U.S. substantially increasing forces in Pacific to counter ‘massive’ buildup by China

The Pentagon will continue to shift forces to the Pacific to counter what a top commander has deemed a “massive” military buildup by China.

Adm. Philip Davidson, the U.S. Navy’s new Indo-Pacific theater commander, said the U.S. military’s efforts to bolster its presence in the region is necessary to counter aggressive efforts by China to expand its influence and force the region to bend to Beijing’s wishes.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Davidson told members that China’s military buildup consists of large numbers of new, advanced missiles, planes, warships, submarines, and nuclear forces. In addition, he described China as “the greatest long-term threat to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.

“Through fear and economic pressure, Beijing is working to expand its form of communist-socialist ideology in order to bend, break, and replace the existing rules-based international order,” the PACOM commander said.

“In its place, Beijing seeks to create a new international order led by China and with Chinese characteristics,” Davidson noted further, an outcome that will replace the over 70 years of U.S.-backed peace and stability.

Davidson told the committee the Pentagon was adding additional weapons and forces to the region in response to China’s continued buildup of conventional, nuclear, and “gray zone” forces, the latter amounting to influence operations short of traditional armed conflict. China uses its maritime militia and Coast Guard in this manner.

Currently, PACOM is staffed with approximately 375,000 military and civilian personnel, some 200 warships including five aircraft carrier strike groups, and some 1,100 aircraft, the Free Beacon noted.

“Over the last 20 years, Beijing has undertaken a massive effort to grow and modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA),” Davidson said.

“The PLA is the principal threat to U.S. interests, U.S. citizens, and our allies inside the first island chain—a term that refers to the islands that run from northern Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia—and the PLA is quickly increasing its ability to project power and influence beyond the first island chain,” he added.

U.S. allies in the region have grown increasingly concerned over the past couple of years as China has become more aggressive and assertive in the region, constructing islands in the South China Sea and equipping them with surface-to-air missiles, radar systems, and runways for warplanes.

During Davidson’s testimony, Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), the new Armed Services chairman, said the U.S. military needs “urgent change at a significant scale” to deal with China.

“Our military advantage and deterrent edge in the Indo-Pacific is eroding,” Inhofe said. “The Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing senses weakness. They are testing our resolve, and if we do not act urgently, they may soon conclude that they can achieve their goals through force. We can’t take that peace for granted.”

Davidson noted that the South China Sea has become the most volatile flashpoint for conflict between the U.S. and her allies and China.

In addition to meeting security concerns, the U.S. has legitimate economic interests in the region as well. Total “trade with regional states in Southeast Asia totaled more than $1.8 trillion in 2017 and more than $1.3 trillion by the third quarter of 2018,” the Free Beacon noted.

Because of the importance of the region for trade and commerce, the U.S. called on China to remove sophisticated missiles from its islands in November, The Diplomat reported.

“The United States called on China to withdraw its missile systems from disputed features in the Spratly Islands, and reaffirmed that all countries should avoid addressing disputes through coercion or intimidation,” the U.S. statement said following the second annual U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Central Commission of the Communist Party of China and Politburo member Yang Jiechi responded, “The Chinese side made it clear to the United States that it should stop sending its vessels and military aircraft close to Chinese islands and reefs and stop actions that undermine China’s sovereignty and security interests.”


Top Iranian official says country has formula, technical ability, to produce nuclear bombs

A top Iranian official says his country possesses the chemical and technical abilities to produce a nuclear weapon, the Washington Free Beacon reported citing Farsi language remarks that were independently translated for the news site.

The translation quoted Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, which has close ties to the country’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. He noted in recent remarks that the ability to possess a nuclear missile “is vital for Iran to confront the U.S. and its allies,” as noted in Farsi language comments made over the weekend.

“Having missile[s] and nuclear authority is vital for Iran to confront the U.S. and its allies,” Khatami was quoted as saying during which he also described the U.S. government as a thug.

Those comments come following recent threats by the supreme leader to top Trump administration personnel including the president himself, his national security adviser John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Free Beacon reported.

