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M2020: North Korea's Claims to Have One of World's Most Powerful Tanks

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 15:30

Summary: During recent military exercises, North Korea showcased a new tank, which was observed by leader Kim Jong-un, Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam, and Chief of the General Staff Ri Yong-gil. Dubbed the "M2020," the new tank, first revealed in a 2020 military parade, appears ready for deployment. Although specific details are scarce, it resembles the Russian T-14 Armata and Iranian Zulfiqar MBTs but shares design features with the older Soviet T-62. Equipped with composite armor and a 125mm main gun, the North Korean state media lauded the tank's combat capabilities, with Kim Jong-un proclaiming it as one of the world's most powerful tanks.

Show of Strength: North Korea's Latest Tank, the M2020, Joins Military Exercises

Much has been made about South Korea’s K2 Black Panther main battle tank (MBT) in recent years, but on Thursday, North Korean state media first reported that the Hermit Kingdom also rolled out one of its new tanks during military exercises this week. The vehicle was present at an event attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam, and Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army Ri Yong-gil.

Kim joined troops training on the tank during the training drills—and it was the third time he had observed his forces engaged in training since the start of the ongoing eleven-day South Korean-U.S. joint exercises, which he views as rehearsals for an invasion.

The North Korean military held demonstrations involving the tanks, after which Kim was spotted sitting in the driver’s seat of one of the six tanks. The vehicles also took part in live fire exercises and a training match—which the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described as a competition.

“The competition took place in a team-to-team mode. The competition was aimed at rigorously checking the practical skills of tank crewmen and practicing ways to conduct combat operations based on various tactical missions. The competition involved distinguished tank crews from major tank formations,” KCNA reported.

The 105th Tank Division was declared the winner of the mock battle—not entirely surprising as it was the unit that occupied the South Korean capital Seoul during the Korean War.

North Korea’s “New” Tank: What Do We Know

Media reports have not identified the North Korean military’s tank by model number or other designation, but according to The Associated Press, it is the same model that was first unveiled during a military parade in 2020. Its presence during Wednesday’s drill may indicate that it’s ready to be deployed, South Korean experts suggested.

Known only by the unofficial moniker “M2020,” there are reports that nine prototypes may have been built—which tracks as six were spotted in the photos released by state media. While it has an appearance that is similar to the Russian T-14 Armata and Iranian Zulfiqar MBTs, it is believed to share some design features with the much older Soviet-designed T-62—which also is to be expected, as Pyongyang has a history of modifying the T-62.

The tank’s hull features armor plates on the sides, with slat armor on the rear of the hull protecting the engine while it is reported to be equipped with composite armor and armed with a Soviet 2A46 125mm main gun.

North Korean state media reported that Kim expressed satisfaction with the new tank and described it as having “shown outstanding combat capacity, powerful strike ability and high maneuverability.” Kim further suggested it was one “of the most powerful tanks in the world” and that was a “strong reason to be proud” of it.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

The U.S. Navy's Aircraft Carriers Would Be Useless in a China War

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 14:01

Summary: The US Navy faces a significant strategic challenge due to the rise of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems, particularly from countries like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. These systems threaten to render US aircraft carriers and their air wings, including advanced F-35B and F-35C warplanes, obsolete by preventing them from getting close enough to enemy territories to be effective. This issue, highlighted nearly a decade ago, points to a broader problem within the Navy and the US military's procurement strategy, which has continued to invest in legacy systems like aircraft carriers and F-35s without adequately addressing the evolving nature of warfare. 

Beyond the Aircraft Carrier: Reimagining US Naval Strategy Against A2/AD Threats

The US Navy has long prized the power projection capabilities that its wildly expensive, massive aircraft carriers have allowed for.

Yet, the advent of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems has led the US Navy to a dangerous place.

Namely, its aircraft carriers, the Navy’s primary weapon at sea, will be rendered useless before even the first shots in any war with an A2/AD-wielding power (such as China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea) were ever fired. 

And it isn’t just the aircraft carriers that would be made obsolete overnight by sophisticated A2/AD systems, of the kind that China possesses. It is the air wings of advanced warplanes, such as the F-35B and F-35C variants and other warplanes, that depend on the aircraft carrier to nestle in close to a rival’s territory, allowing for the warplanes to do their jobs. 

Should the carriers be kept beyond the range of the warplanes that comprise their carrier air wings, then the entire concept of the aircraft as a warfighting platform is gone.

This is not a new problem. 

The Navy Ignores the Aircraft Carrier Crisis at Its Own Peril

Going back to 2015—almost a decade ago—experts have been cautioning about the rising threat that China’s A2/AD systems pose to US aircraft carriers.

Dr. Jerry Hendrix of the Center for New American Security (CNAS) wrote a treatise in 2015 tracing the moment when the US Navy, in his estimation, “suddenly drifted off-course.” In Hendrix’s view, that sudden drift started around the 1990s, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bloodless American victory in the Cold War. 

According to Hendrix:

"The end of the Cold War—followed by the decision to cancel the replacement aircraft for the A-6 intruder, the A-12 Avenger II—began a precipitous retreat from the range and the deep strike mission that had long characterized the carrier air wing. The rapid successive retirements of the A-6 Intruder, F-14 Tomcat, and the S-3 Viking that followed, and the decision to replace these aircraft with variants of the F/A-18 Hornet—originally designed as a replacement for the short-ranged fighters and light attack aircraft—shrank the average range of the carrier air wing from over 800 [nautical miles] in 1996 to less than 500 nm by 2006. This occurred just when competitor nations, led by China, began to field A2/AD systems with ranges of 1,000 nm or more."

The rot, therefore, has set in deep. 

And the war planners in Beijing saw it (as did their autocratic allies). Today, the Americans project a fantasy of dominance upon the world. But all the major weapons systems that the United States can—and will—deploy at the onset of a great power war are tailored for a bygone age

For decades, American defense contractors and their shameless allies on the Hill (as well as in the Pentagon) have gotten away with bloody murder: overcharging the taxpayer for legacy systems that don’t even come close to meeting America’s strategic needs. 

These systems have been developed without taking into account the growing capabilities and intentions of US rivals, such as China. After decades of investing in these technologies, the United States finds itself at a serious disadvantage. For all the money, time, and resources spent building up these systems, they are worthless if they cannot even get within range of their potential targets, thanks to the advent of A2/AD defenses. 

Long-Range Warfare is the Future, Not the F-35

Warfare today among great powers will be fought at greater distances than ever before. American offensive systems, though, are all predicated on being able to get close to distant targets. The F-35, like the F/A-18 Hornet will be unable to achieve its mission of striking at enemy targets because of A2/AD.

Rather than blow its finite budget on things like the F-35 and more aircraft carriers, then, the US Navy must lead the way in developing long-range strike weapons that can annihilate A2/AD networks. 

Way back in 2015, analysts were urging the Navy (and other branches) to invest in “the areas of unmanned systems, stealth, directed energy, and hypersonics.” Hendrix urged his readers in 2015 to support “experimentation, such as seen with the X-47B [unmanned spaceplane]” in order to burst the A2/AD defensive bubble. 

After all, once A2/AD was overcome, the traditional Navy power projection platforms, notably the aircraft carrier, can become relevant again. Rather than take Hendrix's prescient calls more seriously, though, the Navy spent most of its budget on building the Ford-class aircraft carrier

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

Russia's T-14 Armata Tank Nightmare Has Just Begun

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 13:49

Summary: The ambitious T-14 Armata program, once hailed as the future of Russian armored warfare, faces significant setbacks and unmet expectations. Initially planned for a massive rollout of 2,300 units from 2015 to 2020, the reality has fallen short, prompting speculation that the program might be abandoned. The Armata's troubles began early, notably with a malfunction during its 2015 debut, mirroring the misfortune of Tesla's Cybertruck. Its subsequent withdrawal from frontline service in Ukraine due to underwhelming performance further eroded confidence in the tank's capabilities.

T-14 Armata: Russia's Tank of the Future Faces Uncertain Fate

The Russians were counting on the T-14 Armata as the tank of the future. Initial procurement plans called for 2,300 T-14s to be delivered between 2015 and 2020.

But it’s 2024 and nothing like 2,300 T-14s have been delivered to the Russian Army.

Indeed, the Armata program may never materialize as envisioned, with Sergio Miller arguing that the “story is over.”

Is the T-14 Armata Story Over?

The T-14 started off on the wrong foot, much like Tesla’s Cybertruck, breaking during its unveiling at the 2015 Victory Day parade, with thousands of witnesses. According to Miller, the breakdown was an “augury,” and that now, almost one decade later, “it can be stated with confidence the Armata story is over.”

So, where did the T-14 program go wrong?

Technically, the Armata is still Putin’s tank of the future. But the program has been consistently hampered, for a long time now. Making matters worse, last September, the Armata was pulled from frontline service in Ukraine, indicating that the new tank’s performance was suboptimal.

“Armored forces from Russia’s southern military district (SMD) were given T-14 “Armata” main battle tanks (MBTs) for combat operations, according to the state news agency Tass, which noted that this was Moscow’s first official confirmation of their use in Ukraine,” Newsweek reported.

According to one military source, the Armata was used in combat operations and several units participated in battle to gauge the tank’s performance. Shortly thereafter, the tanks were pulled from the frontline. The inference of course is that the Armata performed poorly.

Now, the T-14’s withdrawal from Ukraine does not mean conclusively that the program is being canceled. But the fact that Russia was not comfortable using their “tank of the future” in a land-based war of attrition speaks volumes to the (lack of) confidence Putin has in the Armata. (Granted, Russia is suggesting that the tank is too valuable to use in war).

The T-14 was supposed to offer a boost for the beleaguered Russians; the tank was highly anticipated and expected to help the cause. The tank’s 125mm cannon and supposed high survivability features were long awaited. The Russians are undoubtedly keen to improve the survivability of their soldiers.

