“Would it be limited use in regional escalation strategies, would it be to counter-deter Russian air-launched cruise missiles or Chinese cruise missiles, or would it be to shoot holes in air-defense systems?”
“I’m going to need a missile that will be able to penetrate any of the most sophisticated air-defense systems going forward,” Wilson added.
“I’m often asked whether there will be a conventional variant of that, and I say absolutely,” Wilson said in January.
The sight of the two Russian bombers so close to British air space was yet another sign that Cold War 2 was upon us. During the confrontation, Tu-95 bombers and the RAF Typhoons came as close as 1,000 feet away from each other. They were so close that the British pilots could communicate with the Russian bomber with hand signals.
Sources within the British Ministry of Defense claims that one of the two Russian bombers intercepted carried at least one of Russia’s nuclear weapons designed to “seek and find” Trident submarines. Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon were alerted after cockpit conversations confirmed the Russian bomber’s nuclear payload were intercepted by a Norwegian military listening post.
“We downloaded conversations from the crew of one plane who used a special word which meant the would-be attack was a training exercise,” said a senior RAF source according to Express. “They know that we can pick up their transmissions and it would only be of concern if the often used release weapon order was changed. We also knew from another source that one of the aircraft was carrying a nuclear weapon long before it came anywhere near UK airspace.”
Experts say the belief that the Russian bomber was carrying nuclear weapons is an example that Vladimir Putin is upping his game.
“This continual and increasing probing of NATO airspace by these nuclear bombers and fighter aircraft, tankers and electronic aircraft by Russian is a pattern of increased pressure by Russia designed to remind the West and NATO that they remain a large nuclear power, and a serious military power with reach,” said Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute.
Some experts also claim the RAF is stretched too thin with its current defensive capabilities with threats of World War 3 on their doorstep.
“Putin is making the point that he has nuclear weapons and will carry them wherever he wants and NATO just has to take it,” said Air Cmdre Andrew Lambert, of the U.K. National Defense Association. “We have reduced the number of or Typhoon squadrons to the bare minimum. They have the Quick Reaction Alert commitments, NATO’s Baltic effort, and of course, the Falklands. So we are stretched three ways. We have too few air defense aircraft bearing in mind the commitments we now have.
Fortunately, the Russian bomber was not on a mission to start World War 3, and Vladimir Putin would have been required to give a direct order in order to make the warhead live. The other Russian bomber was apparently acting as a “mothership” during the military exercise.
Posted 1/21/2015 Updated 1/21/2015
by Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
1/21/2015 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force’s priorities for modernization and continuous improvement in the nuclear enterprise were the top of discussion during the Air Force Association’s monthly breakfast Jan. 20 in Arlington, Virginia.
“This nuclear deterrent is as relevant and is as needed today as it was in January of 1965,” said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Air Force assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. “And it will be, until that happy day comes when we rid the world of nuclear weapons. It will be just as relevant in 2025, ten years from now.”
To remain relevant, Harencak explained the importance of investing in programs to modernize the two legs of the nuclear triad owned by the Air Force, including the long-range strike bomber and the ground-based strategic deterrent.
“It’s not going to be inexpensive, but it’s also not going to be unaffordable,” he said. “It’s something we have to do to protect our nation. In this world, there still is a nuclear threat and our United States Air Force is there to meet it so we can defend our great nation, and our allies.”
The Air Force’s goal is to develop and purchase 80 to 100 LRSB aircraft. This modernization of nuclear-capable bombers will provide safe, secure and effective forces for generations to come, he explained.
“In what world do we send our grandchildren into combat in 80-year-old airplanes?” Harencak asked. “There are a lot of hard decisions we’ve got to make out there, but this isn’t one of them. We want them (our children and grandchildren) to win: 100 to nothing, not 51 to 49. We can afford this, and it’s desperately needed so the United States Air Force continues to be what it always has been – the force that allows alternatives and options for our president to defend America.”
