|North Korea Increases Aggressive Behavior
In April, North Korea moved a midrange ballistic missile to a launch site on its eastern coast. South Korean defense officials said the missile has “intermediate range,” but is not capable of reaching the continental US, reported the Yonhap news agency.
This was the latest in a stream of aggressive rhetoric and actions from the communist state.
Korean Central News Agency, the official North Korean news agency, announced April 3 the regime would resume operations at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which has been dormant since a 2007 diplomatic agreement. This announcement followed an April 1 meeting of the North Korean people’s assembly where the regime reiterated the importance of nuclear weapons to the nation’s military capabilities, reported the Washington Post.
Restarting the reactor is meant to ease the country’s electricity shortage and improve the “quality and quantity” of the nation’s nuclear forces, said KCNA. Asked about this development in a briefing, Pentagon spokesman George E. Little said the North Korean announcement contradicts Pyongyang’s commitments and violates its international obligations.
Experts who follow North Korea’s secretive nuclear activity said the country’s decision to restart the reactor is part of a long-term trend to increase the potency of its nuclear deterrent in order to exact concessions from South Korea and the US.
“This situation is, relatively speaking, one of the more dangerous crises” in recent memory, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Lewis said North Korea has taken a number of steps in the last two years to build up its nuclear capabilities, including the establishment of a strategic rocket forces command.
KGS NightWatch’s John F. McCreary, a retired long-time Pentagon intelligence analyst, told Air Force Magazine April 4 that North Korea’s midrange missile, dubbed the “Musudan,” is a variant of the Soviet SS-N-6 submarine-launched ballistic missile and has a 2,485-mile range—enough to hit Guam.
“The Musudan is based on a superb missile with arguably the best liquid-fueled engine ever designed,” McCreary said. “However, it cannot stay fueled for more than a few days safely.”
North Korea has never test launched a Musudan.
At a March 15 briefing, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced US intentions to spend nearly $1 billion to deploy an additional 14 anti-missile interceptors to Alaska in the next four years in order to bolster the defense of the US homeland against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran. This action comes amidst even more bellicose statements by North Korea following its success last December in orbiting a small satellite from a long-range rocket and its recent nuclear test.
Under the plan, the Defense Department will install these ground-based interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, by the end of Fiscal 2017, bringing the total number of deployed GBIs to 44, when including those already in Alaska and California, said Hagel.
In April, the Pentagon announced it also would deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system to Guam in the coming weeks “as a precautionary move” to strengthen the US regional defense posture against North Korean ballistic missile threats.
—Marc V. Schanz
|Strategy, Opportunity, and the QDR
Maj. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, director of the Air Force’s Quadrennial Defense Review, said in March the Pentagon will undertake the upcoming review at a unique time for the country and the Pentagon. The US is drawing down from Afghanistan, shifting assets to the Asia-Pacific region, and grappling with steep fiscal realities. Combined, these issues present an “opportunity to have a significant conversation” about the defense of the US and its interests, Kwast told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., on March 15.
This QDR will be the first one since the release of the Obama Administration’s new defense strategic guidance in January 2012. As such, it serves as an “inflection point” for political leadership and military leaders to match up strategy with programmatic detail, Kwast said.
Kwast wants to see this QDR put more programmatic detail on the way forward on ideas such as AirSea Battle, the Joint Staff’s Joint Operational Access Concept, and other initiatives for dealing with anti-access challenges. They represent the Defense Department’s efforts “to codify the fact that we are still on this journey from a Cold War structure of military capability and shaping it into a structure that has more agility, resilience, and flexibility,” he said.
The QDR also will take a “holistic approach” to addressing the ongoing debate over the proper Total Force mix, Kwast added. This will include marrying the recommendations of the Air Force’s Total Force Task Force and the independent National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force that Congress established in the Fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization Act.
|The War on Terrorism
Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan
As of April 15, 2013, a total of 2,194 Americans had died in Operation Enduring Freedom. The total includes 2,191 troops and three Department of Defense civilians. Of these deaths, 1,728 were killed in action with the enemy, while 460 died in noncombat incidents.
There have been 18,404 troops wounded in action during OEF.
Airmen Train To Defend Against Insider Threats
Airmen deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, recently learned how to deal with an insider attack on base.
Coalition troops have been killed and wounded in attacks by rogue members of Afghan security forces who suddenly turned their guns on their coalition partners. These attacks are called “green on blue” incidents. Because of this lingering threat, security forces airmen at Bagram trained other airmen assigned to the base on how to defend against such attacks, stated a March 21 news release.
“The goal is to get them familiar with firing from different positions in a high-stress scenario,” said TSgt. Steven Ely, a combat arms instructor with Bagram’s 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group.
During the training, airmen are instructed to fire starting from a seated position and also while moving toward the attacker. “The airmen need to be either shooting or reloading and not waiting to be targets,” said SSgt. Zachary Regan, another instructor.
