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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    israeli air force formation blue flag israel

    After Syrian forces fired missiles at Israeli jets returning from airstrikes in the country's ISIS-held eastern side, Syria reportedly issued a stern warning to Israel through their Russian allies — more airstrikes will be met by Scud missile fire in return.

    "Despite a 6-year war Syria is not weak and knows how to defend itself,” a Saturday-evening post in Lebanon's Al-Diyar newspaper said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

    At the time of the most recent airstrikes, Syria described them as an act of aggression that helped ISIS. 

    But Syria's several-generations-old Scud missiles don't pose a real military threat to Israel, which employs some of the best missile defenses in the world. 

    Israel has infrequently carried out airstrikes in Syria, where Iranian-aligned and anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah operate. 

    "When we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Israel's incursions into Syria, according to Russian state-run media. 

    SEE ALSO: US forces went behind enemy lines in Syria to cut off ISIS' only escape route

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    NOW WATCH: 7 things the CIA looks for when recruiting people


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    Some 123 UN members announced in October 2016 that they would launch the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding nuclear ban treaty, even as most of the world's declared and undeclared nuclear powers voted against the talks

    United Nations (United States) (AFP) - More than 100 countries are set to launch the first UN talks on a global nuclear weapons ban on Monday over objections from the major nuclear powers.

    Some 123 UN members announced in October that they would launch the UN conference to negotiate a legally binding nuclear ban treaty, even as most of the world's declared and undeclared nuclear powers voted against the talks.

    Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained.

    Even Japan -- the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945 -- voted against the talks, saying the lack of consensus over the negotiations could undermine progress on effective nuclear disarmament.

    The countries leading the effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden. Hundreds of NGOs back their efforts.

    They say the threat of nuclear disaster is growing thanks to mounting tensions fanned by North Korea's nuclear weapons program and an unpredictable new administration in Washington.

    Supporters point to successful grassroots movements that led to the prohibition of landmines in 1997 and cluster munitions in 2008.

    "I expect that this will take a long time, let's not be naive," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at the UN last week.

    "But it's very important in these days when you see more of this rhetoric, and also sort of power demonstrations, including threatening to use nuclear weapons."

    "Quite a high number of countries are actually interested in saying we have to break the deadlock that has been on this issue for so many years," she added. "So it's also the expression of frustration."

    Minuteman III ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile

    No progress has been made on nuclear disarmament in recent years despite commitments made by the major nuclear powers to work toward disarmament under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an international coalition of NGOs.

    "There was disappointment with the Obama administration, which made some pledges, but then ignored most of them," she said. "And now there are raised worries with the new US president."

    Then-president Barack Obama announced a drive in 2009 to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and eventually eliminate them.

    But his administration strongly encouraged NATO allies to vote against this year's UN negotiations, saying a ban would obstruct cooperation to respond to nuclear threats from adversaries.

    President Donald Trump threatened a nuclear arms race in a tweet shortly before he took office in January, saying "we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." 

    However, with experience from the campaigns against cluster munitions and landmines, Fihn believes there's a "good chance" a treaty will be adopted, if not necessarily after the first phase of negotiations, which will end in July.

    Even with the major nuclear powers boycotting the debate, a treaty would oblige them to revisit their policies sooner or later -- even if, like Russia and the United States, they're currently modernizing their nuclear weapons arsenal.

    "Even if major (nuclear weapon) producers don't sign it, they have a big impact," Fihn said of global treaties. "Look at Russia denying using cluster bombs in Syria. Why? They did not sign (the cluster munition ban), but they know it's bad."

    cluster munitions syria

    No major powers have commented on the start of the talks so far, although the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is expected to issue a statement on the sidelines of opening day.

    US and French representatives explained their countries' opposition in October citing a need to make progress in stages, without disturbing the current strategic balance of weapons or jeopardizing nuclear deterrence.

    Fihn compares such arguments to the logic of chain smokers: "It's never the right time to quit."

    "But with the multipolar world, lots of countries feel like they don't have to wait for the superpowers to act," she added.

    SEE ALSO: Syria threatens Scud missile strikes if Israeli airstrikes continue

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    yemen houthi sanaa

    Thousands of Yemenis packed a square in the capital Sanaa on Sunday on the second anniversary of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

    It was the biggest gathering since a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states entered the conflict in 2015 to try to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power after he was ousted from Sanaa by the Iran-aligned Houthis.

    Witnesses said that a crowd estimated at more than 100,000 people comprising supporters of the Houthis Ansarullah group and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) party pressed into Sabeen Square in central Sanaa.

    Many waved the red, white and black national colors and denounced Saudi Arabia and the United States they blame for the war. Some displayed placards that read: “Steadfast” and “End Siege on Yemen”.

    "This is a message to the world to tell everyone that despite two years of war, the Yemeni people are still victorious, still alive and still love peace," said Essam al-Abed, a GPC leader.

    Saleh al-Samad, chairman of a governing ruling council that comprised members of the Iran-aligned Houthis and Saleh's GPC, struck a defiant note when he addressed the crowds.

    "The battle is still fierce and the war will not end without a victory for the truth and justice," Samad said to loud cheers.

