Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Air Force’

U.S. flies bombers over Korea as Trump discusses options

October 11, 2017

By Christine KimEric Beech

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Pentagon Takes Control of F-35 Cost-Cutting Push

October 8, 2017

The price of the combat jet has been falling, but some military chiefs are concerned about the pace and source of savings

Image result for F-35, photos

The Pentagon has taken over an effort to cut the cost of the F-35 combat jet, after rejecting plans proposed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and its partners, as it tries to make a program estimated to cost $400 billion more affordable.

The U.S. plans to buy more than 2,400 of the jets over the next three decades to replace much of its combat fleet. But after years of delays and overruns drew flak from lawmakers and Donald Trump, the military has been pressing suppliers to reduce the cost of producing and flying the F-35.

The aircraft’s sticker price has fallen in recent sales to the U.S. and other countries, in part because of a contractor-led effort launched in 2014 called the Blueprint for Affordability that invested $170 million to make the jets cheaper to produce.

Lockheed and the Pentagon announced plans in July 2016 to continue the program, with the company and partners Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems PLC investing another $170 million over three years in cost-saving measures. The contractors said the initial plan saved $230 million and could be worth $4 billion over the life of the program.

Some military chiefs, however, have expressed concern about the pace and source of savings. In January, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also ordered a review of the high-profile program.

The Pentagon opted this summer not to press ahead with the extension and instead last month gave Maryland-based Lockheed a $60 million contract to pursue further efficiency measures, with more oversight of how the money was spent.

“Using a contract vehicle instead of an agreement with industry provides the government with greater insights into the cost savings efforts,” said the F-35 program office, led since May by Navy Rear Adm. Mat Winter.

A U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II flies over Estonia in April. The U.S. plans to buy more than 2,400 of the jets over the next three decades to replace much of its combat fleet. Photo: Christine Groening/ZUMA Press

The F-35 leadership say they want more of the cost-saving effort directed at smaller suppliers that haven’t been pressured enough. A quarter of the initial $60 million is earmarked for projects outside the main three contractors. The Pentagon said it may boost its investment to $170 million if the initial efforts yield e nough savings.

Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. that makes the engines for the F-35, is continuing a separate effort to reduce costs.

The Pentagon has also yet to approve a plan announced last year for the three main companies to spend $250 million over five years to shave 10% off the running costs of the F-35 fleet over its lifetime, which are estimated to be more than $1.1 trillion for the U.S. aircraft. Allies plan to buy another 500 jets.

That huge bill led the Pentagon to consult with logistics experts at companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to find potential savings. President Trump, who frequently criticized the F-35 on the campaign trail and before taking office, also held multiple direct discussions with Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson.

The company has pledged to aggressively drive down the costs of the F-35 program, which is central to its growth and already delivers almost a quarter of its sales.

Lockheed said the new arrangement won’t affect those efforts, even as the efficiency drive has been hampered by the Air Force cutting its planned annual procurement to around 60 jets from 80.

“The government’s decision to fund this next phase of cost-reduction initiatives is a testament to their confidence in our ability to deliver the cost savings, based on the success of the original Blueprint for Affordability projects,” said Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-35 general manager.

The latest cost-saving push is part of a plan to reduce the price of the F-35A model—the plane used by the U.S. Air Force and most overseas allies—to around $80 million by 2020, after adjusting for inflation. Officials estimated that 75% of the target is tied to efficiencies gained from higher output, with the balance coming from efforts like the Blueprint for Affordability program.

Lockheed is currently negotiating a deal with the Pentagon for an 11th batch of jets, which it hopes to conclude by the end of the year. The last sale, agreed on in January, priced the F-35A at $94.6 million each, a 7.3% drop from the previous batch. That price was broadly in line with the Pentagon’s price target before Mr. Trump took aim at the program.

However, critics say the claimed prices don’t capture the full cost of the jets once additional modifications, added later, are included.

“There’s very little transparency about it,” said Dan Grazier, of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-takes-control-of-f-35-cost-cutting-push-1507464002

N. Korea’s foreign minister says Trump is ‘mentally deranged’

September 24, 2017

AFP

© Jewel Samad, AFP | North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 23, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-09-24

North Korea’s foreign minister assailed US President Donald Trump at the United Nations on Saturday, deriding him as a “mentally deranged” leader whose threats had increased the chances of military confrontation.

Ri Yong-ho told the General Assembly that Trump‘s vow to “totally destroy” his country if necessary had made “our rockets’ visit to the entire US mainland all the more inevitable.”

Describing Trump as a “mentally deranged person full of megalomania,” Ri said the US leader who “holds the nuclear button” posed “the gravest threat to international peace and security today.”

In his first address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump called leader Kim Jong-Un a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission,” prompting Kim to warn in turn that the US president would “pay dearly” for his threat.

