Tag: Nuclear

Stratcom Commander Describes Challenges of 21st-Century Deterrence

Strategic deterrence starts with nuclear capabilities because nuclear war always has been an existential threat to the nation, but deterrence in the 21st century presents new challenges and requires the integration of all capabilities, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said during a recent interview with DoD News at his command’s Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, headquarters.  

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten said his three priorities for Stratcom are simple: one, above all else provide a strategic deterrent; two, if deterrence fails provide a decisive response; and three, respond with a combat-ready force.

But unlike in past decades, the 21st century presents more than one adversary and more than one domain, he said.

“It’s now a multipolar problem with many nations that have nuclear weapons, … and it’s also multidomain. … We have adversaries that are looking at integrating nuclear, conventional, space and cyber, all as part of a strategic deterrent. We have to think about strategic deterrence in the same way,” Hyten said.

The vision for Stratcom, he added, is to integrate all capabilities — nuclear, space, cyberspace, missile defense, global strike, electronic warfare, intelligence, targeting, analysis — so they can be brought to bear in a single decisive response if the nation is threatened.

“We can’t [assume] that having 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons under the New START Treaty somehow deters all our adversaries. It doesn’t,” the general said. “We have to think about all the domains, all the adversaries, all the capabilities, and focus our attention across the board on all of those.”


Modernization is critical to the future of the U.S. deterrent capability, Hyten said, because all elements of the nuclear triad — bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear submarines — will reach a point within about 15 years at which they’re no longer viable.

“They are viable today. They are safe, secure, reliable, ready, [and] they can do all the missions they need to do today,” he said. “But in the not-too-distant future, that won’t be the case. Sadly, we’ve delayed the modernization of those programs really too long. And now if you lay all the modernization programs out on a single table and you look at when they all deliver, they all deliver just in time.”

The next intercontinental ballistic missile delivers just in time to replace the Minuteman, and the Columbia nuclear submarine delivers just in time to replace the Ohio-class sub, he added.

“Any one-year delay in Columbia means the future Stratcom commander is going to be down one submarine. And any future delay in the ICBM means we’re going to be down a certain number of ICBMs,” Hyten said.

It’s the same with the nation’s B-52 and B-2 bombers, the general said. The B-52 is an old but amazing weapon delivery platform that will have no penetration capability because of evolving penetration profiles. The B-2 is aging out and must be replaced by the B-21. The B-21 will come along just in time to provide the bomber capabilities the nation needs, he added.

“I don’t want a future Stratcom commander to ever face a day where we don’t have a safe, secure, ready and reliable nuclear deterrent,” he said. “It has to be there.”

Extended Deterrence

Extended deterrence is another critical job for Stratcom, Hyten said, noting that assurance is one of the most important things the command does for U.S. allies.

“When you look at our allies like the Republic of Korea or Japan, we have capabilities here that provide an extended deterrent for those two allies and a number of other allies around the world,” he said. “It’s important that the United States always assure them that we will be there with the capabilities that we have if they’re ever attacked with nuclear capabilities. That’s what extended deterrence means.”

Assurance can come through demonstrations, partnerships and exercises, he noted.

“There is a challenge right now with North Korea, and it’s very important for the Republic of Korea and for Japan to know that we will be there. And we will be,” he said.

The Pentagon considers North Korean mobile ballistic missiles a top threat

Stratcom’s Strength

Stratcom’s strength lies with the 184,000 people who show up and do Stratcom business every day, Hyten said.

“The best part of being a commander is actually seeing the young men and women who do this mission every day,” the general said. “The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines sign up to do some of the most difficult jobs that our country has, and man, they do it, they love it and they’re good at it.”

Hyten said he can’t emphasize the importance of Stratcom’s people enough. “Sometimes it brings tears to your eyes when you see the quality of the people who come, who raise their hand and want to come and serve our country,” he added.

The general said he loves the fact that Stratcom’s people raise their hands and swear an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, an ideal written down on a piece of paper more than 200 years ago. That ideal still is what drives men and women of the nation to want to serve, he added.

“The people of this command take that very seriously,” Hyten said, “and they are just remarkable in what they do.”


German foreign minister warns New START and INF Treaties termination will affect Europe

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP

The termination of the Treaties on missile armament cuts and liquidation will affect Europe’s security, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday.

Germany’s top diplomat made this statement after a meeting with experts of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Nuclear Weapons Cuts from Russia, the United States and Germany.

“The possible termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the non-prolongation of the New START Treaty [the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms] are what will eventually threaten Europe, in the first place,” Gabriel said.

The German foreign minister also said he shared the experts’ opinion that “the worst Cold War mistakes are repeated” and the world is at the stage of “Cold War 2.0.”

According to him, European countries should become active participants in the disarmament discussion.

“Germany should speak more actively with the United States, with Russia about this within the NATO framework,” the foreign minister said.