    The former president, who had rarely been seen in public since he was forced to step down following months of protests in 2011 against his 30 years in office, made a brief appearance to cheers from his supporters as the crowd began to disperse.

    Blood stains are seen at the site of a Saudi-led air strike which struck a house where mourners had gathered for a funeral north of Yemen's capital Sanaa, February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

    The Saudi-led coalition has launched a series of air strikes since the war began but the Houthis remain entrenched in most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

    The United Nations human rights office said last week that the war has killed at least 4,773 civilians and injured more than 8,000.

    Several rounds of United Nations mediated peace talks in Switzerland and in Kuwait have failed to produce an agreement.

    The Houthis and the GPC are demanding an agreement on a new administration comprising all parties to run the country until new elections, while Hadi supporters say that the Houthis must hand over their weapons and quit the cities they have seized since 2014.

    SEE ALSO: Syria threatens Scud missile strikes if Israeli airstrikes continue

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    NOW WATCH: This animation shows how terrifyingly powerful nuclear weapons have become


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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks via a video link from Israel to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2017.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he was committed to working with U.S. President Donald Trump to advance peace efforts with the Palestinians and with the broader Arab world.

    Netanyahu made the pledge in a speech to the largest U.S. pro-Israel lobbying group at a time when the Trump administration is seeking agreement with his right-wing government on limiting settlement construction on land the Palestinians want for a state, part of a U.S. bid to resume long-stalled peace negotiations.

    But Netanyahu, speaking via satellite link from Jerusalem, avoided any mention of the delicate discussions, and stopped short of reiterating a commitment to a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    “Israel's hand and my hand is extended to all of our neighbors in peace,” Netanyahu told the annual convention of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “Israel is committed to working with President Trump to advance peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors.”

    But he repeated his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something they have refused to do.

    Netanyahu heaped praise on Trump, who has set a more positive tone with Israel than his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, who often clashed with the Israeli leader.

    He thanked the new Republican president for a recent U.S. budget request that “leaves military aid to Israel fully funded.” He also expressed confidence in a U.S.-Israeli partnership for preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon, following its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and for “confronting Iran's aggression in the region."

    On the settlements issue, a round of U.S.-Israeli talks ended last Thursday without agreement. Gaps remain over how far the building restrictions could go, according to people close to the talks.

    Netanyahu's coalition is grappling with divisions that have sparked speculation that he could seek early elections.

    Donald Trump Benjamin Netanyahu

    Many Israelis had expected Trump, because of his pro-Israel campaign rhetoric, to give a green light for settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. But Trump unexpectedly urged Netanyahu last month to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

    There is skepticism in the United States and Middle East over the chances for restarting Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Peace talks have been frozen since 2014.

    Most countries consider Israeli settlements, built on land captured in a 1967 war, to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing historical and political links to the land, as well as security interests.

    Trump has expressed ambivalence about a two-state solution, the mainstay of U.S. policy for the past two decades, but he recently invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit.

    SEE ALSO: Syria threatens Scud missile strikes if Israeli airstrikes continue

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    NOW WATCH: Here's why some Hong Kong skyscrapers have gaping holes


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    railgun

    The US Navy recently released footage of its first testfire of an electromagnetic railgun at their new terminal at Office of Naval Research and Naval Surface Warfare Center.

    Railguns use 20 to 32 mega joules of electromagnetic energy to fire projectiles at seven to nine times the speed of sound, according to a Congressional Research Service report on the weapons.

    Because they fire with electricity alone — not chemical explosives like conventional ammunition — railguns can potentially operate much cheaper and fire much much faster than weapons currently used by the Navy.

    The Navy has long sought the technology as a potential game-changer for surface warfare, as China, Russia, and the US all race towards building hypersonic weapons that no ship can currently defend against. The newest classes of Navy ships, like the Zumwalt and Ford carriers, have been planned with outsized power generators in anticipation of the revolutionary weapon.

    Despite looking like a typical cannon blast, the railgun only emits fire and sparks from metal components that become molten during the firing process that forces the components to fire at mind boggling speeds.

    Watch the clip below:

     

    But while projects like the railgun seem ready to solve the US Navy's most pressing problems, it has been undergoing testing since 2005 with no clear path to readiness in sight as of March 2017.

    SEE ALSO: Syria threatens Scud missile strikes if Israeli airstrikes continue

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    NOW WATCH: ACLU: Here's what you should do if you're stopped by the police as a pedestrian


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    f35a

    The F-35 program has hit another snag, this time not an expensive production mishap or overrun, but the strength of the dollar itself. 

    At Lockheed Martin's 2017 Media Day, Jeff Babione, general manager of the F-35 program, laid out the "blueprint for affordability," or the defense giant's plan to bring down the cost of the Joint Strike Fighter to below $85 million in the coming batches.

    But therein lies a problem.

    With about half of the F-35s Lockheed Martin intends to build in the next five years heading out to foreign countries, even in house belt-tightening and big initial investments to help ramp up to economies of scale can't offset the strong dollar. 

    Asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter if the dollar's high exchange rate with foreign currencies is a problem for the most expensive weapons system in the history of the world, Babione said, "I think it is."

