Category Archives: U.S.

That Stretched US Air Force–One Major War at a Time

Further to this post,

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

the very realistic and capable air force secretary speaks very frankly (wish we had people like him in the spin-mad, all image all the time, Canadian government–see the secretary’s impressive bio here)–at Air Force Magazine:

Kendall: ‘Unrealistic’ for Air Force to Fight Two Wars While Modernizing

June 24, 2022 | By Abraham Mahshie

As Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall looks to modernize the force, he is calling for tough decisions that will shrink the size of the fleet [see post noted at start of this one] and make the waging of two simultaneous wars “unrealistic,” he said at an AFA [Air Force Association] Leaders in Action event June 24.

Kendall sat down with AFA’s president, retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright, for an in-person discussion attended by a hundred air power professionals and enthusiasts at the Air and Space Forces Association’s headquarters in Arlington, Va. Kendall addressed topics ranging from threats posed by China and Russia to the ongoing congressional funding decisions that he said are necessary to keep pace with China’s heavy technological investments.

“I think it’s quite frankly unrealistic to think that we can have a force that will fight two major wars at the same time,” he said. He also said he did not believe any nation was capable of immediately ramping up from a peacetime force to engage in a prolonged, conventional war [emphasis added, note that “immediately”].

Kendall demurred when asked how many combat squadrons the Air Force should maintain, but he was clear in his commitment to take on the risk of a smaller Air Force flying fewer hours in order to make big investments in the short term.

“The critical thing is to get to the next-generation capabilities as quickly as we can [emphasis added, see this post yesterday: “USAF NGAD: Big Laser-Shooting Arsenal Fighter?],” he said. “Do we maintain current capability, keep the platforms that we have, or do we shrink down a little bit in order to get to the future? I think those are the trade-offs that we’re going to have to face.”

The Air Force currently has 55 operational combat squadrons, 32 in the Active duty and 23 in the Guard or Reserve, according to a Heritage Foundation study. And according to data provided to Air Force Magazine by the Air Force, fighter pilot hours declined 16 percent from 2020 to 2021, to an average of just 6.8 hours per month per pilot.

Kendall said it would be “hard” to get pilot hours back up, but he still called the force “healthy.”

“We’ve got to think carefully about the balance,” he said. “We’ve got to do it in a way which maintains a healthy force, while we’re doing this, as well as keeps pace with the technological competition.”

To continue to deter and defeat adversaries, Kendall called for leveraging “integrated deterrence,” or the flexing of allies’ and partners’ military and non-military capabilities, while the U.S. catches up to China’s decades of heavy military investment [e.g. various missile capabilities for attacking US bases in the Western Pacific].

Kendall has been pounding the pavement on Capitol Hill, he said, taking a classified threat briefing to the committees of Congress in order to help convince members of the importance of modernization over fleet size.

“Our average aircraft is 30 years old, and we have some aircraft that are not tailored to the high-end fight at all,” he said. “The people who manage and operate those aircraft do a fantastic job—I’m real proud of them. But we’re going to have to get to the next generation [emphasis added].”

And situation of the US Navy vs the PLA Navy is hardly encouraging either.

PREDATE: Kendall in 2012 under the Obama administration–imagine a senior Canadian official being so brutally frank:

F-35 Production Move Was ‘Acquisition Malpractice’: Top DoD Buyer

Given earlier comments by the F-35 program head, today’s [Feb. 6] remarks by the acting head of Pentagon acquisition that “putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice,” isn’t really news so much as confirmation that senior Pentagon leaders know mistakes were made.

Frank Kendall, who has been nominated to take the chair as undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told a Feb. 6 event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, that the decision “should not have been done” and that “now we’re paying the price for being wrong.” This was Kendall’s first public appearance since he was nominated to lead the Pentagon’s acquisition efforts.”..

Relevant post a year ago:

US Air Force Planning vs PLA in Indo-Pacific

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

USAF NGAD: Big Laser-Shooting Arsenal Fighter?

Perhaps amongst other things. At US Naval Institute News:

Report to Congress on Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program

The following is the June 23, 2022 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program [NGAD, more on the CRS here–excellent and expert non-partisan papers].

From the report

According to the Air Force, the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is intended to develop “a portfolio of technologies enabling air superiority.” The Air Force intends for NGAD to replace the F-22 fighter jet beginning in 2030, possibly including a combination of crewed and uncrewed aircraft, with other systems and sensors. NGAD began as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project. Since 2015, Congress has appropriated approximately $4.2 billion for NGAD.

NGAD is a classified aircraft development program, but the Air Force has released a few details. On September 15, 2020, then-U.S. Air Force acquisition executive Dr. Will Roper announced that the Air Force had flown a full-scale flight demonstrator as part of the NGAD program. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced on June 1, 2022 that NGAD program technologies have matured enough to allow the program to move to the engineering, manufacture, and design phase of development.

Is the Goal of NGAD a New Fighter? 

While a stated aim of the NGAD program is to replace the F-22 fighter jet, the aircraft that come out of the NGAD program may or may not look like a traditional fighter. The Air Force is developing technologies involved in NGAD to provide air dominance. Part of the program’s goal is to determine how to achieve that end, independent of traditional U.S. military approaches to air dominance. NGAD could take the form of a single aircraft and/or a number of complementary systems—manned, unmanned, optionally manned, cyber, electronic—forms that would not resemble the traditional “fighter.”

