Potomac Foundation. He previously served as Editor of The Diplomat and as a WSD Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum: CSIS. All views are his own. You can follow him on Twitter: @GrecianFormula.


 (Contains links to several previous articles)


Putin Calls Turkey’s Shoot Down of Russian Jet A ‘Stab In The Back’

November 24, 2015


Smoke billows from the spot where the Su-24 warplane crashed in Hatay

MOSCOW (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday branded the downing by Turkey of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”.The shooting down of the fighter plane was “a stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists”, Putin said at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II. “I cannot call what happened today anything else.”

Putin insisted the plane did not pose any threat to Turkey. “Our plane was shot down over the territory of Syria by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet. It fell in Syrian territory four kilometres from the border with Turkey,” Putin said in televised comments.

“Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey.”

But Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara has a duty to act against anyone violating its borders.

“Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders,” Davutoglu said.

Russia says one of its jets (like the one pictured) was shot down by Turkey — inside Syrian airspace. Russia condemned the downing as “a very serious incident.” Photo credit Norwegian Air Force/AFP