    "We've had some of our customers come up and raise the concern that this may potentially hurt their buys," said Babione, who noted that some elements of production cannot move outside of the country to help mitigate costs for foreign buyers.

    "We have some 1,700 suppliers in seven countries around the world. Many of the countries that are buying the F-35 produce parts for the F-35," said Babione. But still, Babione concluded that currency exchange rates not withstanding, the best tactic is just to get the F-35's price down, period.

    f35 night

    "What I think I can do is drive the price down so whatever the exchange rate is, it's affordable," Babione said.

    As of today, the most expensive F-35 is the Navy's troubled variant, which remains under a review announced by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as it's being compared to Boeing's F-18 Advanced Super Hornet package.

    Meanwhile, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters that Lockheed Martin's blueprint for affordability was "just ok," and suggested revisiting the supply chain instead of simply seeking bigger upfront investments, as Defense News notes

    SEE ALSO: Here's when the F-35 will use stealth mode vs. 'beast mode'

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    NOW WATCH: Here are the countries with the most powerful militaries in the world


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    f 35c us navy

    In January, a report from Inside Defense broke the news that the US Navy's F-35 variant, the most expensive in the Joint Strike Fighter family, had an issue with the nose gear that made takeoffs untenably rough and the aircraft unsuited for carrier launches.

    The Navy's F-35C has a history of problems with its development as it attempts to master the tricky art of catapult launches from aircraft carriers, but the nose-gear issue could set back the F-35C into the 2020s if an innovative solution is not found quickly.

    Business Insider has uncovered footage that appears to show the problem:

    Essentially, the takeoff in the F-35C is too rough, jostling the pilots so they can't read flight-critical data on their $400,000 helmet-mounted displays.

    "This is a very stiff airplane, even though the oscillations about the same magnitude as you would see in a Super Hornet. It beats the pilot up pretty good," US Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan told reporters at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference earlier this month, US Naval Institute News reported.

    F-35C pilots are "hurting after doing three or four of these [launches] and in some instances even banging his half-a-million-dollar helmet on the canopy," Bogdan said. "That's not good for the canopy or the helmet. So we knew we had an issue there."

    Testing at a land-based US Navy catapult system showed that instead of a costly and lengthy redesign of the F-35C's nose section, some smaller adjustments may suffice.

    Jeff Babione, the general manager of Lockheed Martin's F-35 program, echoed that sentiment at the company's office in the Washington, DC, area, telling reporters the company had worked on a few simple changes that seemed to yield results. Babione said Lockheed Martin changed the way the pilot straps in and their head and arm positions, as well as reduced the "holdback," or stress on the plane, in the moments before launch.

    "The initial indication is some of those techniques improved" the F-35C's launches, Babione said. He conceded that the real testing would be done by the Navy aboard carriers "to see whether or not those changes were successful."

    The make-or-break tests of the launch will take place at sea later this year.

    SEE ALSO: The F-35 program has a new, unexpected enemy — the strong dollar

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    NOW WATCH: Here's footage of the US military's new helicopter that'll cost as much as an F-35


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    North Korea missile engine test march 2017North Korea has carried out another test of a rocket engine that U.S. officials believe could be part of its program to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, officials told Reuters on Monday.

    The latest test follows one earlier this month, and is another sign of Pyongyang's advancing weapons program. It comes amid mounting U.S. concerns about additional missile and nuclear tests, potentially in the near future.

    Several U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the test took place on Friday night and the engine could possibly be used in an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

    Earlier this month North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country had conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its Tongchang-ri rocket launch station, saying it was "a new birth" of its rocket industry.

    At the time, North Korea's official media said the engine would help it achieve world-class satellite launch capability, indicating the test was of a new type of rocket engine for long-range missiles.

    Kim also has said North Korea is close to an ICBM test-launch.

    North Korea has been testing rocket engines and heat-shields for an ICBM while developing the technology to guide a missile after re-entry into the atmosphere following a liftoff, experts have said.

    Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States, which is around 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from the North. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,400 miles), but some are designed to travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles) or farther.

    The reclusive state has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

    U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks on during a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/Pool

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a visit to the region that a military response would be "on the table" if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korea and U.S. forces.

    The Trump administration is still deliberating its policy on North Korea, but appears to be giving priority to less risky options than pre-emptive military strikes.

    It is considering sweeping sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system as part of a broad review of measures to counter Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threat.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea's nukes are nearing the 'point of no return' — and the US may have one last chance to act

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This animation shows how terrifyingly powerful nuclear weapons have become


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    Displaced people are checked by Iraqi forces as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

    Recent reports out of ISIS's final Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, indicate at least 100 civilians died in airstrikes almost certainly carried out by the US-led coalition's air campaign against the terror group.

    While the Pentagon has denied loosening its rules of engagement, an Associated Press report last month quoted a spokesman for the coalition, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, as saying US operators no longer needed to clear airstrikes with a Baghdad office, empowering coalition forces to more easily call in airstrikes.

    Business Insider reported that although the rules of engagement had not changed, procedures leading up to strikes had, so any coalition forces on the ground had a freer hand to call in airstrikes.