Ri accused Trump of turning the United Nations into a “gangsters’ nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day,” and of insulting Kim.

“None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission,” he declared.

The North Korean nuclear crisis has dominated this year’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations amid fears that the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war.

North Korea in recent weeks detonated its sixth nuclear bomb and has test-fired intercontinental missiles — saying it needs to defend itself against hostility from the United States and its allies.

Trump later responded on Twitter, insulting Kim once more and appearing to threaten both men.

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” he wrote late Saturday night.

Nuclear hammer of justice

The United States led a push at the United Nations for tough sanctions that were adopted on September 11, and has imposed unilateral measures to punish firms that do business with North Korea.

Calling the sanctions resolutions unjustified, Ri said that Pyongyang was left with no other choice but to respond with the “nuclear hammer of justice.”He stressed that North Korea’s nuclear drive was aimed at developing a “war deterrent” and declared that his country was a “responsible nuclear weapon state.”

North Korea will take “preemptive action” if the United States and its allies attempt to carry out a “decapitating operation on our headquarters or military attack against our country,” he said.

Declaring that the missile and nuclear tests were a source of “prestige” for his country, Ri said sanctions would not succeed in forcing his government to change course.

Ri then met for 30 minutes with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who expressed concern over the escalating tensions and emphasized the need for a political solution, a UN spokesman said.

Just hours before Ri took the UN podium, US bombers flew off the east coast of North Korea, flying the furthest north of the demilitarized zone of any US aircraft this century.

The Pentagon said the mission was a “demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat.”

(AFP)

US bombers stage North Korea show of force

September 24, 2017

BBC News

This picture taken on September 23, 2017 and released from North Korea"s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 24 shows a meeting of the youth and students
A large mass anti-US rally was held in Pyongyang on Saturday. AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

US bombers have flown close to North Korea’s east coast to demonstrate the military options available to defeat any threat, the Pentagon has said.

It said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarised zone between the Koreas that any US fighter jet or bomber had flown in the 21st Century.

Tensions have risen recently over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

At the UN, North Korea’s foreign minister said US President Donald Trump was on a “suicide mission”.

Ri Yong-ho’s comments to the General Assembly mimicked Mr Trump’s remarks at the UN on Tuesday, when he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man on a suicide mission”.

Mr Ri added that “insults” by Mr Trump – who was, he said, “mentally deranged and full of megalomania” – were an “irreversible mistake making it inevitable” that North Korean rockets would hit the US mainland.

Mr Trump, the foreign minister said, would “pay dearly” for his speech, in which he also said he would “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies.

The US president responded to the speech on Twitter by saying Mr Ri and Mr Kim “won’t be around much longer” if they continue their rhetoric.

Trump is making the US an ‘inevitable target’

Shortly before his address, the Pentagon announced that the show of force underscored “the seriousness” with which the US took North Korea’s “reckless” behaviour, calling the country’s weapons programme a “grave threat”.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” it said in a statement.

“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”

US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam, escorted by Air Force F-15C Eagle fighters from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace, the Pentagon added.

The flight follows a week of heated rhetoric between the leaders of both countries – after Mr Trump’s comments, Mr Kim called him “mentally deranged” and “a dotard”.

Mr Ri did not comment on the Pentagon’s announcement.

Trump: ‘Rocket Man’s suicide mission’

North Korea has refused to stop its missile and nuclear tests, despite successive rounds of UN sanctions. Its leaders say nuclear capabilities are its only deterrent against an outside world seeking to destroy it.

After the North’s latest and most powerful nuclear test earlier this month, the UN Security Council approved new sanctions on the country.

But speaking at the UN, Mr Ri repeated that the restrictions would not make the country stop its nuclear development.

Media captionHow would war with North Korea unfold?

Meanwhile, a shallow magnitude 3.4 tremor was detected near North Korea’s nuclear test site on Saturday morning, but experts believe it was a natural earthquake.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 0km in North Hamgyong province, home to the Punggye-ri site, South Korea’s meteorological agency said.

The US Geological Survey also said it occurred in the nuclear test area, but added that its seismologists assessed it as having a depth of 5km.

South Korea said no specific sound waves generated by artificial earthquakes were detected.

China’s Earthquake Administration said the quake was not a nuclear explosion and had the characteristics of a natural tremor. The agency had initially said it was a “suspected explosion”.


Previous tests

map

What did North Korea’s nuclear tests achieve?

How advanced is Pyongyang’s nuclear programme?


Analysts from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the UN-backed monitoring group, said the quake was “unlikely man-made”.

CTBTO executive secretary Lassina Zerbo tweeted that the quake had occurred “about 50km from prior tests”.

