Defense

Pentagon confirms development of hypersonic weapons after Trump talks up ‘super duper missiles’

A Defense Department spokesman on Friday confirmed that the Pentagon is developing hypersonic weapons after President Trump, earlier in the day, claimed the existence of a “super duper missile.” “The Department of Defense is working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries,” tweeted Jonathan Hoffman, the Defense Department press secretary. During an Oval Office ceremony on Friday afternoon marking the newly unveiled official flag of the U.S. Space Force (USSF), Trump told reporters how the U.S. is building “incredible military equipment.” “We have — I call it the super duper missile,” the president said, “and I heard the other night 17 times faster than what they have right now, when you take the fastest missile we have right now.” He added, “You’ve heard Russia has five times and China’s working on five or six times, we have one 17 times and it’s just gotten the go-ahead.” It wasn’t immediately clear what the president was referring to, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany directed questions about the weapon to the Pentagon. Trump on Friday was presented with the newly unveiled official flag of the USSF — the official flag of the first new U.S. military branch in 72 years. “This is a very special moment,” Trump told reporters and gathered military leaders in the Oval Office. He also signed the 2020 Armed Forces Day Proclamation. Trump directed the Pentagon to establish the Space Force in 2018, calling for “American dominance in space” — a theme he went back to on Friday. “China and Russia, perhaps others, have started a lot sooner than us, we should have started this a long time ago but we’ve made up for it in spades,” he said.

For more on what DoD is doing with respect to hypersonic missiles, click on the text above.

China’s Xian H-20 stealth bomber completes nuclear triad, could make debut this year

China’s newest supersonic stealth bomber — which doubles the country’s strike range and completes its nuclear triad — could be ready for rollout later this year but Beijing has purportedly been weighing the step and what it could mean for escalating regional tensions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The highly-hyped Xian H-20 puts Australia, Japan, and the Korean peninsula all within shot and could spell trouble for the United States down the line. “If the H-20 does have the range and passable stealth characteristics attributed to it, it could alter the strategic calculus between the United States and China by exposing U.S. bases and fleets across the Pacific to surprise air attacks,” National Interest reported. The H-20 is a strategic bomber along the lines of the B-2, B-21, or the Russian PAK DA, according to a report from the Defense Intelligence Agency. The H-20 would give China what only the United States and Russia have –a nuclear triad, or a three-pronged military force structure that can launch nuclear attacks from the air, land, and sea. China, Russia, and the U.S. are the only three countries that have the needs and resources to develop huge strategic bombers that can strike targets across the globe. DIA director, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., said in a 2019 speech that “China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history.” In 2018, China launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined. “We expect this modernization to continue and this trajectory is consistent with Chinese President Xi’s vision for China’s military, which he laid out at the 19th Party Congress and stated that China’s military will be ‘fully transformed into a first-tier force’ by 2050,” Ashley said. He added that China’s H-20 demonstrates the country’s “commitment to expanding the role of (the) centrality of nuclear forces in Beijing’s military aspirations,” adding that while China’s overall arsenal is smaller than Russia’s, it is just as concerning. The H-20 could make its first public appearance in November, during Zhuhai Airshow, if the coronavirus pandemic is under control by then. “The Zhuhai Airshow is expected to become a platform to promote China’s image and its success in pandemic control – telling the outside world that the contagion did not have any big impacts on Chinese defense industry enterprises,” one source told South China Morning Post. Another claimed Beijing’s leadership is still “carefully considering whether its commission will affect regional balance, especially as regional tensions have been escalating over the COVID-19 pandemic. “Like intercontinental ballistic missiles, all strategic bombers can be used for delivering nuclear weapons … if China claimed it had pursued a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature, which would it need such an offensive weapon.” In October 2018, Chinese state-run media announced that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would publicly unveil the H-20 bomber during a parade celebrating the air division’s 70th anniversary in 2019.

For more, click on the text above to read the rest of Army Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley’s remarks back in May 2019 regarding Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization trends.  As was already mentioned, LTG Ashley is the current Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).  This is very serious and scary stuff, folks.