    This adjustment in tactics seems to have had grave results.

    "Eyewitnesses from Mosul and Iraqi officials have said last week's strike on Islamic State targets may have collapsed homes where rescue officials say as many as 200 people were buried in the rubble,"Reuters reported.

    Amnesty International gathered local reports of scores more civilians being killed in their homes after being told by Iraqi officials not to flee. It called the situation a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law."

    But when confronted with mounting evidence about the troubling trend, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not deny or demure — he gave a circumspect response.

    "There is no military force in the world that has proven more sensitive to civilian casualties," Mattis told Reuters reporters. "We go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people. The same cannot be said for our adversaries."

    missile weapon handlers f18

    Mattis' statement stands up to initial scrutiny. The US almost exclusively uses precision guided munitions, which can greatly reduce civilian casualties when coupled with accurate intelligence.

    Compare that with cluster munitions, barrel bombs, and tons of unguided gravity bombs dropped haphazardly from miles above ground by Russia and Syria.

    Compare the US's swift admission to airstrikes in ISIS-held Iraq that killed dozens of civilians with a Russian general claiming in March 2016 that "not a single bombing raid missed the target," at a time when Russian warplanes supporting the Syrian regime had been linked to bombing hospitals.

    Writing for Duke University's Lawfire blog, retired US Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap Jr. said, "The grim truth is that given ISIS tactics, civilians will die in the effort to crush the terrorists."

    Syria Russia airstrikes

    Dunlap cited a coalition spokesman as saying ISIS used "inhuman tactics" like "terrorizing civilians, using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites, and civilian neighborhoods."

    For this reason, Dunlap says we must accept the sad truth and expect more civilians to die as a result of the campaign against ISIS.

    But also expect the US to be more accountable than any other nation when it comes to reconciling and making reparations for civilian victims of US strikes against ISIS.

    Reuters reported that the Pentagon would review 700 hours of footage taken over 10 days to determine if and when mistakes were made.

    SEE ALSO: US confirms its airstrike near ISIS's Iraqi capital killed dozens of civilians

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    NOW WATCH: Here are the countries the US sells the most weapons to


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    China bin laden raid

    Footage recently emerged from a prime-time segment on Chinese state-run television showing Chinese special forces practicing a raid that bears an eerie resemblance to the US Navy SEALs' 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

    The segment, first noticed by the New York Times, takes place in Xinjiang, a province in Western China home to the Uighurs, a Muslim minority often at odds with China's state-endorsed atheism and their dominant ethnicity, the Hans. 

    While China has increased its presence in the Middle East as of late, it has also increased raids on Uighur leaders, issuing one strange announcement in November 14, 2015 that compared a 56-day battle against the Uighurs to the ISIS attack in Paris that killed 130.

    In the slides below, see details from the Chinese reenactment of the Bin Laden raid.

    SEE ALSO: How China could stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

    Here's the compound US Navy SEALs found Osama Bin Laden in.



    Here's China's reproduction.



    Here we see the Chinese special forces taking doors and clearing rooms.

     



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    F-35b marines uss america

    The US Marine Corps just set forth its vision of a battle plan to take on growing threats around the world — and it calls for small "Lightning carriers" armed to the teeth with F-35s.

    The 2017 Marine Aviation Plan acknowledges the burgeoning "missile gap" between the US and adversaries like China, who have a number of "carrier killers"— long-range precision weapons specifically designed to hit land bases and aircraft carriers before they can hit back.

    While the US Navy is working on the MQ-25A Stingray as an unmanned refueling system to extend the range of its carrier aircraft, the Marines seem ready to press ahead with a similar concept in "Lightning carriers."

    Basically, the Marines will already have enough F-35Bs to equip several of their smaller amphibious assault ships, sometimes known as helicopter carriers, while the Navy waits on their F-35Cs to sort out carrier-launch issues for its larger, Nimitz-class carriers. 

    "While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier, it can be complementary, if employed in imaginative ways," reads the plan. The Marines refer to one such creative use of the smaller carriers as a "Lightning carrier," or an amphibious assault ship with 20 F-35Bs and an "embarked, organic aerial refueling capability" to extend their range. 

    The Marines plan to further reduce reliance on land and sea bases with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” that employ decoys and deception to confuse the enemy and keep US aircraft spread out and unpredictable.

    The F-35B with its stealth, unparalleled intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, plus extended range, can match the long range missiles fielded by Russia and China and help the Marines secure land and sea bases by allowing them to see first, and if need be, shoot first. 

    f 35b uss america

    In December, an F-35 pilot aboard the USS America, a new type of amphibious assault ship built specifically for the F-35, called the "Lightning carrier" concept "the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world."

    Additionally, the F-35 won't just increase capabilities, but if acquired faster to replace the aging F-18s and Harriers in the Marines' fleet, it could save $1 billion, according to the US Naval Institute.

    But the Marines aren't just waiting on the F-35B to save them. The service has big plans to network every single platform into a "sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed."

    marine aviation plan

    With upgraded data sharing and command and control abilities, every asset from boots on the ground to satellites in the sky will work together to provide decision-quality information to war fighters, whether they're on carriers, land bases, or taking a beach. 

