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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    nikki haley

    The US's new ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, on Tuesday slammed Iran for testing a long-range ballistic missile on Sunday, calling the act unacceptable and a violation of Iran's nuclear accord with world powers.

    "I will tell the people across the world that is something you should be alarmed about," Haley told reporters after the UN Security Council's consultations on Iran.

    "The United States is not naive," she added. "We are not going to stand by. You will see us call them out, as we said we would, and you are also going to see us act accordingly."

    According to Behnam Ben Taleblu, an expert on Iran's missile program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran's latest missile test "definitely violates the spirit, if not the letter" of the UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program.

    The UN attempt to curb Iran's nuclear program forbids Iran from developing nuclear warheads and buying or transferring missile technology from foreign countries. But "the missile-testing language has been watered down," and now Iran has a clear path toward developing nuclear-capable missiles, Taleblu said in an interview with Business Insider.

    Furthermore, no clear line exists between conventional missiles and nuclear missiles — something that Iran has used to its advantage. A conventional ballistic missile, like the kind the White House confirmed Iran tested on Sunday, could easily be repurposed to fit a nuclear warhead.

    Taleblu says the lack of precision in the language of the Iran deal is because of a failure of Barack Obama's administration in negotiating.

    Iran nuclear deal

    Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif neither confirmed nor denied the launching of the missile, but said that his country would never use ballistic missiles against another nation.

    But according to Taleblu, Iran doesn't need to use its ballistic missiles to achieve its military goal.

    "Lots of analysts tend to believe that Iran's military strategy is deterrent in nature" said Taleblu. He said Iran's military is "conventionally weak and asymmetrically strong," meaning that while its formal forces are low in numbers and not advanced, Tehran's strength lies in backing regional non-state allies like Hezbollah and Hamas.

    Iran has the biggest ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East and "parades them around, develops them, refines them, just so the whole world knows: Do not attack Iran," said Taleblu.

    Shahab-3 missile Iran

    "There's a clear strategic use for these missiles — maybe not to commence a war, but to threaten a war. ... Even if they don't plan on using them offensively, by reaping the deterrent dividend from these missiles they're already getting their money's worth," said Taleblu. "I don't think anyone takes Zarif's statement seriously here."

    A US official said on Monday that Iran had on Sunday test-launched a medium-range ballistic missile that exploded after 630 miles. The UN Security Council recommended the matter be studied by a committee.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

    SEE ALSO: Iran may have bluffed about its ally using an anti-ship missile on a Saudi Arabian navy ship

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    saudi arabai navy houthi yemen strike

    On Monday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen launched an attack on a Saudi Arabian naval vessel using suicide boats, or fast attack craft laden with explosives.

    According to Fordham University maritime law professor and former US Navy Commander Lawrence Brennan, "this attack is likely to impact US naval operations and rules of engagement (ROE) in nearby waters."

    The year 2016 saw an unprecedented spike in the number of incidents at sea between the US Navy and fast-attack craft of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), at least one of which required the US Navy to open fire with warning shots.

    Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen had a blockbuster year in 2016, using an anti-ship missile to hit an Emirati naval vessel and then firing a salvo of missiles at US Navy ships in October.

    The US Navy successfully fended off the Houthi missile attack and retaliated by destroying three radar sites in Houthi-controlled Yemen. At the time, US officials and experts contacted by Business Insider concluded that Iran likely supplied the missiles to the Houthis. 

    But the latest attack on the Saudis may give the US Navy pause in the future.

    In a questionable video released of the attack, people near the camera can be heard shouting slogans like "death to America,""death to Israel," and "death to Jews!" One Pentagon official told the Washington Examiner that the Houthis may have mistaken the Saudi ship they attacked for a US Navy ship, though another official denied it. 

    In any case, the US Navy frequently deals with Iranian fast-attack craft swarming its vessels and approaching very closely. In one case last year, Iranian fast-attack craft got within 300 yards of a US Navy vessel.

    iran irgc navy fast attack craft

    At the time, the US Navy responded by attempting to contact the Iranians, maneuvering evasively, blowing the horn, then finally firing warning shots.

    But according to Brennan, the US may not allow hostile, unresponsive ships to get so close to Navy vessels after a force associated with Iran used suicide boats to kill two Saudi sailors. 

    "The overarching duty of self-defense mandates revision of the ROE to provide a sufficient 'bubble' to prevent the risk of a suicide attack, particularly from swarming boats," said Brennan in an email to Business Insider.

    us navy uss boxer gunner

    President Donald Trump has already signaled his intention to respond more forcefully.