Air Force says nuclear weapons and stealth bombers remain ready for war, despite COVID-19

U.S. B-2 stealth bombers and nuclear-armed ICBMs are ready to attack and defend in minutes, should America be suddenly catapulted into a massive, great-power war — despite the perils, distractions and challenges of COVID-19, senior Air Force officials said. “Rest assured, we have taken the necessary steps to make sure our bomber and ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] forces are ready to go and can reach any target on the planet at any time,” Gen. Tim Ray, Air Force Global Strike commander, said in an Air Force statement. Crews manning the U.S. nuclear arsenal, for instance, have implemented some measures of distancing and isolation, yet in a manner that preserves their crucial command and control systems, enabling them to instantly respond to attack if needed. U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, which might roughly take a half-hour or less to travel through space to a target, could quickly obliterate any location launching nuclear attacks on the U.S. It is precisely this kind of assured retaliatory destruction which, according to the Pentagon’s strategic nuclear posture, keeps the peace. U.S. ICBMs stand ready in weapons silos in an expansive area in the Western part of the country including Montana and Wyoming. For all of these reasons and more, it goes without saying that the Air Force is pushing to ensure these weapons are ready, under any circumstances. Ray’s comments seem designed to send a clear message to adversaries, suggesting that the COVID-19 crisis does not make the U.S. vulnerable to attack, should rivals seek to take advantage of the current circumstance. Operations involving the Air Force’s nuclear weapons arsenal and bomber fleet continue, Ray explained. Regarding nuclear weapons, this amounts to readiness drills, training and other kinds of measures intended to ensure force readiness. When it comes to the Air Force’s stealth bomber fleet, intended to ensure an undetected first-strike upon enemies should that be needed, forward-positioned assets and exercises are ongoing. As recently as March of this year, the Air Force deployed a task force of B-2 bombers to Portugal in support of U.S. European Command. An Air Force report explained that the forward-positioned bombers, from 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are conducting theater integration and flying training missions from various installations across the European Continent. European integration, among other things, doubtless refers to exercises intended to interoperate and network U.S. stealth bombers with allied systems and technologies on the continent. While the presence of ICBMs is of course somewhat self-evident, B-2s have a particular and at times complex deterrence-oriented mission set. They can, of course, drop nuclear weapons should they be called upon to do that by commanders, yet at the same time B-2s are engineered with a decided conventional warfare mission. The stealth bombers are intended to elude enemy radar in order to find and destroy enemy air defenses, thus opening up an air corridor for other attack warfare platforms to attack and conduct missions. This mission helps assure adversaries that they are by no means impenetrable to attacks from fighter jets, long-range missions and other weapons of key strategic value. While first emerging decades ago, the B-2 has continuously been modernized by Air Force weapons developers. The stealth platform has been receiving new digital cockpit technology, faster computer processors, improved weapons applications and new sensors able to detect the location of enemy air defenses.

U.S. military ramps up counterterrorism operations in Africa amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended U.S. military operations around the world, stalled some training at home and troop movements abroad, and halted a host of exercises with key allies from Asia to Europe. But one major American military operation has forged ahead with seemingly little impact from COVID-19: counterterrorism operations in Somalia, which have hit record levels over the past two months. Pentagon officials are racing to keep pressure on the al-Shabab terrorist network and are not allowing a global outbreak to offer even a small reprieve for U.S. enemies. So far this year, American forces have conducted at least 39 airstrikes against terrorist targets in Somalia. That figure has the U.S. on pace to set a record again this year in its war against terrorists in Africa. Last year, the U.S. carried out 63 strikes against al-Shabab and Islamic State targets in Somalia, according to numbers provided by U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent. The pace of America’s air assault in Somalia is rising for a number of reasons, analysts say. Broadly speaking, the U.S. in recent months has slowly and gradually reduced its direct military engagements in other corners of the continent, including in the Sahel region where French forces are now taking the leading role in counterterrorism operations. The shift in the U.S. Africa strategy has left Somalia as the focal point and the most appealing theater to target extremists. Many of the recent airstrikes have targeted al-Shabab leadership, underscoring the Trump administration’s effort to weaken the group by taking out its most senior members. But the COVID-19 pandemic also is likely playing a role. Regional analysts say the outbreak has greatly restricted major ground combat operations against al-Shabab strongholds, leaving Somali government forces and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops unable to mount their own offensives. “There’s just not a lot of political will to conduct sustained ground operations, especially now,” said Seth Jones, director of the Transnational Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “With COVID-19 and with concerns among AMISOM countries, you don’t even have the ground option as a short-term option. They’re just not going to deploy right now. The strikes — that’s really all you’ve got right now.” Indeed, coronavirus concerns have temporarily restricted U.S. ground efforts on the continent as well. Over the past two months, AFRICOM has canceled or postponed several major military exercises, underscoring Pentagon leaders’ efforts to enforce social distancing and keep large gatherings of troops to a minimum whenever possible.

