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Monday, June 24, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190524


B-52 Re-engining Faces Hiccup On Capitol Hill

The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee mark of the fiscal 2020 defense policy bill is critical of the U.S. Air Force’s B-52 re-engining plan, directs the Pentagon to reassess its mobility needs and proposes canceling the cost cap for the Ford-class aircraft carrier...

Lockheed ‘Sidekick’ Will Raise F-35 Missile Capacity

A device called Sidekick will allow a U.S. Air Force or Navy version of the F-35 to carry six AIM-120 missiles internally instead of four, a Lockheed Martin official says.
The comments by F-35 test pilot Tony Wilson on May 1 come as the program continues to define the details of a 10-year modernization program for the F-35 called Block 4. The upgrades are expected to allow the F-35 to carry improved sensors and new weapons.

But it’s also possible that the F-35 will be able to carry more air-to-air weapons in the internal bays, which preserve the aircraft’s ability to avoid being tracked by an enemy’s fire control radars at long range...

Soldiers will soon test Army hypersonics missiles

By next year the Army will have the capability to do just about everything it needs to run hypersonic projectiles except launch the missile, the three-star general over the program said.

Lt. Gen. Neil Thurgood, director of the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, said the first joint flight test of a hypersonic weapon will happen next year and another test every six months will develop the tech until it can be fielded likely in 2022.

Developing the weapons on time is key for Army work in strategic fires as both China and Russia have made bold claims about their own capabilities in hypersonics research that can defeat conventional anti-missile defense systems...

U.S. Naval Update Map: June 20, 2019

Carrier Strike Groups

- The USS Abraham Lincoln is underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOR) in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region.

- The USS Ronald Reagan is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR for a routine summer patrol.

Amphibious Ready Groups/Marine Expeditionary Units

- The USS Wasp is on a port visit in Sydney, Australia, ahead of taking part in the Talisman Sabre 2019 exercise.

- The USS Kearsarge is moored at a naval base off Aqaba, Jordan, for a scheduled port visit while underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region.

- The USS Boxer is in the Indian Ocean, while on its way to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR.




Abe Tries to Move the Needle on Japan’s North Korea Policy, but Will it Matter?

The abduction issue (rachi mondai) has been a major constraint on Japan’s policy toward North Korea for the last several decades. In the 1970s, a number of Japanese citizens disappeared and it has long been suspected that they were abducted by North Korean agents. The Japanese government eventually confirmed that 17 individuals met this fate. Beginning in 1991, Japanese officials tried to discuss this issue with North Korea in bilateral talks but for years Pyongyang consistently denied the allegation. However, in 2002, North Korea dramatically reversed its longstanding position when Kim Jong Il admitted to then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that a part of its intelligence agency had, in fact, abducted Japanese citizens.

Over the following two years, Koizumi brought back 5 of 17 confirmed abductee victims and their families to Japan. However, Japan and North Korea have been unable to reach an agreement on the remaining 12 victims. The North has insisted that the issue was resolved with Kim Il Sung’s confession, his apology for the abductions, and the return of the 5 victims—and maintains that the remaining 12 either never entered North Korea or have passed away. Japan has rejected Pyongyang’s claim, and has continued to push for the return of the remaining 12 citizens. Because the highest-profile victim, Megumi Yokota, was believed to be abducted when she was only 13, the abduction issue has not only become highly emotional for the victims’ families, but also politically sensitive for the Japanese government...

Exclusive: U.S. pursues sale of over $2 billion in weapons to Taiwan, sources say, angering China

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is pursuing the sale of more than $2 billion worth of tanks and weapons to Taiwan, four people familiar with the negotiations said, sparking anger from Beijing which is already involved in an escalating trade war with Washington.

An informal notification of the proposed sale has been sent to the U.S. Congress, the four sources said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the possible deal.

The potential sale included 108 General Dynamics Corp M1A2 Abrams tanks worth around $2 billion as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, three of the sources said. Taiwan has been interested in refreshing its existing U.S.-made battle tank inventory, which includes M60 Patton tanks...