“The most probable hypothesis currently is that it is the consequence of the previous event… which could still have further repercussions,” Mr Zerbo told the AFP news agency, referring to North Korea’s massive nuclear test on 3 September.

North Korea – which has recently carried out a series of nuclear tests – has so far made no comment.

In a separate development, China moved to limit the North Korea’s oil supplyand stop buying textiles from the country, in line with the latest UN sanctions.

China is North Korea’s most important trading partner, and one of its only sources of hard currency.

The ban on textiles – Pyongyang’s second-biggest export – is expected to cost the country more than $700m (£530m) a year.

Was your T-shirt made in North Korea?

Clothing has often partially been made in North Korea but finished in China, allowing a Made in China label to be legally sewn onto the clothing, BBC World Service Asia-Pacific Editor Celia Hatton says.

China also said its restrictions on refined petroleum products would apply from 1 October, and on liquefied natural gas immediately.

Under a UN resolution, China will still be able to export a maximum of two million barrels of refined petroleum to North Korea annually, beginning next year.

North Korea is estimated to have imported 6,000 barrels of refined petroleum daily from China in 2016 – the equivalent of nearly 2.2 million in total for the entire year.

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Tensions Rise as U.S. Warplanes Skirt North Korean Coast, Pyongyang’s Envoy Sharpens Threats — Strikes by North Korea are inevitable, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho suggests

September 24, 2017

Eight American planes prowl coastline as Pyongyang warns of ‘inevitable’ attack on U.S.

In a new escalation of hostility between Washington and Pyongyang, North Korea’s foreign minister warned in a United Nations speech Saturday that a rocket attack on the U.S. mainland was “inevitable,” while U.S. warplanes flew off the east coast of North Korea in an explicit show of force.

The eight U.S. aircraft flew close to the North Korean coastline while remaining in international airspace, the Pentagon said in a statement, adding it was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea that American warplanes have flown since Pyongyang started testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in the 1990s.

“This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. “We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies.”

The moves on Saturday capped a week of hostility between the two countries and involving their top leaders. The rising animosity has spurred world leaders to call for restraint and diplomacy, but neither capital has shown an inclination to back down from the standoff.

President Donald Trump this week derided North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” saying he was on a suicide mission and that the U.S. would annihilate North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He drew a personal response from Mr. Kim, who called Mr. Trump “deranged” and warned of retaliation.

On Saturday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho suggested at the annual General Assembly gathering that military strikes by his country are inevitable. North Korea has been steadily advancing in both its missile and nuclear-warhead programs and is considered close to possessing the capability of an intercontinental strike.

“Trump might not have been aware what is uttered from his mouth, but we will make sure that he bears consequences far beyond his words, far beyond the scope of what he can handle, even if he is ready to do so,” Mr. Ri said.

“He committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more,” he said.

U.S. officials watched as Mr. Ri spoke, but the U.S. mission to the U.N. didn’t comment on Mr. Ri’s speech.

Mr. Ri’s speech marked a setback to hopes that Pyongyang was open in the short run to attempts to de-escalate tensions in the interest of diplomacy and negotiations.

The North Korean official delivered a series of personal attacks on Mr. Trump, calling him “mentally deranged,” “evil,” and an “old gambler” who had turned the White House into “a noisy marketing place” and the U.N. into a “gangster den.”

He said it was Mr. Trump, not North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, who was on a “suicide mission” and that he should be blamed if innocent American lives were lost.

Mr. Ri also said North Korea’s nuclear program had entered into the phase of completion and the country was a “responsible nuclear state” that would only use its weapons against nations that took military actions against Pyongyang.

Mr. Trump responded via Twitter late Saturday: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

In the U.S. air operation east of North Korea, eight planes including Air Force B-1 Lancer bombers and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts flew off the east coast of North Korea, the Pentagon said.

The U.S. air mission underscored “the seriousness with which we take DPRK’s reckless behavior,” said Ms. White, the Pentagon spokeswoman, referring to North Korea by its acronym.

Two B-1 bombers flew from the U.S. territory of Guam, home to two U.S. military bases, including Andersen Air Force base and its fleet of B-1 bombers.

Mr. Kim in August threatened to launch a missile attack on the island of Guam, located roughly 3,800 miles west of Hawaii and 2,100 miles south-southeast of Pyongyang, though he ratcheted back that threat days later.

The six F-15C escorts were deployed from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Cmdr. David Benham said.

Cmdr. Benham didn’t comment on the planes’ armaments but said the F-15s provided fighter escort and “they are prepared to defend against attack, if necessary.”

Japan is within the range of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, and in mid-September Mr. Kim launched a missile over Japan, the second such launch in the span of a month. That missile flew an estimated 2,300 miles, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, which also would put Guam within range.