    "With Iran," Trump said while campaigning in Florida, "when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water."

    SEE ALSO: 'The United States is not naive': Nikki Haley slams Iran over ballistic missile tests

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Michael Flynn

    On Wednesday, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, made a cameo at the White House's press briefing to issue a stern rebuke of Iran.

    "Recent Iranian actions involving a provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran's destabilizing behavior across the entire Middle East," Flynn said, referring to Monday's Houthi attack that killed two sailors on a Saudi ship.

    Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition of Gulf states involved in bombing Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. While the Saudis support the internationally recognized government of Yemen, they stand accused of war crimes in their massive air campaign there.

    Flynn said Iran had violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran from designing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. But a European Union representative said on Tuesday at the UN Security Council that Iran's test did not violate the resolution.

    Experts have told Business Insider that Iran's missile launches violate the spirit of the resolution but that the language of the resolution remains ambiguous on missile testing.

    The fact that no definite criteria exist for differentiating conventional ballistic missiles from nuclear-capable ones further muddles the issue of whether Iran violated the resolution.

    Flynn pointed to the series of incidents at sea where Iranian naval vessels have harassed US ships. Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen have also attacked ships from the US and Saudi Arabia.

    "In these and other similar activities, Iran continues to threaten US friends and allies in the region," said Flynn.

    Flynn criticized the Obama administration's handling of Iran, saying Trump found its moves "weak and ineffective."

    Iran missile

    Flynn came to a forceful yet vague conclusion.

    "As of today, we're officially putting Iran on notice," he said.

    Flynn's comments echo what Lawrence Brennan, a Fordham University maritime law professor and former US Navy commander, told Business Insider on Monday. Essentially, the Houthi attack on a Saudi ship using suicide boats may change the calculus for the US Navy operating in the region, he said.

    "This attack is likely to impact US naval operations and rules of engagement in nearby waters," said Brennan, who said Iranian ships frequently harass and sail close to US Navy ships.

    Brennan suggested that in light of the recent suicide boat attacks, the US Navy should consider shooting Iranian or other hostile vessels that get too close.

    iran irgc navy fast attack craft

    "The overarching duty of self-defense mandates revision of the ROE to provide a sufficient 'bubble' to prevent the risk of a suicide attack, particularly from swarming boats," Brennan said in an email to Business Insider.

    This suggestion fits in line with Trump's expressed intention to deal with Iran more forcefully.

    "With Iran," Trump said while campaigning in Florida in September, "when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water."

    SEE ALSO: 'The United States is not naive': Nikki Haley slams Iran over ballistic missile tests

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch a demonstration of the Pentagon's new drones that can attack an enemy like a swarm of bees


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    Donald Trump Marine One

    President Donald Trump made a surprise, unannounced trip on Wednesday to honor the return of slain US Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens.

    Owens died during a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen, along with about 30 civilians and 14 members of al Qaeda. Three other Navy SEALs were wounded in the raid, and a $70 million MV-22 Osprey belonging to a Marine quick-reaction rescue force had to be destroyed.

    Trump issued a statement after the news of Owens' death expressing his sorrow and praising the bravery of the US service members who gathered "important intelligence that will assist the US in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world."

    After the operation, Trump had a long phone call with Owens' family. Owens represents the first combat loss during Trump's presidency.

    "You never want to call something a success 100% when someone is hurt or killed" Whitehouse spokesperson Sean Spicer said of the raid in Yemen at a press conference on Wednesday.

    However, an unnamed official told NBC News that "almost everything went wrong," with the raid. The official described the death of an 8-year-old girl, several other civilians, the burning of a house, and the intentional destruction of the Osprey. 

    According to Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, raids like the one in Yemen have been common under Obama and will likely continue under Trump.

    osprey 22

    Roggio told Business Insider that the US had taken out prominent al Qaeda figures in Yemen leading up to the raid, and that the al Qaeda branch in Yemen had indeed been plotting attacks on the US.

    "This is a branch that's at the forefront of launching plots to blow up airlines and attack Americans. They have a bomb maker, Ibrahim al Asiri, who has designed some complicated bombs and directed attacks against the US," Roggio told Business Insider.

    Despite the death of Owens and the approximately 30 civilians, Roggio said the raid's success would ultimately be determined by the intelligence gained by the US as a result.

    Roggio said that the US monitors terrorists via drones and their online presences, but "you can only get so much from that, and they know what they’re doing."

    "If you really want to know what's on their hard drive, you have to confiscate it," said Roggio. 