For example, a larger aircraft the size of a B-21 may not maneuver like a fighter. But that large an aircraft carrying a directed energy weapon, with multiple engines making substantial electrical power for that weapon, could ensure that no enemy flies in a large amount of airspace [my “arsenal fighter”]. That would achieve air dominance. There appears to be little reason to assume that NGAD is going to yield a plane the size that one person sits in, and that goes out and dogfights kinetically, trying to outturn another plane—or that sensors and weapons have to be on the same aircraft…

The USAF certainly seems to be thinking, and prototyping, very creatively. The efforts had better work.

A very relevant recent post:

The incredible Shrinking US Air Force, or, Waiting for NGAD

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

US Defence Aerospace Companies Now Federal Government Lobbying Outfits

Funny how the biggies will almost all have their HQs in the D.C. area–at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

First Take, June 13, 2022

Graham Warwick June 10, 2022

VIEW FROM THE BELTWAY

Virginia Snags Another Aerospace Giant

Raytheon Technologies will move its global headquarters from suburban Boston to Arlington, Virginia, this summer, making it the last of the Big Five U.S. defense contractors to base its operations in the Washington region. The move into an existing Raytheon office tower near the Potomac River “increases agility in supporting U.S. government and commercial aerospace customers,” the aerospace giant says. But it is not expected to result in a large number of job shifts. Boeing announced last month that it is moving its home base from Chicago to Northern Virginia, following Northrop Grumman (2011) and General Dynamics (1991). Lockheed Martin is headquartered in nearby Bethesda, Maryland.

Capitalism at its finest hard at work. eh?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

What Monroe Doctrine? Dragon Spreading its Wings over Latin America and Caribbean

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Chinese President Xi Jinping, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, and their wives by a Chinese ship in the Panama Canal, December 3, 2018. LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images”.)

Further to this 2015 post,

China Buying Brazil, or, What Monroe Doctrine?

the pace of the PRC’s embrace just keeps accelerating–below from a major article at Business Insider June 6 ( via Canadian Military Intelligence Association). The US military does seem to be rather hyping the defence worry factor at this point; the huge Chinese economic influence is worrying enough it its own right:

The US military is watching China’s presence grow in Latin America, and it doesn’t like where things are going

*US officials and lawmakers have for years voiced concern about growing US influence in Latin America.

*For military and national-security leaders, that influence has security implications for the US.

*Despite US warnings about dealing with China, many leaders in the region see little on offer from the US.

As the US increases its focus on global competition with China, officials have singled out Beijing’s inroads into Latin America as a growing threat to countries there and to US interests in the region.

At recent congressional hearings and public events, those officials have cautioned that China is investing in digital and physical infrastructure, natural resources and extractive industries, and in political and military relationships across Latin America and the Caribbean in a multipronged effort to secure access and influence and gain leverage over countries there in order to advance its own commercial and strategic interests.

Although China’s engagement with the region has focused on economic ties and it has not established a military presence there [emphasis added], US military commanders, national-security officials, and lawmakers believe Beijing’s investments have implications for US security.

At an August 2021 hearing on her nomination to lead US Southern Command, which is responsible for Central and South America, Gen. Laura Richardson said China comes to the region “with very sophisticated plans in order to capture the interests of the countries, willing to loan billions of dollars.”

“I look at that from the military lens of projecting and sustaining military power for the [Chinese People’s Liberation Army] with this expansion,” Richardson said at the time.

Richardson’s remarks echoed those of her predecessor, Adm. Craig Faller, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2021, his final appearance as commander, that China was “rapidly advancing” toward its goal of “economic dominance” in Latin America within the next decade [emphasis added].

Beijing “is also seeking to establish global logistics and basing infrastructure in our hemisphere in order to project and sustain military power at greater distances,” Faller told lawmakers [evidence?].

At a hearing on China’s presence in the region in April, Sen. Marco Rubio, citing a report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, said China is using its economic heft and political ties to convince countries there to make decisions that favor Beijing and “undermine democracy and free markets.”

The same report, Rubio added, said China’s military seeks “to deepen its engagement in the region by funding the construction of ports, space programs, and other dual-use infrastructure that frankly is pretty clear it appears to have a limited economic purpose but could serve as future operating bases, even of rotational bases, for a hostile navy close to our nation’s shores [note that “could”].”

Strategic concerns

China has become the top trading partner for many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and is second-biggest, behind the US, for the region as a whole. Its trade with the region has risen from $18 billion in 2002 to $180 billion in 2010 and to $450 billion last year [emphasis added].

The region’s largest countries have attracted Chinese investment in agricultural commodities as well as in ecommerce and other technology, including surveillance technology. Smaller, resource-rich countries in Latin America have attracted Chinese interest in mineral wealth and oil exploration.

Chinese firms have also pursued infrastructure projects across the region — many as part of Beijing’s sprawling Belt and Road Initiative — but especially in areas that facilitate access into or around the continent.

Richardson has said the Chinese presence around the Panama Canal and near the Strait of Magellan are her “two greatest concerns, strategically.”

The canal is one of the world’s most important trade corridors, particularly for goods flowing between the US and East Asia. It is “a strategic line of communication that we want to keep free and open for the global economy but also for our global war plans,” Richardson told senators in March.

China has invested billions of dollars in projects around the canal and Chinese state-owned enterprises are present “on either side [emphasis added],” Richardson said. “What I worry about Chinese state-owned enterprises that have capability and infrastructure there is that they can be used for dual use, which means civilian but also military.”