At the same time, Social Democrat Gabriel again lashed at the Conservatives in the German government who advocated a sharp increase in defense spending.

“In this regard, it is more important to double the efficiency of expenditures rather than their volume,” he said.

“I expect that the political leadership in [the Christian Democratic/Christian Social] Union won’t yield to the militarist logic [of US President Donald Trump] and this is what exactly is taking place now,” the German foreign minister said, noting that such policy could become a problem for Berlin.





Guam, Japan prepare for possible North Korea missile launch

SANTA RITA, Guam. An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam. Naval Base Guam supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hagatña, Guam (CNN) North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the US-territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.

In a statement last week, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, said the plan to fire “four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets … to signal a crucial warning to the US” would be ready by “mid-August.”

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

A notice put out by Guam’s Joint Information Center Saturday warned residents how to prepare “for an imminent missile threat.”

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the note said. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”

Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.

Japan missile defense deployed

On Saturday, some of Japan’s land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors began arriving at Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) bases in three of the four prefectures any North Korean missiles would likely fly over en route to Guam.

Pyongyang identified three of those areas — Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures — in its statement last week.

A spokesman for SDF said the missiles were being deployed not to intercept missiles, but rather “just in case.” He did not elaborate.

Sim Tack, a senior analyst for private intelligence firm Stratfor, said the Japanese batteries are designed for protecting the area where they are deployed, “(they are) not meant to shoot missiles out of the sky as they pass over Japan at high altitude.”

“So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn’t have a function to serve in this particular case,” he said.
Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense Scenario

The SDF spokesman said the country’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system was deployed in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but would not give a specific location.

Aegis is able to track 100 missiles simultaneously and fire interceptors to take out an enemy’s ballistic projectiles.

In South Korea, where both the military and civilians are used to facing threats from North Korea, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned the country’s armed forces “to maintain full readiness” to “immediately punish with powerful force” any action against the South.

“Recently, North Korea made its habitual absurd remarks that it will turn Seoul into a sea of fire and that it will strike near Guam,” Song said according to ministry official. “North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the international community.”

Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month. The annual exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, are expected to run from August 21 to 31.

Calls for calm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders have called for calm as both Pyongyang and Washington upped their saber-rattling rhetoric.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled down on his statement that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued its threats, saying in a tweet that “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against North Korea.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xi told Trump in a call between the two leaders Saturday all “relevant parties parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described escalation as “the wrong answer,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump’s statements were “very worrying.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English criticized Trump’s “fire and fury” comments as “not helpful in an environment that’s very tense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to work with North Korea to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions,” following a call with Trump Saturday.

Washington has previously said it will consider talks with Pyongyang if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program, a pre-condition North Korean officials have described as a non-starter.

Guam waits for news

At a church in central Guam Sunday, parishioners sang “Lord, we pray for world peace” after discussing the potential North Korean threat.

“There’s a lot of disbelief going on, there’s a lot of anxiety,” Father Paul Gofigan told CNN after the mass.

Gofigan said there is not a lot of panic in Guam, and that people’s faith — the island has been overwhelmingly Catholic since the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 17th century– has been on display in recent days.

“Faith is so deeply rooted into our culture,” he said.

The territory’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and the President’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Saturday.

“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote on Facebook. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”

As an unincorporated US territory, citizens of Guam cannot vote in general elections. The island is also home to a large US military presence, a fact that has led to tension with some local residents, particularly those of the indigenous Chamorro community.

“Nobody really deserves to be caught in the middle of these games,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an activist who campaigns for a lowered military presence.

“You’re playing with people’s lives. We just want peace, we just want to continue to enjoy our lives here.”


North Korea threatens missile strike on Guam that will create an ‘enveloping fire’

North Korea said it is “carefully examining” plans to attack Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles, state-run media reported Wednesday.

The rogue nation’s statement follows President Donald Trump‘s comments hours before, during which he warned North Korea that any threats to the U.S. “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”

The North Korean army made the announcement in a statement distributed by its state-run news agency that the military is reviewing a plan to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around the U.S. territory, located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,100 miles from North Korea.

The statement said the decision to review such plans is in response to a recent ICBM test.

There are 7,000 US military personnel on Guam.

The main base on the island is Andersen Air Force Base that is home to long-range B-1 bombers that have recently been used for “show of force” missions to South Korea following North Korea’s two ICBM missile launches.

A pair of B-1B Strategic Bombers based in Guam

Andersen Air Force Base is just one of the installations on Guam; Naval Base Guam also has a significant number of personnel.

Guam’s offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense said in a statement that its threat level remained unchanged, and that it will “continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and their threatening actions.”