Experts on Iran and the Middle East who spoke to the news site said U.S. intelligence agencies should take Khatami’s claims about having the ability to produce nuclear weapons seriously and as such, ought to begin an investigation into several potential agents linked to the Iranian regime, including some who are known to operate in the United States.

In his comments, Khatami said that his country currently had no interest in building a nuclear weapon but that if it wanted to, Tehran could do so.

“Iran never has had the intention to build a nuclear bomb. Iran has the formula but does not want to use the weapons of mass destruction, but it is vital for Iran to have nuclear energy,” he said.

The claims by Khatami, which cannot be confirmed via open source materials, run counter to what the Obama administration told Americans when it signed the so-called “nuclear deal” with Tehran.

“Disarmament advocates consider it a major achievement of the Obama administration, averting a possible military conflict with Iran and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” The New York Times reported in October 2017 as President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out of the deal.

“The agreement severely limited Iran’s ability to enrich uranium fuel and other activities necessary to make nuclear weapons. While Iran has repeatedly promised that it would never seek nuclear weapons, the agreement provided verifiable assurances for the first time,” the paper said.

In May 2018, the Washington Post‘s “fact-checker” gave the president “Four Pinocchios” — which means the paper believes the president was lying when he said that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within seven years, when portions of the agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, expire.

At the time, a report by the Congressional Research Service noted that Iran likely already has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran has nuclear programs that could potentially provide Tehran with the capability to produce both weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium — the two types of fissile material used in nuclear weapons,” according to the report, the Post noted. “Statements from the U.S. intelligence community indicate that Iran has the technological and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons at some point, but the U.S. government assesses that Tehran has not mastered all of the necessary technologies for building a nuclear weapon.”

Other experts also believe Iran could soon produce nuclear weapons.

“Left unchecked, in about a decade Iran will be closer to producing enough nuclear fuel for a bomb — a ‘breakout capability’ — than it was before the agreement was finalized in 2015,” David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a skeptic of the Iran deal, and Andrea Stricker, a senior policy analyst at that institute, wrote in an op-ed in January.

“The Europeans recognize the danger of allowing the sunset clauses to stand, yet they haven’t offered any serious solutions. They are, however, rebuilding business with the Islamic Republic. Although the nuclear deal placed restrictions on Tehran’s gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment program, the regime will be allowed in just six years to ramp up the centrifuge manufacturing process essential for the production of thousands of advanced centrifuges.”

Britain to send its new aircraft carrier to Pacific Ocean in call to use ‘hard power’ against Chinese aggression

Britain’s Royal Navy will deploy the country’s sole aircraft carrier to the Western Pacific when it has completed sea trials by next year as London seeks to join the United States in staring down Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Monday during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank, that the UK and Western powers must be ready to “use hard power to support our interests,” and that failing to challenge or even intervene against aggressive foreign powers “risks our nation being seen as little more than a paper tiger.”

To that end, Britain plans to deploy its sole carrier, the new 65,000-ton, conventionally-powered HMS Queen Elizabeth, to one of the emerging volatile hot spots in the world, as China continues to make outsized claims throughout the South China Sea including building island bases from which it could dramatically impact (read control) one of the globe’s most lucrative trade routes.

The new carrier with its complement of 36 F-35B fighters and four helicopters would serve alongside U.S. Navy warships and others belonging to Western powers and allies in the region including Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Williamson’s call for a tougher line against China comes as American warships increase their operational tempo in the South China Sea. Just this week a pair of guided-missile destroyers, the USS Spruance and USS Preble, conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, a Beijing-controlled artificial island in the Spratly chain.

The operation, as usual, drew a stiff rebuke from the Chinese foreign ministry, which accused Washington of “provocative actions.”

Wang Yiwei, professor in international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post that Britain was attempting to exert itself following Brexit, but that as a key U.S. ally certainly has a role to play in the region.

“The main motive of British politicians is to salvage damaged confidence in the country’s future as Brexit … has caused huge uncertainty. They are trying to demonstrate strength and power,” he said.

Possibly. But overall, Britain appears to have come to realize that its military power has waned since the Cold War — especially its naval might — in ways that are not good for the country’s long-term national security interests. HMS Queen Elizabeth, along with her companion carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, are the largest warships ever built by the Royal Navy, coming 100 years after London began work on its first multi-purpose aircraft carrier.