MBDA Developing New Version Of Mica ‘Silent Killer’ Air-to-Air Missile

France’s F4 upgrade of the Dassault Rafale may represent the first steppingstone toward readying the fighter for the information age, but it also will pave the way for a new primary weapon.

The MBDA Mica NG (New Generation) is a radically reengineered version of the legacy Mica missile, which was developed in the 1980s and ’90s for the Rafale family as its air-to-air weapon.

Mica NG is planned to enter service as in 2026 on the Rafale

Missile HUMS will enable on-condition maintenance and reduced through-life cost

The Mica was built upon France’s extensive experience in developing air-to-air weapons for its home-grown combat aircraft through iterations of the Magic family of infrared (IR)-guided missiles and the R.530 family of semiactive radar-guided missiles...


Mexico detains 791 undocumented migrants, National Guard starts to patrol southern border

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexican officials detained nearly 800 undocumented migrants on Saturday, the government said, in one of the biggest swoops against illegal immigration in recent months, as members of the National Guard began patrolling the southern border.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement late on Saturday that 791 foreign nationals were found in four trucks stopped in the eastern state of Veracruz, confirming earlier reports about a mass detention.

The apprehension came as Mexico steps up efforts to reduce a surge of migrants toward the U.S. border under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who vowed to hit Mexican goods with tariffs if Mexico does not do more to stem illegal immigration...






Iran to scale back nuclear deal commitments: Tasnim

FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flutters in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran will announce further moves on Monday to scale back compliance with an international nuclear pact that the United States abandoned last year, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday.

“Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation tomorrow at the Arak heavy water site will announce preparatory steps that have been taken to further decrease Tehran’s commitments under the deal,” Tasnim said, without citing sources...


Iraq: Rocket Hits Compound Housing Workers for U.S. and Other Global Oil Majors

What Happened: Unidentified assailants attacked a compound in Basra province that houses workers for major petroleum companies like ExxonMobil, Shell and Eni with a Katyusha rocket, injuring three Iraqis, Bloomberg reported June 19.

Why It Matters: Given that the attack marks the third in 36 hours to occur close to sites housing U.S. soldiers or energy companies in Iraq, Washington is almost certain to use the incident to ramp up its pressure on Iran amid the two countries' standoff. At this stage, however, the United States has not assigned blame for the attacks, and no one has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Background: In the wake of two attacks on tankers near the Strait of Hormuz last week that the United States has accused Iran of committing, Tehran appears to be retaliating against U.S. sanctions by targeting U.S. assets in the region.




North Korea’s Nuclear Bomb Is Much Bigger than Previously Thought

A new look at 2017 test data reveals an explosion 16 times as powerful than the one that leveled Hiroshima.

Scientists looking anew at a 2017 North Korean nuclear test discovered that the explosion was likely about two-thirds more powerful than U.S. officials previously thought.

Earlier data put the yield somewhere between 30 and 300 kilotons; the U.S. intelligence community said 140 kilotons. That was already the most powerful device tested by North Korea, topping a 2016 test by about an order of magnitude. But a new look at seismological data suggests that the blast was between 148 and 328 kilotons, and probably around 250 kilotons.

That’s the conclusion from a group of researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz; the Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica; and elsewhere, as published Monday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. The team combined sound-wave data recorded during the blast with information about North Korean nuclear tests since 2006 and plugged it all into models showing how sound would travel through various types of rock at an estimated depth of 430 to 710 meters.

A 250-kiloton weapon would be about 16 times more powerful than the one that leveled Hiroshima. Detonated over Washington, D.C., it would have knocked down virtually every residential structure in the downtown area and inflicted third-degree burns on everyone within a three-mile radius...

A data visualization from NUKEMAP showing the effects of a 250 kiloton nuclear bomb on Washington, D.C.