In addition to investment in aircraft, the Air Force is continuously working on increasing morale and mission focus within the intercontinental ballistic missile community, with help and guidance from the Force Improvement Program.
“Our ICBMs have been referred to as America’s ‘ace in the hole,’ for more than 50 years,” Harencak said. “They still are. They are still the ante into this game that is so high that no one out there would ever be perversely incentivized to attempt to become a nuclear competitor with us. They make sure no one out there has any illusions that they could accomplish anything through the threat or use of nuclear weapons.”
To reinvigorate the ICBM community, the Air Force is on track to modernize the Minuteman III weapon system until the ground-based strategic deterrent is underway. Last year marked many changes in the community, and Harencak said the Air Force will continue to make improvements.
“What we’re doing is making sure this is a process of continuous improvement,” he said. “I am 100 percent positive we don’t have it 100 percent right – but that’s okay. We do have the processes and organizations in place to make sure we continually improve and never take our eye off the ball of the needs of Airmen in the nuclear enterprise.”
The bottom line is we must move forward to ensure America’s nuclear triad is still the best in the world, and the general said modernization and recapitalization is the way to go.
“The triad has been proven and tried and true for decades – because it works,” Harencak said. “We need to continue to make the modest investments necessary to make sure we have the absolute best nuclear deterrent going forward.”
Iranian air force bombs Isis targets in Iraq, says Pentagon
Tehran has denied carrying out raids and acting in coordination with the US, which is leading a western-Arab coalition to defeat the jihadi group.
The Pentagon said air strikes in Iraq’s Diyala province were the first since Isis captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in June.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, insisted that the US has not coordinated military activities with Iran. He said the US continued to fly its own missions over Iraq and that it was up to the Iraqi government to avoid conflicts in its own airspace.
“Nothing has changed about our policy of not coordinating military activity with the Iranians,” Kirby told reporters in Washington.
A senior Iranian official said no raids had been carried out and Tehran had no intention of cooperating with Washington.
“Iran has never been involved in any air strikes against Daesh [Isis] targets in Iraq. Any cooperation in such strikes with America is also out of question for Iran,” the senior official told Reuters.
In Tehran, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brigadier-General Massoud Jazayeri also denied any collaboration. Iran considered the US responsible for Iraq’s “unrest and problems”, he said, adding that the US would “definitely not have a place in the future of that country”.
Kirby’s comments followed reports that American-made F4 Phantom jets from the Iranian air force had been targeting Isis positions in Diyala. Jane’s Defence Weekly identified al-Jazeera footage of a jet flying over Iraq as an Iranian Phantom.
It had earlier been reported that Iran sent three Su-25 fighter jets to Iraq designed for close support of ground troops and that Iranian pilots flew Iraqi aircraft on combat missions.
The anti-Isis campaign has raised the intriguing possibility that the US and Iran, enemies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, might work together against a common foe. The model has been seen as their brief cooperation against al-Qaida in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Talks about Iraq have taken place in the margins of the so-far inconclusive international negotiations about Iran’s nuclear programme.
But the US has repeatedly denied coordinating with Iran. Last month, following a personal letter sent by President Barack Obama to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the US national security adviser, Susan Rice, said that “we are in no way engaged in any coordination – military coordination – with Iran on countering Isil [another name for Isis]”.
The two countries remain at odds over the crisis in Syria, with the US calling for the removal of Bashar al-Assad and backing rebel forces. Iran, displaying far greater commitment, provides military and financial support for his regime. Tacit cooperation between Washington and Tehran over Iraq is seen as a classic example of the notion of “my enemy’s enemy becoming my friend”. Key US allies in the Middle East, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, fear any kind of US-Iranian rapprochement.
The US has not invited Iran to join the coalition fighting Isis, and Iran has said it would not join in any case. The grouping includes the UK, France and Australia as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain – Sunni Arab states which are deeply suspicious of Iran’s regional ambitions.Iran has been actively involved in supporting the Shia-led Baghdad government and in recent weeks has gradually raised the profile of its semi-covert presence in Iraq, especially the activities of General Qasim Suleimani, commander of the al-Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Suleimani has coordinated the defence of Baghdad and worked with Shia miltias and Kurdish troops.