    While China cements its land and sea grab with militarized islands in the South China Sea, the Marines' aviation plan takes on a new urgency. The plan details how the first F-35B squadrons will deploy to Japan and the US's West Coast. 

    Read the US Marine Corps' full 2017 Aviation Plan here.

    SEE ALSO: CHINA: There is 'no such thing' as man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea

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    NOW WATCH: Here are the countries the US sells the most weapons to


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    f35

    A scathing new report on the F-35 compiles virtually every reported deficiency with the world's most expensive weapons system.

    Dan Grazier, a former Marine captain and a defense policy investigator at the Project on Government Oversight put together a definitive history of the F-35's shortcomings, ultimately concluding that the program is a "national disaster" in dire need of an intervention. 

    The piece draws from sometimes years old reports out of the F-35 program about several failures along its course of development. According to Grazier, the F-35's computer, sensors, and sensor fusion don't effectively help pilots or improve on existing platforms, it fails as a fighter and a close air support platform, and officials behind the program have repeatedly tried to obscure the true cost of the jet.

    Perhaps the article's most cogent point comes on the subject of the price. Lockheed Martin recently announced a plan to bring the price of individual F-35A jets to about $85 million, a similar price to a new F-18 Super Hornet. However, as Grazier points out, the $85 million only covers procurement costs. The significant costs of developing the plane, maintaining it, and testing it go unreported in these often-cited figures, prompting the following zinger from Grazier: "'Price tag is the only thing stealthy about the F-35."

    f35

    But the F-35 has only reached an initial level of capability with two services. The F-35 awaits a software update that Lockheed Martin states will significantly improve the plane. 

    Lt. Col. David Berke, a former US Marine Corps F-35 squadron leader stressed to Business Insider that "we don’t even know 50-80% of what this airplane can do," as it continues to evolve in terms of its software, hardware, network integration, and pilots continue to figure out the system.

    If you've ever wondered why some harbor vehement hatred towards the F-35 program and all its boosters, the POGO report is extensive, if a bit one sided.

    SEE ALSO: The Marine Corps wants small, agile 'Lightning carriers' with 20 F-35s to tackle China's 'carrier killers'

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    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains how to make your home more secure


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    Montenegrin Prime Minister and leader of ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, Milo Djukanovic, casts his ballot at a polling station in Podgorica, Montenegro, October 16, 2016. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

    The US Senate voted overwhelming to approve Montenegro's ascension into NATO — the most powerful military alliance in the history of the world and the explicit enemy of Russia.

    The landslide 97-2 vote on Tuesday may demonstrate the willingness of senators to stick it to Russia, as the Kremlin's meddling in the US elections and possible collusion with US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign continues to make daily headlines, but Trump's own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushed for Montenegro's ascension.

    This contrasts sharply with a popular media narrative that the Trump administration favors Russia, and seemingly even Trump's own campaign sentiments towards the alliance, which he repeatedly derided as "obsolete."

    "Montenegro is a small country with half the population of Fairfax county," the Atlantic Council's Jorge Benitez told Business Insider. Though Montenegro has a "very strategic location in southeast Europe" along the Adriatic sea, it's the exact kind of NATO member Trump sharply criticized.

    NATO asks its members to contribute 2% of their GDP to defense spending. For Montenegro, that would have meant a contribution of less than $80 million in 2015 — about the price of a single F-18 Super Hornet — while adding another 5,300 square miles for the alliance to defend.

    So while NATO stands to gain little militarily from the small Balkan state, it stands to anger Russia monumentally, according to Benitez, who said that Russia describes NATO as the enemy in its internal military communications.

    russia nato map

    In fact, Montenegro meant so much to Russia that Russian agents allegedly tried to have the prime minister killed in an attempted coup, according to assessments from international intelligence agencies.

    Of course, the US Senate alone doesn't decide who gets to be a NATO member. The legislatures of the other 28 NATO members will have to weigh in as well.

    But for now, it seems like Trump's administration has embraced the alliance. 

    SEE ALSO: DICK CHENEY: 'No question' Russia meddled in the US election, and it could be 'an act of war'

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    NOW WATCH: A Navy SEAL explains how to make your home more secure


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    Dimitry peskov

    Russian President Vladimir Putin's top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday that US-Russian relations had cratered since the 2016 US presidential election, and he disputed the idea that Michael Flynn, the former US national security adviser, could have meaningfully discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the US.

    When asked by host George Stephanopoulos whether the US and Russia had entered a new Cold War, Peskov replied: "New Cold War? Well, maybe even worse. Maybe even worse, taking into account actions of the present presidential administration in Washington."

    Though he alluded to actions by the Trump administration, however, Peskov got most specific when describing an action from the Obama administration: the US expelling 35 diplomats in December after concluding that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election. Peskov later described the move as "occupation of Russian diplomatic property" that was "not friendly."

    Putin on Thursday denied any involvement in the US election, and Peskov echoed that view, saying the US's accusations were "fake news" and "slander." He did suggest, however, that Putin preferred Trump in the 2016 election, saying Trump seemed "empathetic" toward Russia and expressed interest in getting along with the Kremlin.