Homeland Security adviser George Charfauros said in a statement, “As of this morning, we have not changed our stance in confidence that the U.S. Department of Defense is monitoring this situation very closely and is maintaining a condition of readiness, daily. We will continue to keep the public updated on any changes or requests for action. For now, we advise the community to remain calm, remember that there are defenses in place for threats such as North Korea and to continue to remain prepared for all hazards.”

Charfauros is in regular contact with the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. He has not received any guidance that there is an imminent threat, Guam Homeland Security said.

Still, the speaker of the Guam Legislature told The Associated Press he hopes the island can defend itself in the event of a North Korean attack.

“We’re just praying that the United States and the … defense system we have here is sufficient enough to protect us,” Benjamin J. Cruz said.

Cruz said the threat is “very disconcerting,” adding, “It forces us to pause and to say a prayer for the safety of our people.”

Guam’s governor, Eddie Calvo, released a two-minute video message to the island’s residents, in which he said, “I want to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality.”





A Grim Future For Russia’s Nuclear Sub Fleet – The Kremlin can’t replace its aging subs fast enough

Russian Northern Fleet submarine base, Severomorsk, Murmansk

In March 2017, Russia’s new Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Kazan launched at the northern port city of Severodvinsk. Perhaps the quietest Russian submarine ever, the event was further evidence the Kremlin can still build capable and lethal subs capable of a variety of missions, including cruise-missile attack.

But it won’t be enough. The Russian navy — already badly depleted since the collapse of the Soviet Union — can’t quickly replace most of its existing nuclear submarine fleet, which is approaching the end of its collective lifespan. The outcome will likely mean a shrinking of the Russian nuclear submarine force in the years ahead.

By 2030, the bulk of Russia’s nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines will be in their mid-thirties at least — with some pushing into their forties. For perspective, the three oldest active American attack submarines, the Los Angeles-class USS Dallas, Bremerton and Jacksonville, are all 36 years old and waiting to be decommissioned during the next three years.

Submarines wear out in old age, particularly due to hull corrosion. Another serious concern is corrosion affecting components inside the nuclear reactor compartments, but data surrounding this subject are tightly guarded secrets among the world’s navies.

More to the point, naval vessels staying in service during old age require more maintenance and longer rest periods. Given that only around half of Russia’s submarine force — a charitable estimate — can be at sea at any given time, a force made up of mostly old boats will strain operational readiness.

Russian Oscar II class submarine K-150 Tomsk

The Kremlin’s relatively new multi-role Yasen class, of which two — the Severodvinsk and Kazan — launched in 2010 and 2017 respectively, cannot make up for the future retirements of Russia’s 11 Akulas, three Sierras, four Victor III attackers and eight Oscar II cruise missile subs, which are all getting long in the tooth.

The youngest Akula class, Gepard, entered service in 2000. Most date to the early 1990s.

The Yasen is a late-Soviet design with seven planned submarines, with the last one planned to enter service in 2023. This is again being generous given the Yasen class’ enormous expense, which is twice as high as one of Russia’s new ballistic missile subs.

Akula Class Russian attack submarine

While Russia could attempt to keep its Cold War-era subs going as long as possible, “given the obvious risk of rising costs, Russia will be able to have no more than 50 percent of the current number of nuclear submarines [by 2030],” the Russian military blog BMPD warned in a particularly grim assessment.

Russia’s ballistic missile submarines will be in somewhat better shape in 2030. Few countries possess “boomers” capable of dumping nuclear warheads into enemy cities — the United States, India, China, France, the United Kingdom and North Korea. Russia currently has 13, including three from the new Borey class, with up to five more on the way.

But by 2030, Russia’s three Delta III, six Delta IV-class boomers and its one Typhoon class will all be at least 40 years old if they remain in service. Nevertheless, even if Russia scrapped these boats and only relied on its newer Boreys, no country can likely match them in numbers except for the United States, China and possibly India.

Borey-class submarine with an Akula in the background

Russia could attempt to further make up the gap in attack- and cruise-missile-submarines with its tentatively-titled Project Husky, which is still in the design phase.

The Husky could come in three variants for attack missions, cruise-missile strike — or SSGN — and ballistic missile roles. Dedicated SSGNs are particularly important for Russia, which has long based its naval doctrine around long-range missile attacks on American carrier groups. Russian anti-ship cruise missiles are especially fearsome.

But the most optimistic estimates have Russia possessing a mere three Huskies by 2030 if construction of the first of the class begins in the early 2020s — and that’s if the Russian navy keeps up ordering one every two years with a four-and-a-half year build period.

While the Yasens probably have the ability to launch cruise missiles as well, that would still leave Russia with around 10 modern nuclear-powered SSNs and dedicated SSGNs alongside two-dozen boats in their thirties and forties facing looming retirement.

The diesel-electric fleet isn’t in much better shape, with most of Russia’s 17 Kilo-class hunter-killers dating to the early 1990s. Although more advanced versions, the Project 636 Varshavyanka and the Lada class, have been commissioned at a brisker pace than the nuclear-powered Yasens.