The Strait of Magellan sees less traffic but remains an important route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, including aircraft carriers too big for the canal, and is close to resource-rich Antarctica. China’s presence in ports and other projects “around the tip of the southern cone” of South America is worrisome [emphasis added], Richardson said…

Richardson’s counterpart at US Northern Command, which is responsible for North America and parts of the Caribbean, has expressed similar concerns. “China’s very aggressive in the Bahamas right now,” Gen. Glen VanHerck told the House Armed Services Committee in April 2021.

“They have the largest embassy in the Bahamas right now, and they continue to buy up [the] tourism industry to have access and influence,” VenHerck said at the time, adding that those Chinese projects “do have access right now to an overwatch, if you will, of our Navy test and training facilities, which is very, very concerning.”..

Chinese military basing in Latin America is still “rather hypothetical” [indeed!] [Margaret] Myers [director of the Asia and Latin America Program at the Inter-American Dialogue] told Insider, “but there’s a sense that based on the sorts of investments that we see in areas of strategic interest to the US and some of the investments that we see in ports with potential dual-use capacity that things are headed in that direction.”..

China will likely “explore what it looks like to establish more significant military relationships in Africa or in the Pacific before they try something like that in the Western Hemisphere [emphasis added] because of how much more likely a strong US reaction would be,” the analyst said, requesting anonymity because of professional commitments.

[Many] Latin American leaders…fear the paternalism that has often characterized US policy toward the region. Many leaders want to avoid taking sides in the competition between Beijing and Washington but welcome Chinese engagement because they see it as offering what the US is unable or unwilling to provide, like expanded trade, coronavirus vaccines, or infrastructure investment.

Richardson often notes that 21 of the 31 countries in Southern Command’s area of responsibility have signed onto China’s Belt and Road Initiative [emphasis added] and told the House Armed Services Committee this spring that several of its multibillion-dollar projects were particularly worrying, among them a $5.6 billion highway in Jamaica and a $3.9 billion metro project in Colombia, a close US ally.

“This region is rich in resources, and the Chinese don’t go there to invest. They go there to extract,” Richardson said of those projects.

At an event in Washington, DC, in April, Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, said US concerns about Chinese projects there were “totally unwarranted” and that China has pursued investments in Jamaica for “a long time while the US has been looking all over the place.”

We would want to see more US investment in Jamaica, but Jamaica can’t postpone its development needs until the US decides to come in [emphasis added],” Holness said.

Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a political risk consultancy, said that when Colombia has issued tenders for infrastructure projects, “US companies are completely AWOL.”

“So how can the US blame Colombia for giving them over to Chinese bidders, who are, by the way, the lowest bidders?” Guzmán told Insider.

The Biden administration’s signature international development effort, Build Back Better World, has foundered, and US private-sector investment has been hard to attract to the region, either because of the overall environment or because the opportunities, particularly infrastructure projects, aren’t well suited for American firms.

“There are efforts to try to increase and incentivize US investment in Latin America and the Caribbean now. The problem is that a lot of these initiatives are private-sector-led,” Myers said, “and in a moment in time when the investment environments aren’t necessarily improving in Latin America, it’s very difficult to generate that interest [emphasis added].”..

Richardson and other officials say the US military’s best asset for engagement is security cooperation — military education, training, and other exchanges that build on the US’s already extensive partnerships in the region [those “partnerships” in the past have not always had happy results for local populations, something they remember]

China’s defense cooperation with Latin American countries “is far less” than that of the US, “but it does exist and the overall trend line has been going up,” Daniel Erikson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, said at a conference in May…

The PRC in this hemisphere, as in Africa and Asia, is able to take a much longer and coherent approach to executing policies than the US, especially economic ones in light of the Americans’ reliance on the private sector.

Relevant earlier posts:

China: First Africa, Now Latin America [2014]

PRC’s Neo-Colonialism in Africa, Notably Congo (DRC) Section [2021]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme song of sorts, by Canadian band Joe Hall and the Continental Drift–“Nos Hablos Telefonos”:

Enfin, PM Trudeau’s Government Commits Money to Several Aspects of NORAD Modernization

Further to this recent post on US pressure on Canada over NORAD,

US Air Force Chief of Staff Visits Ottawa: What’s Missing in This Story?

the Canadian minister on national defence made the Big Reveal June 20, likely with the June 29-30 NATO Madrid summit in mind (to show allies we are Doing Something on defence) as well as trying to placate the Biden administration.

It is clear the announcement at Trenton air base was rushed–a two tweets:

The news release is here. There is still no “Backgrounder”–customary with such major announcements–giving details about, and projected timelines and costings for, the individual projects mentioned.

Some key points:

1) The initial C$ 4.9 billion over six years (i.e. just over $800 million per year) for NORAD modernization is not new money; it was already included in the government’s April 22 budget; there are no details about what the promised $40 billion over 20 years is for;

2) All the major projects are related to detecting threats and processing the relevant information; only two projects relate to acquiring new kinetic defence capabilities. There are also some upgrades for existing NORAD-related facilities;

3) There is no indication of how these specifically Canadian initiatives relate to US plans to modernize NORAD (some of which may not fit in with this government’s thinking–see “left of launch” post below);

4) Canada is still staying out of the US’ GMD ballistic missile defence system;

5) Minister Anand, for some odd reason, did not name either Russia (main threat now) or China as the adversaries involved.