    SEE ALSO: An 8-year-old American girl was killed during the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen

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    General Michael Flynn

    On Wednesday at a White House press briefing, retired Gen. Michael Flynn told reporters in no uncertain terms: "As of today, we're officially putting Iran on notice."

    Flynn's statement was in response to Iran's recent test of a ballistic missile, as well as to an attack by Iranian-backed Houthi militants that killed two on a Saudi navy ship off the coast of Yemen.

    Flynn seemed to confirm that the White House saw Iran as behind the attack on the Saudis and to signal some US response, but it seems the Pentagon has no idea what putting Iran "on notice" actually entails.

    "We saw the statement as well," a spokesman for US Central Command, the command responsible for the Middle East, told The Guardian. "This is still at the policy level, and we are waiting for something to come down the line. We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region."

    A White House official told The Guardian that the US was "going to take appropriate action" and "considering a whole range of options," including military strikes.

    The US has repeatedly clashed with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps off the coast of Yemen, with encounters stopping just short of bloodshed.

    US Navy harpoon missile

    Lawrence Brennan, a professor of maritime law and former US Navy commander, told Business Insider on Wednesday that the US Navy may reconsider their rules of engagement with the Iranians at sea and that as the risk of conflict increases, the US Navy may look to fire on harassing Iranian ships sooner rather than later.

    SEE ALSO: The US may have to consider firing on Iranian boats after latest Houthi attack

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    f 35c f 18

    A week after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called for a review of the F-35 program to "determine opportunities to significantly reduce the cost," top US military brass are arguing for the Joint Strike Fighter's place in the future of carrier aircraft.

    Mattis' review calls for an investigation of the cost of the entire F-35 program, but specifically for the carrier-based F-35C to fly off against Boeing's F-18 Advanced Super Hornet package.

    "My stake," in the review "is only four squadrons,” or 67 aircraft, that will operate alongside the Navy aboard aircraft carriers, US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, who presides over Marine Corps aviation told reporters, as Breaking Defense notes. The Marine Corps has its own version of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B, but as a vertical-takeoff variant, it faces no risk of being replaced by the F/A-18.

    But for the military at large, the stakes seem much higher. Hundreds of billions of dollars and 16 years of time have gone into the F-35 program, which was intended to provide planes for the Air Force, Marines, and the Navy. As of today, only the Marine and Air Force variants have been declared initially capable.

    Meanwhile, the F-35C, the least numerous and most expensive variant of the family, has seen yet another major setback. A Pentagon report, made public by Inside Defense, stated that rough carrier launches physically hurt pilots and disoriented them during the crucial moments when they take off.

    f35c aircraft carrier

    Mattis' fly off would "oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative," according to his statement. 

    Dan Gillian, Boeing's vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would consist of a majority of  F/A-18s into the 2040s. In fact, Boeing has contracts currently underway to update the F/A-18s in service with a reputation for bringing these projects in on time and on cost, which one could contrast with Lockheed's costly, late F-35 program.

    But no matter how the F-18 advances, one aspect of the F-35 remains truly beyond its grasp — stealth. 

    Davis, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, seemed to think that the F-35C's stealth and connectivity would outclass any possibly updates on the Advanced Super Hornets.

    “I’m highly confident we’re on the right track ... My sense is we’ll probably end up validating the imperative to have a fifth generation aircraft out there,” said Davis.

    Boeing advanced super hornet f-18

    In an interview with Business Insider, Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35 pilot and squadron commander, also asserted the need for all aspect stealth in today's threat environment, saying that "the price of admission to a fifth-gen war is a fifth-gen airplane." He added that because the F-35 program doesn't have its fully operational software yet "we don’t even know 50-80% of what this airplane can do."

    But stealth is a hotly debated topic in the defense community. As countries like Russia and China develop increasingly powerful counter-stealth abilities, Dr. Malcolm Davis of the Australia Strategic Policy Initiative told Business Insider that "numbers matter."

    "The question in my mind is how long does the stealth advantage last for us? How long does that give us a real advantage before it’s eroded by adversary capabilities and brought to a level playing ground?" asked Dr. Davis. 

    In total, the Navy only plans to buy 260 F-35Cs, and according to Dr. Davis, the US can no longer count on getting more done with fewer planes as adversaries begin to close the qualitative gap between their capabilities and the US's.

    F 35C F 18F lockheed boeing

    Most likely, the Navy will look to strike the perfect balance between the two airframes, combining the stealth and sensors of the F-35Cs with the raw numbers and power of Advanced Super Hornets. “We’re going to use the F-35 more as an enabler and a strike lead and as a command and control platform than as a fighter platform on its own,” Bryan Clark, naval analyst Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told USNI News

    So while the F-35C may provide carrier air wings with unprecedented capabilities, just how many of them and how soon they can hit the field remains a mystery. Meanwhile, Boeing stands poised to deliver a significant portion of advanced capabilities with an F/A-18 update. 