Upgrade of Russian strategic bombers tops Defense Ministry’s priority list

The work to extend the service life of Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers and raise their combat efficiency is on the Russian Defense Ministry’s priority list, Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

“We’ll continue discussing today how tasks are being solved to develop the fleet of Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers. These planes are an important component of the country’s nuclear potential,” the defense minister said at the ministry’s conference call.

These planes carry out regular flights under the nuclear containment plan over the Arctic Ocean and the Black Sea and also in eastern areas, the defense minister said.

“That is why, extending the service life of the missile carriers and raising their combat efficiency are among our priority tasks. Now the public joint-stock company Tupolev is carrying out modernization of the planes jointly with other industrial enterprises and also repairing aviation engines, onboard equipment and reproducing new units and assemblies. Considering the high significance of works being carried out, we’ll discuss what has been done over this month,” the defense minister said.

The Tu-160 is the Soviet strategic missile carrier armed with cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Along with the Tu-95MS missile carrier, the Tu-160 makes part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces along with the ground-based missile systems and submarines.



South Korea to Deploy 4 More Anti-missile Units

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, during Flight Test THAAD, July 11, 2017.

South Korea said Saturday it will proceed with the deployment of four additional units of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system after North Korea’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The deployment of the additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defenae (THAAD) units had been delayed after the initial two units, after South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered an environmental assessment.

China has been notified of the move to speed up the deployment, the South’s presidential Blue House said.

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed serious concern Saturday about South Korea decision to proceed with the deployment of the additional units.

The deployment will not resolve South Korea’s security concerns and will only make things more complex, the ministry said, reiterating a Chinese call for the system to be withdrawn.

North Korea said earlier Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that proved its ability to strike all of America’s mainland.

Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is an American anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach. THAAD was developed after the experience of Iraq’s Scud missile attacks during the Gulf War in 1991. The THAAD interceptor carries no warhead, but relies on its kinetic energy of impact to destroy the incoming missile. A kinetic energy hit minimizes the risk of exploding conventional warhead ballistic missiles, and nuclear tipped ballistic missiles will not detonate upon a kinetic energy hit.

Originally a United States Army program, THAAD has come under the umbrella of the Missile Defense Agency. The Navy has a similar program, the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, which now has a land component as well (“Aegis ashore”). THAAD was originally scheduled for deployment in 2012, but initial deployment took place in May 2008. THAAD has been deployed in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and South Korea.

The THAAD system is being designed, built, and integrated by Lockheed Martin Space Systems acting as prime contractor. Key subcontractors include Raytheon, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Honeywell, BAE Systems, Oshkosh Defense, MiltonCAT and the Oliver Capital Consortium.

On 6 March 2017, two THAAD launcher trucks arrived by air transport at Osan Air Base South Korea, for a deployment. Earlier that day, North Korea had launched 4 missiles. A Reuters article stated that with the THAAD defense system, a North Korean missile barrage would still pose a threat to South Korea, while an article in the International Journal of Space Politics & Policy said that South Korean forces already possess Patriot systems for point defense and Aegis destroyers capable of stopping ballistic missiles that may come from the north, in a three-layer antimissile defense for South Korea. On 16 March 2017, a THAAD radar arrived in South Korea. The THAAD system is kept at Osan Air Base until the site where the system is due to be deployed is prepared, with an expected ready date of June 2017. Osan Air Base has blast-hardened command posts with 3 levels of blast doors.

By 25 April 2017, six trailers carrying the THAAD radar, interceptor launchers, communications, and support equipment entered the Seongju site. On 30 April 2017, it was reported that South Korea would bear the cost of the land and facilities for THAAD, while the US will pay for operating it. On 2 May 2017, Moon Sang-gyun, with the South Korean Defense Ministry and Col. Robert Manning III, a spokesman for the U.S. military announced that the THAAD system in Seongju is operational and “has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend South Korea.” It was reported that the system will not reach its full operational potential until later this year when additional elements of the system are onsite. In June 2017 South Korea decided to halt further deployment. The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (United States) has integrated THAAD into its layered defense on the Korean Peninsula.

Even in the face of a North Korean ICBM test on 4 July 2017, which newly threatens Alaska, a Kodiak, Alaska-based THAAD interceptor test (FTT-18) against a simulated attack by an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile had long been planned. FTT-18 was successfully completed by Battery A-2 THAAD (Battery A, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (United States) on 11 July 2017. The soldiers used the procedures of an actual combat scenario and were not aware of the IRBM’s launch time.