To begin with, an excerpt from an article last year in Aviation Week and Space Technology:

…the radars of the U.S.-Canadian North Warning System (NWS) are still functioning, although their days seem numbered…

The early-warning system lacks the range to detect Russia’s Tupolev Tu-160 bombers [or Tu-95 ones] before they can launch cruise missiles and the resolution to track the latest Russian cruise missiles, particularly the stealthy nuclear Kh-102, after they are launched.

In other words, right now the capacity to intercept the bomber “archers” before they can launch their missile “arrows” at quite some distance from North American does not exist. And tracking those missiles on their courses to targets inside North America is exceedingly problematic. So it would now appear the main future challenge will be tracking and then shooting down the cruise missiles, not the bombers themselves (which may well have fighter escorts in any event–see this 2015 post: “NORAD to Face Escorted Cruise Missile-Carrying Russian Bombers?“).

Here are extracts from a Globe and Mail story:

Canada commits $4.9-billion over six years to modernize NORAD defences

Steven Chase Senior parliamentary reporter

Patrick Brethour Tax and Fiscal Policy Reporter

Defence experts told The Globe and Mail the spending commitment, nine days before a NATO Leaders’ Summit in Madrid, seems to be an effort to create the appearance that Canada is devoting more money to the military. Canada has come under pressure from allies, the U.S. in particular, to raise its military spending to meet NATO’s target level for each of its members: the equivalent of 2 per cent of annual economic output. Canada’s current defence spending amounts to 1.33 per cent…

“As autocratic regimes [Russia? China?] threaten the rules-based order that has protected us for decades and as our competitors develop new technologies…there is a pressing need to modernize NORAD capabilities,” Ms. Anand told reporters…

The new setup will have several components, according to Ms. Anand. “Arctic Over-the-Horizon Radar” will provide early-warning radar coverage and threat tracking from the Canada-U.S. border to the Arctic Circle [clearly to track cruise missiles through Canadian air space after they have been launched].

The second component will be a “Polar Over-the-Horizon Radar” system to provide the same coverage and tracking over and beyond the northernmost approaches to North America, including Canada’s Arctic archipelago [clearly to track cruise missiles immediately after launch from Russian bombers well away from North American airspace–and perhaps track the bombers themselves–and not vulnerable to interception and attack by NORAD fighters].

A third piece will be a new network called Crossbow, which will be made up of sensors with what Ms. Anand called “classified capabilities.” They will be located throughout Northern Canada, where they will provide another layer of detection.

A final component will be a space-based surveillance system, which will use satellites to collect intelligence and track threats, she told reporters.

…She did not provide a breakdown of how the $4.9-billion would be spent, and did not offer any estimate of when the new surveillance equipment would be up and running. She said Canada will spend a total of $40-billion over 20 years for NORAD modernization under the plan [emphasis added]

Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba [a professor who really knows her NORAD and defence stuff], said it’s important that Canada is “thinking about and working on the joint defence of North America.”

But, she added, she thinks Monday’s announcement was aimed first and foremost at Canada’s NATO allies.

“There is incredible pressure that Canada spend more on defence, so they can go to NATO and say, ‘Look, we are spending more,’ ” Prof. Charron said. “At least they are going to the table with something.”..

Asked when Ottawa would reach its 2-per-cent commitment [to NATO], Ms. Anand pointed to Canada’s “upward trajectory” in defence spending….

With the $4.9-billion for NORAD, she said, “our defence spending is now on an even sharper upward trajectory.” However, that $4.9-billion is part of the $8-billion announced in the budget [emphasis added].

But Ms. Anand declined to provide a precise defence-spending target, or to explicitly pledge that Canada would reach the 2-per-cent threshold…

Prof. Charron said the new radar and surveillance projects will take “years and years” to build [emphasis added]

And from a CBC story:

The new network will monitor not only the Arctic — NORAD’s traditional domain — but also Pacific and Atlantic approaches to the continent [see the “Worries” post noted at bottom of this one”–our two fighter bases are well to the interior at Cold Lake, Alberta and Bagotville, Quebec and ill-placed to deal with threats approaching from those oceans; might we start rotating fighters through east and west coast bases as thought needed?]

Canadian Lt.-Gen. Alain Pelletier, the deputy commander at NORAD, said he and other top military officials have been taking notes on Moscow’s air campaign [vs Ukraine].

“Some of that assessment is classified, but I can tell you that we’re seeing the usage of cruise missiles in that theater, like we were expecting it, and like we expect that that cruise missile may be used in the future, against potential … critical infrastructure in North America [emphasis added],” Pelletier told CBC News in an interview following the minister’s statement.

Asked whether Canada will end its prohibition on participating in the U.S. ballistic missile system (BMD), Anand said the government will maintain the current policy of non-involvement [emphasis added]

As for those new kinetic capabilities:

Canada will also acquire new air-to-air missiles [the new AIM-260 the US is developing?] that will be compatible with the 88 F-35 fighter planes from the American manufacturer Lockheed Martin, which will replace the aging F-18s of the Canadian military aviation in the coming years.

We will also work to develop options for a Canadian ground-based air defense capability” added the minister, remaining stingy with details…

Presumably that ground-based air defence capability will be missiles capable of intercepting cruise missiles closing on their targets. Will they be placed to defend our fighter bases at Cold Lake, Alberta and Bagotville, Quebec? Critical infrastructure such as ports? Nuclear power plants? Major cities in case of a possible demonstration nuclear attack (a 2016 post: “NORAD and Russian Cruise Nukes: “de-escalation”? Part 2“)?