    Mattis' review will likely leave a mark in the future of carrier aircraft, but it seems highly unlikely that the F-35C will get chopped altogether. Instead, look for the review to balance emerging operational needs with market availability and affordability. 

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration just put Iran 'on notice' — but the Pentagon has no idea what that means

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    military code of conductThere is no easy time to be a prisoner of war.

    The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.

    To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.

    SEE ALSO: Did Trump threaten to send US troops to fight Mexico's drug war? Here's what we know

    Wendall A. Phillips

    Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.

    While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.

    He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.

    Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.

    Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.

    Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.

    After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.

    Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.

    According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.

    Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.



    Felix J. McCool

    When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.

    McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.

    Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.

    But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.

    While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.  

    McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.

    He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.

    But there was worse to come.

    McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.

    After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.

    He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.

    McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.

    McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.

    McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.

    McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.

    According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.

    He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.



    Richard Keirn

    Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.

    Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.

    In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.

    Then on July 24, 1965, North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles engaged and shot down an American aircraft for the first time. That aircraft was piloted by Capt. Richard Keirn.

    Keirn ejected from his stricken aircraft and would spend nearly eight years as a POW in North Vietnam.

    Keirn, like many of his fellow POWs, made every effort to resist the North Vietnamese. For his actions as a POW, he was awarded a Silver Star and a Legion of Merit.

    Keirn was released from captivity with many other downed airmen as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Iran Navy commander

    In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran's weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.

    Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn't possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.

    Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response. 

    Cyber attacks allow Iran "to strike at adversaries globally, instanta­neously, and on a sustained basis, and to potentially achieve strategic effects in ways it cannot in the physical domain," writes Eisenstadt.

    Unlike the US, which wields nuclear weapons and the world's finest military, Iran relies on its ability to potentially wreak havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's busiest oil shipping routes, its funding of terrorist organizations, and its arsenal of ballistic missiles to deter attacks, according to Eisenstadt.

    However, Tehran cannot hold the Strait of Hormuz in an outright confrontation, its terrorist allies have become increasingly vulnerable and targetable by world powers, and if Iran ever used a ballistic missile, it would soon find itself on the receiving end of a blistering counter attack.

    Therefore cyber attacks give Iran a fourth kind of deterrence, one which the US has repeatedly failed to punish. Indeed, cyber attacks are new territory, and the US still hasn't found an appropriate and consistent way to deal with cyber attacks, whether those attacks come in the form of Russian meddling in the US election, North Korea's hack of Sony, or China's stealing valuable defense data.

    Eisenstadt addresses this lack of US response as a "credibility gap," which the US must somehow fill.

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration just put Iran 'on notice' — but the Pentagon has no idea what that means

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    China shangdong aircraft carrier

    China has made excellent progress developing its second aircraft carrier, and Chinese state-run media says it could start patrolling the South China Sea by 2019.

    The South China Morning Post, based on a scan of Chinese state media reports, states that the carrier was "taking shape." 

    “It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea,” said Chinese media.

    The "complicated situation" the media report referred to stems from Beijing's claims to about 85% of the South China Sea, which sees $5 trillion in trade annually. China has developed a network of artificially built, militarized islands in the region, and at times has unilaterally declared "no fly" or "no sail" zones.

    In 2016, the International Court of Arbitration ruled these claims illegal, and the Trump administration has promised to put a stop to China's aggressive, unlawful behavior.

    But that's easier said than done, and a designated aircraft carrier in the region could help cement China's claims.

    China's second carrier, likely to be named the "Shangdong" after a Chinese port city, will resemble the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, which itself is a refurbished Soviet model.

    China's carriers, like Russia's sole carrier the Admiral Kuznetzov, feature a ski-slope design. US models, on the other hand, use catapults, or devices that forcefully launch the planes off the ship. Ski-slope style carriers can't launch the heavy bomb-and-fuel-laden planes that US carriers can, so their efficacy and range are severely limited.

    Liaoning china pla navy aircraft carrier

    But Taylor Mavin, a UC San Diego graduate student in international affairs, notes for Smoke and Stir that these smaller, Soviet-designed carriers were built with the idea of coastal defense, not seaborne power projection, being the main goal:

    "Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended 'bastions' shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection. 