Russian casualties have been remarkably high. To date, Moscow is believed to have lost 424,060 troops. In the past week alone, Russia lost 7,200 troops, 278 artillery systems, and over 200 armored personnel vehicles. Russia has also lost nearly one hundred tanks in the past week. So, an infusion of fresh tanks is becoming increasingly necessary.

T-14: The Source of the Problem

Miller believes that the Armata’s primary problem lies with the engine, in large part because the tank was designed around an engine rather than the other way around. What happened is that Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) decided to use the A-85-3 engine as the basis for the Armata. However, the A-85-3 was complex and extremely difficult to maintain, causing practical problems. The Russians could have perhaps solved the problem with a swap – the A-85-3 for the proven and more durable V-92S2F engine. Yet, the 92S2F was too big for the T-14, which was built strictly to accommodate the smaller A-85-3.

“The only realistic engineering solution now is to start again,” Miller said.

About the Author: Harrison Kass

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Image Credit: Creative Commons. 

The U.S. Navy Needs to Stop Building Aircraft Carriers

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 13:35

Summary: The US Navy faces a strategic crisis due to the rise of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities by adversaries like China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. These developments challenge traditional naval power projection, particularly the effectiveness of aircraft carriers in such contested environments. To adapt, the Navy needs to embrace a new force posture focusing on stealth, submersibles, directed energy weapons, drones, and hypersonic weapons. Despite this, investment continues in aircraft carriers, overlooking the strategic advantage of submarines, especially in potential conflicts over Taiwan or the South China Sea. The Navy's current acquisition strategy, favoring expensive carriers over versatile and stealthy submarines like the Virginia-class, is criticized for not aligning with modern warfare needs. This approach risks the Navy's ability to counter A2/AD strategies effectively and calls for a shift in priorities towards more relevant and cost-effective platforms and technologies.

Submarines vs. Aircraft Carriers: Adapting US Naval Strategy for Modern Threats

The US Navy is in a real crisis and they might not even realize it. Having spent decades obsessed with the aircraft carrier, the Navy appears to not have internalized the fact that America’s foes were developing capabilities to stunt the Navy’s power projection capabilities into the backyards of their rivals. 

This has been especially true with China, which probably leads the world in what we know as “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) capabilities. Russia, Iran, and North Korea are likely right behind China with their A2/AD systems, too. 

What this means is that the Navy has no choice but to fundamentally rethink its entire force posture and the way that it fights. No longer able to move its assets within physical range of potential targets, the Navy needs to learn to leverage stealth, submersibles, directed energy weapons (DEW), drones, and hypersonic weapons together into one seamless strike package; a sort of pin to pierce the bubble that A2/AD systems create around the regions they are deployed to. 

And once the bubble is burst by these long-range systems, more conventional styles of power projection can be brought to bear against the enemy.

But the Navy has put the cart before the horse. 

America’s naval service continues investing in its preferred weapons system, the aircraft carrier. These expensive monstrosities are not as relevant or useful in the modern age of A2/AD as they were before the rise of A2/AD. For the Navy to retain power projection, then, it must look to other platforms. 

The Navy must invest in the submarines. In fact, if and when a war with China erupts over Taiwan or the South China Sea (or both), it will be America’s submarines that become the primary method of power projection.

Subs Over Aircraft Carriers

Inherently stealthy and hard-to-track (though not impossible to track), submarines will be able to harass any Chinese invasion fleet heading toward Taiwan. If China opted for a blockade of Taiwan rather than a bloody invasion, US submarines would be key in disrupting that invasion as well. Specifically, US attack submarines, such as the costly Seawolf-class or the newer and more affordable, Virginia-class submarines. 

There is already a crisis in the US submarine fleet in that the Pentagon has allowed for its submarine force to wither and atrophy—so much so that Navy shipyards are having extreme difficulty in meeting any increase in demand for more submarine builds.

Not to worry, though, the Navy has ameliorated the crisis at its shipyards by canceling the construction of planned Virginia-class submarines. Instead, the Navy is committed to building another of its new Ford-class carriers. The Ford-class aircraft carrier, by the way, costs about $13 billion to build and the first model took almost a decade to complete (those pesky shipyard issues were a real problem for the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford as well). 

The Block V Virginia-Class Sub

The Virginia-class attack submarine costs $4.3 billion per unit. The Virginia-class Block V (which was originally slated to be built for FY2025) is a marvel. This model has an insane array of features that makes it the perfect counterweight to holding Chinese and Russian forces hostage. It holds 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles (along with several other deployable weapons). The Block V variant has achieved what experts refer to as, “acoustic superiority.” 

This is a key feature, considering that the primary method for tracking submarines underwater is using sonar. With the Virginia-class Block V’s acoustic superiority, though, the submarine’s stealth is enhanced. That, coupled with the larger deployable weapons capability, would grant the Navy unparalleled power projection in a domain covered by an A2/AD bubble.

The Navy was building two Virginia-class subs per year. But for Fiscal Year 2025, the Navy shocked everyone and canceled their usual order. They want only one submarine built. 

Apparently, the Navy would prefer to blow through our hard-earned tax dollars to build $13 billion vanity projects, like the Ford-class, rather than build more affordable and relevant systems. The Navy, like so much of America’s elephantine military bureaucracy, is tailoring its strategy for winning the next war around its weapons rather than tailoring its weapons to meet its strategy. 

China, unlike their American rivals, does not suffer from this problem.

Heck, instead of building one additional Ford-class carrier over the next eight years for $13 billion, the Navy should cancel that project and instead build three new Virginia-class submarines for almost the same amount of money! 

Whatever money was left over should then be channeled into one of the Navy’s anti-A2/AD programs, such as the hypersonic weapons or DEW or drone programs. 

Let us hope the Navy can reverse course quickly on its acquisition plan. Because, at this rate, it’s going to lose its opening set of engagements with any Chinese A2/AD force.

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

Iowa-Class Battleship USS Iowa Is Getting Some Serious Upgrades

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 13:19

Summary: The USS Iowa (BB-61), a historic centerpiece of the Pacific Battleship Center in Los Angeles since 2012, epitomizes the largest and fastest class of battleships ever produced by the U.S. Navy. Known for its significant role in World War II and the Korean War, this majestic warship, now a museum, continues to attract visitors with its storied past. Despite needing extensive deck repairs and facing financial challenges that have stalled relocation plans within the Port of Los Angeles, efforts are underway to maintain the USS Iowa for future generations, underscoring its enduring legacy as a symbol of American naval prowess.

USS Iowa: Preserving a Legendary Battleship as a Southern California Museum Marvel

The Battleship USS Iowa has been repeatedly ranked one of the top five museums in Southern California – and it serves to preserve the long-retired USS Iowa (BB-61), the lead vessel of the largest, fastest class of battleships ever produced for the United States Navy. The warship is the centerpiece of the Pacific Battleship Center, which has been open to the public in Los Angeles since 2012.

As with other retired warships, the former BB-61 is in need of much TLC, with major deck repair now in progress, yet, plans to relocate the ship to a more conducive location in the Port of Los Angeles are now on hold, as it would cost millions of dollars more than initially anticipated. For now, the USS Iowa will remain where it is, and hopefully continue to be maintained for future generations.

USS Iowa: A Historic Warship

The largest and most powerful battleships built for the U.S. Navy, the Iowa-class were also the final battleships that entered service with the Navy. Unlike slower battleships of the era, this class was also designed to travel with a carrier force, and even be able to transit the Panama Canal, enabling the mighty warships to respond to threats around the world.

Planning for the new class began even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Seeing war clouds on the horizon, the U.S. Navy called for a "fast battleship" that could take on the increasing power projected by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Laid down on June 6, 1940, she was completed on February 22, 1943 and just two days later was put to sea for a shakedown in the Chesapeake Bay and later along the Atlantic coast. By the summer of that year, she had been deployed to patrol the waters off the coast of Newfoundland after it was reported that the German battleship Tirpitz was operating in Norwegian waters.

In November 1943, USS Iowa carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Chief of Staff Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff of the Army General George C. Marshall, Chief of Naval Operations Ernest King, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces Henry "Hap" Arnold, Harry Hopkins, and other military leaders to Mers El Kébir, Algeria. It was the first leg of the journey for the leaders heading to the Tehran Conference, and the warship then conducted a similar presidential escort on the return journey in December.

Notably, the battleship was outfitted with a bathtub specifically for President Roosevelt, who was unable to use the warship's shower facilities.

She spent the rest of the Second World War in the Pacific, where USS Iowa took part in the Marshal and Mariana Islands Campaigns, the Okinawa Campaign, and in the summer of 1945 even took part in strikes on the Japanese home islands. Iowa joined her sister ship, USS Missouri (BB-63) during the September 2 surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, and BB-61 then remained in the bay as part of the occupying force.

Decommissioned in 1949, she returned to service just two years later and took part in the Korean War, serving as the flagship of the Seventh Fleet from April to October 1952. Iowa took part in shelling enemy positions on multiple occasions, including sorties north of the 38th parallel. Those actions established her eligibility for the United Nations Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star.

She was decommissioned a second time in 1958.

In the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan called for a 600-ship U.S. Navy, the USS Iowa and her three battleships were reactivated and upgraded with new combat systems that replaced many of the ships' smaller five-inch guns with launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 32 Tomahawk cruise missiles and four Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS). Initially equipped with 40mm anti-aircraft guns, during the Cold War those were replaced with missiles, electronic-warfare suites, and Phalanx anti-missile Gatling gun systems.

The warship was also used as the test bed for the Navy's RQ-2 Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in the 1980s, the first of its kind to use a drone as an aerial spotter for a battleship's guns.

On July 4, 1986, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan boarded the USS Iowa for the International Naval Review in New York's Hudson River.