And that’s what’s driving such decisions.  They can do these air strikes all day long..  For more on this story, click on the text above.

Pompeo warns Iran’s space program is ‘dangerous’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted Iran’s satellite launch this week as “dangerous” and “provocative” and urged the international community to intervene. “For years, Iran has claimed its space program is purely peaceful and civilian,” Pompeo said in a statement Saturday. “The Trump Administration has never believed this fiction. This week’s launch of a military satellite by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, makes clear what we have said all along: Iran’s space program is neither peaceful nor entirely civilian.” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched its first satellite into space Wednesday, dramatically revealing what experts described as a secret military space program that could advance its ballistic missile development amid wider tensions between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. Using a mobile launcher at a new launch site, the Guard said it put the “Noor,” or “Light,” satellite into a low orbit circling the Earth. Iranian state TV late Wednesday showed footage of what it said was the satellite and said it had orbited the earth within 90 minutes. It said the satellite’s signals were being received. Pompeo said the launch proved that Iran was spreading falsehoods when it repeatedly claimed that its space program was peaceful. “The most recent military launch, which was developed and conducted in secret, proves that these statements were lies,” Pompeo said. The launch comes as Iran has abandoned all the limitations of its tattered nuclear deal with world powers that President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from in 2018. Trump’s decision set off a monthslong series of escalating attacks that culminated in a U.S. drone strike in January that killed a top Iranian general in Iraq, followed by Tehran launching ballistic missiles at American soldiers in Iraq. As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and historically low oil prices, the missile launch may signal a new willingness to take risks by Iran. Trump himself later tweeted he told the U.S. Navy “ to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” both raising energy prices and renewing the risk of conflict. Pompeo said the space launch signals Iran’s nuclear weapon aspirations. “This satellite launch vehicle and others launched before it incorporate technologies identical to, and interchangeable with, ballistic missiles, including longer-range systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs],” Pompeo said in calling on the international community to reject Iran’s development of ballistic-missile capable technologies. “No country has ever pursued an ICBM capability except for the purpose of delivering nuclear weapons,” he said. The Revolutionary Guard caught world powers by surprise this week by launching the military satellite as part of a secret space program as Trump threatened to sink any Iranian vessel harassing U.S. forces. Iran has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19. Experts both inside and outside of Iran believe Tehran also is underreporting the scale of the coronavirus crisis. “Iran, of course, has seized the opportunity presented by COVID-19, which is what’s preoccupying Americans at the moment,” said Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow who studies Iran at the Washington-based German Marshall Fund. “In part, it’s trying to distract from its own botched response to the pandemic and partly, it sees the United States at its weakest in a while and so it’s using this to raise the cost of the maximum pressure campaign to force the U.S. to end it.” Pompeo called for support in extending the United Nations conventional arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire this October. He also urged the European Union to sanction individuals and entities working on Iran’s missile programs. “When the Iranian people are suffering and dying from the coronavirus pandemic, it is regrettable to see the regime waste its resources and efforts on provocative military pursuits that do nothing to help the Iranian people,” Pompeo said.

This is a very disturbing development.  Sec. Mike Pompeo (R) is a very smart diplomat with an extensive resume including having graduated #1 in his class from West Point, a stint on active duty in the Army as an officer, a law degree from Harvard, six terms in Congress, and was the former Director of the CIA.  And, that’s just for starters.  His assessment of Iran’s space intentions are spot on.  With that in mind, we need to take clear and decisive action to make it clear to the wacky mullahs in Tehran that we are NOT weakened by ANY means…and let them know we will not tolerate their pursuit of nuclear weapons…ever.