    China's navy has undergone rapid modernization in the last few years with particular emphasis on fielding submarines. So while a Chinese carrier couldn't travel to say, Libya, and project power like a US carrier could, it might just be custom made for the South China Sea. 

    south china seas

    But don't expect the world's most populous nation to stop at two carriers. A recent report from Defense News states that satellite imagery from China shows the nation developing catapults to possibly field on a US-style carrier.

    Taken in concert with China's other efforts to create anti-access/area-denial technology like extremely long-range missiles, the US will have to have its work cut out for it in trying to offer any meaningful counter to China's expansionism in the Pacific. 

    SEE ALSO: The F-35C vs. the F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet and the future of carrier aircraft

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch a demonstration of the Pentagon's new drones that can attack an enemy like a swarm of bees


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    Istanbul nightclub attack

    ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police on Sunday detained some 400 suspected members of Islamic State in anti-terror raids in six provinces, state media said, the biggest roundup to target the organization in Turkey.

    Those held were mainly foreign nationals, Anadolu news agency said. At least 60 suspects were detained in the capital Ankara, while 150 were arrested in Sanliurfa province near the Syrian border.

    Thirty-nine people, mainly foreigners, were killed at New Year when an Islamic State member opened fire inside the Reina night club in Istanbul.

    In the latest police operations, 30 alleged Islamic State militants were detained in simultaneous counter-terror operations in Konya province, and 10 others were held in Adiyaman province.

    Police also detained 18 suspects in Kocaeli and Istanbul, 47 in Gaziantep and 46 others in Bursa province.

    In addition to the latest arrests, Turkey says at least 780 people, including 350 foreigners, remain in detention - some of whom have been convicted - over suspected links to the jihadist group.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    F15E bomb

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has failed to disclose up to thousands of air strikes the U.S. military carried out over several years in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan against militants in those countries, the Military Times reported on Sunday.

    Last year, the United States carried out at least 456 air strikes in Afghanistan that were not documented in a U.S. Air Force database, the website reported. The air strikes were conducted by U.S. Army helicopters and drones.

    The incomplete data could go back to October 2001, according to the Military Times, which describes itself as an independent news organization.

    The Pentagon and Army did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    SEE ALSO: Trump makes surprise trip on presidential helicopter to honor return of fallen US Navy SEAL

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    mike mullen joint chiefs of staff

    A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has condemned the president's inclusion of Steve Bannon on the national security council, in a forceful op-ed published Monday in The New York Times.

    Retired Adm. Michael Mullen, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2007 to 2011, sharply criticized an executive order President Donald Trump signed last month that gave his chief strategist a permanent seat on the NSC Principals Committee, while allowing the participation of the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs only "where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed."

    That doesn't seem to make sense to Mullen, who wrote of his experience in those meetings under Presidents Bush and Obama.

    "In my experience there are very few — if any — meetings of the principals committee at which the input of the military and the intelligence community is not vital," Mullen wrote. "With an increasingly belligerent Russia, tensions in the South China Sea and a smoldering Middle East, it makes little sense to minimize the participation of the professionals leading and representing these two groups."

    Mullen isn't the first to criticize Bannon's involvement in NSC meetings. Republican Senator John McCain called it a "radical departure"from past practice, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates characterized the sidelining of the top chiefs of the military and intelligence communities as a "big mistake."

    The retired admiral brought up past organizations of the NSC, such as under President Bush, who did not allow his political advisor Karl Rove to attend. And while President Obama's advisor David Axelrod did attend some meetings early on, Mullen wrote, he didn't speak or vote on any of the topics.

    That's not the case with Bannon, who will have voting rights on high-level national security discussions.

    "Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the principals committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation," Mullen wrote. "I fear that it will have a chilling effect on deliberations and, potentially, diminish the authority and the prerogatives to which Senate-confirmed cabinet officials are entitled. They, unlike Mr. Bannon, are accountable for the advice they give and the policies they execute."

    He went on to call his presence "unhealthy for the republic."

    Mullen isn't known for making partisan political statements. Since retiring in 2011, he's mostly stayed out of the limelight; Mullen has mainly taught classes on diplomacy and military affairs at Princeton, and has joined some corporate boards.

    "Admiral Mullen worked for Bush 43 and Obama," said Ward Carroll, the president of Military One Click and a retired Navy commander who served with, and remains close to Mullen. "He is motivated by service, not politics. He wouldn't have made this kind of effort if he wasn't deeply concerned about our national security posture."