Just for comparison’s sake, the current cost for the Stage 2 expansion of the Ottawa’s (pop. some one million) new Light Rail Transit system is $4.6 billion.

Here’s a video of Ms Anand’s announcement and news conference:

Those posts noted above:

NORAD Chief Wants Defence (of what sort?) “Left of Launch” Focus, Russian Cruise Missiles (air- and sub-launched) Big Threat

What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

US Air Force Chief of Staff Visits Ottawa: What’s Missing in This Story?

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr. speaks to members of the U.S. Marine Corps serving as Marine Security Guards at U.S. Embassy Ottawa. Photo from Twitter/U.S. Ambassador to Canada David L. Cohen.”)

Further to this April post,

Now publicly, US Ambassador Puts Pressure on Canada over NORAD Defence Spending–PM Trudeau Talks about “Crown-Inuit partnership” (note June 7 UPDATE and June 11 UPPERDATE)

here’s a story at Air Force Magazine–the Biden administration is having some high-ranking people put pressure, including publicly but still diplomatically, on PM Trudeau’s government for its (pathetic) defence efforts, especially with regard to NORAD upgrading and re-thinking (which our government just doesn’t like to do about defence). When you’ve finished, what is not in the story?

Brown Visits Counterparts in Canada to Talk Arctic, NORAD Modernization, F-35

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. made a trip across the northern border, meeting Royal Canadian Air Force officials in Ottawa to discuss some of the key issues between the two services.

During the June 8-9 visit, Brown met with his RCAF counterpart, Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, and RCAF Chief of Fighter Capability Maj. Gen. Sylvain Ménard. The leaders discussed steps to modernize and increase coordination across NORAD “to provide continuous monitoring and surveillance capability,” a USAF release said [a “readout’].

Modernizing NORAD has been an area of interest for years now but got a boost in November 2021, when U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Canadian National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan released a joint statement outlining their priorities for the effort, including better, more integrated command and control systems, investments in situational awareness, research and development, and capabilities to defeat aerospace threats.

In particular, that joint statement highlighted the need for “next-generation over-the-horizon radar systems that can dramatically improve early warning and persistent surveillance of North American airspace and approaches” to replace the aging North Warning System. 

Details on that next-generation system have not been officially announced, but the Ottawa Citizen reported in April that Royal Canadian Air Force officers had briefed industry officials about plans to spend $1 billion on a new radar system to be built in southern Canada with over-the-horizon capabilities.

Also during Brown’s visit to Canada, RCAF officials raised the importance of the Arctic region, emphasizing how their country’s “insights have been vital to identifying new opportunities for cooperation.” [That information is in the USAF readout.]

The U.S. and Canada have frequently collaborated in Arctic exercises and efforts. As the region becomes more and more contested by both Russia and China, and as the effects of climate change open it up for more competition, USAF has defined a strategy for the region and promised more investments.

“We are committed to working with the Royal Canadian Air Force on modernizing NORAD and on Arctic security to meet modern challenges in defense of North America,” Brown said in the statement. “Our continued collaboration is helping better prepare us to meet future challenges in the region together. I’m grateful for our partnership and look forward to building on our productive talks.”

During those discussions, Brown also “further welcomed” Canada’s decision to buy the F-35, the USAF readout states.

The Canadian government picked the F-35 in March as the preferred bidder for its next fighter jet, announcing plans to buy 88 of the fifth-generation aircraft. Deliveries would be slated to start in 2025.

However, the final contracts with Lockheed Martin have not been signed as negotiations are ongoing…according to Global News

Brown, for his part, “noted that the increased capabilities and interoperability afforded by a common platform would bolster the continental defense partnership,” according to the USAF release. Should Canada finalize a deal for F-35s, it would join the U.S., Finland, Norway, and Denmark as Arctic nations that either operate or have agreed to buy F-35s.

Guess what? There is no mention of a readout, or any other official statement, by the Canadian side. Because there was none. The only account of the visit is from the US Air Force readout.

A striking lack of, er, transparency. Especially as PM Trudeau and national defence minister Anand themselves had just visited NORAD HQ in Colorado on June 7. Also striking. No Canadian media coverage, even post facto, of General Brown’s visit.

UPDATE: This from the RCAF a week late. Pathetic:

A very relevant December post about another US Air Force four star general visiting Ottawa:

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

And for the bigger NORAD picture:

Here’s Looking at NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Way Ahead, or, Deterrence and Punishment

What Worries the NORTHCOM/NORAD COMMANDER? What Worries PM Trudeau’s Government about Continental Defence? Note UPDATE

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Alternative American Media Universes/Progressive San Fran. Democrat Flushed

Excerpts from two opinion pieces at the NY Times (now aka “The Rainbow Lady”–or should that be “Person”? Full texts available at headline links):

1) The latter part of a column by the conservative regular at the “Sunday Review”):

2) The start of an opinion piece by the conservative regular in the weekday Times:

A sad, sorry state of democratic affairs. Related posts:

The Biden Presidency, or, Democrats Going over the Cliff? [featuring Maureen Dowd}

Biden No Longer One Nation’s President…

Democrats Forgot Their Donkeys

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

India’s Strategic Autonomy and Various Realities, e.g. “Look East” but can it “Act East”? (note UPDATE)

An Indian Navy commodore (ret’d) gives a succinct review of the country’s regional positions at Rediff.com India (it is striking that Russia, up until now India’s largest supplier of arms, is not mentioned one):

How India Can Tackle Security Challenges

By Commodore VENUGOPAL MENON (retd) [tweets here]

India has the ability to be a great power and address our security challenges in the best national interests.
Our foreign policy has come of age and will stand the test of time in the days ahead.
It is best to keep out of geopolitical power games with due consideration to the foundations of our foreign policy…

Geopolitical Canvas

The geopolitical canvas in our immediate neighborhood is changing rapidly and this has put India in a dilemma on the efficacy of our stated policy of strategic autonomy.