Also in 2017 another Kodiak launch of a THAAD interceptor is scheduled between 7:30PM and 1:30AM on Saturday 29 July, Sunday 30 July, or Monday 31 July, at alternative times. North Korea is apparently positioning launch equipment in Kusong in preparation for a 27 July holiday. Lee Jong-kul, of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Minjoo Party states “The nuclear and missile capabilities of North Korea…have been upgraded to pose serious threats; the international cooperation system to keep the North in check has been nullified..”, citing tensions over the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in South Korea.

Source: Voice of America News.

North Korea’s Nuclear Programme, less than the cost of one US Aircraft Carrier

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — When North Korea decided to go nuclear, it committed to a huge investment in a program that would bring severe sanctions and eat up precious resources that could have been spent boosting the nation’s quality of life.

Money well spent?

Leader Kim Jong Un seems to think so.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs have without doubt come at a high cost, but the North has managed to march ever closer to having an arsenal capable of attacking targets in the region and – as demonstrated by its July 4 test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile – the United States’ mainland.

Good, solid figures for just about anything in North Korea are hard to find. So what follows should be taken as ballpark guesses, at best.

But here’s a look at how much that arsenal might cost Pyongyang, and why Kim might think that’s the price he must pay to survive.


South Korea has estimated the cost of the North’s nuclear program at $1 billion to $3 billion, with the higher number combining nuclear and missile development.

For context: one nuclear-powered Virginia class attack submarine costs the United States Navy about $2.5 billion. The USS Gerald Ford, America’s newest aircraft carrier, has an $8 billion price tag, not counting development costs.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense estimated the cost of the first 31 ballistic missiles Kim Jong Un test-launched from when he took power in late 2011 until July last year at $97 million. It put the price of each Scud at $1 million to $2 million; each Musudan from $3 million to $6 million; and each submarine-launched ballistic missile at $5 million to $10 million. Up until July last year, Kim had launched 16 Scuds, six Rodongs, six Musudans and three SLBMs.

Kim Jong-Un waving after the military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung.

Including the launch this month of its first ICBM, North Korea has conducted 11 tests, launching 17 missiles, so far this year.

North Korea’s total defense spending is believed to be around $10 billion a year, or somewhere between a fifth to a quarter of its gross domestic product (about $30 billion to $40 billion).


That’s a matter of heated debate. But the $2 billion it made in exports in 2015 would not begin to cover it. North Korea is also believed to have relied on foreign currency sent by tens of thousands of laborers dispatched abroad, as well as exports of illegal weapons and cybercrime.

Its military-spending-to-GDP ratio far exceeds any other country, but in monetary terms it spends much less than its neighbors, including South Korea and Japan, and its budget is absolutely minuscule when compared to the United States.

Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said that if the South Korean nuclear-program estimate is correct it would be a significant – but not necessarily destabilizing – draw on the North’s economy.

“This is expensive, but probably a cost the country can absorb without fomenting much resentment among North Korean “elites,” he said. “In fact, North Korean elites would probably feel less secure without a nuclear program even if its costs relative to the economy as a whole were higher.”

Melvin said the economic situation for common North Koreans would have to be in near ruin, with domestic resentment among elites reaching dangerous levels, before North Korea would reconsider its nuclear program.

“Current signals indicate that North Korea is nowhere near this breaking point,” he said.


The bottom line is that regime survival is Kim Jong Un’s primary objective.

There is no way North Korea could keep up with its richer and more technologically advanced neighbors in a conventional arms race.

While certainly expensive, the North’s nuclear strategy is in one sense a potential source of savings – once developed, maintaining a viable nuclear deterrent is less costly than paying for its conventional, million-man military. Once it has reliable nuclear arms, Pyongyang could reduce its spending on other areas of the military and redirect those savings toward the domestic economy.

It’s possible Kim Jong Un has already begun doing that.

Officially announced budgets have shown increases in funds for the public good, and Kim has adopted as his guiding policy a strategy of simultaneously developing the country’s nuclear arsenal and the national economy. Outside estimates indicate the North’s GDP has been growing slowly or at least holding steady since he became leader, and there has been visible growth in construction and infrastructure projects, along with the production of consumer goods, over the past five years.

The flip side is the harder to quantify loss in revenue from trade and friendly relationships with the outside world due to sanctions aimed at getting Pyongyang to denuclearize.

Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him of Twitter at EricTalmadge and Instagram.

Source: Associated Press.

European Defence: Can the industrial and strategic elements be brought together around a coherent vision?

Jean-Claude Junker; the European Commission proposed a reflection paper concerning the future of the European Defence in 2025 while advancing an ambitious “defence fund” for boosting the niche industrial sector.

Lately, the EU has become very active in pushing for meaningful steps in the area of security and defence. Last month, the European Commission proposed a reflection paper concerning the future of the European Defence in 2025 while advancing an ambitious “defence fund” for boosting the niche industrial sector. Some of these measures are resonating with the calls projected by Berlin and Paris for “taking our fate into our own hands”, but also with the idea of enhancing EU strategic autonomy, a reality more or less spearheaded by the election of Donald Trump.