    Donald Trump Mike FlynnPeskov did not deny that Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump's inauguration, but he argued that any such conversations would not have been meaningful because Flynn was not yet in a position of power.

    "Neither Ambassador Kislyak nor General Flynn could have been involved in decision-making," Peskov said.

    Flynn was removed as national security adviser for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his communication with Kislyak during the transition period. US officials cited by The New York Times called conversations between Flynn and Kislyak regarding sanctions "unambiguous and highly inappropriate."

    Both the House and the Senate have open investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian influencers.

    The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that, in exchange for immunity from prosecution, Flynn was willing to be interviewed by the FBI and members of Congress for the investigations, of which Flynn's contact with Kislyak is expected to be a key focus.

    While US-Russian relations may not have reached the lows of the Cuban missile crisis, they have deteriorated in several ways since US intelligence services concluded that Russia meddled in the US election.

    Russia recently broke the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, a hallmark agreement between the nuclear superpowers that headed off the outright nuclearization of Europe during the height of the Cold war.

    Watch the full interview below:

    SEE ALSO: The US Senate just dealt Russia a big blow in the Balkans

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    Aisis militant Danish court on Friday stripped the citizenship of a 25-year former pizzeria owner who was convicted last year of fighting for Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

    The lawyer for the Danish-Turkish man -- who during his trial denied fighting for IS but admitted working as a baker for the group in Syria -- told broadcaster TV2 his client would appeal Friday's ruling.

    The court order comes at a time of growing concerns about increased radicalization among Muslims in Europe in the wake of attacks in countries such as France, Germany and Britain.

    Danish media identified the man Enes Ciftci, who was born and raised in Denmark.

    Ciftci was originally sentenced to seven years in prison for allowing himself to be recruited in 2013 by IS to commit attacks in Syria, but allowed to keep his passport. Prosecutors appealed that sentence, leading to Friday's hearing.

    Last year, Denmark's Supreme Court stripped a Danish-Moroccan bookseller of his citizenship after he was jailed for inciting terrorism.

     

    SEE ALSO: Syrian opposition: Assad's 'terrorist regime' refuses to discuss a transition from power

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    NOW WATCH: This animation shows how terrifyingly powerful nuclear weapons have become


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    Kim Il Sung Jimmy Carter 1994

    Since the Clinton years, the US has considered military action and imposed strict sanctions against North Korea in an effort to curb its nuclear program — but none of it has worked amid fundamental misunderstandings about the shadowy Kim regime.

    US and UN sanctions on North Korea have sought to cripple the regime through restricting access to commerce and banking, but despite limited successes here and there, North Korea now regularly demonstrates a variety of potent and expensive nuclear arms in open defiance of the international community at large.

    "The pace of North Korean testing, particularly on the ballistic-missile front, has really accelerated over the past year," Kelsey Davenport, the nonproliferation director at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider.

    North Korea has tested not only a greater number but also a greater range of missile types meant to diversify its arsenal and defeat US and allied missile defenses.

    In spite of the US and UN's best efforts, "North Korea has demonstrated its ability to domestically produce technologies that it's denied by the sanctions regime," said Davenport, who added that, overall, "compliance with UN sanctions on North Korea is quite poor."

    Some smaller Asian countries simply don't have the means to enforce sanctions on North Korea, like searching cargo on ships headed to North Korea or tracking dual-use technologies, which have both civilian and military applications.

    This results in a North Korean state that has covertly become a large supplier of military goods to small nations in the region that can't afford Chinese military goods or can't get access to US or European arms, which are tightly regulated.

    Kim Jong Un

    A recent joint report from Arms Control Wonk and Reuters detailed how North Korea had used a network of falsified addresses and names to simply confuse countries into doing business with it. North Korean businessmen may take the same name as South Korean businessmen, or they may list their addresses as being in the "Korean Republic" or "PY city," (Pyongyang) according to the report.

    "The reality is that the UN only works if everyone agrees to make it work," Rodger Baker, the director of Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, told Business Insider. "There is no UN police force that enforces everything. It's up to the individual nations."

    According to Baker, some countries may just not want to enforce sanctions from North Korea. Chief among those is China, which Baker said had turned "a blind eye" and viewed a North Korean collapse as a much greater risk than nuclearization, as a strong, unified, Western-leaning Korea could threaten China's aim at regional hegemony.

    But sanctions are only one, imperfect tool for fighting North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

    Baker argues that a much deeper misunderstanding has brought about the US's sustained failure to contain North Korea.

    north korea

    "For the longest time, the US believed that the North Korean regime would simply fall apart," said Baker, who added that the US thought "the loss of Chinese and Russian support post-Cold War meant that there was no way North Korea would survive."

    Baker says the US made the mistake of comparing North Korea to an Eastern European state that fell to communism, one where the government wasn't respected and the people wanted representation and freedom.

    In contrast, when the Kim regime set up its government, Baker said, it based it on traditional Korean politics and society. "They played off of a long history of Korean nationalism and implemented a system that was probably more Confucian than even China," he said.

    Sanctions work best when a country wants to participate in the worldwide economy, but North Koreans have been kept insulated from these desires.