In late 2018, Williamson announced plans for a new British naval base in the Western Pacific region, perhaps in Singapore or Brunei, as well as a more permanent presence in the area.

British, Israeli intelligence agencies smuggled Iranian nuclear scientist to the UK

As part of the West’s ongoing efforts to undermine Iran’s nuclear weapons program, elements of Israeli and British spy agencies Mossad and MI6, respectively, have reportedly smuggled a top Iranian nuclear scientist out of the country to the United Kingdom.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post, the scientist, a 47-year-old who was not identified, was also allegedly involved in the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan in Tehran in 2012, one of four Iranian nuclear scientists killed in recent years.

The paper said the unnamed scientist first made it to Turkey under a plan drawn up in October, using the migrant crisis as cover, then traveled via inflatable boat alongside other Iranian migrants to the UK.

The BBC noted further that the influx of Iranian migrants to the United Kingdom increased recently following a decision by Serbia’s government to accept Iranian tourists without them having to apply for a visa.

The deal was meant to increase both trade and tourism between Serbia and Iran but has also enabled some Iranians to escape the repressive regime in Tehran through Europe.

“It was determined infiltrating him into a group of fellow migrants preparing to cross the Channel by boat offered one solution,” a British secret service official told The Daily Mail. 

After reaching the UK, the Iranian scientist was interrogated by MI6 regarding the current status of Iran’s nuclear program. From there, he was flown to the United States, likely for further questioning.

The scientist reportedly assisted in the assassination of Roshan; the Israeli Mossad has long been suspected of carrying out the assassination, however.

The J-Post noted further that Tel Aviv has been long thought be behind a secret operation to persuade Iranian scientists into abandoning their country’s nuclear program mostly by eliminating those deemed most valuable, though Israel has never confirmed or denied the claims.

As Trump considers declaring a national emergency at border, analyst worries Mexico heading to ‘failed state’ status

By Jon Dougherty

After years of escalating violence among rival drug and human smuggling cartels, a new analysis of conditions in Mexico says the country’s government is in a “fragile” state and is on the verge of failing, which would have major security implications for the United States.

“Mexico is a fragile state, and without action, faces the risk of becoming a failing, or worse, a failed state,” writes Alexander Grinberg, a U.S. Army officer and expert in defense policy and strategy.

Noting that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines a fragile state as one that is “unable or unwilling to perform the functions necessary for poverty reduction, the promotion of development, protection of the population and the observance of human rights,” he goes onto point out that a decade ago U.S. Joint Forces Command expressed concern that the Mexican government had the potential to collapse completely.

Grinberg also noted that just last year, because of escalating cartel-related violence, the U.S. State Department was compelled to issue travel warnings for five of Mexico’s 32 states.

“Many other states are still considered dangerous, and the U.S. State Department has advised American tourists caution if not total reconsideration,” he writes, adding that the Mexican government has simply been unable to control the cartels or curb the violence and internecine warfare.

Grinberg notes further:

The Mexican government is in a prolonged state of civil war with various cartels, and the state is losing. Rampant corruption from the local to federal level breaks down the fundamental principal-agent relationship between the government and its population, encouraging locals to turn to militias for protection. The militias are, in part, a result of widespread corruption as well as the Mexican military’s deterioration. Mexico’s military faces large numbers of desertions, while measures to provide security for its population continue to fail. The United States should continue to treat Mexico as a welcome economic partner but accept that Mexico is a fragile state, and thus a serious security risk.

“The drug war in Mexico is escalating, and it is creating a spillover effect in the United States. In the United States, the majority of the concern from the Mexican drug war focuses on its impact on the opioid epidemic, a growing topic in both countries,” Grinberg wrote.

His warning comes as President Donald Trump is considering declaring a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Now is the time—this is the moment—to finally secure the border and create the lawful and safe immigration system Americans, and those wanting to become Americans, deserve,” the president said during his State of the Union Address Tuesday.

According to a White House backgrounder:

— Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 266,000 aliens with criminal records in the last two years.

— Deadly drugs are flowing across our borders, taking far too many American lives.