North Korea: The Pot Still Boiling

The debate roiling the leadership in Pyongyang is in its fourth week and appears to have heated up. That the Chinese leader Xi Jinping should go to North Korea in the middle of this tense situation is extraordinary and suggests a level of concern that the situation in Pyongyang is close to getting out of hand. At the same time, the visit could also be a calculated effort by Kim Jong Un to pull in heavy artillery to defend his position.

Both sides of the debate have used the party daily Rodong Sinmun to advance their positions. Those who are on the attack (for convenience we’ll call them the “orthodox” forces) appear to have the upper hand in that regard, having published two very lengthy, high-level “special articles” on the front page of the paper over the past several weeks (May 20 and June 12). By contrast, those forces—for want of a better term, the “loyalists”—on the other side of the debate appear, so far, forced to defend their position indirectly, without forthrightly pushing back or laying out their case.

As an example of this indirect approach, a long article in Rodong Sinmun on June 10—not by accident the same day as Kim Jong Un’s latest letter to President Trump—lavishly praised Kang Sok Ju, the former first vice foreign minister who negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework and guided the North’s diplomacy through to what had been considered a major breakthrough with the US in October 2000. By implication, the appearance of this article on Kang was an effort to push back against the orthodox criticism of diplomacy as compromising the country’s principles and security...

...In subtle and not so subtle ways the article made clear the orthodox preference for restoring the military to its previous positions of status and influence. In several places the article lists military issues before economic issues. It even goes so far as to describe Kim “openly sitting knee to knee with national defense scientists” and “seeking ways to increase military spending in the shortest possible time;” and only then does it go on to include a seemingly minor reference to Kim’s concern with economic matters. That suggests advocacy of a complete reversal of the new strategic line of “everything for the economy,” announced at a party plenum in April 2018...

Injuries in North Korea: Addressing a Looming Crisis

Road crashes, collapsing buildings, work accidents, nuclear weapons, food shortages and human rights dominate the headlines about North Korea. But for ordinary North Koreans trying to make a living, another pressing concern is the exponential increase in the number of injuries in recent years. Due to North Korea’s inadequate trauma care capacity, injuries often result in disability or, even worse, death and impose large economic costs. This is a hidden crisis that the international community should help address.

The Scope of the Problem

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in North Korea. About 15,600 North Koreans die from injury every year. Furthermore, injuries are by far the biggest killer among the youth and the working-age populations, accounting for more than half of all premature deaths in ages 5 to 29. Road accidents are the most prevalent cause of these fatalities, comprising a third of all injury-related deaths. Falls account for 10.9 percent and mechanical injuries account for 5.1 percent. This suggests work injuries are one of the top causes of death in North Korea. In fact, North Korea’s injury burden is similar to that of other developing countries.

North Korea’s healthcare system and its capacity to deal with the causes and consequences of trauma is inadequate. Based on our survey data, there is room for significant improvement of North Korea’s injury care system: access to hospital care needs to be improved; professional pre-hospital care is essentially nonexistent; ambulance services are unreliable at best; medical facilities, especially outside Pyongyang, often lack the necessary equipment and facilities; and access to drugs in hospitals is minimal and patients frequently have to procure them in local markets (jangmadang). Growing economic activity in North Korea—a construction boom in Pyongyang and elsewhere across the country, increases in road traffic and new multinational industrial and infrastructure projects—will increase the injury burden...




Blast-hit tankers to be assessed off UAE coast

DUBAI (Reuters) - The two oil tankers crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran are being assessed off the coast off the United Arab Emirates before their cargos are unloaded, the ships’ operators said on Sunday.

Damage assessment on Japan’s Kokuka Courageous and preparation for ship-to-ship transfer of its methanol cargo would start after authorities in Sharjah, one of the UAE’s seven emirates, complete security checks, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said.

Thursday’s attacks, which also hit Norwegian tanker Front Altair, have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States and its Gulf allies after similar blasts in May struck four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE...

Exclusive: US intel shows Saudi Arabia escalated its missile program with help from China

Washington (CNN)The US government has obtained intelligence that Saudi Arabia has significantly escalated its ballistic missile program with the help of China, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, a development that threatens decades of US efforts to limit missile proliferation in the Middle East.