    "This idea that if we can only keep flying South Korean TV show DVDs and pop songs into North Korea that they're all going to rise up because they want to have what their neighbors have overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity," Baker said.

    north korea

    Additionally, North Koreans have seen steady improvement in their country over time. The famine is over, and money is pouring in from countries that can't or won't comply with sanctions. North Koreans have TVs, radios, and media to enjoy that paints the West as evil and the Kim regime as their savior.

    Whereas the West has underestimated the Kim regime's internal strength, North Korea has accurately read the West's political will to hit the country with anything tougher than sanctions. And the focus of North Korea's nuclear program has shifted from a bargaining chip — something it could trade away for concessions from the international community — to an insurance policy.

    As North Korea picks up the pace of its nuclear- and ballistic-missile testing, the US's window for effective preemptive military action against the Kim regime will quickly and firmly shut.

    Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider earlier this month that an ICBM in the hands of Kim would mean the US could no longer credibly threaten North Korea with nuclear force, representing a "point of no return" in multilateral relations.

    "North Korea," Lamrani said, "has made such progress now that the US feels that it does not have time anymore."

    SEE ALSO: North Korea's nukes are nearing the 'point of no return' — and the US may have one last chance to act

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    US Navy japan navy philippine sea vinson

    The US Naval Institute recently released a video of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) patrolling the Philippine sea with four Japanese guided-missile destroyers, a US Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and an Arleigh-Berke guided-missile destroyer. 

    While the Vinson is a long way from home, it's toured the Pacific for decades and never once had to fear for the 70 or so aircraft on board and 7,000 or so sailors working above and below the deck for one big reason — it's escort of the world's most advanced fighting ships. 

    The Japanese ships excel in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare with powerful missiles, the US destroyer and cruiser can slap down nearly any threat headed their way with their advanced Aegis radars and interceptor missiles. Furthermore, the US frequently sails with navies across the Pacific, honing communications and skills in the event that they ever need to fight together. 

    A core tenant of the US Navy, despite having the most and best ships in the world, is to never go it alone. Anywhere the Vinson sails, expect to find guided-missile destroyers armed to the teeth and ready to defend the Vinson while dealing some damage of its own to whatever enemy it may encounter.

    Watch the clip below:

     

    SEE ALSO: Watch the US Navy fire its game-changing hypersonic electromagnetic railgun

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    Thae Yong Ho Lester Holt NBC defector

    One of the highest-ranking members of the North Korean regime to defect has seemed to confirm the West's greatest fears — that the Kim regime would use nuclear weapons at the first sign of an imminent threat.

    In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Thae Yong Ho, the former North Korean deputy ambassador to Britain, said Kim Jong Un was "desperate in maintaining his rule by relying on his [development of] nuclear weapons and ICBM," referring to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the US.

    Thae added that once Kim "sees that there is any kind of sign of a tank or an imminent threat from America, then he would use his nuclear weapons with ICBM."

    While North Korea does not yet have an ICBM that could realistically reach the US, Thae's statement comes as the US has openly mulled the prospect of military action against the country, and North Korea experts unanimously tell Business Insider that the nation's nuclear and missile programs have increased in speed and scope, with the country working toward a finished ICBM.

    In an interview published in the Financial Times on Sunday, US President Donald Trump looked to China to mitigate the burgeoning crisis between North Korea and South Korea, Japan, and the US, saying "China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't," adding, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."

    kim jong un

    While experts conclude that the US has the means to unilaterally decapitate the Kim regime, the operation if carried out today would most likely provoke a counterattack with conventional artillery and, as Thae suggested, nuclear strikes. South Korea and Japan would be at the greatest risk from a North Korean nuclear attack, and such an operation could easily cost millions of lives, including citizens of those countries and US troops stationed in Asia.

    Thae's testimony fits with what experts have told Business Insider: The focus of North Korea's nuclear program has shifted from a bargaining chip — something it could trade away for concessions from the international community — to an insurance policy.

    Thae stressed that "Kim Jong Un is a person who did not even hesitate to kill his uncle and a few weeks ago, even his half-brother ... So, he is a man who can do anything to remove [anyone in] his way."

    Trump is due to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week, and he has made clear his intentions to talk about North Korea.

    SEE ALSO: The US has been fundamentally wrong on North Korea for decades — and now it may be too late

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    Trump navy uss gerald r ford military

    President Donald Trump, who prides himself on being a good dealmaker, laid out a herculean task for himself in a recent interview, saying he would get China to address the North Korean threat.

    And his best shot is to convince China that he's crazy.

    "China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t," Trump told the Financial Times, adding that "if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."

    But according to Joel Wit, the cofounder of 38 North and a State Department employee during one of the US's few diplomatic successes with North Korea in 1993, "China is not going to help enough," though it would likely take some small steps to avoid looking like they've stiffed Trump.

    Perhaps the best shot Trump has at getting China to significantly budge on their policy is to convince them he's a madman, capable of making the extremely dangerous and deadly action of striking North Korea with military force.

    The US wants China to sever all economic ties with North Korea and thereby put enormous pressure on the Kim regime to scale back its nuclear ambitions. But according to Wit, "China's not gonna do that," and meanwhile Trump and his top representatives openly mull military action against the Kim regime like never before.