Shindand Graduates New Crop of Afghan Aircraft Maintainers
Members of the Afghan Air Force, alongside advisors from the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan, welcomed 29 newly trained Afghan aircraft maintenance specialists in a graduation ceremony at Shindand AB, Afghanistan.
The class is the largest in the history of the Shindand Air Wing Maintenance Group, according to a March 23 base press release. It’s also the group’s first class to graduate since September.
To earn the certificates of completion and their maintenance badges, the Afghan students were required to accomplish on-the-job training and demonstrate proficiency in basic maintenance tasks, such as preflight inspections, aircraft launch and recovery procedures, and lube and servicing inspections.
“We’ve been in training for a long time, and now we know we are able to move on to the next step,” said Lt. Col. Gul Ahmad, one of the Afghan airmen who graduated on March 19. “I’m honored to get my certificate and badge today. My badge is something that I can wear with pride and that will be with me forever,” he added.
New Air-drop System Tested
Members of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, experimented with a new air-drop concept that’s designed to improve the accuracy and efficiency of airdrops.
Under the Single Pass Airdrop, or SPAid, concept, a remotely piloted aircraft releases a “drop sonde” at a prescribed point near the drop zone to collect weather data for the approaching transport aircraft, according to the base’s March news release.
During the March 18 experiment, the squadron’s C-130 successfully received the sonde data; however no actual airdrop was attempted, stated the release. Use of the sonde to help build the wind profile will help the aircrews “drop as accurately as possible,” said Capt. Andrew Standeford, 774th EAS precision air-drop system operator.
Dropping the sonde from a different platform means the transport airplane no longer has to make two passes over the drop zone, thereby decreasing its exposure to threats, according to the release.
SPAid also allows for quicker delivery time. “The way we did it today took 40 minutes off the [normal] time frame,” said SSgt. Robert Olson, a joint terminal attack controller with the 817th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron.
Air Mobility Command sponsored the SPAid experiment.
|Senior Staff Changes
PROMOTIONS: To Lieutenant General: John E. Hyten, Tod D. Wolters.
NOMINATIONS: To be Lieutenant General: Michelle D. Johnson, Robert P. Otto, Mark O. Schissler. To be Major General: Scott W. Jansson.
CHANGES: Maj. Gen. Brian T. Bishop, from DCS, UN Command & US Forces Korea, PACOM, US Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea, to Cmdr., Spaatz Center for Officer Education, & Commandant, Air War College, AU, AETC, Maxwell AFB, Ala. … Brig. Gen. Jack L. Briggs II, from Dep. Cmdr., Canadian NORAD & Dep. Cmdr., Ops., 1st Air Div., NORAD, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to Vice Cmdr., 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern), ACC, Tyndall AFB, Fla. … Brig. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, from Dir., Plans & Prgms., ACC, JB Langley-Eustis, Va., to Dep. Dir., Politico-Mil. Affairs, Western Hemisphere, Jt. Staff, Pentagon … Maj. Gen. Scott M. Hanson, from Cmdr., Spaatz Center for Officer Education, & Commandant, Air War College, AETC, AU, Maxwell AFB, Ala., to Dir., Ops., AMC, Scott AFB, Ill. … Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, from Cmdr., 14th AF (Air Forces Strategic), AFSPC, Vandenberg AFB, Calif., to Vice Cmdr., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo. … Lt. Gen. John E. Hyten, from Vice Cmdr., AFSPC, Peterson AFB, Colo., to Cmdr., 14th AF (Air Forces Strategic), AFSPC, Vandenberg AFB, Calif. … Maj. Gen. Randy A. Kee, from Dep. Dir., Politico-Mil. Affairs, Western Hemisphere, Jt. Staff, Pentagon, to Dir., Plans & Policy, EUCOM, Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany … Maj. Gen. (sel.) Jerry P. Martinez, from Dir., Jt. Integration, Operational Capability Rqmts., DCS, Ops., Plans, & Rqmts., USAF, Pentagon, to DCS, Ops., Jt. Forces Command, NATO, Brunssum, Netherlands … Lt. Gen. Tod D. Wolters, from Dir., LL, OSAF, Pentagon, to Cmdr., 12th AF (Air Forces Southern), ACC, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE CHANGES: Thomas F. Christian, to Assoc. Dep. Asst. Secy., Science, Tech., & Engineering, Office of the Asst. SECAF, Acq., Pentagon … Gail P. Forest, to Dir., Info. Dominance Prgms., Office of the Asst. SECAF, Acq., Pentagon … Arthur G. Hatcher Jr., to Dir., C4 Systems & Cyber Ops., AFGSC, Barksdale AFB, La. … Matthew D. Mulhern, to Dep. Dir., AF Rapid Capabilities Office, Office of the Administrative Asst. to the SECAF, JB Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. …Craig A. Smith, to Dep. General Counsel, Intel., Intl., & Mil. Affairs, Office of the AF General Counsel, Pentagon.