    You can read the full op-ed here »

    SEE ALSO: Mattis threatens 'overwhelming' response if North Korea ever uses nukes

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    NOW WATCH: Watch a demonstration of the Pentagon's new drones that can attack an enemy like a swarm of bees


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    netanyahu boris johnson israel london UK

    LONDON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged "responsible nations" to join new sanctions against Iran on Monday during a visit to London, but Britain defended a nuclear deal sealed between major powers and Tehran.

    Ahead of his talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu said other nations should follow new U.S. President Donald Trump's imposition of sanctions against Iran following a ballistic missile test.

    "Iran seeks to annihilate Israel. It seeks to conquer the Middle East, it threatens Europe, it threatens the West, it threatens the world. And it offers provocation after provocation," Netanyahu told May ahead of their meeting.

    "That's why I welcome President Trump's assistance of new sanctions against Iran. I think other nations should follow suit, certainly responsible nations. I'd like to talk to you about how we can ensure that Iran's aggression does not go unanswered."

    May's spokeswoman said the British leader had repeated her backing for the nuclear deal with Tehran - which is strongly opposed by both Netanyahu and Trump - but said there was a need to "rigorously monitor" Iran's behavior.

    "The prime minister made clear that we support the deal on nuclear that was agreed," the spokeswoman told reporters, when asked whether Britain was considering joining new sanctions.

    "What happens now is that (the nuclear deal) needs to be properly enforced, and we also need to be alert to Iran's pattern of destabilizing activity in the region."

    Earlier the spokeswoman said May would also tell Netanyahu that continued Israeli settlement activity in occupied lands captured in the 1967 Middle East War on which the Palestinians hope to create independent state undermined trust in the region. 

    "Strong and close ally of Israel"

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May waits to greet Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban at Downing Street in London, Britain, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

    Despite their differences, London has adopted a more positive approach to Israel since May became leader after last year's vote to leave the European Union, echoing the more sympathetic tone set by Trump, with whom Britain wishes to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

    May told Netanyahu that Britain was a "strong and close friend of Israel", and highlighted their co-operation in science, trade and security.

    They agreed to set up a working group to develop trade ties both before and after Brexit, the spokeswoman said.

    Last month Britain said it had reservations about a French-organized Middle East peace conference in Paris and did not back the final communique by 70 countries which reaffirmed that only a two-state solution could resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its stance angered many EU members.

    In December, Britain also scolded then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for a speech criticizing Israeli policy.

    Netanyahu's talks on Monday got off to an awkward start as he arrived before May was at her official Downing Street residence to greet him. Having entered her office alone, he came back outside minutes later for the customary handshake.

    Small groups of pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters gathered outside Downing Street and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, said May's stance on settlements was not good enough.

    "Theresa May must make clear to the Israeli prime minister that the British government will stand unequivocally behind the rights of the Palestinian people," said Corbyn, who once described members of Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah as friends in comments he later said he regretted.

    SEE ALSO: Israeli jets have struck 3 Hamas posts in response to rocket fire

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    houthi suicide boatNew footage from Al Arabia settles a dispute over what exactly hit a Saudi Arabian navy ship and killed two sailors last week.

    Iranian media first reported on the attack, which was carried out by Houthi rebels who receive support from Tehran.

    Iranian media reports said that an anti-ship missile hit the Saudi vessel and released questionable footage along with it.

    Later, a statement from the Saudis said the attack had been carried out with suicide boats. Now that the Saudi ship has returned to port, the footage, confirmed by Saudi sources, seems to show prove Riyadh's narrative.

    The attack caps off a 2016 that saw a major uptick in Iranian provocations towards the US and its allies. The Houthi rebels managed to strike an Emirati ship with an anti-ship missile in October. Later, the Houthis tried to hit a US ship, but the ship intercepted the missile and retaliated by destroying the Houthi-controlled radar sites. 

    Saudi Arabia leads a military coalition of Gulf states, that includes the United Arab Emirates, involved in bombing Houthi rebels in Yemen. While the Saudis support the internationally recognized government of Yemen, they stand accused of war crimes in the massive air campaign there for potentially bombing civilian targets.

    Watch the footage below:

     

    SEE ALSO: Why Iran's favorite weapon is the cyber attack

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    Michael Flynn

    On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro's entrance into NATO — a move that surely would infuriate Russia.

    Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he was paid to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The Wall Street Journal reported in January that US counterintelligence agents investigated Flynn's ties to Russia. Recently, a group of top Democratic lawmakers urged the Department of Defense to do the same.

    Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has repeatedly questioned the NATO alliance and the US's adversarial relationship with Russia.

    Despite that, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed Montenegro's NATO bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied to Moscow.

    A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country's October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.