While Iowa didn't take part in combat operations following her reactivation, On April 19, 1989, a fire in her second sixteen-inch gun turret killed 47 crewmen. She was decommissioned a final time in October 1990.

Since 2012 she has been preserved as a museum ship – and is now being transitioned into what will be the future National Museum of the Surface Navy, as part of an effort to raise awareness of how the United States was – and still is – a maritime nation.

However, her greatest foe remains time and the elements – and she is not alone in that fight. Across the country, her sister ship USS New Jersey (BB-62) is also undergoing a major restoration effort.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

Joe Biden’s Gaza Port Initiative Can’t Hide U.S.-Israel Discord

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 02:13

President Biden’s initiative to have the U.S. military build a temporary port in Gaza to deliver relief supplies, announced on March 7 during the annual State of the Union address, has the potential to eventually contribute to resolving the food shortage in the strip. But it essentially sidesteps the immediate urgency of the problem and delays the brewing confrontation between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government over Palestinian refugees in Gaza. 

U.S. officials stressed that “we are not waiting on the Israelis,” and in that sense, the United States is breaking with Israel by not asking permission. Yet, another way to look at this is that it avoids the need for the United States to force Israel to allow greater volumes of aid to come into Gaza via existing border crossings. That would be a much more helpful solution given the immediacy of the need and the fact that it will take nearly two months for the temporary port to get set up and start functioning. However, given Netanyahu’s failure to respond to repeated requests from Biden for increased throughput in a manner that sustainably delivers it, this would probably require Biden to threaten some conditions on U.S. supplies to Israel, which he remains unwilling to do. 

The port project itself also is fraught with potential problems. The Biden administration has asserted that no U.S. military personnel will go ashore in Gaza to unload or deliver aid or to provide security. Still, their presence in waters very near the Gaza coast could put them within range of Hamas weapons. It also has been reported that U.S. contractor personnel could be involved in organizing the distribution of supplies once they reach the pier, which would require them to go ashore. The operation also would reportedly rely on Israeli forces to provide security onshore, while Palestinians would distribute the aid and move it to recipients. 

This raises potential problems. A recent convoy of aid on trucks that came into Gaza from the north, escorted by Israeli forces, ended up sparking a melee in which over 100 people were killed as desperate Palestinians rushed the trucks. Also, given the apparent foot-dragging by the Netanyahu government over facilitating increased volumes of supplies coming in by land, can we be sure Israel will facilitate increased supplies coming in? 

That question inevitably ties in with Netanyahu’s stated desire to undertake a military offensive into Rafah, where substantial Hamas forces and probably Hamas leadership remain. He has said the offensive will go forward, even as President Biden has said that doing so without a viable plan to move the more than one million Palestinian refugees crammed into the city was unacceptable to the U.S.” It remains highly unclear, however, whether or not the Biden administration would finally be willing to impose any substantive penalties on Israel—in terms of military supplies or otherwise—in Israel ignores U.S. concerns about the potential for a humanitarian disaster and possibly forcing refugees into Egypt as a result of a Rafah offensive. Several U.S. officials told Politico yesterday that the United States would consider conditioning U.S. military aid to Israel in a case where Israel defied the White House on Rafah. However, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan forcefully denied yesterday morning that there were any “red lines.”  “The president didn’t make any declarations or pronouncements or announcements” in last weekend’s interview, according to Sullivan. 

The pattern seems to be repeating U.S. behavior since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza—the Biden administration is stating concerns, making exhortations and requests, but avoiding any threats of concrete consequences if Israel ignores its wishes. In that context, the Gaza port initiative looks like an attempt to prevent policy differences with Israel being brought to a head. The United States is now “doing something” for starving Palestinians with an impact two months away, but only if Israel chooses to facilitate it when the U.S. equipment arrives after having previously failed to facilitate adequate supplies by land, despite repeated pleas from Biden. 

Even with the potential for a humanitarian disaster looming in Rafah, which could also do severe damage to American interests in the region and possibly lead to a wider war, the Biden administration is backing off from any suggestion that it even has any “red lines.” As Netanyahu observed in an infamous open microphone incident in 2001, “America is something that can easily be moved.” Until the Biden administration finds its spine and stops avoiding confrontation, we can expect that Netanyahu will continue to ignore the United States and our national interests.

Greg Priddy is a Senior Fellow for the Middle East at the Center for the National Interest.


U.S. Foreign Policy Should Pay More Attention to Black Americans

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 01:45

In the days following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) stood alone in Congress to oppose the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which permitted the president to wage war in Afghanistan or against anyone else complicit in harboring or aiding Al Qaeda. Lee again urged restraint in the use of military force by suggesting a diplomatic alternative to the 2002 Iraq AUMF. Both military campaigns combined carried a price tag of $8 trillion, the immense loss of U.S. military and overseas civilian life, and a damaged reputation among the international community. In retrospect, Congresswoman Lee’s appeal for restraint, when the American public largely favored the use of overwhelming military might, was a harbinger of costs to come.

Lee’s actions need to be placed in the context of the linked themes of race and foreign policy. It is no coincidence that Lee—a Black woman with experience working with Oakland grassroots organizations, a daughter of a U.S. Army veteran, and representative of the progressive and racially diverse Twelfth District of California—was skeptical of a muscular foreign policy. Lee’s sentiments are an extension of a longstanding tendency in African American political thought to prefer the judicious use of military might abroad.

Given the high rates of military service among African Americans, alongside a heightened present concern with addressing racial and economic domestic challenges, it is no surprise that many Black Americans are sensitive to the human and material costs associated with a muscular U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, policymakers in the past have not made it a priority to account for Black American opinion on the U.S.’s role in the world. Black American public opinion on U.S. military engagements has often foreshadowed broader public discontentment with poor foreign policy decisions. The historical record shows that foreign policy officials could have benefited from listening to Black American views on the U.S. role in the world. As Washington recalibrates to face a new set of global challenges, thoughtful engagement with Black American thinking on overseas military engagement offers a chance to build a more disciplined foreign policy attuned to the aspirations of the American people.

To be sure, Black American opinion has not always opposed involvement in foreign wars. While some Black intellectuals viewed both world wars as the “white man’s war,” many Black Americans saw both conflicts as an avenue to display their patriotism and a way to undermine the logic for formal Jim Crow segregation and discrimination. However, after the conclusion of the Second World War, and as the United States adopted a policy of global supremacy and containment of the Soviet Union, many Black American thought leaders such as Paul Robeson, WEB Dubois, and Martin Luther King, Jr. shifted against Washington’s Cold War policies. For them, their disillusionment with Washington’s foreign policy was driven in part by the persistence of domestic challenges such as racial and economic inequality, the immense loss of overseas civilian lives, and ensuing geopolitical instability born out of a militarized foreign policy.

It has long been known that the two flashpoints in the Cold War, the Korean and Vietnamese Wars, were largely unpopular among African Americans. In the case of the Vietnam War, Black Americans were some of the earliest opponents of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia, well before the antiwar movement gained nationwide momentum. Many Black American leaders’ discontent was rooted in the human and financial costs of the war while the battle against racial and economic inequality remained unfinished. Furthermore, while Washington understood the war as an attempt to stop the spread of communism, many Black American leaders understood the conflict as the Vietnamese people’s fight for self-determination. When the fog of war cleared in 1975, the war’s consequences reshaped the social fabric of America, led to regional instability in Southeast Asia, and undermined human rights. Rather than dismissing the logic of Black leaders as being “unamerican” or “communists,” policymakers could have benefitted from listening to the polemics of Black American civil rights activists and avoided the loss of overseas civilians and American servicemembers lives and saved the millions in military spending.

Although more than half a century ago, the lessons of Cold War conflicts remain with us. Today, among Americans both within and outside the Beltway, there is consensus that Washington’s attempt at regime change and dominance in the Middle and Near East was ill-fated. However, two decades ago, the American public favored a hawkish foreign policy, while African American public opinion stood largely in opposition to military intervention in the region. For instance, polling conducted a year after the invasion of Iraq in 2004 revealed that an overwhelming majority of African Americans (76 percent) felt it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq, compared to 42 percent of Whites. While African Americans, of course, did not have more predictive power than their fellow Americans, their unique experience with military interventions of the Cold War, alongside a concern with America’s perennial domestic challenges, partially explains the heightened sense of skepticism towards the war well before costs were incurred.

President Biden’s painful but overdue withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2021 has provided foreign policy officials little reprieve as Washington is now met with a new set of global challenges. Washington’s commitment to global hegemony has resulted in a balancing act that includes anxiously managing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas War, and China’s rise. Such challenges have increased the specter of great power conflict, which could very well produce the level of carnage unseen since the twentieth-century wars in Europe.

Indeed, pundits are correct in noting that most Americans have not fully come to terms with the costs associated with the challenges of the twenty-first century. Perhaps the Black American community, with its high rates of military service, is in a unique position to fathom the costs of a great power conflict. For instance, a September 2022 poll conducted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reveals that only 20 percent of Black Americans would support sending troops to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion or sending troops to Taiwan in the case of a conflict with China. In an October 2023 poll, enthusiasm for sending troops to the Middle East if Israel were attacked by its neighbors was low among white respondents but especially lower among Black respondents.

Of course, these findings do not mean that many in the Black American community do not see the need for American leadership or that they do not support democracy, liberty, and human rights globally. Rather, it means they would prefer to see their country showing more discernment and prudence about its engagement in global conflicts and alliances. For instance, another Carnegie Endowment poll reveals that many  Black Americans believe the United States should be engaged in the world, but in a different manner. Findings from the survey indicate a plurality of Black Americans believe the United States should play a supporting role in sending humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine and coordinating an international response to China’s rise, for example. That number is significantly higher among those respondents who believe racial issues persist at home. Such findings speak to the fact that a U.S. foreign policy that helps our allies do more in defense of common interests would bode well with many in the community.