    "They have their own interests. They want to maintain stability in North Korea and keep North Korea as a buffer against the US and South Korea," Wit said.

    "China and the US share the goal of removing nuclear weapons of from North Korea, but that’s the extent to which the US's and China's interests overlap," Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project, told Business Insider.

    Glaser pointed out that China has taken the US's side in theory, backing every single UN resolution against North Korea since 2006, "but it has of course watered down most if not all of those security council resolutions because it has not wanted to agree to sanctions that might create instability in North Korea."

    "And if it won’t cause instability, it’s probably not likely to be tough enough to cause Kim Jong-un to rethink his strategy and priorities," said Glaser, who said that 85% of North Korea's external trade is with China.

    And even if Trump managed to sway China to break with decades of its own policy with its neighbor, "the North Koreans are not gonna buckle under pressure from China," Wit said. "That's not their mentality."

    North Korea

    Kim Jong Un regularly purges North Korea's elite of those with ties to China or loyalties anywhere outside of the hermit kingdom, which has left Xi with limited influence on the peninsula.

    Wit likened the idea that China could unilaterally fix the West's North Korea problem to a "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" in that it "really doesn’t exist."

    But the Trump administration is not like other administrations.

    For decades, US presidents have urged NATO countries to pay their share. Arguably, Trump has been more effective in conveying the urgency of that message, frequently slamming the alliance on the campaign trail and calling it "obsolete."

    Trump has stuck to US orthodoxy on NATO essentially, with his secretary of state recently pushing the Senate to ratify Montenegro— a small country that could at best make a tiny contribution to NATO spending — as the 29th member of the alliance.

    While some in the media question Trump's credibility after largely unsubstantiated claims of mass voter fraud and wire tapping, he certainly rattled China by breaking with decades of US policy by taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen in December.

    phone call Donald Trump

    "I don't disagree that the Chinese see the Trump factor as unpredictable," said Glaser. "I think that they are quite worried about what Trump might do in the area of trade and economics — that’s really credible."

    "If people think you’re crazy enough to do something, it may make them more willing to be more flexible and give them what they want," Wit said of Trump's posturing. Wit also recalled the "madman doctrine," for which Nixon was known for operating under.

    For example, Nixon flew nuclear bombers near the Russian border for days to project an unhinged image to Soviet leadership, knowing all the while that nuclear war between the US and Soviets would be a worldwide disaster.

    For Trump, war with North Korea, a rising nuclear state, could easily prove disastrous too.

    "I think it's almost a universal that with military strikes the downsides are just so great that it's hard to see them taking place," said Wit. Even if North Korea didn't fire a single nuclear missile, which the US has every reason to believe they would, they have such a massive artillery installment that they could likely level parts of South Korea's capital, Seoul, within hours.

    In a best-case scenario, thousands of civilians would likely die in a strike on North Korea. In worse scenarios, civilian dead would number in the millions.

    Foal Eagle 2015

    But the US has flown nuclear-armed bombers around the Korean Peninsula for years, and the old "madman" tricks haven't yielded any tangible results.

    "The Chinese are smart enough to think about the various military options, so they probably have concluded that there’s a very low likelihood" the US would strike North Korea, said Glaser. "I don’t think that that has been a serious military option for the US for the last 15 to 20 years."

    But the question when Trump meets Xi will not be if the US can or will take out the Kim regime, but if he can convince China's leader that he's willing to act a bit crazy and go further than any administration before him in terms of military or economic pressure to get his way.

    SEE ALSO: High-level North Korean defector: 'Desperate' Kim Jong Un would use nukes if threatened

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    Trump navy uss gerald r ford militaryThe USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), America's futuristic new aircraft carrier, will finally hit the open water for sea trials this week, the Navy confirmed to Business Insider.

    The ship and crew have already completed a pier side dry run of operations in Newport News, Virginia, and will hit the seas later this week to test out its most basic functions.

    The Ford, the first ship in its class, promises to bring the Navy unrivaled new capabilities for launching and recovering aircraft at sea, detecting enemies and threats, and generating three times the usual power output to accommodate weapons of the future, such as directed energy lasers and railguns

    Huntington Ingalls first laid down the Ford's keel in 2009 but the ship has met repeated and costly setbacks, pushing the cost to around of $13 billion dollars. 

    “It’s the first new designed aircraft carrier in 40 years. [There are a] significant number of new, advanced systems that don’t exist anywhere else in the world,” Sean Stackley, then-Navy assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, told the US Naval Institute's in January

    USS Gerald Ford

    “It’s not until you bring them all together on the aircraft carrier that you get to test the fully integrated system, and so with all first-of-class ships we have been in a bit of a test-and-fix mode as we go through the test program,” he said.

    Aboard the Ford in January, President Donald Trump heaped praise on the Navy's newest carrier, calling it "American craftsmanship at its biggest, its best, its finest.”

    The ship is scheduled to be commissioned sometime later this year, according to USNI.

    SEE ALSO: Chinese are spooked about the US's THAAD missile-defense system because they don't know what it can do

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