— 1 in 3 migrant women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek to the border.

— The number of criminals arrested by Border Patrol and ICE includes aliens charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, nearly 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.

“We are facing a humanitarian crisis as human smugglers exploit our immigration system for profit and drive migrants to make the treacherous journey north to the border,” the backgrounder states, noting that the president has requested nearly $6 billion in new funding to shore up border security.

Grinberg notes further that the security infrastructure throughout Mexico is failing, especially the military.

“One of the reasons Mexico cannot gain ground over the cartels is because its military is deteriorating through ineffective leadership,” he wrote. “The first indicator of the military’s breakdown is the deterioration of discipline where there is a growing number of unlawful killings and human rights violations.

“As the drug war continues, and the federal government does not crack down on the human rights violations, the Mexican military will further deteriorate. The Mexican military leadership’s lack of control over the behavior of their forces indicates an erosion in the chain of command and the respect for their Code of Military Justice, and it suggests further corruption,” he added.

Fox News reported that by 2012 more than 56,000 soldiers deserted. And as of 2016, the approximate number of deserters was around 150,000.

PBS interviewed local reporters in Cancun as well as a former police officer; the public network found that cartels offered payments of $26,000 compared to a soldier’s salary of about $600 per month.

Some analysts were hopeful that Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, would usher in changes and reforms that will curb the influence of the cartels and the violence they produce. But so far, there is little reason for optimism.

“Obrador’s amnesty proposal, a way to attack cartel funding and offer a peaceful alternative for certain low ranking and non-violent cartel members, is idealistic but naive,” Grinberg writes.

“Continuous gun battles and the failing military and police force raise concerns over Mexico’s stability as a state. The power dynamic continues to shift where the state continues to lose any monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and there’s a real possibility that Mexico can fail as a state and one that is on the United States’ border. The United States needs to take a hard look at Mexico and treat it as a growing security threat,” Grinberg concluded.

France renews its commitment to NATO and the U.S. with ‘nuclear warning shot’ to Russia

In what one analyst sees as a demonstration of commitment to the United States and NATO, as well as a warning to Russia, France publicly announced Tuesday that its military had recently conducted a nuclear strike exercise.

During an 11-hour sortie involving a Rafale fighter, the French air force test-launched an ASMP or ASMP-A medium-range cruise missile, which can be armed with a nuclear warhead in the range of 100 kilotons.

Tom Rogan, a national security expert writing at the Washington Examiner, noted that the timing of the test is as important — or more so — than the actual test itself.

The test “compliments the U.S. decision earlier this week to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” following “Russia’s breach of the INF treaty as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s broader effort to degrade NATO deterrent resolve,” he wrote.

The ASMP is designed for medium-range battlespaces, Rogan noted, so the French test serves as a direct shot across Russia’s bow, so to speak.

That the French chose to use an air-launch platform to conduct the test is noteworthy: “That choice fits with how U.S., British, and French air forces are advancing their effort to penetrate powerful Russian air defense bubbles in the event of a conflict,” he wrote.

The message is clear: France stands ready to deploy its nuclear capabilities against Russia should the need arise, as in, if Russia should use nuclear weapons in Europe or against France directly.

Some analysts may believe that France’s test was unnecessarily provocative but in reality, Rogan notes, it ought to decrease tensions. At present, Russia is doing all it can to undermine NATO’s mutual deterrent resolve, mostly via stepped-up military activities but also via diplomatic putsches into former Soviet bloc nations on NATO’s eastern flank — the Baltics, for example, including Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

Militarily, by cheating on the INF treaty and by other means including the development of hypersonic weapons, Putin has been working to undermine NATO’s resolve. However, if he understands that it wouldn’t just be the U.S. and Britain his forces would have to contend with, that is liable to keep his aggression in check.

“Remember,” writes Rogan, “Putin is an ambitious realist, not a psychopath. He knows that a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and NATO would mean Russia’s defeat.”

As such, it’s vital that he be reminded constantly that the alliance stands ready not only to resist Russian aggression but to take offensive actions to the next level if need be in order to ensure victory.