There is a fundamental apprehension in policy circles as to whether our stand will enable us to face security challenges in the foreseeable future.

The combination of sub-conventional violence from Pakistan and land border tensions with China has triggered concerns within the political and military establishment.

Although I would not categorise South Asia as a volatile region in the current juncture, it has its share of uncertainties caused by the rise of China, instability in Pakistan, terrorism and asymmetric warfare, and the extent of engagement by China in the Indian Ocean region through their BRI projects and last but not the least the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban [given India’s perpetually strained relations with Pakistan, the troubles in Kashmir, and the two countries’ nuclear weapons, I would suggest that South Asia is inherently volatile].

These aspects are beyond our control and hence the need for a counter-strategy to meet the challenges.

China

The fact that China shares a long land border with India is a geographic factor that cannot be changed.

It is also important to note that China considers India as a challenger to its supremacy in the region.

An arms race to equal the Chinese juggernaut would only incur heavy costs and drain the coffers.

At the same time, we need to ensure and maintain credible deterrence levels at the border to thwart any border incursions by Chinese troops.

Alliances with other nations would at best provide diplomatic support to our stand on contentious issues [emphasis added, i.e. no direct military support likely], but it cannot provide a permanent solution to our bilateral issues.

Pakistan

The situation in Kashmir has improved considerably in the recent past, however, isolated incidents of terror do take place.

There is no reduction in the trust deficit between the two countries [emphasis added].

Pakistan continues to build up militarily with assistance from China.

Although our military modernisation programme is progressing albeit slowly, there are critical deficiencies in assets faced by the three services.

One such example and challenge for the Indian Navy is in our submarine force levels.

Currently, the Pakistan navy has three Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) conventional submarines which give them an advantage in undersea warfare.

The future induction of eight Yuan class boats (with AIP) from China would increase the number to 11 by 2035.

This is not a comfortable situation and can create an asymmetry in our maritime domain as we are way behind the starting blocks of our Project 75 I submarine construction programme [emphasis added, more here].

Afghanistan

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a vacuum in that country from a security perspective.

The waters look murky at the moment and it would be advisable to wait and watch as the situation evolves.

Big Power games in the Indo Pacific region

Security in the region cannot be viewed in isolation or exclusively from India’s prism.

It is important to factor in the influence of big powers and their competition to project power and gain influence in the region.

The question in this regard is what should be India’s stand in this power play? To maintain our policy of strategic autonomy or to team up with the Western alliance? There cannot be a third option [emphasis added].

Containment of China

The US had ignored the growth of China’s economic and military might during the last two decades which ironically was ignored by India too.

US foreign policy is desperately in need of a counter to China’s power potential lest it loses its unipolar status in the world.

Although then Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo floated the idea of Quad in 2007, the movement fizzled out till 2017 when then US president Donald J Trump revived the concept.

The reasons could be many, but the most important factor is that there was no convergence of strategic objectives between the member countries.

Regrettably even now, little or no work has been done towards achieving that aim.

Terms like the Rule-Based International Order, shared democratic values and free and open Indo Pacific etc do not have any essence or meaning in the absence of clearly defined strategic objectives [emphasis added].

China has not been named for its hostile actions in any of the joint statements following a Quad summit thus far (one exception being when then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo singled out China in October 2020).

Why is this hesitation? The answer is very simple — China is an important trading partner for all members of Quad.

Hence, it is important to realise that behind the shadows of Quad, member countries continue to maintain bilateral relations with China in accordance with their national interests.

Is there any point in sailing in a rudderless, coxswain-less boat towards an unknown destination [emphasis added]? Hence there is a need to deliberately analyze the advantages/disadvantages before taking a call.

One sincerely hopes that we do not fall into the trap of being a pawn and get Ukrained in the bargain.

Importance of Alliances in Our Context

As per the foundations of our foreign policy, acceding to any security alliance is not an option unless there is a paradigm shift in our grand strategy (if there is one). A counterargument could be that the Quad is not [in reality] a security grouping or a counter-China initiative [emphasis added, in any event the US has long had bilateral treaties with Australia and Japan].

Then, what is its objective? Why is it ambiguous and open-ended? There are no free lunches in international relations and it is very likely that Quad will insist member countries to contribute significantly towards infrastructure development and other initiatives in Indo Pacific region.

Do we have the economic clout to invest in the region at the cost of our development? Therefore at some stage, we will have to take a call in the foreseeable future on whether this arrangement suits us or not.

Hope the establishment at Delhi is not contemplating that piggy banking on a loosely formed group like Quad is the best solution to project India as a big power [emphasis added]? If that is so, it will be a big blunder in the long run.

US’ Indo Pacific Strategy: Where do we fit in?