Washington’s understanding of diversity should not stop merely at incorporating more Black faces into the foreign policy apparatus. It should also include seriously examining and weighing the opinion of a community that has participated in and thought critically about every American conflict. The point here is that understanding the African American tendency to favor diplomacy over direct military action has implications for the twenty-first century. First, understanding the distinct foreign policy ethos of the African American community in our polarized political climate can serve both political parties in their messaging to Black Americans. Polling and pundits have pointed to the fact that African American enthusiasm has dipped significantly, leading to real concerns about voter turnout and the outcome of the 2024 Presidential election. As I have argued in previous works and as Naima Green-Riley and Andrew Leber point out in their recent Foreign Affairs article, at a minimum, such insights can aid in crafting political messaging that sparks voter enthusiasm and speaks to the needs and aspirations of the community beyond domestic concerns.

More importantly, Black American opinion on the use of force abroad makes a compelling case for a foreign policy that prioritizes sharing defense responsibilities with our allies, establishing competitive coexistence with a rising China, and retrenching from a posture of global dominance. Adopting such a foreign policy will help avoid future foreign policy decisions and policies that risk squandering resources, costing the lives of American servicemembers and overseas civilians, and damaging America’s international reputation.

Christopher Shell is a fellow in the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research explores Black American attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy. His writing has appeared in Responsible Statecraft, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.


Navy Nightmare: China and Russia Build Aircraft Carriers Together

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 00:35

Summary: As China continues its ambitious naval expansion, speculation arises regarding potential collaboration with Russia in building aircraft carriers. Some analysts suggest such cooperation could benefit both nations, potentially altering global naval power dynamics. China's growing carrier fleet, though not on par with the U.S., enhances its regional influence. Collaborating with Russia could further bolster its capabilities. Meanwhile, Russia, lacking modern carriers, could gain from Chinese assistance to fulfill its naval ambitions. However, skepticism remains about the likelihood of such collaboration, with doubts over strategic alignment and resource allocation. Despite shared interests, alternative methods may prove more viable for both nations in challenging U.S. dominance.

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance Between Russia and China? 

China is deepening its strategic partnership with Russia, and at the same time, Beijing is aggressively working to expand its naval capacities. Some observers are beginning to wonder whether the two revisionist nations might soon collaborate on building aircraft carriers.

As Brandon Weichert argues, naval cooperation between Russia and China would be mutually beneficial. It would allow the two nations to perhaps tilt the global balance of naval power.

Benefits for China

China is in the midst of one of history’s most ambitious shipbuilding sprees. It already possesses three aircraft carriers, with a fourth on the way. And while the Chinese carrier fleet is nowhere near as sophisticated, large, or generally capable as the U.S. supercarrier fleet, it has augmented China’s ability to deploy airpower abroad. 

China has shown itself willing to build an expansive aircraft carrier fleet. Here, outside collaboration could be helpful, especially when chasing the United States. Aircraft carriers are expensive, and the U.S. has 11 supercarriers. China would have a hard time, even with Russian assistance, building a fleet that is the peer of the United States’. But augmenting its carrier fleet would help China assert itself regionally and back its aggressive territorial claims throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Benefits for Russia

Russia does not have a single functioning aircraft carrier at the moment. The Admiral Kuznetsov is an outdated dog, running on black-smoke-belching Mazut and sailing with a tugboat escort. The Kuznetsov has been under repair for several years, leaving observers to wonder whether she will ever sail again. Regardless, the Russians clearly need help developing and maintaining a carrier fleet – that is, if a carrier fleet is any kind of priority to Moscow.

Russia does have a history of naval ambition, “yearning to become a dominant naval power since the time of Peter the Great,” according to Weichert. But a lack of warm-water ports has always held the Russians back, and so has their inability to create a reliable aircraft carrier. Perhaps with Chinese assistance, the Russians could expand their aircraft carrier capabilities.

How Likely is an Aircraft Carrier Collaboration?

According to Weichert, China’s ambition to become one of the world’s dominant weapons manufacturers, paired with Russia’s desire to become a naval power with their own carrier fleet, means these two nations may well collaborate to build carriers together. 

“Russia wants [aircraft carriers], and China is proving it can mass-produce [aircraft carriers],” Weichert argues. “China wants Russia to be more of a fly in the strategic ointment for the United States. Beijing sees Moscow as a means to distract and drain the U.S. military, boosting China’s ability to accomplish their own revanchist goals in their part of the world.”

That may be so, but I’m less certain. I am not convinced that Russia and China are so strategically aligned that they would embark on the world’s first multi-nation aircraft carrier-building effort. I’m not convinced that China would invest its own resources to expand Russia’s naval prowess. There are cheaper, more efficient, lower-risk, and more effective ways to facilitate Russia’s disruption of U.S. objectives.  

About the Author: Harrison Kass

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Why Is the U.S. Navy Cutting a Virginia-Class Submarine?

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 00:19

Summary: The Biden administration's decision to cut one of two planned Virginia-class submarines from the upcoming budget has sparked criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. While some argue it leaves the Navy ill-prepared for potential conflicts with China, others suggest it reflects a need to prioritize spending in a resource-constrained environment. Representative Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, who advocates for increased submarine production, criticizes the move, citing its implications for national security and job creation. However, amidst debates over military spending, some experts caution against overstating the significance of the decision, suggesting it may not greatly impact efforts to address the perceived missile gap with China.

The U.S. Navy's Virginia-Class Submarine Problem: Really Cut a Sub? 

The Biden administration has cut one of two planned Virginia-class submarines from the upcoming year’s budget. 

The decision has sharpened criticism that the U.S. Navy is not adequately equipping itself for a potential conflict with China. But President Joe Biden is also taking heat from fellow Democrats who represent states where the Virginia class is built. 

“Democrats from states that build Navy subs are already vowing to fight the Biden administration’s decision to break with tradition and halve purchases of the Virginia-class attack sub in Pentagon spending plans unveiled on Monday,” Politico reported.

Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Seapower panel, has pushed in the past for increases to submarine production and was critical of the president’s budget.

“To me, this is going in the opposite direction of where the Navy, Joe Biden and the Congress has been going consistently, towards recognizing we need a bigger fleet,” Courtney said. 

Courtney represents a Connecticut district that is home to General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyards, which help build the Virginia class.  

Preparing for Conflict with China

Political considerations aside, the Virginia class is considered crucial to U.S. naval preparedness as the threat from China rises. 

The Virginia is especially important because the submarine class was designed to accommodate heavy missile payloads with the Virginia Payload Module. This helps mitigate the gap that grew while the U.S. was beholden to a treaty with Russia that prohibited the stockpiling of intermediate-range missiles. China, unfettered by any such treaty, built up a considerable arsenal of these missiles, developing a niche advantage over the United States. 

The Virginia class, modified to carry more missiles than preceding classes, is intended specifically to address this shortfall. The administration’s decision to cut production of a Virginia-class­ boat thus has implications for the effort to close the missile gap with China – and more generally, to be ready for a possible conflict with that nation.   

Can’t Have it All

Despite a yearly defense budget that is nearing a trillion dollars, American resources are finite, and choices need to be made. 

Frankly, if the Biden administration can’t fit another Virginia submarine into the budget, it probably means the U.S. does not need another Virginia-class submarine, despite the drive to close a missile gap with China.

In a perfect world, the U.S. would be producing multiple Virginia-class submarines each year. But with such a substantial military budget, its absence from the final request indicates the second Virginia submarine sat quite low on the hierarchy of needs, as arbitrarily as those needs might be defined. 

Rep. Courtney’s complaints offer insights into the nature of military spending. Courtney is dressing up his complaint with a national security gloss, but at its heart, it is a complaint about job creation. And when you multiply Courtney’s perspective across multiple districts and throw in the backing of corporate entities, you’re going to find yourself with a peacetime military budget exceeding what the U.S. spent during World War II, when it operated a multi-front war with existential ramifications.    

My point is: Don’t lose too much sleep over the slashing of next year’s second Virginia-class submarine.

About the Author: Harrison Kass

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

The Age of Powerhouse U.S. Navy Warships Is Over

The National Interest - Thu, 14/03/2024 - 00:05

U.S. Navy Warships at a Crossroads: Overcoming China's A2/AD Challenge: For centuries, navies around the world have taken pride in their large surface warships. The dominance of these warships persisted even after the advent of submarines. In fact, during the Second World War, when submarines became a primary weapons platform for navies, the aircraft carrier stole all the headlines. 

Today, however, things are changing. 

A Sizeable Liability

The rise of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) means that the large surface warship’s days as the primary form of power projection in a naval fleet are coming to an end.

Consider that the Ford-class aircraft carrier, America’s newest, costs $13 billion per unit, plus hundreds of millions of dollars per year to maintain. The more numerous Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, while older than the Ford-class, are also very expensive. 

An aircraft carrier is a large, highly complex warship. Its purpose is to maneuver a floating airbase near the territory of an enemy in order to threaten that rival with precise and consistent airstrikes. 

Yet for a fraction of the cost, China’s Dong-Feng 26B missile can either sink an aircraft carrier outright or simply destroy its flight deck, rendering the carrier useless in battle. 

The carrier is the primary means of American power projection. Its absence or limitation leaves a critical gap in U.S. military capabilities. That is a strategic gap that a rival like China can easily exploit. 

It's not just aircraft carriers that are vulnerable to China’s growing anti-ship capabilities. Other surface warships are also targets. 

The Chinese military has developed a growing coterie of hypersonic weapons capabilities that it is planning to launch against incoming U.S. warships. Whatever defenses those warships have against conventional anti-ship missiles, there are no known countermeasures on U.S. warships to protect against these hypersonic systems. 