“Alongside France’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet — Triomphant, Terrible, Téméraire, and Vigilant — America’s oldest ally is showing new commitment to confronting a shared challenge,” Rogan writes, adding ruefully that NATO would be better served if German Chancellor Angela Merkel would demonstrate similar resolve.


Russian defense head says military must develop game-changing ground-based cruise, hypersonic missiles by 2020

The head of Russia’s armed forces said Tuesday that it was imperative the country’s military develop ground-based cruise and hypersonic missiles by 2020 to counter rising threats from the U.S. and the West.

In particular, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a conference call, the military will be looking at developing a ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr missile within the next two years, a requirement ahead of creating a longer-range hypersonic missile system.

“The General Staff has submitted to the supreme commander-in-chief a list of measures, which he has approved. In 2019-2020, we need to develop the ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr system with the long-range cruise missile, which has proven its worth in Syria,” Shoigu said, according to TASS.

“Within the same time limits, we need to develop the ground-based system with the long-range hypersonic missile,” he added.

The development comes in response to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after the administration determined Russia has been cheating for years by developing missile systems with ranges that violate its terms, which Moscow has denied repeatedly.

“At the same time, they [the United States] are actively working on creating ground-based missiles with the range capability of over 500km (310 miles), which is outside the treaty-stipulated limitations. In this situation, the Russian president has set the task for the Defense Ministry to take tit-for-tat mirrored measures,” Shoigu said.

The defense minister noted further that “the use of sea-and air-borne missiles in their ground-based version will help considerably cut the time of manufacturing new missile weapons and the volume of their financing.”

“Besides, it is necessary to increase the firing range of ground-based missile systems being developed today,” he added.

Shoigu ordered Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko “to start the corresponding experimental design work within a short period of time within the appropriations allocated under the defense procurement plan for 2019 and for the planned period of 2020-2021 by re-distributing funds for the fulfillment of this work.”

Meanwhile, in a separate report by TASS, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that U.S. deployments of anti-missile systems in Japan was also a violation of the INF Treaty.

As for the INF Treaty and the Kuril Islands, there is a certain link here, since the placement of the US global missile shield launchers on Japan’s soil is among the problems that exist in our relationship with our Japanese neighbors in the sphere of security,” Lavrov told an audience in a speech at the Russian-Tajik Slavic University.

“These launchers are similar to the systems that have already been deployed by the Americans in Romania and will be deployed in Poland, the so-called Mk-41 launcher,” Lavrov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin alluded to the development of a hypersonic missile during a State of the State address about a year ago.

Since then, the Russian military has conducted successful tests of a hypersonic system including one in December, which could be ready for deployment by 2022.

The latest test of the device, which is known as dubbed “Tsirkon,” was conducted Dec. 10. The device achieved a top speed of Mach 8, or eight times the speed of sound — two miles per second.

“What we are seeing with this particular weapon is that the Russians designed it to have a dual-purpose capability, meaning, it can be used against a target on land as well as a vessel at sea,” one source told CNBC. “Last week’s successful test showed that the Russians were able to achieve sustained flight, a feat that is crucial in the development of hypersonic weapons.”

The U.S. and China are also developing hypersonic missiles, considered game changers by defense experts, though the United States is playing catch-up.

U.S. defense officials have said that no American anti-missile system is currently capable of interdicting a hypersonic missile. But that would also mean that, should the U.S. develop and field a successful hypersonic missile, adversaries likely would also not have the ability to defend against it.

That said, The National Interest reported that the U.S. is already working on hypersonic missile defense — using hypersonics.

“Proposers may also assume a range of velocities above Mach 5 and a range of altitudes up to 50 kilometers [31 miles]. Solutions could have applicability to small interceptors, such as projectiles shorter than one meter [3.2 feet or larger interceptors, such as missiles over 5 meters [16.4 feet] long,” says a research proposal published by the Missile Defense Agency.

Is China’s ‘Guam killer’ ICBM really all that Beijing makes it out to be? U.S. Navy says ‘Probably not’

China has been developing its DF-26 intermediate-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for years now, hyping it alternately as a “carrier killer” or, more recently, the “Guam killer,” the latter a reference to the U.S.-managed base on the small island in the South Pacific.