Defence Matters debated the potential impact of these measures with Luis Simón, a Research Professor at the Institute for European Studies (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Director of the Brussels office of the Royal Elcano Institute.

Writing an op-ed in January in Financial Times, Emmanuel Macron concluded that “in the world of yesterday, European security was also America’s business.(…)It is time for Europeans to become sovereign.” How far would go this time the new call for European defense “souveranism”?

For the French, the concept of European defence souveranism is very much associated with industrial and technological questions. And my sense is that we are actually likely to see significant developments on the European defence-industrial front. On 7 June 2017, the European Commission launched a much-awaited European Defence Fund, which is a vehicle that aims to provide financial incentives to member states, with a view to advancing towards a more efficient and competitive European defence industrial base.

Emmanuel Macron concluded that “in the world of yesterday, European security was also America’s business.(…)It is time for Europeans to become sovereign.”

The European Defence Fund revolves around two main instruments:

the ‘research window’ contains a fund that aims to stimulate defence-related R&T in collaborative European programs. The Commission plans to spend about EUR 90 million for the next three years and EUR 500 million per year from 2020 onwards. These are not insignificant numbers. With this fund, the Commission will emerge as the fourth largest player in defence-related R&D in Europe, right below the UK, France and Germany, but above a country like Italy.

the so-called ‘capability window’ contains funds that aim to co-finance (up to a ceiling of 20%) the development of European defence capabilities, up to the prototype phase. The Commission’s purpose is to leverage its financial resources to stimulate collaborative research amongst companies from different member states – initially, up to 2020 the European Defence Industrial Development Programme will support projects involving at least three companies from at least two different member states. For this, the Commission intends to spend EUR 500 million for 2019-2020 and, from 2020 onwards, it plans to spend EUR 1 billion per year.

Given the combined resources of the European Defense Fund, more and more European defense companies are likely to look at the Commission as a key interlocutor.

So, when it comes to defense, the Commission does mean business, and it has the resources to put its money where its mouth is. The key question is to what extent are the Commission’s efforts on the defense-industrial front grounded in a common politico-strategic vision about the future of European defense. That is what is not so clear to me, because EU member states continue to have important differences in terms of strategic culture. Indeed, the Commission has been at great pains to say that it has provided the financial incentives, but member states must now come up with capability priorities. And it is not clear to me to what extent they’ll agree around a clear vision on capabilities. This is where differences in strategic culture come in.

France and Germany are the engine at the forefront of the current push for a more coherent European Defence Union. How aligned are their agendas today? Do they have a common mindset on defence issues?

France looks at military force not just through the lens of defence and deterrence, but also as a means of advancing its foreign policy and economic interests. And it makes a proactive use of it. Germany rejects that vision. It sees the military as a last resort defensive instrument. These differences are not just philosophical: they project into virtually any debate on European security cooperation, whether it relates to capability development, new institutional structures, or the launch of E.U. military missions.

The debate over the establishment of a HQ for the planning and conduct of EU military operations is a good thermometer of what I am talking about. The French have traditionally pushed for a fully staffed European Union military HQ geared for planning and conducting expeditionary missions. The Germans have advocated for a more modest civilian-military planning facility focusing on low-intensity, peacekeeping, and stabilization missions. Despite numerous institutional reshuffles in the European Union’s planning and conduct structures, French and German (and British!) red lines have barely moved since the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) was launched back in 1999. And this explains why it has taken nearly 20 years for the European Union to establish a so-called “Military Planning and Conduct Capability composed of up to 25 staffers (which is a remarkably modest number), and confined to provide assistance in the planning and conduct of so-called non-executive (i.e. training and assistance) missions.

Having said that, I think both France and Germany understand that something needs to be done on the defense-industrial front. And they both support the current efforts by the European Commission and the European Defense Agency, aimed at moving towards a more competitive European defense technological and industrial base.

Overall, I would say that there are both bright spots and shades in the area of European defense. My main concern here is that there is a risk that the industrial-technological aspects of European defense (which is where we are seeing the most progress) get decoupled from the political-strategic one. This would be a problem. Only if the two are brought together around a clear vision – shared by the Commission and the Member States – will European defense really move forward. At the end of the day, you cannot ask the Member States to give greater support to the Commission’s efforts to “rationalize” the European defense technological industrial base unless there is a clear political and strategic framework.

What are the real world consequences of this strategic culture gap for the future trajectory of EU defence policy? 

Let me address this question from a very practical viewpoint, looking at what is actually going on operationally. And lets bring Britain in, because I don’t think you can have a serious discussion about European defense without the UK.

Britain has been one of the leading advocates of greater military spending in Europe, and of investing in modern capabilities. And it has more often than not joined forces with France in that context, including in the context of the EU. Let us not forget that the launch of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy followed a bilateral Franco-British initiative in 1998 at Saint Malo. In particular, London and Paris agreed on the need to promote a more expeditionary, out-of-area outlook for European defence.