    "The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force," Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.

    montenegro nato

    Flynn's backing of Montenegro's entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump's proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.

    Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, "No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance."

    However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. The US's ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also signaled such an approach, saying on Thursday, "The dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions."

    Russia officially denies a military presence in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.

    Before Montenegro could join NATO, its accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.

    SEE ALSO: Nikki Haley just delivered the Trump administration's most hawkish words yet toward Russia

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    hebron west bank checkpoint idf

    Israel passed a law on Monday retroactively legalizing about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

    The Israeli Knesset voted 60 to 52 to pass the law, which has drawn international concern and Palestinian anger.

    US President Donald Trump, who has unabashedly supported Israel, said the law "may not be helpful" in US-backed efforts to bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians.

    A White House official told the Jerusalem Post that the decision to legitimize settlements by Israel could hurt overall peace negotiations. 

    "We urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements. The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward," said the official. 

    Later the White House said it hadn't taken an official position on the settlements.

    Under Obama, the White House was less supportive of Israel's settlements. Michael Koplow, a Middle East analyst at the Israel Policy Forum, told Business Insider that Israel's settlement bill likely frustrated Obama, who attempted to release $221 million in US Agency for International Development funds to the Palestinian Authority as one of his last acts in office.

    Trump froze the funds to review the transaction upon taking office.

    The passing of the law coincides with a series of Israeli air strikes on Hamas in Gaza carried out in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.  

    SEE ALSO: Report: Trump’s national security adviser to recommend Trump make a big move against Russia

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    china parade

    A new report by Thomas Shugart on War On The Rocks details the disturbing level to which China appears to have planned out a crippling missile attack on US military bases in the Pacific should its interests in the region be threatened.

    For some time analysts have noted that China seems to be tailoring its military to counter the US's. For example, Beijing tested its "carrier killer' ballistic missile on a model of a US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, while its own aircraft carrier is designed for coastal defense and will likely be destined for the South China Sea.

    But Shutgart's investigation of satellite imagery comparing China's missile testing grounds with US bases in the region shows an eerie pattern. It appears that China's latest missile tests have all been geared towards knocking out US carriers, destroyers, and airfields in East Asia.

    This falls right in line with one of China's core military doctrines — "active defense."

    Essentially, if China thinks it is facing a foe that actively seeks to challenge its territorial cohesiveness or sovereignty, the PLA will engage the enemy through all available means: Legal challenges, psychological and cyber warfare, counter-space systems, and preemptive strikes.

    Under President Donald Trump, the US has made the most serious challenges to China's territory and sovereignty in recent history.

    Trump and key members of his administration have chastised China for its "massive military fortress" in the South China Sea, and even threatened to cut off China's access to the islands it has built and militarized in the region. Trump's phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen struck at the core of China's very existence, as it could undermine China's policy of considering Taiwan as a rogue province that must be back into Beijing's fold.

    china missiles csis

    China has already engaged its state-sponsored propaganda against the US, developed counter-space systems that could denude the US of its huge satellite-driven information advantage, and developed systems uniquely able to counter US stealth aircraft.

    If the US continues to actively challenge China and seek to undermine its territorial cohesion, the next logical step in the PLA's escalation may be to attempt to eviscerate US bases and assets throughout Asia with a blistering missile attack.

    Read Shugart's full piece here»

    SEE ALSO: China's second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the US in the South China Sea

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    AP_16363502402662

    Iran appears to have pulled a ballistic missile that appeared prepared for testing off a launch pad after being put "on notice" by the US, according to a report from Fox News on Tuesday.

    Studying satellite imagery, Fox determined that Iran pulled a Safir missile from the launch pad in recent days.

    Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran's missile programs at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider that the Safir has been used to launch a satellite into space in the past.

    However, "it could serve as a test-bed for technology that may be used in a future ICBM, said Megahan.

    "Why they removed it from the launch pad this time could be for a number of reasons, including they noticed a technical deficiency before launch, were experimenting with a new launch pad or procedure, or got skittish following the US response to last week’s missile test," said Megahan. "I think it’s too difficult to tell based on what we know."

    Iran tested a ballistic missile on January 29, which the US claims violated the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which prohibits Iran from developing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

    But a European Union representative said on Tuesday at the UN Security Council that Iran's test did not violate the resolution.

    Iran missile

    Experts on Iran's missile program have told Business Insider that the lack of a clear definition on what exactly distinguishes a conventional missile from a nuclear-capable missile leaves the resolution open to interpretation.

    In response to Iran's provocative missile test, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, told reporters at a White House press conference that the US was "officially putting Iran on notice."