Cmdr. Benham declined to comment on whether North Korea responded in any way to the mission, citing policy to not discuss intelligence matters.

At the U.N., Mr. Ri said his country was a victim of unfair sanctions and biased action by the world body and said the U.N. was tilted in favor of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China.

North Korea appeared defiant against international criticism and U.N. Security Council action, dismissing both as unjustified pressure by the U.S. and its allies.

Seven representatives from North Korea were sitting in the country’s designated area in the General Assembly hall. Two American delegates were also present, listening to the speech and taking notes.

North Korea’s speech has been one of the most anticipated at the gathering of world leaders this year, along with Mr. Trump’s speech. North Korea has little interaction with the outside world, and the annual General Assembly meeting offers a unique opportunity for world leaders to hear directly from Pyongyang’s regime.

Many world leaders mentioned North Korea’s crisis in their own speeches to the assembly this week, urging its leaders to abandon its nuclear and missile tests in favor of diplomacy.

Ireland’s minister for environment, Denis Naughton, spoke at the podium Saturday before Mr. Ri. He urged North Korea to calm the tensions.

“This is a conflict the world does not need and we need to move away from,” Mr. Naughton said.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at farnaz.fassihi@wsj.com and Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-warplanes-fly-along-north-koreas-coastline-in-show-of-force-1506193762

Qatar’s foreign minister to keynote US-Islamic World forum — Emir of Qatar publicly visiting US forces at big Al Udeid base

September 17, 2017

Al Jazeera

Image result for Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, photos

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani will deliver a keynote address at the US-Islamic World Forum in New York on Sunday.

The annual forum, now in its 13th year, is organised by the Brookings Institution in conjunction with the state of Qatar. This year’s theme is “Crisis and Cooperation” and discussion topics include ending conflicts in the Middle East and the future of pluralism in the Arab world.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/qatar-diplomatic-crisis-latest-updates-170605105550769.html

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Emir of Qatar publicly visiting US forces at big Al Udeid base 

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Emir of Qatar publicly visiting US forces at big Al Udeid base, September 17, 2017

U.S. Dispatches Stealth Jets, Bombers in Warning to North Korea

August 31, 2017

Korean Peninsula flyover in direct response to Pyongyang’s latest missile launch over Japan

U.S. Air Force stealth fighter jets and South Korean jets fly over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, Aug. 31.
U.S. Air Force stealth fighter jets and South Korean jets fly over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, Aug. 31. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated Aug. 31, 2017 8:10 a.m. ET

SEOUL—The U.S. sent four of its most advanced fighter jets and a pair of B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula, alongside Japanese and South Korean jets, as a show of force in direct response to North Korea firing a missile over Japan.

The Air Force flyover Thursday, which included a bombing drill on a range in South Korea, came at the end of annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that have angered Pyongyang.

It is the first time the F-35B jets have been used in such a mission with the B-1B bombers over the peninsula, the U.S. Air Force Pacific Command said in a statement. It said the flyover—which also included two Japanese F-15 and four South Korean F-15K fighter jets—emphasized an “ironclad commitment” to the defense of allies and the U.S., and maintained a readiness to give leaders “viable and ready military options.”

The latest move threatens to raise the temperature again on the peninsula, after North Korea’s launch Tuesday of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that soared over the Japanese city of Hakodate and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. said Thursday’s mission was in direct response to North Korea’s missile launch.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander of the Pacific Air Forces. “Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

There was no reaction to the jets’ flyover from North Korea through its state media.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that “talking is not the answer” in dealing with the threat from North Korea’s weapons, though Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking later in the day, said that Washington is “never out of diplomatic options.”

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to surround the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam with “enveloping fire” by launching four intermediate-range missiles into the waters around the island.

The threat came after Pyongyang complained about previous American B-1B flyovers and warned the U.S. against conducting further such exercises.

Days later, Pyongyang said that leader Kim Jong Un had decided against firing missiles toward Guam for now, but that he would continue to watch the U.S.’s behavior during the joint military exercises. The U.S. and South Korea say the maneuvers are defensive in nature, but the North regards them as a precursor to invasion.

On Aug. 20, the day before the exercises began, Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s main party newspaper, warned that its military was “keeping a high alert” and would “take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the ‘preventive war’ is spotted.”

North Korea says the U.S. is considering a unilateral strike against it, while President Trump said earlier this month that military options were “locked and loaded.”

North Korea has threatened Guam, in particular, because of the presence of the Andersen Air Force base there, from which the U.S. has launched a number of B-1B flyovers of the Korean Peninsula this year in response to Pyongyang’s missile tests.

Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!

In Thursday’s flyover mission, the two B-1B bombers were from the Andersen base and the four F-35B jets were from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, according to the U.S. Pacific Command.