It is true that Britain and France have had their fair share of disagreements in the past, especially on questions related to the EU’s desired level of ‘strategic autonomy’ vis-à-vis NATO and the United States. However, this has changed in recent years, especially after France’s return to the Alliance’s integrated military structure in 2009, and its interest in strengthening its bilateral strategic ties with Britain and the US. In fact, France’s ‘Atlanticist shift’ may be partly explained by its realization that most European countries (Germany included) seem to be attracted by the notion of the EU as a ‘civilian power’, and by the fact this ‘softer’, German-championed vision of security is gaining more and more traction within the EU (at the expense of France’s).

Today, I would say that more and more people in France realize that their old idea of a militarily capable, extrovert and autonomous EU might be a rather tall order. This dovetails with an important point: whereas France, Germany and other countries may agree on the need for a stronger Europe in foreign and security policy, they do not necessarily agree on the question of what kind of Europe they want. Think about the Libya or Syria crises, where France has been much closer to the UK and US than to Germany or many other European countries.

To complicate things further, Russian revisionism in Eastern Europe is prompting many in Germany to think harder about defence and deterrence in an eastern flank context – and leading them to argue for German re-engagement within NATO.

Germany is critical to any credible NATO strategy aimed at restoring (conventional) deterrence in Eastern Europe. And this is a process that Britain is very much invested in. Two clear examples of that are London’s decision to set up a 7-nation Joint Expeditionary Force (aimed at fostering interoperability between the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic States) and its command of one of the four NATO battalions forwardly deployed in the Baltic (the other three being commanded by the US, Canada and Germany). Britain and Germany are each leading one of the two framework nation initiatives and two of the four battalions aimed at strengthening deterrence in NATO’s eastern flank. When it comes to guaranteeing security in Eastern Europe, Britain and Germany are clearly emerging as the two key European powers — that is the way the Baltic, Poles and Nordics understand it. France is, by and large, detached from this dynamic, bar some token contributions to NATO initiatives.

Britain and Germany converge and cooperate more and more in a NATO context while Britain and France converge and cooperate more and more (bilaterally) in out of area operations in the broader southern European neighbourhood. These developments underscore the centrality of Britain in the European defence architecture, and prompt questions about the future and role of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

Two out of the three scenarios that the European Commission advanced recently in its reflection paper on the future of European Defence presume the EU’s ability to conduct high intensity operations, the need to develop collective capabilities (in the area of strategic transport, UAVs, offensive capabilities) and to build up its own command structures. The 3rd scenario in particular proposes cloning NATO’s responsibilities (collective defence), and speaks about high end-operations, contingency planning, pre-positioned forces, rapid movement of military equipment across Europe, etc. Is replicating/mirroring something that already exists at NATO a wise policy course for the EU? Considering that many Central and Eastern European member states don’t really trust the EU when it comes to collective defense, do we not risk seeing greater European fragmentation?

I am not sure it is realistic for the EU to step into the territory of collective defence – and I do not think that is the intention of either the Commission or the Member States, at least not at present.

If you’re talking collective defence, the question of nuclear deterrence immediately comes up. You can only do deterrence – and have a credible defence – if you have escalation dominance or, at least, if you can match your opponent’s (potential) moves at every step alongside the escalation ladder, from hybrid, through conventional warfare to nuclear. It’s not like you can compartmentalise these things. Deterrence requires an integrated response, and an integrated command and control infrastructure.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has put deterrence and defence back in Europe’s security agenda. In addition, Moscow’s ongoing efforts to modernise its nuclear arsenal underscore the renewed importance of nuclear weapons for European security. This means that any serious discussion on European strategic autonomy must square the nuclear circle which leads to a critical and highly uncomfortable question: given widespread reluctance around the idea of a German nuclear deterrent, are Paris and Berlin ready to reach some sort of sharing agreement over the French nuclear deterrent? Most unlikely, I would say. The idea of national strategic autonomy is embedded in France’s political DNA, and an independent nuclear deterrent is the jewel of France’s autonomy crown. Germany, for its part, might have come to terms with its de facto strategic subordination to the United States through NATO. But it is unlikely to sign off on a serious European defense scheme if its role is to be relegated to playing second fiddle to France, let alone Britain.

And as long as a shared nuclear deterrent is off limits, Berlin is unlikely to reject any sort of French or British nuclear umbrella, both for strategic and political reasons.

How do you assess the impact of the new U.S. Administration on the internal dynamic inside EU at a time when there is the emergence of a de facto multi-speed Europe and the potential for cleavages between Old and New Europe is once again running high?