    The president followed through with a new wave of sanctions two days later. 

    Iran offered varying statements on the nature and intent of its ballistic missile program in the the missile tests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said"Iran will never use missiles produced in Iran to attack any other country," before the sanctions.

    Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waves after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

    After the sanctions, Iran carried out yet another round of missile tests. Bloomberg quoted an Iranian brigadier general as saying "If the enemy falls out of line, our missiles will pour down on them" to Iranian press two days after the sanctions. 

    The Iranian Foreign Ministry further commented on missile testing saying the following: "There is no need to test Mr. Trump as we have heard his views on different issues in recent days... We know him quite well."

    In a tweet on February 3, Trump warned that Iran was "playing with fire," and signaled that he would be tougher on Tehran than Obama was.

    SEE ALSO: Trump administration: 'As of today, we're officially putting Iran on notice'

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    Donald Trump James Mattis

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is reportedly "not happy" the White House is arguing with him over who should take the top job in the Pentagon's policy shop, Foreign Policy reports.

    According to FP, Mattis wants former George W. Bush era Pentagon official Mary Beth Long to come aboard as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, but the White House is insisting he go with Mira Ricardel, a Trump transition team member who also served in the Bush administration.

    This doesn't seem to be a fight over qualifications, however.

    Instead, FP reports that one of the issues the Trump administration has is that during the campaign, Long was among more than 100 Republican national security leaders who signed an open letter referring to then-candidate Trump as "fundamentally dishonest" and unfit for office, among other complaints.

    Long later walked back the letter's criticism and dropped her "Never Trump" position, telling NPR in November that it was "a moral and civic duty to get behind this president."

    Still, the report from FP suggests an apparent "blacklist" is in effect for Republicans who openly opposed Trump prior to the election.

    Some other "Never Trump" Republicans told The Washington Post the reasons they were not being called for national security positions was likely due their opposition. Another, former State Department official Eliot Cohen, said White House jobs were being viewed as "lollipops, things you give out to good boys and girls."

    Theresa Whelan is currently serving in the role as acting undersecretary.

    The undersecretary role isn't the only unfilled job at the Pentagon's policy office. There are still vacancies in the No. 2 spot, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, as well as supporting roles covering cyber, space, Afghanistan-Pakistan, Russia-Ukraine, and nuclear and missile defense policy.

    SEE ALSO: Here's all the coolest military tech we saw at the Marine Corps' big West Coast trade show

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    F 35A

    Early results came in from the US Air Force's realistic, challenging Red Flag air combat exercise — and it looks like the F-35 slaughtered the competition.

    Aviation Week reports that the Joint Strike Fighter killed 15 aggressors for each F-35 downed. The F-35 achieved this remarkable ratio in a drastically increased threat environment that included radar jamming, increased air threats, and surface-to-air missile batteries.

    "In the past, the non-kinetic effects were not fully integrated into the kinetic fight," Col. Robert Cole, the Air Force Cyber Forward director, said in a statement.

    But now F-35s take on cyberthreats and electronic warfare in addition to enemy surveillance and conventional, or kinetic, threats.

    "This integration in an exercise environment allows our planners and warfighters to understand how to best integrate these, learn their capabilities and limitations, and become ready to use [these combined resources for maximum] effect against our adversaries," Cole said.

    F-35 cockpit

    But the F-35s didn't just shoot down the enemy — they used their sensor-fusion and data link abilities to talk to other planes and help them sniff out threats they wouldn't have seen on their own.

    "Before, where we would have one advanced threat and we would put everything we had — F-16s, F-15s, F-18s, missiles, we would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out — now we are seeing three or four of those threats at a time," Lt. Col. George Watkins, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, told Aviation Week.

    "Just between [the F-35] and the [F-22] Raptor, we are able to geolocate them, precision-target them, and then we are able to bring the fourth-generation assets in behind us after those threats are neutralized," Watkins said. "It's a whole different world out there for us now."

    The ability of fifth-generation US aircraft to detect threats and send that information to legacy planes meets an urgent need for the US military.

    F-35 and F-16

    As adversarial nations like China and Russia improve their counter-stealth abilities and air defenses, numbers increasingly matter.

    The F-35 repeatedly hit cost and schedule overruns during its production and is now years behind schedule. But the latest performance at Red Flag shows that even a handful of F-35s can improve an entire squadron's performance.

    The current Red Flag exercise will conclude on February 10.

    SEE ALSO: The F-35C vs. the F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet and the future of carrier aircraft

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    NOW WATCH: Trump says he shaved $600M off America’s most expensive weapons system


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