In a statement carried Wednesday by state-run Korean Central News Agency, Mr. Kim called Tuesday’s missile launch over Japan a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam.”

On the same day, after the launch, South Korea sent four of its fighter jets to simulate a bombing raid aimed at destroying “the enemy’s leadership.”

Meanwhile, Japan’s defense ministry on Thursday sought approval to bolster the country’s missile-defense capability. The budget request includes radar that can quickly locate North Korea’s submarine-launched missiles, and weapons to shoot down projectiles at high altitudes.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-bombers-in-show-of-force-after-north-koreas-missile-over-japan-1504176067

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The United States flew some of its most advanced warplanes in bombing drills with ally South Korea on Thursday, a clear warning after North Korea launched a midrange ballistic missile designed to carry nuclear bombs over Japan earlier this week, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said. North Korea hates such displays of U.S. military might at close range and will likely respond with fury.

Two U.S. B-1B supersonic bombers and four F-35B stealth fighter jets joined four South Korean F-15 fighters in live-fire exercises at a military field in eastern South Korea that simulated precision strikes against the North’s “core facilities,” according to the U.S. Pacific Command and South Korea’s Defense Ministry. The B-1Bs were flown in from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam while the F-35Bs came from a U.S. base in Iwakuni, Japan.

The North, which claims Washington has long threatened Pyongyang by flaunting the powerful U.S. nuclear arsenal, describes the long-range B-1Bs as “nuclear strategic bombers” although the United States no longer arms them with nuclear weapons. A strong North Korean reaction to the drills is almost certain.

The dueling military displays open up the risk that things will get worse as each side seeks to show it won’t be intimidated.

North Korea has made it clear that it sees its weapons program, which demands regular testing to perfect, as the only way to contest decades of U.S. hostility, by which it means the huge U.S. military presence in South Korea, Japan and the Pacific. Washington, in turn, seeks with its joint drills with Seoul and bomber flights to show that it will not be pushed from its traditional role of supremacy in the region. More missile tests, more bomber flyovers and three angry armies facing each other across the world’s most heavily armed border raises the possibility that a miscalculation could lead to real fighting.

The U.S. Pacific Command said the exercises were conducted in direct response to North Korea’s recent missile launch. Over the course of a 10-hour mission, the B-1Bs, F-35Bs and two Japanese F-15 fighters first flew together over waters near Kyushu, Japan. The U.S. and South Korean warplanes then flew across the Korean Peninsula and participated in the live-fire training before returning to their respective home stations, according to the Pacific Command.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

In Beijing, North Korea’s ally China warned that war is not an option in finding a solution to Pyongyang’s growing nuclear capabilities.

Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Ren Guoqiang told reporters that all parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that escalate tension.

The bombing exercise came as the United States and South Korea wrapped up their annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military drills that involved tens of thousands of soldiers. North Korea condemns the annual U.S.-South Korea war games as rehearsals for an invasion and described Tuesday’s launch over Japan as a countermeasure against the drills. Washington and Seoul faced calls to postpone or downsize this year’s drills.

The United States often sends its warplanes to South Korea, mostly for patrols, when animosity rises on the Korean Peninsula, which is technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

North Korea on Tuesday flew a potentially-nuclear capable Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile over northern Japan and later called it a “meaningful prelude” to containing the U.S. territory of Guam. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the launch was a “curtain-raiser of its resolute countermeasures” against the U.S.-South Korea war games and called for his military to conduct more ballistic missile launches targeting the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea has been maintaining a torrid pace in weapons tests this year as it openly pursues an arsenal of nuclear-armed, intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching deep into the U.S. mainland. Experts say Kim wants a real nuclear deterrent against the United States to ensure the survival of his government and likely believes that it will strengthen his negotiating position when North Korea returns to talks.

Pyongyang had earlier threatened to fire a salvo of Hwasong-12s toward Guam, which is home to key U.S. military bases and strategic long-range bombers the North finds threatening. It also flight tested a pair of developmental ICBMs in July.

South Korean analysts said that the North’s threat against Guam and the launch over Japan on Tuesday are likely attempts to make launches over Japan an accepted norm and win itself greater military space in a region dominated by enemies.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries say the Hwasong-12 the North fired over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido flew for about 2,700 kilometers (1,677 miles). South Korea’s Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told lawmakers on Thursday that the North might have fired the missile at about half its maximum range.

Senior Islamic State commanders killed in Afghanistan air strike: U.S. military

August 13, 2017

By Josh Smith

Reuters

KABUL (Reuters) – Several senior members of Islamic State’s central Asian affiliate were killed in a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The attack on Thursday killed Abdul Rahman, identified by the U.S. military as the Kunar provincial emir for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan, according to a statement from the command in Kabul.

