Archive for September, 2018


September 28, 2018

National Interest on September 24, 2018 reported that Lockheed is now developing a SR-72 that will be faster than SR-71 Blackbird, the second fastest manned plane in history. Excerpts below:

SR-71 served with the United States military from 1964-1998, and with NASA until 1999.

It was thought satellites and drones could replace the SR-71. The problem was that satellites are predictable, and too many drones just don’t have the performance or reliability.

Lockheed noted that the SR-71 was designed on paper with slide rules. Even without the benefit of high-technology, the SR-71 proved to be superb at its role.

The new SR-72, though, is going to leverage technology from the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 to help it fly at speeds exceeding Mach 6. The HTV-2 hit Mach 20 during its flights.

According to a report by Popular Mechanics , the SR-72 will also have a strike mission. While the exact weapons are unknown at this time, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that plans call for a “Flight Research Vehicle” to be constructed in the early 2020s, with a full-scale version to be in service sometime in the 2030s.

As for the lucky pilots who get to fly this plane, they will not need the very bulky suits that Blackbird pilots wear. That’s because the initial plans call for the SR-72 to be a drone.

Comment: National Interest has also questioned if 100 of the new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider Stealth bombers is enough. The minimum needed would be 120 combat-coded bombers, 20 trainers, and 24 planes for backup and attrition planning purposes. 164 aircraft would be needed.

Northrop Grumman’s B-21 Raider stealth bomber is rapidly approaching its critical design review (CDR), when a Pentagon review team will determine if the new aircraft is meeting the technical requirements set forth in its requirements documents.

If the design passes its CDR, the B-21 team will be cleared to build, integrate and test the aircraft before its next hurdle: the production readiness review. This is planned before the end of 2018.

Unlike most other major defense programs, the B-21 is not only being developed mostly in secret, it is also being managed outside the normal acquisition process at the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office. The reason for that is fairly simple, the Air Force hopes that the secrecy will prevent adversaries such as Russia and China from gaining too much insight into the new bomber and its capabilities before it is even fielded.

U.S. Air Force is doing everything it can to prevent Moscow and Beijing from gaining intelligence on the B-21 and its capabilities, the service may not have fully considered emerging Russian and Chinese long-range precision-guided strike capabilities when it set the requirement to build only 100 Raiders.

The United States needs to be prepared both for the European and the emerging Indo-Pacific theatres. Both Russia and China possess long-range precision-guided weapons that could target and knock out airfields and other critical infrastructure in the region. This could mean that more strategic aircrafts are needed. 100 B-21 bombers may not be enough.

U.S. Air Force officers testifying before Congress have also agreed that the service might need as many as 258 B-21 bombers in the nightmare scenario of a war with the Russian Federation.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has shown that the Air Force needs at least 200 B-21s.

“When considering theoretical requirements of up to 200-plus bombers to prosecute a penetrating strike mission against a great power such as Russia or China, it is better to err on the side of caution and maintain a healthy complement (24) of backup and attrition aircraft,” report authors Jerry Hendrix, CNAS’ then director of defense studies and Air Force Lt. Col. James Price wrote .

But even 120 combat-coded bombers would get the United States part way to a force that could conduct a full-scale air war against the Russian Federation.

“An air campaign against Russia is projected to last 180 days at a minimum and would require nearly 260 bombers,” the authors wrote.

“Today the Air Force has fewer than 100 combat-coded bombers, well shy of the levels required to respond to two regional conflicts simultaneously.”

The Obama administration for years neglected the American military. A restoration is now underway . To be on the safe side adding 100 bombers to the presently planned number of B-21s would be wise.


September 26, 2018

Fox News on September 23, 2018, reported on comments by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani ahead of the 2018 Iranian Uprising Summit in New York. Presiden Donald Trump’s lawyer called for support for the Iranian resistance movement MEK. Excerpts below:

Giuliani advocated that a “peaceful” overthrow of the current Iranian vanguard is the only solution for a prosperous nation and stable Middle East.