Recently, Chinese military experts quoted by an official English-language website managed by the People’s Liberation Army claimed that a recent test of the missile by its rocket forces proved its ability to adjust its trajectory during flight and strike a moving warship.

The experts said the demonstrated capability was aimed at putting to rest any doubts in the U.S. and the West about the DF-26’s ability to hit a moving aircraft carrier or other warship.

As noted by the Asia Times, the missile has ostensibly been designed to cause unacceptable damage to U.S. Navy capital warships like carriers and other vessels operating in the Western Pacific. However, that capability has increasingly come under scrutiny by military analysts who know that developing a capability to target and sink a U.S. aircraft carrier is an extremely difficult task, even for advancing Chinese A2/AD (anti-access/area denial) weapons systems.

Asia Times notes:

With a maximum range of 4,000 kilometers, the DF-26 would have the capability to strike US naval facilities and assets on the Pacific island of Guam. It is said that it can carry conventional and nuclear payloads, as well as strike targets on land and at sea.

According to Chinese media reports, the test of a DF-26 missile has been conducted “somewhere” in northwestern China. Using imageries from a China Central Television (CCTV) program aired on January 8, Hans M Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, has geolocated a convoy of seven DF-26 launchers to a highway in Inner Mongolia province, where the PLA Rocket Force has a missile training area. 

Kristensen told Asia Times that it was difficult to assess whether Chinese claims about the DF-26’s anti-ship capabilities were credible, given that it is actually unknown what factors go into a Chinese hit-test of such a missile, and how realistic it is, as well as what capacities the US military has to disturb a DF-26 strike.

He said he remains skeptical about China’s public claims regarding the missile’s capabilities.

“A successful DF-26 strike against a moving ship depends on a lot of vulnerable links, some of which can probably be disturbed by US countermeasures or faced with unpredictable atmospheric conditions in a realistic battle,” he told the news site.

U.S. Navy experts have their own take on China’s anti-ship capabilities. For instance, former Navy Secretary John F. Lehman told the news site last fall that current Chinese systems may be able to cripple a carrier but not sink it. And that’s even if a missile can strike a carrier.

“If the DF-26 could hit, there is no doubt a conventional warhead could inflict considerable damage on an aircraft carrier,” Kristensen said. “But aircraft carriers are extraordinarily hard to sink, a fact demonstrated by their performance during World War II and numerous serious accidents over the years.”

“The accuracy of the DF-26 is uncertain, with speculators estimating the [circular error probability] at intermediate range between 150 to 450 meters,” or around 500 to 1,500 feet, said the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in an analysis.

Even so, Kristensen added, taking out a U.S. carrier wouldn’t stop the Pentagon’s ability to reach out and destroy Chinese military assets throughout the South China Sea and on the mainland.

As for the DF-26, while U.S. military experts continue to question its accuracy, the Defense Department isn’t taking any changes. The National Interest reports that additional missile defenses have been deployed to Guam and aboard warships to intercept incoming enemy missiles. Also, new technologies such as directed-energy (laser) weapons are also being developed.

For instance, U.S. destroyers and cruisers are equipped with SM-6 missiles, which have a range of about 130 miles and theoretically could intercept a DF-26 in its boost phase. Meantime, the Missile Defense Agency is preparing to test the SM-3 Block IIA in action against an ICBM-type target in 2020 in conjunction with a $230 million effort to build new anti-missile capabilities. Analysts say if the Block IIA can hit its ICBM-type target, it can destroy an incoming DF-26.

One way the DF-26 is able to maneuver is via built-in radar, but the missile also receives targeting data possibly from satellites but also from ground- and naval-based radar, Chinese experts told the PLA-run Global Times. But the Pentagon is stepping up its electronic warfare capabilities which would presumably disrupt communications the DF-26 relies on to receive targeting information.

Whether the missile is as accurate as China claims or whether it’s hype, Pentagon leaders say they are both aware of the threat and well-positioned to meet and defeat it.

Russia’s Poseidon unmanned underwater system could autonomously avoid U.S., NATO defenses

Russia’s new nuclear-powered Poseidon unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) system will be able to autonomously avoid enemy defenses on its stealthy way to targets, according to a report by TASS.