“The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K,” said General John Nicholson, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

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Abdul Rahman

Three other senior ISIS-K members were also among those killed in the strike in eastern Kunar province.

Nicholson has vowed to defeat Islamic State militants in Afghanistan this year.

The group’s emir, Abu Sayed, was reported killed in a strike on his headquarters in Kunar in July, the third Islamic State emir in Afghanistan to be killed since July 2016.

In April, Nicholson deployed a 21,600-pound (9,797 kg) “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” bomb against Islamic State positions in neighboring Nangarhar province, one of the largest conventional weapons ever used by the United States in combat.

Image result for Nangarhar, afghanistan, photos

Smoke rises after the U.S. strikes positions during an ongoing operation against ISIS in Nangarhar province

On Saturday, Afghan officials said as many as 16 civilians, including women and children, had been killed by a U.S. air strike in Nangarhar, but American officials said only militants were killed.

As part of an increased campaign against both Islamic State and the Taliban, the dominant Islamist militant group in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has dropped nearly 2,000 weapons in the country as of the end of July, compared to fewer than 1,400 in all of last year.

Despite some battlefield successes by Afghan and American special operations troops, Islamic State has continued deadly attacks around Afghanistan, fueling fears that the group is seeking to bring the group’s Middle East conflict to Central Asia.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Kim Coghill

North Korea Threat Comes After Trump Vows ‘Fire and Fury’

August 9, 2017

After president warns against making any more threats to the U.S, North Korea says it is considering plan to launch missiles at Guam

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North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows the second intercontinental ballistic missile launched from an undisclosed site in the North. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Is North Korea Close to Being a Nuclear Weapons State?
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President Donald Trump discusses North Korea on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. President Donald Trump Tuesday threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury.” Photo Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump bluntly warned North Korea against making any more threats to the U.S., saying the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Within hours of Mr. Trump’s comments, North Korea made its most specific threat against the U.S. yet. Through its official media, North Korea said it was considering firing missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and making the U.S. “the first to experience the might of the strategic weapons of the DPRK”—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name.

Mr. Trump’s stark comments reflect deep concern in the administration about the progress North Korea has made in recent months on its nuclear-weapons program, as well as provocative statements this week that seemingly rejected negotiations over curbing that program.

The president’s brief remarks at his golf resort in New Jersey likely were aimed both at North Korea, which this week openly threatened to use nuclear weapons, and at China, in hopes of alarming the Chinese into doing their part to enforce new United Nations economic sanctions against North Korea.

Meanwhile, a senior Trump administration official said Tuesday that Washington shouldn’t assume it will be able to contain a North Korea with nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles through traditional deterrence methods.

“We are not going to allow North Korea to hold American cities hostage,” the official said.

Mr. Trump vowed in January that North Korea wouldn’t develop a nuclear weapon capable of striking parts of the U.S.

While North Korea’s state media regularly threatens strikes on the U.S. homeland and other U.S. military assets in Asia, they are usually vague in detail and rarely linked directly to an order from the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A spokesman for the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army was quoted in state media as saying that the operational plan would be “soon reported to the Supreme Command” and “will be put into practice in a multi-concurrent and consecutive way any moment once Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of the nuclear force of the DPRK, makes a decision.”

In a statement published through its state media, North Korea’s military urged the U.S. to “clearly face up to the fact that the ballistic rockets of the Strategic Force of the KPA are now on constant standby, facing the Pacific Ocean.”

North Korea has conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006. U.S. officials long have believed the country has had the capability to produce a nuclear warhead small enough to travel atop a ballistic missile, though they also think North Korea faces technical hurdles.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during congressional testimony in May that the North Korean leader “was photographed beside a nuclear warhead design and missile airframes to show that North Korea has warheads small enough to fit on a missile.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency concluded “with moderate confidence” in a 2013 report read during a public congressional hearing that North Korea possessed “nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.” At the time, the agency believed their reliability was low.

Last month, the DIA also issued a new analysis concluding North Korea had produced nuclear weapons small enough to be carried by intercontinental ballistic missiles, U.S. officials confirmed.

The Washington Post first reported the existence of that analysis on Tuesday, which refers to an assessment of the capability by the broader intelligence community.What has worried U.S. officials most in recent months, though, is the rapid progression of the country’s program to field intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs—long-range weapons that would allow North Korea to rocket warheads through the atmosphere to hit the continental U.S.

North Korea conducted its first ICBM test on July 4 and followed up with a second ICBM teston July 28 that experts said put the continental U.S. firmly in range of a strike.

But so far experts disagree about whether the devices the country has tested have been able to survive re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere without disintegrating, according to analysts who have scrutinized footage of the test launches.

U.S. officials say there is also no indication yet that North Korea has tested whether its miniaturized nuclear warhead can withstand re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere.