…a fall, he said, could come at any moment.

“Who would have known the timeline in Russia or the timeline in Poland or the timeline in Hungary. When it happens it happens. We generally see a very repressive, very militaristic regime and think it can’t be overthrown. We don’t realize as people’s desire for freedom reaches a boiling point it can overcome that,” he continued. “Then it just happens. That’s what is going to happen here. We are going to wake up one morning and someone has been overthrown. It may not happen tomorrow, but it is inevitable the way they are oppressing people.”

“It is terrible that they have to be pressured this way…President Trump shows the world the road that President Reagan took in terms of communism. When he embraced solidarity, he said this protest movement is because these people are being oppressed. They are being treated horribly and because Iran is investing money in terrorism and not the people. That’s why the people are starving.”

Anti-government protests have been spilling out across Iran since January, of which Trump has tweeted support for those taking to the streets. And since withdrawing from the deal with Tehran, the president has stated he would be willing to “re-negotiate” what he deemed to be one of the worst deals ever formulated by Western leadership.

So what would such a new deal look like?

“There is no doubt what a re-negotiated deal would mean, and that is complete and absolute denuclearization of Iran and a change in which it supports terrorism throughout the world,” Giuliani conjectured. “Because they are an existential danger to us and to Israel and we can’t accept that. Those two things would be critical.”

“In other words, if they promised to de-nuclearize and they promised not to threaten the U.S. and Israel, [and] our allies, but they remained the kind of militaristic religious fanatic that kills people they aren’t going to keep their promise,” Giuliani noted.

“We call on the United States to expel the Iranian regime’s operatives from America. We urge Western governments to shut down or restrict the regime’s embassies, which are control centers for espionage and terrorism; and to expel this regime’s criminal forces from Syria and Iraq,” the [MEK’s] Paris-based female leader, Maryam Rajavi, told the thousand-plus crowd via video feed. “Iran’s seat at the United Nations does not belong to the terrorist regime ruling it. That seat belongs to the Iranian people and Resistance.”

“Of the last ten years that I have been involved with them [MEK] and I come to this event every year,” he added. “This is the first time I see hope that there can be real change in Iran.”

Comment: Iran has since ancient Greece been a challenger to the West. After it was taken over by a theocratic regime during the Cold War. It was a major strategic defeat for the United States and the West. Iran has since then developed into a major power in Eurasia and is projecting geopolitical power into Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.

Iran is working closely to Russia, another Eurasian challenger to the West.

President Trump’s speech to the United Nation General Assembly on September 25, 2018 targeted the Islamisat regime in Tehran: “They do not respect their neighbors or their borders or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond”

“We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants death to America and that threatens Israel with annihilation,” Trump said.

The United States is presently using the economic weapon against Iran much in the same way as against the Soviet Union during the Reagan administration. There are now clear signs that the regime in Tehran has weakened. A hopefully ”peaceful” overthrow is possible. It is important that the leading European allies of the United States join the sanctions against Iran.


September 24, 2018

Washington Times on September 19, 2018, published a commentary by Henry F. Cooper, who was the U.S. ambassador to the Defense and Space Talks during the Reagan administration and director of the Strategic Defense Initiative during the George H.W. Bush administration and Rowland H. Worrell, a retired Air Force colonel, who was Brilliant Pebbles Task Force director, National Test Facility director and USAF Space Warfare Center vice commander. They call for a cost-effective ballistic missile defense (BMD). Excerpts below:

…the United States needs a credible, practical, cost-effective ballistic missile defense (BMD). A space-based interceptor (SBI) system would best achieve this objective,…

The Pentagon’s top engineer Michael Griffin says he doesn’t understand why, since 1,000 SBIs would cost less than $20 billion — for a global defense capability.