A Warning to the U.S. Navy from the Ukraine War

The world has already seen the asymmetrical risks posed to large surface warships in the Ukraine War. The Moskva, a Slava-class Russian battlecruiser and the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, was sunk by a Ukrainian drone in the dead of night while still docked in port. Similar attacks have targeted several other Russian surface warships since the Moskva sunk. 

All that money, all those precious resources committed to the larger surface warship fleet, and what does Russia have to show for it? 

Not a thing.

Events in the Ukraine War should be a lesson for U.S. naval planners, especially in relation to a potential conflict with China. Any such conflict, because of the geography involved, would require the U.S. Navy to lead the charge. The Navy would do so by deploying its massive aircraft carriers. 

China’s A2/AD capabilities far outstrip whatever the Ukrainians were using against Russia in the Black Sea. Therefore, the likelihood that America’s surface warships would be held at bay by China’s A2/AD forces is great.

America’s navy has no backup plan for dealing with this. 

American Submarines Are One Solution

You might believe that if surface warships are unable to do their jobs, the U.S. submarine fleet would be available. It would be, but there are a few sticky wickets involved with boomers. 

The first is that the U.S. Navy has been shortchanging its submarine fleet for years. In its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2025, the Navy again made onerous cuts to its initial request for more submarines. 

The next problem is that naval shipyards have been in the doldrums for years. They cannot meet increased demand. This is at a time when China is rapidly expanding its navy. 

Even Subs are Not a Panacea to America's A2/AD Concerns 

Beyond these concerns is the fact that China has developed a suite of sophisticated submarine-tracking devices.

One example is the Yaogan constellation of satellites. China aims to use this “hidden aperture radar” system to intercept radio signals from the ground and triangulate the location of warships. The Navy has a similar system. 

The Yaogan constellation joins other Chinese systems meant to track U.S. subs—some more advanced than others. 

For example, China has developed a sophisticated laser tracking system that can scour the depths of the ocean from space. Beijing’s forces also utilize less sophisticated balloons mounted with advanced sensors to track the oceans from above.

US Navy Must Burst China's A2/AD Bubble

Still, submarines are much harder to kill than large surface warships. 

The Navy must focus on expanding its submersible fleet. What’s more, in the age of A2/AD, long-distance warfare will be essential. Bursting the A2/AD bubble will be key. 

Beyond submarines, then, the Navy requires a robust arsenal of unmanned drones and hypersonic weapons to annihilate known A2/AD emplacements. 

Yet the Navy isn’t investing in these systems. Instead, the Pentagon continues splurging on legacy systems—notably the costly aircraft carrier—and hoping that China’s A2/AD systems aren’t as effective as Beijing claims they are.

In other words, the Pentagon would rather spend its money enriching defense contractors instead of building relevant, cost-effective systems that can actually defeat the Chinese.

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

William Whitworth and the Lost Spirit of Journalism

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 20:59

William Whitworth, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic from 1981 to 2000, died at the age of eighty-seven last week. If his name escapes you, that was part of his design. After Mortimer Zuckerman hired Whitworth away from The New Yorker to run the Boston magazine that Zuckerman had just bought, Whitworth, despite having been a prominent writer and editor at The New Yorker, sublimated his ego for the next two decades at The Atlantic. He didn’t write anymore, not even an editor’s note. He didn’t network nearly as much as he could have in New York or Washington and rarely appeared on television. He was no operator. Terrifically low-key—in the spirit of his New Yorker mentor William Shawn—he submerged his whole being in the world of text and was often skeptical of the fads of the moment. You could do that then!

“Bill,” as he was known, rarely had soundbites to offer. He was not particularly quick on his feet. He was penetrating, soft-spoken, and replete with polite common sense expressed in a mild southern drawl. A native of Arkansas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, after he left The Atlantic, despite pleas to remain part of the East Coast media world, he quietly returned to Little Rock, where he edited books for top Manhattan publishers, making authors as varied as Conrad Black and Anjelica Huston appear at their best in print.

Bill, a liberal editing a liberal magazine, was also quietly and regularly brave. In the March 1982 issue of The Atlantic, Bill published a cover story by criminologist George L. Kelling and political scientist James Q. Wilson, “Broken Windows,” about how tolerating low-level disorder such as breaking windows and jumping subway turnstiles leads to an atmosphere of more serious crime. It was a plea based on social science for law and order. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adopted it, and New York City became safer as a result. In the September 1990 issue, Bill published the Princeton historian Bernard Lewis’s cover story, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” which told difficult truths about the Islamic world and helped spark Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” theory. The April 1993 cover declared “Dan Quayle Was Right,” in which sociologist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead systematically mounted a defense of traditional, two-parent families, something that the former vice president had championed, much to the liberal media’s distaste.

All of those stories and more pushed back at elite prejudices, not just of our time but of that time, too. Bill’s open mind and determination to avoid news cycles were part and parcel of his tolerance for new and different ideas. In the 1980s, when the elite media in the United States was fixated on the wars in Central America and Lebanon, Bill and managing editor Cullen Murphy immediately grasped why I wanted to turn my attention to the Balkans, resulting in a July 1989 piece that appeared months before the Berlin Wall collapsed and two years before the start of the war in Yugoslavia. As a liberal, Bill was not especially a fan of Henry Kissinger. Yet, he published my June 1999 essay, “Kissinger, Metternich, and Realism,” which defended the former secretary of state as the greatest statesman of the age. This was in spite of a suffocating media climate of moral triumphalism and aversion to the national interest that dominated the 1990s.

Bill’s attitude to pieces he disagreed with was simple: Is this piece well-argued or not? If it is well-argued, then publish it. Because he was not an ideologue, he did not consider your argument immoral simply because he didn’t share it. He was a classic liberal in the sense that he inhabited uncertainties and thus was indefatigably curious. Moral huffiness and superiority were foreign to Bill. In this aspect, the establishment media has undergone an unfortunate transformation.

Bill hoarded stories, holding a piece for many months before he used it, a method he probably inherited from Shawn. These were the days when magazines like The Atlantic had longer lead times than they do now. He used to tell me that if a piece couldn’t hold up for many months, it was possibly of limited value in the first place. When the magazine moved to Washington in the mid-2000s, its editorial pace quickened, and The Atlantic became more in tune with the conventional sensibilities of the nation’s capital.

Bill brought the “highly-engineered” article, as he put it, to the publication. That is, every piece was combed over by a number of editors and a rigorous fact-checker. Knowing what was in store for their pieces, writers were less inclined to wing it and inject their pieces with attitude. “A long piece is never 100 percent accurate,” Bill once told me. “What happens is that with a deadline looming, you simply run out of time.”

Bill never forgot that he edited a general interest magazine. Thus, he covered what people all across America in different professional situations were interested in, not just the fixations of the bicoastal media world. He published pieces arguing against bilingual education and physician-assisted suicide and essays years and decades ahead of their time about race, the environment, and the social effects of technology. Writers and thinkers such as management guru Peter Drucker, military historian John Keegan, and environmentalist Bill McKibben achieved enhanced national stature in Whitworth’s Atlantic. I recall a snooty young interviewer from an Ivy League journalism program who remarked that The Atlantic was just so boring back then. “Boring to whom?” I retorted.

Whitworth’s Atlantic worked to unite the country because it respected all elements within it. Bill advised me to pay close attention to the great middle of the continent, where he said so many fascinating people lived and worked. Taking his advice and traveling through the Midwest, I wrote that Nebraska lay on a slab tilting upwards to the High Plains. “No,” Bill wrote to me, somewhat angrily, “Nebraska did not lay on a slab, it lies on a slab.” A stickler for usage, he was continually saddened by what he said was a decline in grammatical standards at The New York Times.

Whitworth was a formalist in writing, speech, dress, and manners, emblematic of much that journalism as a profession and our society has lost. But you don’t have to remember his name. He wouldn’t have expected you to.

Robert D. Kaplan wrote on foreign affairs for The Atlantic for thirty years until 2016. He holds the Robert Strausz-Hupé Chair in Geopolitics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.


The U.S. Navy Has an F-35 Problem It Won't Ever Solve

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 20:54

Summary:  While aircraft carriers are a formidable power projection tool, their effectiveness is challenged by Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategies from near-peer adversaries. The F-35C and F-35B variants, designed for carrier and vertical/short takeoff and landing operations, face operational range and combat radius limitations, potentially reducing their battlefield impact in A2/AD environments. Despite these challenges,  the F-35's capabilities against previous generations of fighters must also be considered. 

The F-35 Lightning II: Evaluating the Backbone of US Naval Power Projection

In many respects, aircraft carriers are the main weapon of the U.S. Navy and, by extension, of the U.S. military. 

Aircraft carriers can project power like no other conventional weapons system. They do that through their fighter jets, which can take out warships, bomb ground targets, and establish air superiority over the battlefield.

However, near-peer U.S. adversaries have been developing Anti-Access/Aerial Denial (A2/AD) systems to restrict U.S. aircraft carriers. If a flattop cannot get close enough to the action, its impact is severely blunted. 

One response to A2/AD measures would be to fly aircraft with superior range. Yet for the F-35 Lighting II, the newest fighter jet to operate from American aircraft carriers, range might be an issue. 

F-35: Let’s Talk About Fuel 

The Navy uses the C version of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet, while the Marine Corps operates both the F-35C and the F-35B. (Marine aviators operate from Navy aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships and fly alongside their Navy brethren.)

The F-35C is designed for carrier operations, while the F-35B is a Short Take-off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter. 

According to Lockheed Martin and the Navy, the F-35C Lightning II can carry about 20,000 lbs of fuel in its internal fuel tanks, which translates into an operational range of approximately 1,200 nautical miles (1,380 miles). The fighter jet can carry additional fuel in external fuel tanks, but this limits the stealth capabilities of the aircraft and largely defeats its purpose on the battlefield. 