The oceanic multipurpose system is designed to skirt U.S. and NATO undersea detection networks while delivering conventional or even nuclear weapons to targets.

“On its way to a target, Poseidon will be able to avoid and overcome any antisubmarine barriers and other enemy defense systems due to the fully automated operation system,” a Russian defense source told the state-owned news agency.

The source added that the UUV’s operational depth will exceed 1 km and that “new technical solutions will ensure a maximum speed of 200 km/hr.”

“Altogether, the intellectual and performance characteristics of the vehicle will make it invulnerable and secure a guaranteed target destruction,” he noted further.

TASS noted further that the Poseidon, a system designed for many missions, will also include a special purpose nuclear submarine and unmanned underwater vehicles.

The source repeated that “the vehicle from the system is intended not just for strategic tasks, but for destruction, for example, of enemy carrier groups.”

The multi-purpose system Poseidon will include a special-purpose nuclear submarine and unmanned underwater vehicles on board. The source reiterated that “the vehicle from the system is intended not just for strategic tasks, but for destruction, for example, of enemy carrier groups.”

TASS said it could not independently verify the source’s information.

Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that a key testing stage for Poseidon was completed.

In December, a defense industry official told TASS that testing of the UUV’s nuclear power system was taking place as part of sea trials. The official said the nuclear reactor was mounted on the hull of the operating vehicle for testing.

In March 2018 during his State of the State Address, Putin said that the Poseidon systems will be equipped with conventional and nuclear payloads and will be capable of destroying an enemy’s carrier groups, ports, and other infrastructure.

Also known as “Status 6” and by the NATO code name Kanyon, Russian state TV has said that it may be able to deliver a thermonuclear cobalt bomb of up to 100 megatons against enemy naval ports and coastal cities.

The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review included information about the Poseidon, noting that Moscow is in the process of developing a “new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.”

New images surface of massive Russian stealth drone ‘Hunter’

Last summer, the world got its first glimpses of a massive, 20-ton stealth drone fighter being developed by Russia when defense industry sources passed them along to the Russian state-owned news outlet TASS.

Though the aircraft (shown above) “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known,” a defense official told the newswire.

Since TASS is completely run by the Kremlin, it’s safe to say that the images were ‘leaked’ on purpose.

The defense official noted further:

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, the stealth drone will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

Now, as LiveJournal now reports, brand-new images of the first prototype of this sixth-gen unmanned reconnaissance-strike drone, nicknamed “Hunter,” have been taken at the airdrome of the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant.

Reports note that designers have been putting the model through testing at the plant since November 2018. Prototype flights have been scheduled for sometime this year.

A second defense expert told the Russian newswire the drone/jet has a top speed of about 621 miles per hour:

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour, said TASS.

Sam Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, previously told Defense One, “Sounds like Russia wants everything to be included into the new design at once.In reality, they will probably have to compromise, selecting more realistic qualifications for the new aircraft.”

He added: “Most importantly, this will be an expensive endeavor, further pushing Russian designers and the Ministry of Defense to be more selective in approving the final aircraft specs. However, some qualifications, like optional manning, autonomy and some form of artificial intelligence will probably be included.”

In the end, Bendett says, Moscow’s objective may be to move away from manned aircraft altogether.

“Ohotnik is barely flying yet and some time will pass before it becomes an operational variant. Nonetheless, this unmanned aerial vehicle and Russia’s future combat aircraft plans offer a glimpse into Moscow’s thoughts on future warfare,” he noted.

The U.S. military is also testing unmanned drone aircraft.

For instance, the Navy recently selected the MQ-25 aircraft tanker/refuelling drone built by Boeing, which the service plans to use to refuel carrier-based planes at sea.

Also, the U.S. is looking at other designs, including the Kratos XQ-222 Valkyrie, a swarm drone platform for the Air Force, and the Lockheed TR-X, designed to replace the SR-71 spy plane.

The Chinese are also in the combat drone business, with its CH-7 — an apparent clone of a U.S. Navy design, the X-47B, which has since been discontinued.

The CH-7 could also be based on another U.S. design, however, as We Are The Mighty reported:

Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after…the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.