SDI proved otherwise before Brilliant Pebbles (BP) was scuttled in 1993 for political reasons, even though it promised more than 90 percent probability of killing all of up to 200 attacking re-entry vehicles — the number then controlled by a Russian submarine commander. Its fully validated cost estimate was $10 billion in 1988 dollars (about $20 billion in 2018 dollars) for concept definition and validation, development, deployment and 20 years operation of 1,000 Brilliant Pebbles — consistent with Mr. Griffin’s assertion.

BP was designed to intercept ballistic missiles in their boost phase while their rockets still burn, before they can release their decoys and other countermeasures — and throughout their flight, including when re-entering the atmosphere. That’s better than anything we have today and could have been built for much less than we have spent on all basing modes other than in space.

USAF Lt. Gen. George Monahan, the second SDI director, led 1989-90 reviews enabling BP to become the first SDI system formally approved by the Pentagon’s acquisition authorities for concept definition and validation. In 1989, Roland Worrell, the BP Task Force program manager, shepherded BP through those technical and costing reviews.

General James A. Abrahamson’s 1989 end-of-tour report endorsed LNLL’s BP model as key to an effective, affordable SBI architecture. He concluded that ”This concept should be tested within the next two years and, if aggressively pursued, could be ready for initial deployment within 5 years.” [General Abrahamson was SDI Director from 1984 to 1989].

[In] 1991, Assistant Secretary of Defense Steve Hadley and Henry Cooper briefed the press that BP was expected to cost $10 billion in 1988 dollars, including 20 years operations — about $20 billion today — as estimated by Mike Griffins.

Comment: Since the beginning of the 1990s there has been little progress on what has been termed limited ballistic missile defense. It was not until December 2016 Congress at last scrapped the 1999 Missile Defense Act language and removed the modifier “limited” from the missile defense mandate. Thus the door was opened to building missile defenses intended to defend not only against the anticipated limited missile capabilities of North Korea and Iran, but those of the peer and near-peer forces of Russia and China. Congress also called for a beginning of research and development, and to test and evaluate space-based missile defense programs.

Congress is in 2018 intensifying the push for the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to focus money and near-term efforts to create a space-based sensor architecture and intercept layer for ballistic missile defense — all this after the agency came out with a fiscal 2019 budget request almost virtually absent of plans and programs to move ahead on such capabilities.

A space-based sensor layer’s persistent vantage point would provide hostile missile tracking all the way from the missile b0ost phase. Missile defense experts believe a space-based missile defense architecture would dramatically improve the lethality of both homeland and regional missile defense, especially against emerging threats.

In the Fiscal Year 2019 national defense authorization conference report, lawmakers wanted to see a more concerted effort from the MDA to make space-based missile defense a reality by authorizing additional funds and development during 2019.

The Senate bill required the MDA to begin development of the architecture unless the Missile Defense Review stated otherwise. The review is expected to be unveiled in the fall of 2018. The Senate’s version also required the defense secretary to submit a report on progress and coordination of efforts on such a capability among MDA, the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The growing ballistic missile threat of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea to the United States calls for a space based ballistic missile defense. At 20 billion US dollars (as suggested by Cooper and Worrell in the Washington Times article) a space based interceptor system seems to be a financially sound solution.


September 22, 2018

In the National Security Strategy of the United States of December 2017 China, Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are mentioned as challengers to American power, influence and interests and attempting to erode American security and prosperity. Iran is mentioned as a dictatorship that is determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and allies, and brutalizing its own people.

In an article of January 9, 2018, in Real Clear Defense American geopolitician Francis P. Sempa argued for an American national strategy rooted in classical geopolitics. Sempa is the author of ”Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21stCentury”, ”America’s Global Role: Essays and Reviews on National Security”, and ”Geopolitics and War”. Excerpts below:

The specifics of a National Security Strategy [are] important as the underlying worldviews of the president and his key advisors. What is crucial is that the nation’s foreign and defense policies be rooted in an appreciation and understanding of classical geopolitics. This means that U.S. policymakers should have a knowledge of history in its geographical settings and a familiarity with the works of the greatest geopolitical scholars: Alfred Thayer Mahan, Halford Mackinder, and Nicholas Spykman.