Separately, and just as important..  This is yet another example of why it is absolutely critical we invest now in both our civilian space (i.e. NASA), and military space programs.  Indeed, President Trump’s vision for a true “Space Force” is needed now more than ever.  We posted an article about just that written by a retired Air Force 3-star general.  To read that, type “Space Force” into the Search field to the right and it’ll bring that article up.

Pentagon issues blunt warning to Iran: ‘We will come and we will come large’

The Pentagon’s top brass on Wednesday gave a strong endorsement to President Trump’s tweet ordering the Navy to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian boats harassing U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing Wednesday he appreciated Mr. Trump’s message and said the president’s intention was to emphasize that any warship has the inherent right of self-defense. “I like that the president warned an adversary. That’s what he’s doing: He’s providing a warning,” Gen. Hyten said. “If you want to go down that path, we will come and we will come large. So don’t go down that path,” Gen. Hyten added. “We understand that direction and every commander deployed has the ability to execute.” Gen. Hyten and Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist repeatedly declined to answer whether Mr. Trump’s tweet, which came days after video showing nearly a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps speedboats weaving dangerously around a U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, was being formalized as an actual order changing the rules of engagement with the IRGC. Mr. Norquist also described the president’s tweet a warning, and suggested it gave greater force to the authority U.S. commanders already have in the escalating confrontation with Iran. “The president issued a warning to the Iranians,” Norquist said. “What he was emphasizing is all of our ships retain the right of self-defense and people need to be very careful in their interactions to understand the inherent right of self-defense.” In the most recent incident last week, an IRGC vessel appeared to come within 10 yards of an American ship. A trained U.S. commander can tell the difference between hostile and non-hostile actions from another vessel, Gen. Hyten said Wednesday. “If you come across and you’re at a safe distance and you’re waving — that’s one thing. If you have a gun and you point it at me, that’s another thing,” he said. “We know what that line is [and] we will respond. I think the president’s message was crystal clear.”

Indeed..  And it was a message that the front-line sailors and troops appreciated.

Trump says he’s instructed Navy to ‘destroy’ any Iranian gunboats harassing US ships

President Trump said Wednesday that he’s instructed the U.S. Navy to “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian gunboats harassing American ships, in the wake of a tense encounter in the Persian Gulf. “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump tweeted. The encounter happened last week. Six U.S. Navy warships were conducting drills with US Army Apache attack helicopters in international waters off Iran last Wednesday when they were repeatedly harassed by 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Navy vessels, the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet reported. The Iranian ships repeatedly crossed in front and behind the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of one ship, the Puller, with a 50-yard closest point of approach and within 10 yards of another ship, the Maui’s, bow, a 5th Fleet statement said. The Navy also reported that the USS Paul Hamilton, USS Firebolt, USS Sirocco and USCGC Wrangell, as well as the Puller and Maui, were involved in the exercises. The U.S. crews responded by issuing multiple warnings via radio—including five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-grange acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN, the Navy’s 5th Fleet said in a statement. After approximately an hour, the Iranian vessels responded to the radio queries, before maneuvering away from the U.S. ships and increasing the distance between them, according to the Navy. The Navy said that the Iranian’s dangerous and provocative actions “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision” and were in violation of international maritime “rules of the road.” The Navy also said they were not in accordance with international law to act safely with other vessels in the area. The incident last week came one day after Iranian gunmen stormed a Hong Kong-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz before quickly leaving when they learned the vessel was from China. The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the Gulf since March. The president’s directive also comes several months after hostilities between the U.S. and Iran which included an attack at the U.S. Embassy compound in Iraq that U.S. officials blamed on Iran. In response, the U.S. carried out a strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Also, earlier this month, the president sent a stark warning to Iran, after claiming that Iran was planning a “sneak attack” on U.S. troops in Iraq. “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” Trump tweeted.

This is so great!  FINALLY, a President is saying enough is enough.  For FAR too long, presidents of BOTH parties have allowed this crap to continue unchecked.  President Trump is showing leadership and, believe me, the troops in the field (and at sea) appreciate this.  They know their Commander in Chief has their back.  Excellent!!     🙂