The Trump administration did not initially disclose its knowledge of this classified development to key members of Congress, the sources said, infuriating Democrats who discovered it outside of regular US government channels and concluded it had been deliberately left out of a series of briefings where they say it should have been presented.

The previously unreported classified intelligence indicates Saudi Arabia has expanded both its missile infrastructure and technology through recent purchases from China.

The discovery of the Saudi efforts has heightened concerns among members of Congress over a potential arms race in the Middle East, and whether it signals a tacit approval by the Trump administration as it seeks to counter Iran. The intelligence also raises questions about the administration's commitment to non-proliferation in the Middle East and the extent to which Congress is kept abreast of foreign policy developments in a volatile region...

Satellite imagery captured on November 13, 2018 shows a suspected ballistic missile factory at a missile base in al-Watah, Saudi Arabia. Image was initially discovered by Planet Labs and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.


U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid

WASHINGTON — The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States...

State Department proposes new $20.8 million cybersecurity bureau

The State Department has sent to Congress a long-awaited plan to reestablish a cybersecurity-focused bureau it says is key to supporting U.S. diplomatic efforts in cyberspace.

The State Department’s new plan, obtained by CyberScoop, would create the Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) to “lead U.S. government diplomatic efforts to secure cyberspace and its technologies, reduce the likelihood of cyber conflict, and prevail in strategic cyber competition.”

The new bureau, with a proposed staff of 80 and projected budget of $20.8 million, would be led by a Senate-confirmed coordinator and “ambassador-at-large” with the equivalent status of an assistant secretary of State, who would report to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. The idea comes nearly two years after then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced he would abolish the department’s cybersecurity coordinator position and put its support staff under the department’s economic bureau...

US cyberattack reportedly knocked out Iran missile control systems

The President reportedly signed off on the digital strike.

The US may have withheld a physical military response to Iran shooting down a drone, but it might not have shown similar restraint with a digital campaign. Washington Post sources say the President greenlit a long-in-the-making cyberattack that took down Iranian missile control computers on the night of June 20th. The exact impact of the Cyber Command operation isn't clear, but it was described as "crippling" -- Iran couldn't easily recover, one tipster said.

It's uncertain how Iran reacted to the apparent attack.

Officials have declined to comment, with Cyber Command noting that it doesn't want to jeopardize its operations by discussing its online efforts. The report comes days after word of the US planting offensive malware in Russia's power grid, however, and not much longer after national security advisor John Bolton said the US was "broadening the areas" where it was prepared to use cyberwarfare...


Common Misconceptions About China's Corporate Espionage Tactics


- Several common misconceptions assume Chinese corporate espionage efforts are much more confined and predictable than they really are.

- This includes the dangerous belief that Beijing's intelligence agencies only recruit ethnic Chinese agents, or that they only recruit agents on their home turf in China.

- The Chinese government and state-owned entities also frequently benefit from walk-in agents who offer stolen information of their own accord.

- Thus, whether employees are at risk of providing trade secrets to Chinese intelligence actors should be evaluated purely on their behavior, and not on their ethnicity or location...


Man Accused In New Zealand Mosque Killings Pleads Not Guilty

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — The man accused of the New Zealand mosque attacks smirked as his lawyer entered not guilty pleas to terrorism, murder and attempted murder charges Friday before a judge who set his trial for next May.

The courtroom was filled with 80 survivors and family members of the 51 who were slain, while about another 60 watched the hearing on video in an overflow room at the Christchurch High Court. Four cultural advisers and other staff were assigned to help the victims and family members understand the proceedings and the next steps in the case.

A man who addressed the survivors said they had been praying during the holy month of Ramadan and that the Muslim community would help and support each other during the coming weeks and months.

Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian accused of the attacks, appeared at the hearing via video link from a small room at the maximum security prison in Auckland where he’s being held. The link was muted and he didn’t attempt to speak.