The aircraft’s combat radius – the range a fighter jet can operate in combat conditions and with a full loadout – is much smaller. The F-35C has a combat radius of about 600 nautical miles. 

The F-35B is even more limited. It can carry slightly over 13,000 lbs of fuel in its internal fuel tanks, which translates to an operational range of about 900 nautical miles and a combat radius of 450 nautical miles. 

All versions of the F-35 can support mid-air refueling to extend their range. However, the air tanks that would do the refueling are not stealth aircraft, and refueling operations would undermine the low-observable capabilities of the F-35. Mid-air refueling in a permissive or non-permissive battle environment would range from risky to downright foolish. 

But to judge the operational range of these two versions of the F-35, we have to look at the capabilities of the fighter jets that have gone before them, namely, the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18 Super Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, and F-14 Tomcat

The F/A-18 Hornet has a combat radius of approximately 1,100 nautical miles, while the F/A-18 Super Hornet can go about 1,300 nautical miles. The AV-8B Harrier has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, and the retired, legendary F-14 Tomcat could go approximately 285 nautical miles, which could be stretched to 650 nautical miles with external fuel tanks. 

So the F-35C has a better combat radius than the F-14 Tomcat, but half that of the F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In the STOVL category, the F-35B does better than its comparable aircraft, the AV-8B Harrier, but vastly underperforms the combat radii of to the F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18 Super Hornet. 

About the Author

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author:

NATO vs. NATO: How a French Warship 'Sunk' A German Submarine

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 20:40

Summary: In a riveting NATO wargame named Operation Nordic Response 2024, the French frigate Normandie achieved a simulated victory over a German submarine in Norway. This exercise underscored the critical importance of anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Despite facing a challenging environment in the Scandinavian fjords, the French crew, utilizing the Normandie's helicopter and sonar technologies, identified and "destroyed" the German sub, demonstrating the realism and value of such training exercises. This event, part of a series of drills in the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia, not only highlights the strategic importance of the region, given its proximity to Russian military bases but also reinforces NATO's commitment to interoperability and preparedness in the face of potential threats.

French Frigate Normandie "Sinks" German Sub in High-Stakes NATO Wargame

In a simulated clash reminiscent of World War Two, the French warship, the Normandie, managed to “sink” the German sub. 

The exercise in Norway showed the importance of anti-submarine warfare drills. 

The French warship did not have an easy job. In the days before the clash, the German submarine delivered an imaginary torpedo hit to the Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi. In similar exercises, submarines have managed to penetrate the defenses of aircraft carriers and score hits against big flattops.  

As soon as the French crew understood that an “enemy” submarine was in the area, it scrambled into action. 

One of the newest warships of the French Navy, the Normandie launched its helicopter to help spot the submarine through sonar. It soon succeeded. 

“Intelligence confirmed to us that there were no friendly submarines in the sector, so we were certain that it was an enemy submarine,” the NH90 helicopter pilot who helped track the German submarine said.  

Although the German submarine was more familiar with the Scandinavian fjords, the French crew managed to overcome its disadvantage and score a hit against the German sub. 

As soon as the French crew spotted the German submarine, it fired a munition that “destroyed” the threat, winning the day for the Normandie. 

Capt. Thomas Vuong, the commanding officer of the Normandie, told the Associated Press the exercise was “extremely beneficial, because we reach a very high degree of realism and so we better prepare our teams.”

“The fjords are a special environment, with a temperature profile different to what we know in the Atlantic. To be able to train our teams here, against this threat, is extremely valuable and extremely stimulating. This is their playing field. So they know the hiding places,” the French naval officer added. 

Operation Nordic Response 2024

The clash between the two NATO warships was part of Operation Nordic Response 2024, a series of wargames in the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia. 

Although the area is surrounded by NATO countries – including Sweden, the newest member-state – Russia has a presence as well. St. Petersburg sits in the Gulf of Finland, in the region’s east. But most important is the Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Kaliningrad is essentially a big military base that houses nuclear weaponsThe Russian Navy has been sending submarines in the Baltic waters to spy or to train in very realistic conditions. 

These exercises help militaries identify weaknesses and work to prevent operational mistakes. In addition, they enhance interoperability. NATO is an alliance. In a potential war with Russia, all countries would be expected to contribute to the conflict and fight closely together.

About the Author 

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

Image Credit: Creative Commons. 

NATO JAS 39 Gripen Fighters Already Giving Russia's Air Force Problems

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 20:17

Summary: Just days after officially joining NATO, the Swedish Air Force marked its integration into the Alliance with the first intercept of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea. This operation saw Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets joining forces with German Luftwaffe Eurofighters and Belgian Air Component F-16AM Fighting Falcons to intercept a Russian Antonov An-26 and a Tupolev Tu-134. 

Swedish JAS 39 Gripen Jets in Historic NATO Intercept Over Baltic Sea

The Swedish-built JAS 39 Gripen has been in service with NATO members the Czech Republic and Hungary, but on Monday aircraft from the Swedish Air Force took part in the first intercept of Russian aircraft as part of a NATO air mission. It came just a day after the Nordic nation officially the international alliance.

Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets launched under NATO arrangements to safeguard the skies over the Baltic Sea flying with German Luftwaffe Eurofighters and Belgian Air Component (BAC) F-16AM Fighting Falcons, NATO Air Command announced. The NATO warbirds intercepted a Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Antonov An-26 (NATO reporting name "Cash) transport aircraft and Tupolev Tu-134 (NATO reporting name Crusty") military airliner over the Baltic region.

"This swift coordinated reaction of NATO jets from Belgium, Germany and Sweden safeguarding the skies over the Baltic Sea region underlines the close integration and responsive command and control arrangements within the Alliance," the command said in a statement.

NATO Air Command shared images from the sortie on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The alliance further noted that it served as an impressive demonstration of the deep integration the Swedish Air Force has achieved with NATO Air Policing forces and the close and smooth interoperability in support of safeguarding NATO over the Baltic Sea.

NATO fighter jets regularly take to the skies to intercept and identify Russian planes flying in international airspace near member nation territory. For the German Luftwaffe, it was the second scramble since taking over the Air Policing mission at Lielvarde on March 1, while Belgian jets have been scrambled roughly a dozen times since beginning their mission at Šiauliai on December 1, 2023.

Sweden Has Become a Major NATO Asset in the Baltic Region

It was also last week that a pair of Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighters escorted a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress over Stockholm to commemorate Sweden joining NATO. During the planned flight, the aircraft flew over Avicii Arena, Sweden’s Parliament House, the Stockholm Arlanda Airport, and the Uppsala Airport.

The Swedish Air Force also conducted its first reconnaissance flight near the Russian border – with one flight made by a Swedish Gulfstream S102B Korpen GIV-SP Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), a heavily modified Gulfstream IV equipped with signal intelligence gathering sensors. The aircraft reportedly flew over Poland near the borders of Russia's Kaliningrad enclave and Belarus. A second flight was carried out by a Saab 340 early warning and control (AEQ&C) aircraft over the Baltic Sea. It is capable of tracking ships, planes, and missiles up to 190-250 miles while at an altitude of 20,000 feet.

Sweden officially joined the international military alliance this month after more than two centuries of neutrality, driven by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

Russia's Su-35 Fighter Nightmare Just Won't End

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 20:03

Summary: Over the past month, the Russian Aerospace Forces have faced significant losses, including more than a dozen combat aircraft, notably several Su-34 fighter-bombers and at least three Su-35 fighters. The Su-35, an advanced derivative of the Su-27 and intended for export, has been in Russian service since 2014 and seen action in Syria. Despite its advanced capabilities and designation as a "4++ generation" fighter, recent engagements have led to the downing of several Su-35s, with claims of at least one being a result of friendly fire. The Su-35 is praised for its versatility, maneuverability, and heavy armament but has faced criticism over its avionics compared to Western counterparts. The recent losses highlight potential vulnerabilities in its design and operational deployment. As of December 2022, Russia had 110 Su-35s, with ongoing production to replenish its forces.

Russian Su-35 Fighters Downed: A Blow to Aerospace Prowess?

Over the past month, the Russian Aerospace Forces have lost more than a dozen combat aircraft, including several of its highly touted Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers, but it was just last week that at least three Sukhoi Su-35 fighter was reported to have been shot down in the past month.

According to reports on social media, the Su-35 disappeared from radar near Mariupol. The Russian Ministry of Defense has not confirmed the loss of the jet, and its downing hasn't been independently verified. However, the loss of another Su-35S was confirmed last month near Avdiivka – and there are reports that it may have been the victim of friendly fire.

As many as eight Su-35s may have been destroyed since Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine just over two years ago.

The Su-35 Fighter from Russia in the Crosshairs

The Su-35 is noted for being a heavily upgraded derivative of the Su-27 aircraft (NATO reporting name "Flanker") that was originally intended for export. However, it has been in service with the Russian Air Force since 2014 and made its first combat deployment in Syria in 2015 – where it was employed to provide cover for other Russian aircraft on bombing missions. It was further utilized in guided and unguided strikes against ISIS and rebel forces in Syria.

Whereas the Su-27 was initially developed to address the development of the U.S. military's F-15 Eagle in the 1970s, the Su-35 was a response to the F-16. According to its designers, as a multirole fighter, the Su-35 can be used in a variety of missions and is capable of attacking ground and naval targets, including infrastructural facilities shielded by air defense systems, as well as those located at a considerable distance from home airfields

The Sukhoi Su-35 is actually the second improved version of the Su-27M; it is a single-seat, twin-engine, supermaneuverable aircraft. It reportedly features thrust-vectoring engines in place of the Su-27's canards. Designated the "Flanker-E" by NATO, this "4++ generation" fighter has been touted by Kremlin officials as being a very capable foe to current U.S. aircraft, including the F-15 Eagle, the F-18, and even the F-35 Lightning II.

According to United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the Su-35 "combines the qualities of a modern fighter (super-maneuverability, superior active and passive acquisition aids, high supersonic speed and long range, capability of managing battle group actions, etc.) and a good tactical airplane (wide range of weapons that can be carried, modern multi-channel electronic warfare system, reduced radar signature and high combat survivability)."     

Su-35: Well-armed Warbird

The Su-35's armament includes a GSh-30-1 30mm autocannon with 150 rounds, along with 17,630 pounds of payload on twelve external points. It can carry a variety of air-to-air, air-to-surface, anti-radiation, and anti-ship missiles, as well as a number of TV, laser-, and satellite-guided bombs. By comparison, the new U.S.-built F-22 has just four hardpoints on its wings and three on internal weapon bays.

The Su-35 is capable of employing an entire range of existing and future air-launched air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, including precision weapons. It carries a 30mm GSh-30-1 gun, short-, medium- and long-range air-to-air missiles, Kh-31, Kh-35U or Kh-59M anti-ship missiles and various types of precision munitions and rockets as its basic armament. The fighter integrates the IUS-35 information and control system and a phased array radar capable of detecting targets at a range of 100 km-400 km.

It has a maximum take-off weight of 34.5 tons and can accelerate to 2,500 km/h. The Su-35 has an operational range of 1,500-4,500 km and a service ceiling of 20,000 meters. The twin Saturn AL-41F1S turbofans provide the Su-35 with maneuverability that can easily match or exceed the evasion techniques of nearly all existing fourth-generation fighters. With a maximum speed of 1,550 mph and a ceiling of 59,050 feet, it is a well-armed, speedy aircraft.

Yet, Ukraine has still managed to shoot at least a few of the Su-35s out of the sky.

One issue may be that the aircraft doesn't fully live up to the hype, a point noted by The Aviation Geekclub, which quoted aviation expert Abhirup Sengupta.

"Despite being marketed as 4++ gen, Su-35 has the least capable avionics suite among its competitors. It's the only major 4th gen. aircraft without an AESA radar or any form of Sensor Fusion. The Irbis-E is marketed as having a 350 km range against 3 m^2 target while in reality that's only in cued-search in a tiny FoV. What's rarely stated is that in normal volume search that range shrinks down to 200 km," noted Sengupta.

Moreover, the expert added, that "Su-35's radar has a maximum targeting range of 250 km – even for a B-52 like target," and further suggested, "The Su-35 is definitely the most capable Fighter in Russian Air Force and there is no doubt that it presents a serious threat to any 4th gen aircraft out there. But to say that it's on the same level as today’s F-15E, F/A-18E/F, Typhoon or Rafale, much less 'superior' is defying reality."

How Few Remain?

The Kremlin was believed to have had 110 of the aircraft in its inventories as of December 2022. It is in service with several fighter aviation regiments of the Russian Air Force, including the 22nd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment.

Production of the aircraft is currently underway at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant located in the Russian Far East (part of the United Aircraft Corporation within the state tech corporation Rostec), and according to Russian state media, it delivered the latest batch of Su-35S fighter jets in July of last year.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

F-35 Stealth Fighter Is Now Cleared for Full Rate Production

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 16:17

Summary: The U.S. Department of Defense has green-lit the F-35 fighter jet, produced by Lockheed Martin, for full rate production, a decision coming five years later than initially planned and two decades after the contract award. This milestone is reached despite the U.S. Air Force's recent decision to cut back its F-35 purchases in 2025 to 42 aircraft. The approval was based on comprehensive evaluations, including operational and live fire tests, and regulatory compliance, marking a significant achievement for the program. Despite reaching this stage, the Pentagon has temporarily halted new F-35 deliveries pending upgrades under the Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) initiative, which aims to enhance the jet's capabilities with improved hardware and software. Meanwhile, the F-35 has also been certified to carry the B61-12 nuclear bomb, emphasizing its dual-role capacity in conventional and nuclear warfare, and underlining its strategic importance to U.S. and NATO defense strategies. Over 990 F-35s have been delivered to date, highlighting its key role in modern military operations.

F-35 Fighter Jet Achieves Full Rate Production: What This Means for Modern Warfare

The U.S. Department of Defense has approved the F-35 for full rate production

The announcement comes five years later than originally planned and 23 years after Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for the multi-role fighter. It comes even as the U.S. Air Force announced it would scale back its acquisition of the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, with plans to buy just 42 of the aircraft in 2025.

"The F-35 achieved this milestone after considering the results from the F-35 Combined Initial Operational Test and Evaluation and Live Fire Test and Evaluation Report, System Development and Demonstration exit criteria, statutory/regulatory documentation compliance, future production strategy, and draft acquisition program baseline details,” the Department of Defense announced on Tuesday. “Proceeding to MSC/FRP requires control of the manufacturing process, acceptable performance and reliability, and the establishment of adequate sustainment and support systems.”

The Air Force has operated the F-35 since 2016, and the service plans for a fleet of 1,763 aircraft. Production was already close to capacity, but the official full-rate production designation will allow the Joint Program Office to negotiate multi-year contracts for the fighter.

"This is a major achievement for the F-35 Program," Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Dr. William A. LaPlante said in a statement.

"This decision ­backed by my colleagues in the Department ­highlights to the Services, F-35 Cooperative Program Partners, and Foreign Military Sales (FMS)  customers that the F-35 is stable and agile, and that all statutory and regulatory requirements have been appropriately addressed," LaPlante added. "The F-35 Program is the premier system that drives interoperability with our allies and partners while contributing to the integrated deterrence component of our National Defense Strategy."

The F-35 program has delivered more than 990 aircraft to the U.S. military services, partner nations, and FMS customers.

The Nuclear-Capable Fighter Bomber

The F-35 has also attained operational certification to carry the B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb, marking it as the first fifth-generation aircraft with nuclear capabilities.

With that milestone achieved ahead of schedule, the F-35A becomes a pivotal component of the U.S. and NATO's extended deterrence commitments. The development highlights the aircraft's versatility as a dual-capable platform, able to deliver conventional and nuclear payloads. As NATO-operated jets receive initial certification for the deterrence mission, the integration of the B61-12 further solidifies the F-35A’s role in modern warfare.

U.S. Deliveries On Hold 

Despite these milestones, the Pentagon has stopped accepting deliveries of newly built Lightning II aircraft until Technology Refresh 3 (TR-3) is ready. TR-3 includes a series of hardware and software improvements to the F-35 that include better displays, computer memory, and processing power.

Lockheed Martin finished building the first F-35s that were to have the TR-3 improvements in July 2023. But the software wasn't ready, meaning the Department of Defense couldn't conduct the check flights required to accept delivery. 

Lockheed has stored about 70 completed F-35s until that testing concludes, which is expected to happen by mid-to-late summer. 

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

Danish F-35s Could Arrive Later Than Expected

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 16:03

NATO member-state Denmark is considering repatriating some of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters currently used for pilot training in the U.S. 

Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen on March 12 asked the Danish Armed Forces to prepare for a temporary repatriation of F-35 aircraft from a joint training facility at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Bloomberg first reported. Several European nations who operate the F-35 have aircraft based at Luke AFB to support pilot training.

The news comes amid concerns in Copenhagen about potential delays to the delivery of new fifth-generation stealth fighters. It is unclear whether Lockheed Martin can meet the July deadline for the delivery of Denmark's newest aircraft.

The Danish Armed Forces is also exploring opportunities to purchase or borrow F-35s from other nations.

Danish F-35s

Last fall, Lockheed Martin officially handed over the certificate of ownership for Denmark's F-35s to the Danish Ministry of Defense Acquisition and Logistics Organization. More than 450 Danish and allied government, military, and industry leaders gathered at Skrydstrup Air Base, Denmark, to commemorate the milestone, and more than 10,000 local citizens participated in the Royal Danish Air Force's public open house.

Copenhagen has taken delivery of ten F-35s to date. Four of them are now at Skrydstrup Air Base. Six are stationed at Luke AFB, where Danish pilots and maintainers conduct training. 

Denmark plans to purchase a total of twenty-seven F-35s. Its fleet of the multirole aircraft is meant to play a pivotal role in bolstering NATO's collective resilience in the Baltics and strengthening the alliance's ability to deter and defend against threats across all domains.

Denmark is the 10th country and the fifth European NATO member-state to operate the F-35 from its home soil. It played a critical role in the F-35 program. Denmark joined the program in 2002 as a partner during the System Development and Demonstration phase, strategically influencing technical elements of the program. 

The Royal Danish Air Force also contributed a Danish F-16 to the Joint Strike Fighter 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California. It served as a chase plane for the F-35 Development, Test & Evaluation program. Danish industry has also contributed to F-35 production, development, and sustainment activities and today is building parts and components for the aircraft.

Replacing the F-16

Copenhagen's need for the F-35 comes as Denmark and the Netherlands formally announced they will supply F-16 Fighting Falcons to Ukraine. The Royal Danish Air Force has thirty F-16s in service and pledged to provide Kyiv with 19 of the American-made F-16s later this year. It was reported earlier this month that the first of those aircraft could be in Ukraine by this summer.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

China's Navy Dream: Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 15:27

Summary: Rumors have emerged that China plans to construct a fourth aircraft carrier, possibly aiming for a nuclear-powered design, a move that could significantly boost the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN) capabilities. This development follows the PLAN's recent advancements, including the commissioning of its third carrier, the Type 003 Fujian, equipped with electromagnetic catapults akin to the American EMALS system. While the United States Navy maintains dominance with 11 nuclear-powered carriers, China's potential addition signals its intention to expand its naval power. This ambition reflects China's broader goal of becoming a "blue water" navy capable of global reach, amidst increasing military spending and efforts to enhance its strategic position, particularly concerning Taiwan. This strategic move underscores the rapid evolution of the PLAN and poses a notable challenge to the U.S. and Western naval superiority.