In its remarks, published by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, North Korea cited recent routine U.S. tests of American intercontinental ballistic missiles and U.S. Air Force flyovers of the Korean Peninsula this week as reasons for its move.

The report said a missile attack would use the Hwasong-12 and target the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, from which the U.S. has sent its B-1B bombers several times this year to fly over the Korean Peninsula.

A U.S. Pacific Command spokesman confirmed American B-1B bombers conducted a flyover this week.

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Over the weekend the U.N. Security Council voted to impose the harshest economic sanctions yet on North Korea over their nuclear weapons programs. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examines whether Pyongyang will walk through the door the diplomatic effort has opened for them. Photo: Getty

The missile and air force flyovers, North Korea said, were “driving the regional situation to an extreme pitch by bringing various kinds of nuclear strategic hardware before the very eyes of the DPRK.”

“War is by no means a game,” North Korea said in one of its reports Wednesday. “We do not hide that we already have in full readiness the diversified strategic nuclear strike means which have the U.S. mainland in our striking range.”

The progress North Korea has made on its nuclear weapons program has presented Mr. Trump’s administration with one of the toughest national-security challenges in a generation. Officials fear Mr. Kim could soon possess a weapon that can hold U.S. cities hostage with mass destruction, a threat administration officials say they won’t accept.

The Trump administration notched a significant win in its effort to push back on North Korea’s threats at the U.N. on Saturday, when China joined the Security Council in unanimously passing a sanctions resolution aimed at slashing about $1 billion from North Korea’s annual foreign export revenue. A senior administration official said Tuesday that China’s vote showed that Beijing was increasingly viewing North Korea as a strategic liability rather than an asset.

Whether the sanctions can work fast enough to prevent Mr. Kim from obtaining the capability to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons remains unclear.

Mr. Trump’s remarks Tuesday appeared to echo those that President Harry S. Truman made in 1945 after ordering the use of a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and demanding Japan’s surrender during World War II. Mr. Truman warned that if the Japanese failed to accept the U.S. terms of surrender, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

Mr. Trump didn’t make clear what actions by North Korea would trigger such a dramatic U.S. response, or what precisely it would have to do to prevent it, raising the prospect of a miscommunication between Washington and Pyongyang at a moment of heightened tensions.

Republican Sen. John McCain, in an interview with Arizona radio station KTAR on Tuesday, said of Mr. Trump’s remarks: “That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure how it helps. … I take exception to the president’s words because you got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do.”

The administration has emphasized that it is leaving all options on the table, including military intervention. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the U.S. isn’t seeking a regime change in North Korea and urged the country to stop its missile tests and enter a dialogue with Washington.

One calculation the Trump administration must make is whether Mr. Kim is seeking the capability only to guarantee the survival of his regime, or whether he plans to leverage his newfound nuclear arsenal to pursue geostrategic aims in the region. For example, the Kim regime has long sought to divide the U.S. from its ally in South Korea and harbored ambitions of reunifying the Korean Peninsula on its own terms.

“I believe that any approach that somehow gives North Korea nuclear status is a mistake, because I think what they’re ultimately after is to try to decouple us from South Korea,” said Christopher R. Hill, former assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Mr. Hill outlined a scenario in which North Korea develops a nuclear warhead that can strike the U.S. and then mounts a conventional invasion of South Korea to reunite the peninsula. Pyongyang could threaten the U.S. with a nuclear strike on a U.S. city should American forces come to South Korea’s aid, forcing Washington to choose between the homeland and its ally.

The senior Trump administration official said the U.S. doesn’t have the luxury of assuming Mr. Kim won’t pursue grand geopolitical ambitions once he obtains a reliable nuclear arsenal.

“There are some who believe he seeks these weapons to maintain the status quo on the peninsula,” the official said. “But if you listen to what he himself has said at various times, it looks as if he has grand ambitions to change the status quo on the peninsula.”

Write to Paul Sonne at paul.sonne@wsj.com, Shane Harris at shane.harris@wsj.com and Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

Appeared in the August 9, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-warns-north-korea-not-to-make-further-threats-1502221218

Russian, NATO Planes Play Risky Game Over Baltic Sea

July 12, 2017

More adversarial flights, close intercepts raise concerns of accidents and escalation

NATO and Russian pilots are reviving a Cold War contest of nerves, increasing the risk that airborne close encounters could accidentally spark a conflict.

Over the past three years, the number of adversarial flights near the other side’s planes and ships have increased significantly. The tactic, usually meant as a show of force or used to test tactics, revives a dormant game of chicken long played by Soviet and North Atlantic Treaty Organization pilots.