Although the name changed from Asia Pacific to Indo Pacific, nothing much has changed in US policy of demarcation of the world to suit its area of influence, provide a security umbrella for their allies and for power projection.

The term Indo Pacific brought about a euphoria amongst India’s strategic community about India’s centrality in US strategy which in a way is a false assumption [emphasis added]. Strategically, the US interest is centered on the South China Sea, the Far East and Oceania which is the fulcrum of its Indo Pacific strategy in order to check or counter Chinese influence and challenge to the unipolar world order.

The region to the west of the Malacca Straits and South Indian Ocean till MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is of less strategic importance to the US as has been seen post World War II.

We cannot expect that India’s security concerns in South Asia will be addressed by the West and therefore it is pragmatic to avoid any false sense of security [emphasis added].

Our engagement in the SCS — Practicality

Chinese engagement with countries bordering the South China Sea is deep-rooted and currently, we do not have the economic clout or resources to make a dent in that arrangement.

Continuous military presence in the region is neither desired nor warranted and it is quite possible that some of the ASEAN countries may object to our permanent presence if all it happens in the future.

In effect, there is a big gap between our Look East policy and Act East policy [emphasis added].

It is well known that about 50% of our inbound and outbound trade transit through the South China Sea, but there have been no instances of any trade being hampered by the Chinese navy or coast guard.

China has objected to ‘Freedom of Navigation’ patrols by the US navy through contested waters which have only increased the volatility in the region and increased tensions. India has not participated in such patrols thus far and is unlikely in the future too which is a wise decision.

Moreover, it is very unlikely that our trade would be hampered by China in the South China Sea fearing a backlash towards their safe energy flow through the south Indian Ocean which is within close proximity to India [emphasis added].

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that India has the ability in all respects to be a great power [but still it will be slowly, slowly] and address our security challenges in the best national interests.

Our foreign policy has come of age and will stand the test of time in the days ahead.

There is no requirement of toeing the line of any country to suit their national interests or be a client State [emphasis added].

It is best to keep out of geopolitical power games with due consideration to the foundations of our foreign policy.

The need of the hour is to give an added impetus to our indigenisation efforts as our national policy and support it with a long-term vision and goals.

If South Korea which was in the same state as India two decades ago attained a high degree of indigenisation and self reliance, we too can achieve it.

YES, WE CAN!!

Commodore Venugopal Menon served in the Indian Navy for 29 years in operational roles, including commands at sea, and training and staff assignments at Naval HQ.
In addition to the staff and war courses in the Indian Navy, he underwent the executive course at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Honolulu.

A very substantial round-up of the Indo-Pacific/South Asian strategic situation from a widely-held Indian point of view. The US in particular should bear in mind these words of Scots poet Robbie Burns:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion…

Note this tweet from a retired most senior Indian diplomat:

UPDATE: June 12 tweet from the retired commodore with a rather different tone:

Relevant posts:

India–Leaning even Closer to US to Balance PRC but at same time Keeping in with Russia (tous azimuts of a sort) [Dec. 2020, based on article by a ret’d Indian Air Force air marshal]

Russia vs Ukraine: India’s Strategic Autonomy (tous azimuts) in Action [March 2022]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine, or, the US and War Crimes

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Town council leader and lawyer Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacre, Haditha, Iraq, 2011”.)

How squeaky must a country itself be? Extracts from an article by the indispensable Fintan O’Toole at the NY Review of Books–very much my own line of thinking, far too many Americans are incapable of recognizing the frequent hypocrisy of their “exceptionalism” in the eyes of much of the rest of the world:

Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes

Fintan O’Toole

The US’s history of moral evasiveness around wartime atrocities undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court.

There is the war, and then there is the war about the war. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is being fought in fields and cities, in the air and at sea. It is also, however, being contested through language. Is it a war or a “special military operation”? Is it an unprovoked invasion or a human rights intervention to prevent the genocide of Russian speakers by Ukrainian Nazis? Putin’s great weakness in this linguistic struggle is the unsubtle absurdity of his claims—if he wanted his lies to be believed, he should have established some baseline of credibility. But the weakness of the West, and especially of the United States, lies in what ought to be the biggest strength of its case against Putin: the idea of war crimes. It is this concept that gives legal and moral shape to instinctive revulsion. For the sake both of basic justice and of mobilizing world opinion, it has to be sustained with absolute moral clarity.

The appalling evidence of extrajudicial executions, torture, and indiscriminate shelling of homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, and shelters that has emerged from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and from the outskirts of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy gives weight and urgency to the accusation that Putin is a war criminal.

By late April, the UN human rights office had received reports of more than three hundred executions of civilians. There have also been credible reports of sexual violence by Russian troops and of abductions and deportations of civilians. According to Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, by April 21 Russia had committed more than 7,600 recorded war crimes.

Yet the US has been, for far too long, fatally ambivalent about war crimes. Its own history of moral evasiveness threatens to make the accusation that Putin and his forces have committed them systematically in Ukraine seem more like a useful weapon against an enemy than an assertion of universal principle [emphasis added]. It also undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court (ICC).

There have long been two ways of thinking about the prosecution of war crimes. One is that it is a universal duty. Since human beings have equal rights, violations of those rights must be prosecuted regardless of the nationality or political persuasion of the perpetrators. The other is that the right to identify individuals as war criminals and punish them for their deeds is really just one of the spoils of victory. It is the winner’s prerogative—a political choice rather than a moral imperative…

It is hard to overstate how important it is that the war crimes that have undoubtedly been committed already in Ukraine—and the ones that are grimly certain to be inflicted on innocent people in the coming weeks and months—not be understood as “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.”