It’s true that the idea that Trump can act as a catalyzer for European strategic autonomy is catching on. Big time. Some people in Europe say that Trump is just too unstable and untrustworthy to look after European interests, or to be entrusted with the defense of the international liberal order. Others argue that his emphasis on greater allied burden-sharing means Europeans need to step up their defense efforts. No matter which of these particular arguments rocks your boat, the conclusion is similar: Europeans have no option but to get their act together. So there’s a dynamic going on there, which is not to be dismissed, and could prove to be politically instrumental in complementing the current push for greater European security cooperation. But we also need to be aware of the limitations of this dynamic.

After all, the notion that an irresponsible or disengaged America forces Europeans to take care of their own security could re-open old divisions on fundamental questions. One such question is nuclear deterrence, which I already discussed. And this underscores America’s ongoing importance to European security. So I think we need to try and distinguish the strategic bit from the politics.

It’s true that Trump is bad politics in much of (Western) Europe. So, for instance, if you look at the German election, as we get closer and closer, the pressure for Merkel to distance herself from Trump and talk tough will only grow. One way to do that is by questioning the indispensability of the United States for European security and by calling for European strategic autonomy. We’ve seen some of that already. But I think that might change after the election, assuming Merkel wins. My sense is that Merkel is well aware that the US played a key role in underpinning German political unity, economic development and socialization within the West. She said as much during her joint press conference with Trump at the White House a couple of months ago.

And Germany is key here. So I would say that, for all the rhetoric about Trump having done more for European defense cooperation than anyone else, once the electoral fog clears in Germany, we should expect key European leaders to re-emphasize the centrality of the United States to Europe’s security and geopolitical architecture, and put their energies on co-opting the United States (mainly through NATO) and re-stating its commitment to European security.

By Luis Simón.

Luis Simón is a Research Professor at the Institute for European Studies (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and Director of the Brussels office of the Royal Elcano Institute. He has a PhD in International Relations from the University of London (Royal Holloway College).

Source: Defence Matters.

2 US Air Force B-1 bombers fly near North Korean border in show of force

Two U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers on Saturday flew near the Korean Demilitarized Zone in a show of force, the Air Force said in a statement.

The two B-1 bombers flew 2,000 miles from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam to conduct a precision strike training exercise with South Korean fighter jets. The bombers were also joined by Japanese fighters during their flight.

These missions are called “Jungle Lightening” by the Air Force.

Later, the Air Force called the mission a “demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies.”

The bombers fired releasing inert weapons at the Pilsung Range. The mission took 10 hours, according to the statement.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland,” Gen. Terrence O’ Shaughnessy, the Pacific Air Forces commander, said. “Let me be clear, if called upon we are trained, equipped and ready to unleash the full lethal capability of our allied air forces.”

 This is the second ‘show of force’ by the US military since the July 4 North Korea test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a first for the rogue, communist regime.

On the night after the launch, the US and South Korean military conducted a joint missile test using short range missiles into waters off the peninsula.

A North Korean test of an ICBM is a momentous step forward for Pyongyang as it works to build an arsenal of long-range nuclear-armed missiles that can hit anywhere in the United States. The North isn’t there yet — some analysts suggest it will take several more years to perfect such an arsenal, and many more tests — but a successful launch of an ICBM has long been seen as a red line, after which it would only be a matter of time — if the country isn’t stopped.

President Trump said North Korea’s plan to develop an ICBM capable of hitting the U.S. “won’t happen” and has since made tough talk on the issue a signature.

Amid heightened tensions with North Korea, the U.S. will conduct a flight test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), an element of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system, Fox News has learned. The test, which will be conducted by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), is scheduled to take place this month.

The THAAD test will be conducted against an intermediate ballistic missile. THAAD is not a weapon used against ICBMs, but only short and medium range missiles.

There is currently a THAAD battery in South Korea but only two of the scheduled six launchers on the battery are operational as the South Korean government performs an “environmental impact” study at the golf course where the battery is deployed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Original article: FOXNEWS, By Lucas Tomlinson.


Russian nuclear sub test-launches cruise missile in Barents Sea

TASS Russian News Agency, 5 July 2017

Russia’s Smolensk nuclear-powered submarine has conducted a successful test launch of a cruise missile that hit the designated target in the Barents Sea, the Northern Fleet’s press service said on Wednesday.

“From the underwater position, a Granit missile was fired against a combined sea-based target at a distance of about 400 kilometers,” a fleet spokesperson said. “The target was successfully hit.”

The launch was carried out as part of a scheduled combat training.

Northern Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, the crew “demonstrated high professionalism and naval skills” during the launch.

 The Smolensk is a Project 949A Antey-class submarine built in 1990. The submarines of this class displace 24,000 tons, have an underwater speed of 32 knots and a crew of 107. They are armed with 24 launchers of Granit cruise missiles with a range of about 500m km and six torpedo tubes.
The Smolensk is a Project 949A Antey-class (Oscar II) submarine