It was a risky game: Aircraft sometimes narrowly avoided midair collisions, and opposing ships occasionally collided at sea. NATO officials now worry about a new phase of reckless gamesmanship and its consequences.

A U.S. RC-135U, flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, is intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on June 19.
A U.S. RC-135U, flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, is intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on June 19. PHOTO: MASTER SGT. CHARLES LARKIN SR./U.S. AIR FORCE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Concerns have risen to the point where they now figure large in conversations between NATO and Russia. The NATO-Russia Council, a body established in 2002 to encourage cooperation and consultation between Moscow and the alliance, is set to meet Thursday to discuss large-scale Russian exercises in September. Western officials worry the exercises could lead to a new surge in midair incidents.

The Baltic Sea has become the focal point for this new white-knuckle geopolitical tussle. Rhetoric is rising in the region, where newer NATO members on Russia’s border are nervous and Russia’s military has shown a willingness to use close intercepts as political messages.

NATO and U.S. officials believe an accidental air-to-air collision, or a plane crashing into a ship, is one of the most dangerous threats facing the alliance. A deadly mishap could engender an escalation—with each side accusing the other of provocation.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity—we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Allies are expected to raise the issue of the intercepts at Thursday’s meeting, officials said. Allied officials said risk reduction in the Baltic Sea is a concern, in particular in light of what one NATO official called “unsafe and unprofessional behaviors by Russian pilots.”

The air-safety issue has been discussed in that forum before, but it is taking on renewed urgency because of the coming exercises and several close calls this year.

Global Zero, a research and advocacy group that opposes nuclear weapons, analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Western and Russian military aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017, more than two-thirds the global total of air intercepts in that period. Such confrontations were rarer in the decade before Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014.

Markers are already down. The U.S. recently accused a Russian Su-27 jet fighter of unsafely intercepting an American reconnaissance plane on June 19 and flying erratically just yards away from it.

Two days later, Russian television broadcast footage appeared to show a Polish F-16 approaching a plane with the Russian defense minister on board. A Russian Su-27 fighter then zooms into the picture, performing what the Russians described as a warning maneuver before flying away. The channel quoted Russian military expert Alexander Zhilin as saying the allied pilots “are conducting themselves simply like bandits.”

Poland has said its plane was on a NATO patrol mission when it intercepted the Russian jet. NATO officials have said there was nothing unprofessional about the intercept.

Western officials and the Global Zero report say it is Russian pilots who more often undertake unsafe intercepts. Some, they say, are accidents, some negligence, and others intentional shows of force.

Lukasz Kulesa, research director at the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank, said some of the most recent incidents “seem to be connected to sending a message to the other side.”

Mr. Kulesa noted that Russian aircraft approached American spy planes over the Baltic Sea shortly after an escalation in the confrontation between the U.S.-led coalition and the Syrian regime that led to the shooting down of a pro-regime drone and Syrian warplane by American aircraft.

“It’s a way to say that we, the Russians, are displeased with your behavior,” Mr. Kulesa said.

A Russian Sukhoi SU-24 attack aircraft flying over the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea in April 2016.
A Russian Sukhoi SU-24 attack aircraft flying over the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea in April 2016. PHOTO: US NAVY/REUTERS

Some allied and U.S. officials believe the Russian government uses confrontations to turn up and down the pressure in the region for geopolitical advantage, ordering pilots to be cautious or to approach more aggressively.

Moscow denies this and that their pilots are at fault, saying it is the West that has been eroding security by building up its military forces on Russia’s borders.

NATO and Russia are working to agree on “risk reduction” measures in the Baltic region. Western and Russian officials say progress is a test of each side’s seriousness about dialogue despite deep suspicion.

“We share the view dialogue is important,” Alexander Grushko, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, said last month. “The prevention of military incidents demands…systemic communications between the two militaries, and discussions [by] military experts.”

Finland has organized one discussion between NATO and Russia on safety measures and proposed requiring all planes to use transponders. Allied officials have reacted skeptically to the transponder measure, noting many Russian military aircraft don’t have transponders. American reconnaissance planes also don’t always operate with them on.

Many Western official fear the large military exercises Russia and Belarus are planning for the fall will raise the risk of an incident. In a sign of the concern about potential provocations by Russia, the U.S. adjusted the rotation of fighter planes for the NATO air-policing mission in the Baltic, so that its planes rather than those of less-experienced pilots from other NATO countries would be on alert during the Russian exercises in the fall.

When Russia begins its major exercise, called Zapad or West, over the Baltic airspace in September, Sweden will be conducting its own, called Aurora, joined by a number of NATO countries,.

“We hope everyone keeps calm,” Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö said.

Write to Nathan Hodge at nathan.hodge@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russian-nato-planes-contest-airspace-over-baltic-sea-1499868000?tesla=y&mod=e2fb