…If accusations of Russian war crimes are seen to be instrumental rather than principled, they will dissolve into “whataboutism”: Yes, Putin is terrible, but what about… Instead of seeing a clean distinction between the Western democracies and Russia, much of the world will take refuge in a comfortable relativism. If war crimes are not universal violations, they are merely fingers that can point only in one direction—at whomever we happen to be in conflict with right now. And never, of course, at ourselves.

Even before Putin launched his invasion on February 24, the Biden administration seems to have had a plan to use Russian atrocities as a rallying cry for the democratic world.

…on April 4 he went beyond deeming Putin a criminal by calling specifically for him to face a “war crime trial.” Then on April 12 he pressed the nuclear button of atrocity accusations: genocide. “We’ll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies [as genocide], but it sure seems that way to me.” He also referred to an unfolding “genocide half a world away,” clearly meaning in Ukraine.

…When asked about genocide on April 22, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “No, we have not documented patterns that could amount to that.” Biden’s careless use of the term is all the more damaging because, however inadvertently, it echoes Putin’s grotesque claim that Ukraine has been committing genocide against Russian speakers in Donbas.

The problem with all of this is not that Biden is wrong but that it distracts from the ways in which he is right. This overstatement makes it far too easy for those who wish to ignore or justify what the Russians are doing to dismiss the mounting evidence of terrible crimes in Ukraine as exaggerated or as just another battleground in the information war. In appearing overanxious to inject “war criminal” into the international discourse about Putin and making it seem like a predetermined narrative, the US risked undermining the very stark evidence for that conclusion. By inflating that charge into genocide, it substituted rhetoric for rigor and effectively made it impossible for the US to endorse any negotiated settlement for Ukraine that leaves Putin in power: How can you make peace with a perpetrator of genocide [emphasis added; easy these days, talking point it away]?..

What makes these mistakes by Biden truly detrimental, however, is that the moral standing of the US on war crimes is already so profoundly compromised. The test for anyone insisting on the application of a set of rules is whether they apply those rules to themselves. It matters deeply to the struggle against Putin that the US face its record of having consistently failed to do this.

On November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha, members of the First Division of the US Marines massacred twenty-four Iraqi civilians, including women, children, and elderly people. After a roadside bomb killed one US soldier and badly injured two others, marines took five men from a taxi and executed them in the street. One marine sergeant, Sanick Dela Cruz, later testified that he urinated on one of the bodies. The marines then entered nearby houses and killed the occupants—nine men, three women, and seven children. Most of the victims were murdered by well-aimed shots fired at close range.

The official US press release then falsely claimed that fifteen of the civilians had been killed by the roadside bomb and that the marines and their Iraqi allies had also shot eight “insurgents” who opened fire on them. These claims were shown to be lies four months later, when Tim McGirk published an investigation in Time magazine…

In his memoir Call Sign Chaos (2019) the former general James Mattis, who took over as commander of the First Marine Division shortly after this massacre and later served as Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, calls what happened at Haditha a “tragic incident.” It’s clear that Mattis believed that at least some of the marines had run amok…

Mattis nowhere uses phrases or words like “war crime,” “massacre,” “atrocity,” or “cover-up.” He was determined, too, to exonerate the lower-ranking soldiers who participated in the violence at Haditha that day [emphasis added]

…One of the most prestigious arms of the US military carried out an atrocity in a country invaded by the US in a war of choice. No one in a position of authority did anything about it until Time reported on it. No one at any level of the chain of command, from senior leaders down to the soldiers who did the killings, was held accountable. And such minor punishments as were imposed seem to have had no deterrent effect. In March 2007 marines killed nineteen unarmed civilians and wounded fifty near Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, in an incident that, as The New York Times reported at the time, “bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings.” Again, none of the marines involved or their commanders received any serious punishment.

…When bad things are done by American armed forces, they are entirely untypical and momentary responses to the terrible stresses of war. The conditioning that helps make them possible, the deep-seated instinct to cover them up, and the repeated failure to bring perpetrators to justice are not to be understood as systemic problems. Nowhere is American exceptionalism more evident or more troubling than in this compartmentalizing of military atrocities [emphasis added].

The brutal truth is that the US abandoned its commitment to the ICC not for reasons of legal principle but from the same motive that animated Putin. It was engaged in aggressive wars and did not want to risk the possibility that any of its military or political leaders would be prosecuted for crimes that might be committed in the course of fighting them…expediency rather than principle was guiding US attitudes…

…the US has alternately endorsed the legitimacy of the ICC in prosecuting Africans and called the same court corrupt and out of control when it explores the possibility of investigating war crimes committed by Americans.

…A yawning gap has opened between Biden’s grandiloquent rhetoric about Putin’s criminality on the one side and the deep reluctance of the US to lend its weight to the institution created by the international community to prosecute such transgressions of moral and legal order [emphasis added]. It is a chasm in which all kinds of relativism and equivocation can lodge and grow. The longer the US practices evasion and prevarication, the easier it is for Putin to dismiss Western outrage as theatrical and hypocritical, and the more inclined other countries will be to cynicism…

—April 28, 2022

Other posts based on Mr O’Toole are here.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds