Tag: United States

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

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.”

 

175th Wing Deployment ÄMARI AIR BASE in Estonia

A-10C 175th Wing Air National Guard. Photo by SMSgt Jim Foard) (RELEASED) Officila Photo by: Jim Foard,SMSgt,,, United States

For just over a week now, ten A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft and approximately 270 Airmen have been stations at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, to participate in a flying training deployment.

The deployment and training efforts are funded by the European Reassurance Initiative as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which allows the U.S. to work with allies and partners to develop and improve ready air forces capable of maintaining regional security.

“The long-standing relationship between Estonia and Maryland reinforces U.S. commitment to regional security,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jason Burns, Bilateral Affairs officer assigned to the Office of Defense Cooperation. “The exercise presents the opportunity for both nations to engage in critical military movements and hone individual skill sets.”

The 175th Cyberspace Operations Group deployed with a Virtual Interconnected Training Environment. The VITE from the 175th Wing, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Maryland, deployed in support of an overseas training exercise for the first time ever.

“The VITE allows us to simulate networks, any network we want, to conduct exercises and training,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, 175th Cyberspace Operations Group commander. “It allows us to do real world training in a simulated environment where it is safe to conduct these types of exercises.”

During the exercise, the A-10Cs will train with multi-national Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Combat Control Teams at Amari and Jagala, Estonia.

In addition, an MC-130J Commando II from the 352nd Special Operations Wing, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom, and a combat communications team will deploy from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

175th Wing MC-130J Hercules

While deployed, the A-10C’s will also train with the Finnish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Finland, Spanish air force F/A-18 Hornets in Estonia and multinational JTACs in Latvia. Flight operations will take place in Finnish, Estonian, Latvian and international airspace. This training will focus on maintaining joint readiness while building interoperability capabilities.

Spanish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet

“Working with various countries allows us to share and learn new experiences, thoughts and ideas while training for optimal preparedness,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Tony Queen, 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight chief. “After all, you train the way you fight.”

 

Navy to commission new mobile sea base named after war hero

The expeditionary mobile base USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3) gets underway from Naval Station Norfolk to begin its first operational deployment, July 10, 2017. BILL MESTA/U.S. NAVY

A new floating sea base named after the most decorated Marine in history is being commissioned Thursday in Bahrain.

The USS Lewis B. Puller is an expeditionary sea base with a large deck that will be used to launch helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles and other smaller vessels to support regional maritime operations.

It will replace the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport dock that supported missions in the Persian Gulf and other areas in the 5th Fleet theater. It is scheduled to be decommissioned next year.

The new vessel is the second ship named after Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, a World War II and Korean War combat veteran who earned five Navy Crosses and the Distinguished Service Cross. Those awards are second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor.

A sailor assigned to the USNS Lewis B. Puller, gives the handling signal to conduct a vertical takeoff to Marines assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263, aboard the USNS Lewis B. Puller, July 5, 2017. AUSTIN A. LEWIS/U.S. MARINE CORPS

“His example lives not just in every Marine but in every service member who faithfully serves our nation,” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in a statement. “Today’s commissioning of USS Lewis B. Puller continues that legacy.”

Capt. Adan G. Cruz will command the new vessel, whose crew will consist of both sailors and civilian mariners.

It will have two helicopter hangars, storage for four mine-sweeping hydrofoil sleds and cranes that lower vessels into the water instead of lowering the deck until it’s submerged.

Puller earned his first two Navy Crosses during combat in Nicaragua in the early 1930s; he earned his third and fourth in fierce battles against the Japanese in the in World War II. He was awarded his fifth Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a regiment that fended off enemy forces in Korea, despite being heavily outnumbered.

The first ship named for Fuller was a guided-missile frigate used from 1982 to 1998. It was transferred to the Egyptian navy and renamed the Toushka.

The Puller will work with the USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams, a sea base under construction, to handle less-intensive missions so warships can focus on more demanding operations in the Middle East and Pacific, the Navy said.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Royal Air Force Mildenhall Supports Navy During Exercise Saxon Warrior

A U.S. Navy C-2A Greyhound aircraft assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorelei R. Vander Griend/Released)

Sailors from the U.S. Navy conducted missions from Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall during exercise Saxon Warrior, Aug. 1-10.

Bringing with them two C-2A Greyhounds, the 48-strong team from the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VCR) 40 participated in the multinational exercise.

The exercise provided the U.S., U.K. and other countries the opportunity to conduct training designed to sharpen joint warfighting skills and enhance the capacity to conduct combined, multinational maritime operations. The U.S. routinely trains with allies and partners in exercises like Saxon Warrior to ensure mission readiness and interoperability.

VRC-40 used RAF Mildenhall as their forward-operating base to carry out their missions to deliver supplies and personnel to and from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

During the exercise, the George H.W. Bush hosted British personnel aboard, working alongside their American counterparts as part of the U.K.-U.S. Long Lead Specialist Skills Program, which qualifies them in U.S. carrier operations. This vital partnership and training occurred in preparation for the arrival of the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, and to bolster the British carrier strike capability.

A pair of F/A-18 Super Hornets from the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) fly-by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, British Royal Navy aircraft carrier

“Our squadron, the VRC-40 Rawhides, stays based in Norfolk. But every time a carrier strike group goes out, they attach two [carrier onboard delivery] to the carrier air wing part of the strike group,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Joshua Gallaher. “We make sure the aircraft are good to go at all times so we’re prepared for whatever mission is required of us. That way, when the ship requires high-priority parts for the aircraft on board, we coordinate through the Beach Det., our supply system on land, to get those parts out to the ship as soon as possible. Or if they need to get people out to the ship, we’ll take them. We perform a variety of missions.”

Gallaher said this is the first time he has worked out of an Air Force base during this type of deployment. He said they usually operate out of Navy bases such as Souda Bay, Greece or Sigonella, Italy.

“Working as the U.S. Navy, alongside the U.S. Air Force, builds a camaraderie between the two branches overall,” said Gallaher. “I think the Air Force operates differently from how the Navy does, so for them to be able to help us, knowing we would do the same for them, builds a bridge between the two. Being in England, the Air Force has already created a relationship with the locals, so when we come here it means we don’t have any issues.”

Saxon Warrior involved the U.S. Navy assisting the Royal Navy by providing the platform on which the U.K Carrier Strike Group staff were able to operate.

The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt/Released)

“The strike group staff are currently operating those assets; the Destroyer Squadron 22 and embark Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8,” said Lt. Cmdr. James Light, VRC-40, Det. 2 officer in charge. “The RAF are pretty much running our operations right now, in terms of logistics. When you look at the whole exercise, they’re running the entire air wing through a notional work-up cycle.”

The carrier on board delivery detachments are shore-based and fly out to the ship every day. Light said that there hasn’t been a carrier on board delivery based in England since 2009.

“Our experience with RAF Mildenhall has been fantastic,” Light said, thanking the members of Team Mildenhall for all the support they provided.

For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy , or www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.

 

Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland says that Estonia has no reason to fear Russia

Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012

There is no reason for Estonia to panically fear Russia, Tarja Halonen, president of Finland from 2000-2012, told Eesti Paevaleht daily in an interview.

“You are in the European Union, NATO, and you use the euro. In this manner you are not only in a safe house, but have become an independent mature country,” Halonen said. “That is why we say to you sometimes that calm down now and there is no reason to panic. Which does not mean, however, that we say that there’s no reason to be worried looking at Russia,” she added.

In the words of Halonen, Finns know Russians better than Americans do.

“Rule of law, human rights and democracy, they haven’t had very much of them ever and therefore it is difficult to build them up too. They are attempting to achieve it somehow, but it’s difficult work,” Halonen said.

“It was difficult even in Germany when East and West Germany were brought together, but it was only for 50 years that East Germany had been out of the system. Just like Estonia,” she added.

“You forget it easily that we had our one hundred years under the Russian tsar too, we had the Winter War and the Continuation War. We lost a large portion of our country and had to resettle a large number of residents. We paid the Soviets a big amount of money in damages of war. But what I always say is that we were on the easier side,” Halonen said.

“You had your very difficult time – the occupation. That is difficult for us to understand too. So, yes, in my opinion we should be tolerant in the criticism that we level against each other. Our mutual relations have a strong base and we criticize each other not for being there, but just certain things,” the former president of Finland added.

Halonen took part in the festival of opinion culture held in the central Estonian regional capital Paide on Friday and Saturday, where she read the keynote of a discussion titled “How to stand against populism and extremism?”

 

 

Cultural Diversity is Enduring in Canada’s NATO Mission

Canadian Armed Forces members from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia arrive at Riga International Airport as part of Operation Reassurance on June 10.   Photograph By MCpl True-dee McCarthy

When artillery Sgt. Jayden Cormier gets his morning coffee, the Victoria man, now on a mission in Latvia, stands in a United Nations mix of grinds and brews.

Spanish soldiers show up with a fine-ground coffee, the Italians with something dark and the Canadians with a coarse grind of Tim Hortons’ brand. And every country seems to have a different coffee-making device.

“Everyone comes out in the morning and seems to have their own little method of brewing their coffee,” said Cormier in a telephone interview from Latvia. “But everyone still seems to bond over that morning cup.”

The 28-year-old reservist from the Victoria-based 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment is one of 450 Canadians leading a multinational battle group in Latvia. It’s a posting expected to last into 2018.

Most of the Canadians are mechanized infantry drawn from the Edmonton-based 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and are part of a mission the Department of National Defence has called Operation Reassurance.

It’s part of a NATO effort to demonstrate a resolve to stand against any Russian incursions into neighbouring Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and Poland. It was a demonstration agreed at a NATO summit in 2016 in response to Russian interference in Ukraine and a 2008 incursion into Georgia.

Canada leads one of four battle groups in the Baltic states and Poland. The U.K. leads in Estonia, Germany in Lithuania and the U.S. in Poland.

But Canada’s 1,200-strong battle group is the most culturally diverse, with troops from Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Albania. Only the German-led group comes close, and its members are all from or closely allied with the European Union: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway.

For soldiers such as Cormier, officers and analysts, it’s Canada’s ability to accommodate various ethnic groups and languages that makes it one of the most valued and trusted in the world today.

“We are a multicultural nation, and I think that’s one of our strengths,” said Cormier. “We can bring that multiculturalism we have learned as Canadians to the table and strengthen NATO with that experience.

Christopher Kilford, a military analyst with the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy now living in Victoria, said despite any controversy about military spending, Canada remains a bulwark welcomed all over the world.

Kilford noted Saudi Arabia and South Korea spend more on their armed forces. But neither country is ever asked to lead overseas missions.

Also, besides a reputation for honour and trustworthiness, Canada’s armed forces in particular have always been an expeditionary force.

Other nations will concentrate on missions closer to home; South Korea looks to match North Korea, for example. But Canada’s forces have long expected and been prepared to undertake or support missions overseas.

So Kilford said the Canadian Armed Forces are good at what he calls “exporting security,” a feat that usually comes with more than just arms. It can require analysts, diplomats and aid workers, often non-governmental.

“There are only a handful of countries that can go around the world and make a difference,” he said. “We are able to get people out and in the door just about anywhere, and we do it with a minimum of fuss.

“So when the world needs someone to take charge of a battle group, they will come to Ottawa.”

Kilford also said Operation Reassurance is something of a return to NATO’s traditional role of watchdog on the Russians.

It’s mostly about deterrence.

That Canada leads a force made up of so many different nations adds to the deterrent value: any country that engages with the group risks offending six countries, as well as the NATO alliance.

Kilford speculated any move by Russia would be covert instead of a direct military invasion — economic embargoes, closed borders or clandestine gifts of weapons or explosives to sympathetic forces inside Latvia.

He noted even to be stationed in Latvia will require a level of cultural sensitivity from Canadians. Many Latvians speak Russian, some as their first language. And many might find the presence of NATO to be objectionable.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the Canadian defence staff, warned in February that troops should be on guard against any misinformation or propaganda. At the time of Vance’s warning, a false report had already been circulated in Lithuania contending four German soldiers had raped a teenage girl.

“There are a million ways the Russians could cause problems in Latvia without ever sending a single soldier across the border,” said Kilford.

Canadian Air Force Capt. Dan Mazurek, information officer for the battle group in Latvia, said in a phone call he is aware of the local ties to Russia.

“The other day, I got to see a movie and there was Latvian and Russian subtitles,” said Mazurek. “But I haven’t seen any animosity.”

“So far I’ve enjoyed what I can only describe as a warm welcome,” he said.

He said the battle group is training regularly and maintaining a high level of readiness.

But at the same time, in a spirit of multiculturalism, regular language classes are put on by volunteers from various national units within the battle group, even if English is NATO’s default language.

“It’s been a great feeling out here, right across the battle group,” said Mazurek.

And enlisted people such as Victoria’s Master Cpl. Kathryn Holmberg, a reservist with 39 Signal Regiment, who volunteered for Latvia, is doing what soldiers overseas always do: missing family, hers in Nanaimo.

“I’m having a good time over here,” said Holmberg, 27, in a telephone interview. “But I always miss my mom when I go away.”

 

 

2 US troops killed, more wounded in Iraq

IRBIL, Iraq — Two Americans were killed and five others wounded Sunday while conducting combat operations in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

In a statement, the U.S.-led international coalition Operation Inherent Resolve said initial reports indicated the incident was not due to contact with enemy forces. It is under investigation.
The statement did not name the slain soldiers, deferring identification to national authorities.

U.S. troops have been helping support Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group — “a truly evil enemy” in the words of Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Operation Inherent Resolve commander.

“The entire counter-ISIS coalition sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates,” Townsend said in a statement. “There are no words to describe the respect I have for you and sorrow I have for your loss. I hope there is some small solace in knowing their loss has meaning for our country and all the nations of the coalition.”

After a nine-month battle to oust ISIS from its last urban stronghold in Mosul, Iraqi forces – closely supported by the U.S.-led coalition – are preparing to retake the ISIS-held town of Tal Afar west of the city.

The latest deaths bring to nine the number of Americans killed supporting Operation Inherent Resolve this year, including noncombat deaths. Nearly 50 Americans have been wounded in action since the anti-ISIS campaign began in August 2014, according to Pentagon data.

 

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.”

 

US fighter jet crash lands at Bahrain International Airport

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A U.S. F/A-18 fighter jet suffering an engine problem crash landed Saturday at Bahrain International Airport and its pilot ejected from the aircraft after it ran off the runway, authorities said. The pilot escaped unharmed.

The crash disrupted flights to and from the island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia that’s home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Images on social media showed the grey fighter jet’s nose tipped into the air but largely intact after what the Navy described as an “uncontrollable” landing.

The F/A-18 took off from the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier now in the Persian Gulf, said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a fleet spokesman. While in flight, the plane suffered an engine malfunction, forcing the pilot to divert, Urban said.

The pilot initially tried to land at Sheikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but instead ended up at the island’s commercial airport, Urban said.

“Due to the malfunction, the aircraft could not be stopped on the runway and the pilot ejected from the aircraft as it departed the runway,” the commander said in a statement.

Naval officials began an investigation into the crash and were trying to help the airport resume operations, Urban said. Bahrain’s Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry called the crash landing a “minor incident” in a statement and said flights resumed at the airport several hours later.

Bahrain hosts 8,000 U.S. troops, mostly sailors attached to a sprawling base called the Naval Support Activity. Officials at that facility oversee some 20 U.S. and coalition naval vessels in the Gulf providing security and others running anti-piracy patrols.

Bahrain is also home to an under-construction British naval base.

 

Navy Looks at Accelerating Super Hornet Transitions

Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is looking at ways to accelerate the phase-out of F/A-18C “Classic” Hornet strike fighters from its carrier air wings and replacing the last few squadrons with F/A-18E Super Hornets, a Navy spokeswoman said.

“As we balance operational requirements and our initiatives to build the most capable and ready forward-deployed force, we are identifying the most efficient and effective way to safely transition the last four Navy operational Hornet squadrons to Super Hornets,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for commander, Naval Air Forces, said in an e-mail to Seapower.

“In order to provide our most capable warfighting force forward, the Navy began the first of the final transitions of our four operational F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons in July, with an expected completion in [fiscal] ’19. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, was the first of the four squadrons to begin the transition last month.”

The other three F/A-18C squadrons, all based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., are VFA-34, VFA-37 and VFA-83.

“Accelerating the transition to Super Hornets will allow cost savings and reduce depot maintenance workload,” Groeneveld said. “As the Navy approaches the end of the extended service life for Hornets, the cost per flight hour continues to increase. Additionally, there are shortages in the Department of the Navy’s spare parts and supply system that have contributed to flight line readiness challenges, as well as our ability to extend the service lives of these airframes.”

She also said the transitions give the Navy the opportunity to select its best-condition Hornets for use by the Marine Corps and by Navy support and reserve units, such as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Fighter Composite Squadron 12, Reserve squadron VFA-204 and the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.

The Navy is confident it will be able to continue to support all operational requirements as it completes transition of the Hornet fleet to Super Hornets,” she said.

Congress has supported the Navy’s requirements for increased Super Hornet procurement to bridge the gap to the fleet introduction of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter. The first fleet squadron to make the transition to the F-35C will be VFA-147 in 2018.