China Eyes Nuclear Future: Plans for a Fourth Aircraft Carrier Revealed

The United States Navy operates a total of 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, including 10 Nimitz-class supercarriers and one Gerald R. Ford-class super-sized flattop. Over the coming decades, the aging Nimitz-class carriers are set to be replaced on a one-for-one basis with the new Ford-class warships – ensuring that the United States remains the dominant carrier power in the world.

However, Beijing has other plans and it was just last week that rumors circulated it will build a fourth carrier. It came after Yuan Huazhi a political commissar of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and National People's Congress (NPC) deputy, told reporters that an announcement could be expected soon on a fourth carrier.

This isn't exactly earth-shattering news, as there has been speculation that it is a matter of when and not if China would begin construction on a fourth carrier, as it is now completing its third carrier, the Type 003 Fujian.

Great Naval Leap Forward with Aircraft Carriers

The PLAN has in just the past decade greatly expanded its aircraft carrier capabilities, which began by refurbishing an unfinished late Cold War era Soviet aircraft cruiser that was purchased from Ukraine in the 1990s. It was commissioned in 2012.

Even before news broke last week of a fourth carrier, China was already on track to have the second-largest carrier force with its three flattops – but what makes the latest revelation potentially worrisome for Washington is that there is speculation that the future warship will be nuclear-powered. Currently, only the U.S. Navy's aforementioned carriers – along with the French Navy's flagship Charles de Gaulle – are nuclear-powered, which gives the vessels unlimited range and endurance.

The PLAN already achieved a significant breakthrough with its conventionally-powered Type 003 Fujian, which is equipped with electromagnetic catapults and arresting devices that allow aircraft to be launched and recovered more frequently. It began testing the system last November. The technology is similar to the American EMALS system employed on the Ford-class.

The third and newest Chinese aircraft carrier is on track to begin sea trials later this year.

More Than a Blue Water Navy for China

Though Beijing has made clear it aims to develop a modern "blue water" navy within the next decade, it still lacks the overseas military bases to support such ambitions. It continues to forge relations and could expand its global reach, but in the shorter term, military analysts that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may see carriers as necessary to achieve some aspirations closer to home – namely reunification with Taiwan.

As the South China Morning Post reported, aircraft carriers are believed to be crucial to operations along the Taiwan Strait, the waterway that separates the self-ruling island nation from the mainland.

Beijing's latest military budget, which was announced on Tuesday, raised funding for the Chinese armed forces by 7.2%, the same rate as last year amid aims to ramp up combat readiness as well as defense research and development.

Over the past two decades, the PLAN has rapidly expanded in both size and capability, positioning itself as a credible peer-level threat to the U.S. and other Western navies.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

Fellow Reagan Republicans: Make Donald Trump Earn Our Votes

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 13:40

I became a Republican nearly 45 years ago when I was captivated by Ronald Reagan’s vision for America. Fresh out of law school, I was a newly commissioned JAG officer in the United States Coast Guard. Little could I imagine, at that time, that a mere seven years later I would have the privilege of serving on President Reagan’s White House Staff. I would go on to serve in the White House under President George H.W. Bush and in the Pentagon as a Deputy Assistant Secretary under then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.

As a member of the GOP, I was “all in.” At that time, the Republican party stood for a strong national defense, respect for our allies, limiting the role of government in our daily lives, and an absolute intolerance for totalitarianism wherever it existed. Reagan’s defense buildup and aggressive approach with the Soviet Union was the catalyst that helped end the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.

I still believe in what made me a Republican in the first place. Most Reagan Republicans are in the same boat. That is why Donald Trump is not entitled to our votes. He has demonstrated, time and again, that he does not share the values that made us Republicans. It is, therefore, up to Trump to earn our votes.

So far, he has not. Indeed, as his hosting aspiring dictator Viktor Orban at Mar a Lago proves, he has no desire to earn them, either.

I can admit that my aversion to Trump is, at this point, personal. Yet that aversion stems from what made me a Reagan Republican in the first place. It was Reagan’s unvarnished, unironic patriotism. Those who sacrificed for America were heroes, full stop. The idea of America was greater than any individual within it.

From Day One of Trump’s first term, that sentiment has been glaringly, offensively absent. Having spent much of my career working in and with the U.S. intelligence community, his relentless mockery and unjustified criticism of my community was particularly concerning.  Reagan understood their importance and treated the Wall of Stars – a memorial to the people in the intelligence community who made the ultimate sacrifice – with the reverence it deserves. I never passed that memorial without thinking “thank God for those people.”

But not Trump. Trump used that hallowed space as a platform to whine about accurate media reporting about the crowd size for his inauguration. In that moment, it was clear that, in his mind, he was bigger than the idea of America. Patriotism was for, as he’d later say about America’s war dead, “losers and suckers.”

Reagan Republicans, take note. A Republican Party led by Trump is not one that espouses the ideals that made us Republicans in the first place.

One can go down the list of what made Reagan the leader he was and see those qualities absent in Trump.

A genuine optimism about America? Trump gave one of the darkest inaugural addresses in history and has somehow only gotten worse.

A strong military? Trump went through six Navy Secretaries in four years while doing almost nothing to strengthen our capabilities.

Supporting allies and opposing enemies? The only thing as consistent as Trump’s trashing of our allies is his support for dictators (Reagan would be appalled at Trump’s support for Putin.)

Limiting the federal government’s involvement in our daily lives? It is tough to make the case that Trump wants to do that when he’s picking fights with American companies for having the audacity to drop his daughter’s clothing line.

The only thing Trump and shares with Reagan is the slogan he stole from him.

I will admit, I am done as a Republican, at least until the MAGA branch has receded to the dustbin of history. But for those Reagan Republicans who have not yet made up their minds, I urge you not to vote for Trump simply because he is also a registered Republican. Make him demonstrate that he shares your values, your policy priorities, your commitment to a free and proud America. Make him show he honors what really makes America great: our optimism, our patriotism, and our democracy.

And if, as I suspect, he fails to convince you, be courageous. Loyalty to our nation and the principles upon which it was founded must overcome loyalty to party. Put country first.

A nation on the precipice cannot afford your blind loyalty to someone who is uncommitted to its preservation.

About the Author: Robert Kelly

Robert Kelly is a retired attorney and Coast Guard Reserve captain who served in the White House for Presidents Reagan and Bush.

The F-35 Has One Problem That Can't Be Solved

The National Interest - Wed, 13/03/2024 - 13:30

Summary: The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, lauded for its advanced capabilities and role as a fifth-generation fighter, faces criticism for one significant limitation: its range. The F-35 variants—A (Air Force) and C (Navy)—offer a range of 1,200 nautical miles, while the B variant for the Marine Corps reaches only 900 nautical miles. This stands in contrast to longer-range aircraft like the F-22 Raptor and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, which boast ranges of 1,600 and 1,800 nautical miles respectively. This limitation is crucial for operations involving Carrier Strike Groups and Marine Expeditionary Units, especially in vast open ocean expanses where operational success depends on range and fuel economy for mission engagement and return.

The F-35 Has A Challenge It Can't Easily Fix: A Range Problem

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter seems to have developed from a problem-plagued development program into a reliable, everyday fifth-generation fighter.

Today, the F-35 operates as it was designed to. Yet, as some critics have pointed out, it was designed to operate in a way that hobbles the US military strategy.

Namely, the F-35 suffers from a short range.

“The A and C [F-35] variants, employed by the Air Force and Navy respectively, have ranges of 1,200nm while the B variant for Marine Corps can only manage 900nm,” Maya Carlin wrote for The National Interest. “By comparison, the F-22 Raptor can reach 1,600nm while the F/A-18 Super Hornet maxes at 1,800nm.”

For a Carrier Strike Group based F-35C, or a Marine Expeditionary Unit based F-35B, operating in the vast expanses of the open ocean, range becomes vital to operational success. And while 1,200, or 900, nautical miles may sound like a lot, remember that range and fuel economy must be budgeted engaging in the mission itself (which is often fuel intensive), and returning to the ship after the mission.

So, 1,200 nautical miles means that the F-35-launching ship must be well within a 1,200-mile radius – which is becoming more and more dangerous as defense technology improves.

F-35 Limited Range Places Ships in Danger

The problem with the F-35’s limited range is that it draws Navy and Marine Corps ships closer to shorelines, closer to enemy defense hubs, further within the range of detection technology, and tracking technology, and missile systems.

In a conflict with, say, China, the US would be dependent upon their carrier and MEU fleets to deliver airpower, to control the airspace above wherever the conflict was being waged. Aircraft like the F-35 would be vital to the outcome of the conflict.

However, the limitations of the F-35’s range increase the vulnerability of vessels launching the ships, in part because the Chinese can narrow their search range when hunting the vessels.

One of the primary defensive measures of large vessels like aircraft carriers is the ability to hide in the open ocean. The further the range enemy targets, the larger the search radius that the enemy must search within to find the ship. The more constricted the target radius becomes, the easier the ship becomes to find.

And, of course, the closer to shore US ships must travel, the closer they are to enemy missiles.

“China has invested in conventional cruise missiles and medium to long-range ballistic missiles with an eye on denying the U.S. Navy, particularly its carriers, the freedom to operate in the South China Sea and beyond,” Carlin wrote. “For Air Force F-35s based in Japan and Korea, the transit to a potential flare-up around Taiwan would put them at the bleeding edge of their operational range.” What about aerial refueling? “Every variant of F-35 can have its range extended by aerial refueling, however, these tanker aircraft are incredibly vulnerable and the farther they can be kept from any frontline conflict the better.”

So, while the F-35’s range is not a fatal flaw, it does make the aircraft’s, and the aircraft’s support team’s, job harder.  

About the Author: Harrison Kass 

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.