Alfred Thayer Mahan graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1859, served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War, and ended up teaching at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, between the 1880s and his death in 1914. He authored 20 books and hundreds of articles on history and naval strategy. He achieved world renown for his book The Influence of Sea Power upon History(1890).

His most important geopolitical work was The Problem of Asia (1901), but his geopolitical insights can also be found in The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire (1892), The Interest of America in International Conditions (1910), and Naval Strategy (1911).

Mahan understood that the United States was effectively an island or insular continental power with no potential peer competitor in the Western Hemisphere but with several such potential competitors in the Eastern Hemisphere. Because the U.S. was separated from the Old World by two great oceans, sea power was essential to its national security.

Halford Mackinder was a British geographer, lecturer, and statesman who wrote three of the most important and influential geopolitical analyses between 1904 and 1943. The first, “The Geographical Pivot of History” (1904), was an address to the Royal Geographical Society in London, which later appeared in the Geographical Journal. The second, ”Democratic Ideals and Reality” (1919), was written immediately after the end of the First World War and urged the statesmen of the world to construct a peace based on geopolitical realities rather than utopian ideals. The third, “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace,” appeared in Foreign Affairs in 1943 in the midst of the Second World War.

His geopolitical map of the world consisted of the Eurasian-African continent that he called the “World-Island,” because it potentially combined insularity with unmatched population and resources; the surrounding islands, including North America, South America, Great Britain, Japan, Australia and lesser islands; and the world ocean.

The Eurasian landmass or “great continent,” contained most of the world’s people and resources. The “pivot state” or “Heartland” of Eurasia was the inner core region stretching east-to-west from the Lena River in Siberia to the edge of Eastern Europe between the Black and Caspian Seas and north-to-south from just below the arctic circle to Inner Mongolia and the northern Central Asian republics. The Eurasian Heartland was geographically impenetrable to sea power but suitable for mobile land power.

In 1904, he warned Western statesman that if a great power or coalition of powers achieved effective political control of the key power centers of Eurasia, it could use the resources of the great continent to build a powerful navy and thereby overwhelm the world’s other insular powers—“the empire of the world would then be in sight.”

In 1919, he colorfully suggested that some “airy cherub” should whisper into the ear of Western statesmen: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: Who rules the World-Island commands the world.”

In 1943, Mackinder suggested that a Heartland-based power could be contained by a coalition of powers based in the “Midland Ocean,” which included the United States and Canada, Great Britain, and the nations of Western Europe, a remarkable and prescient description of the NATO coalition that formed six years later in response to a Heartland-based Soviet empire’s expansionist policies.

Nicholas Spykman taught international relations at Yale University in the 1930s and 1940s. He wrote two geopolitical masterpieces, ”America’s Strategy in World Politics”(1942) and ”The Geography of the Peace” (1944), that latter of which was published posthumously. Spykman accepted the geopolitical division of the world as described by Mackinder, but differed with Mackinder about the power potential of the world’s regions.

For Spykman, the world’s most powerful region was not the landlocked Heartland, but the crescent-shaped area bordering the Heartland that he renamed the “Rimland.” In The ”Geography of the Peace”, he issued a counter-dictum: “Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia, who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world.”

Spykman nevertheless agreed with Mackinder that the postwar struggle would potentially pit a Heartland-based Russia against the maritime power of the United States for control of the Rimland, and so it turned out to be. Spykman even foresaw that China would one day be a “continental power of huge dimensions,” and her size, geographic position, natural resources and population would force the United States into an alliance with Japan to preserve the Asian balance of power.

Indeed, Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman all understood that China’s geographical position, resources, immense population, and access to the sea made her potentially a formidable power on the Eurasian landmass.