Other than smirking a couple of times, Tarrant showed little emotion during the hearing. When Judge Cameron Mander asked if he could hear and see what was going on in the courtroom, Tarrant nodded. At times he looked around the room and stretched his neck.

The judge did not allow cameras or video in the courtroom although [he] did approve a sketch artist commissioned by The Associated Press.

Tarrant has been charged with 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge in relation to the March 15 shootings...


Hermeus Targets Mach 5 Sweet Spot For Hypersonic Project

- Aircraft planned for 20 passengers, 4,000-nm range and Mach 5 cruise speed

- It will have a turbine-based, combined-cycle engine with ramjet

Amid the ongoing surge in civil supersonic aircraft projects, Atlanta-based startup Hermeus has unveiled details of its ambitious plan to develop a higher-speed passenger aircraft with, potentially, double the speed advantage.

Provisionally sized to carry around 20 passengers over transatlantic ranges at speeds up to Mach 5, the newly revealed aircraft project is targeted at entry into service by the late 2020s. Despite the aggressive schedule and ambitious performance targets, the company believes existing and near-term technologies are already capable of supporting the venture...

Lockheed Martin Floats Supersonic Airliner Concept

Boosted by development of the X-59 low-boom demonstrator for NASA and sensing the potential for an early jump-start in the emerging commercial supersonic market, Lockheed Martin has unveiled details of a Mach 1.8 concept capable of transpacific routes with up to 40 passengers.

The company believes its baseline design can economically operate on routes up to transpacific in length while simultaneously defeating the problems of sonic boom and airport noise that killed off the Concorde 16 years ago. Unlike earlier supersonic transport (SST) attempts by the industry, including by Lockheed , this time the concept builds on new enabling technologies in design, propulsion, aerodynamics and systems that were either not previously available or sufficiently advanced.

The design breakthroughs owe much to the X-59 QueSST, in addition to leveraging studies conducted earlier this decade under NASA’s N+2 quiet supersonic initiative, which preceded the low-boom demonstrator. These studies proved for the first time that low boom could realistically be combined with good supersonic-cruise lift-to-drag ratio and established the fundamental building blocks of both NASA’s latest X-plane and Lockheed’s newest large supersonic concept.

Twin-engine quiet supersonic transport concept is 225 ft. long

40-passenger design is aimed at transpacific ranges at Mach 1.8

...Threshold range was set at 4,200 nm, which the company believes is sufficient for most top city pairs, while an objective range of 5,300 nm will enable nonstop transpacific missions. Target takeoff field length is less than 10,500 ft., though under 9,500 ft. is preferred, while the sweet spot for passenger capacity is set at 40. Using Concorde as a reference, “we explored different markets and looked at load factors, and thought 40 [passengers] would be a good place,” says Buonanno. The minimum viable payload is 19, below which seat-mile costs are considered unrealistic...

Lockheed Quietly Developing AIM-260 To Counter Chinese PL-15

DAYTON, Ohio—Lockheed Martin is developing a new air-dominance missile for the U.S. Air Force and Navy with significantly greater range than the AIM-120 Amraam as a counter to China’s new PL-15 weapon, a top U.S. Air Force official says.

The AIM-260 is scheduled to begin flight testing in 2021 and achieve initial operational capability in 2022, said Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons.

The disclosure, during a June 20 interview with Aerospace DAILY on the sidelines of Life Cycle Industry Days here, reveals a major initiative that had been cloaked in secrecy for more than two years...

MQ-25 First Flight Slated This Summer

PARIS—Boeing has revealed that the U.S. Navy MQ-25A Stingray carrier-based unmanned refueling tanker company-funded prototype will achieve first flight later this summer.
The announcement was made at the Paris Air Show, being held here June 17-23.

The prototype is dubbed “T1” and will complete a 200-hr. flight hour test program to reduce risk and assess the possibility of program acceleration, Leanne Caret, Boeing Defense, Space & Security president and chief executive, said here June 17...

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