The most astute observers of global politics today, such as Robert Kaplan, Henry Kissinger, and Colin S. Gray, stand on the intellectual shoulders of giants like Mahan, Mackinder, and Spykman. Kaplan and Gray, in particular, have updated the classical triumvirate’s geopolitical insights to the 21st-century world of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, space-power and cyber-power. Kaplan’s ”The Revenge of Geography, Monsoon”, and “The Return of Marco Polo’s World,” Kissinger’s ”Diplomacy”, and Gray’s ”The Geopolitics of the Nuclear Era, Maritime Strategy”, ”Geopolitics, and the Defense of the West”, ”The Geopolitics of Superpower”, and ”The Leverage of Sea Power”, should be on the reading lists of our national security policymakers.

President Trump’s first formal National Security Strategy speaks of the need to preserve a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East, which roughly approximates Spykman’s Rimland. It recognizes that the two most likely global competitors of the United States are China and Russia, both continental-sized powers situated in or near Mackinder’s Heartland. It expresses the need for greater investment in naval power in order to maintain and increase our access to allies and bases on the Eurasian landmass, consistent with the teachings of Mahan. In these ways, it reflects an understanding of classical geopolitics.

Comment: Sempa’s article is of great importance. The American geopolitician is arguing that the new American National Security Strategy shows influence by the classical geopolitical theorists Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman. This blog has for years argued that this understanding is important and that China, Russia and Iran, in that order, are challenging the power relations in Eurasia.

Peter Navarro, Director of the White House National Trade Council, has explained that America has given China every opportunity to change its “aggressive behavior.” He has said that a 2017 Mar-a-Lago summit and several rounds of trade talks between high-level officials in the past year have not yielded any progress.

“It is important to note here that the actions President Trump has taken are purely defensive in nature,” he said. “They are designed to defend the crown jewels of American technology from China’s aggressive behavior.”

Navarro said China is seeking to acquire American technology six ways, including physical theft and cyber theft, forced technology transfer, evasion of export controls, export restraints on raw materials, information harvesting campaigns designed to exploit the openness of the U.S. economy, and acquisition of the “crown jewels” of American technology by China’s state-backed funds.

It seems that US policy in the economic competition with China is part of a grand strategy to seek a change in Chinese aggressive economic policies. In the case of Russia the challenge is more of a military nature. A strengthening of American ballistic missile defense as part of the present American military buildup would be an important step. The present increase of American sanctions against Iran shows a determination to counter destabilization by the regime in Tehran.


September 21, 2018

I en ledare i Dagens Industri, Stockholm, uppmärksammades den 20 september 2018 Kinas ekonomiska aggression mot Väst. President Trump har en mycket fast politik i Kinafrågan. Se utdrag nedan:

Det övergripande målet…är att driva internationella produktionskedjor – den globala ekonomins byggstenar – ut ur Kina, vilket i praktiken skulle vända upp och ned på världsekonomin.

Det är mot denna bakgrund man bör förstå Trumps beslut…att belägga ytterligare kinesiska varor med tullar till ett värde av drygt 1 800 miljarder kronor, vilket sammantaget innebär att omkring hälften av all kinesisk export till USA från och med nästa vecka kommer att vara tullbelagd.

Inte heller lär det stanna där, eftersom Trump gjort klart att USA står redo att införa ytterligare tullar till ett värde av 267 miljarder dollar – i praktiken på all kinesisk import som fortfarande är tullfri – om kineserna svarar med mottullar, vilket de redan gjort.

Så kommer det sannolikt att fortsätta, eftersom inget av länderna har för avsikt att vika ned sig och bägge tror sig kunna gå segrande ur striden. USA därför att man importerar mer från Kina än vice versa, Kina därför att Xi Jinping sitter säkrare och har större manöverutrymme än Donald Trump.

…allt fler [inom den kinesiska eliten] ser den amerikanska handelsoffensiven som del i en större strategi med syftet att begränsa såväl Kinas ekonomiska som geopolitiska inflytande. Det kommer i så fall att få konsekvenser även för svenska företag, i vissa fall dramatiska.

Donald Trump har rätt i sak när han beskyller [Kina] för att sko sig på andra. Peking har systematiskt begränsat tillträde till marknader, stulit företagsidéer, teknik och manipulerat sin valuta sedan inträdet i WTO för 17 år sedan.

Till och med EU:s handelskommissionär Cecilia Malmström pekade i fjol ut Kina som den internationella handelns ”stora syndare”.

Skillnaden är att Donald Trump faktiskt backar upp ord med handling…synen på den amerikanska presidenten i Asien är en annan än i Europa. I både Kina och Japan omnämns han ofta som en skicklig taktiker…

…ska kineserna förmås att spela rent, krävs en enad front. Att USA, EU och Japan under det senaste året börjat koordinera strategier är en bra början (och en märkligt underrapporterad utveckling). Att EU-kommissionen i veckan presenterade en reformplan för WTO är också utmärkt.

Kommentar: Det känns bra att det finns svenska pressröster som ser realistiskt på Kina. Det stora imperiet i öst har under en lång rad år med stöld, manipulation och annat fult spel skaffat sig fördelar. Ekonomin har ökat i styrka och regimen använder den starka ekonomin till att köpa inflytande och bygga upp en stark krigsmakt. Måltavlan är Väst, som hittills inte agerat mot Kina. Som Dagens Industri framhåller är det viktigt med västlig enighet i ekonomiska frågor.

Klassiska geopolitiska tänkare har pekat ut grunderna för västlig strategi. Hotet mot Väst är att en eller flera stormakter på världsön (Eurasien och Afrika) får en dominerande ställning. I förhållande till världsön är kontinenter som Nordamerika och Australien att betrakta som perifera öar. USA och Australien med Europa måste förhindra att stormakter på världsön blir alltför starka. Tidigare var det Tyskland och Sovjetunionen. I dag är det främst Kina men också Ryssland och Iran som utgör ett hot mot Väst. Grunden för amerikansk nationell strategi i säkerhetsfrågor har sedan slutet av 1800-talet varit av klassisk geopolitisk karaktär: att förhindra att en eller flera stormakter dominerar världsön.


September 13, 2018

Taipei Times (Taiwan) on August 30, 2018 published an article of Reuters on the growing challenge of China to the West in the Pacific area. Concessionary loans and gifts by China are closely watched. For excerpts see below:

The US, Australia, France and Britain plan to open new embassies in the Pacific, boost staffing levels and engage with leaders of island nations more often in a bid to counter China’s rising influence in the region, sources have said.

The battle for influence in the Pacific matters because each of the tiny island states has a vote at international forums such as the UN and they also control vast swathes of resource-rich ocean.

…Australia, New Zealand and the US have said they would increase economic aid and expand their diplomatic presence to countries in the region….

[A] US official said Washington needed to have adequate representation in the Pacific countries to let their governments know what options were open to them.

The US government source said the US would boost diplomatic staffing numbers in Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and potentially Fiji within the next two years.

The Australian government is expected to name its first High Commissioner to Tuvalu within weeks, rushing to fill a post Canberra decided upon establishing only several months ago, said a government source who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to talk to the media.

Britain would open new High Commissions in Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa by the end of May next year, while French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to organize a meeting of Pacific leaders early next year, diplomatic and government sources have said.

Comment: This development is welcome. Since 2017 there is greater focus in the West on the China challenge.This is not only in the economic and financial fields.The United States is reacting to China’s long time economic aggression. In June 2018 a 65-page report (”How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World”) on the techniques used by China was published in Washington.

The report is breaking down the Chinese government’s economic aggression into five broad categories, including protecting its home market for domestic producers, securing control of natural resources, and seeking dominance of leading-edge high-tech industries. There is also a list of more than 50 types of policies used by China — from cybertheft of intellectual property to blocking foreign access to key raw materials it controls — used to meet those objectives.

A further threat to the United States and Allies is the growing Chinese aircraft carrier force that is of vital interest to Beijing in its quest for regional dominance. This is only a first step in the search for global control. The present target is the Western Pacific. With growing influence there are more distant goals as the East and South Pacific and even the Mediterranean.