The US-led air campaign against Isis began on 8 August in Iraq and was extended into Syria in September. But several countries, including the UK, which operate in Iraq, refuse to do so in Syria – highlighting confusion about overall strategy.
News of Iran’s apparently widening role emerged as minsters from the coalition met at the Nato HQ in Brussels for a summit chaired by the US secretary of state, John Kerry.
Speaking at the summit, Kerry said the US-led coalition had inflicted serious damage on Isis, but that the fight against the militants could take years.
“We recognise the hard work that remains to be done,” Kerry said. “Our commitment will be measured most likely in years, but our efforts are already having a significant impact.”
“We will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail,” he added.
Talks are focusing on military strategy as well as ways to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining Isis and how to counter its slick propaganda, disseminated on social media. The meeting will discuss ways to send “counter-messages” to de-legitimise Isis, a senior US state department official told AFP.
Modernization of US nuclear forces not optional
By Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz, Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs / Published September 19, 2014
“We’re here to share thoughts about the current state of, and the way forward for the nuclear strategic deterrent enterprise.” said Mark Jantzer, the Task Force 21 chairman.
The annual symposium, sponsored by the Minot Chamber of Commerce’s Task Force 21, brings defense officials, government executives and civic leaders together to discuss strategic force structure and modernization.
“You don’t want them to have to be the person to walk into the Oval Office in 2025 or 2028 or 2030 and say ‘Mr. or Madam President, I’m so sorry but we just aren’t able to neutralize that threat to America,’” said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration assistant chief of staff. “We have to convince the American people, folks in our government and folks in our own military of the incredible relevancy of a nuclear deterrent today and in the future.”
“As we look forward, I think that our modernization programs are absolutely essential,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. “I’m paraphrasing the (chief of staff of the Air Force), but it’s time for us to become the nuclear force that our nation needs us to be, not the nuclear force we used to be.”
The LRS-B is one of the Air Force’s top acquisition priorities, Wilson explained. Of the current U.S. nuclear-capable bombers, the last B-52 Stratofortress came off the line in 1962 and the B-2 Spirit just turned 25. If The U.S. is to be able to continue holding any target at risk, anywhere in the world, it’s going to need a bomber capable of penetrating whatever advanced air defense systems America’s adversaries can come up with in the foreseeable future.
Other current modernization efforts discussed included the long range standoff-missile as well as upgrades for the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, and its eventual replacement program, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.
“[The GBSD] is a key program as we move forward,” Wilson said. “The Minuteman III was designed in the 1960s and it’s been on alert since 1973. We have to replace that missile.”
A replacement for the current Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine was also discussed.
Unlike the U.S., both Russia and China are currently testing new models of ballistic missile submarines, according to Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, the director of the Navy’s Undersea Warfare Division.
The Ohio-class was originally designed with a service life of 30 years, but due to budget constraints the retirement of the class has been delayed until 2031 — 20 years past its original expected retirement.
“For the foreseeable future, certainly for our and our children’s and our grandchildren’s lifetimes, the United States will require a safe, secure and effective strategic nuclear deterrent,” Tofalo said. “The ballistic nuclear submarine forces are and will continue to be a critical part of that deterrent. Each of the legs of the triad brings unique strengths that provide a strong deterrent against different classes of adversary threat, and each of the legs reinforces the effectiveness of the others.”
Adm. Cecil Haney, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, discussed components beyond the triad that support the nuclear enterprise.
“Strategic deterrence is more than just the triad of platforms,” Haney said. “It includes robust and agile intelligence capabilities, dedicated space and ground sensors that provide critical early warning and assured national nuclear command, control and communications to move that information. (Deterrence) also includes sustaining the necessary infrastructure to support our nuclear roles, missions and weapons; maintaining missile defenses to defend against attacks and providing relevant space and cyberspace capabilities.
“All these areas are interrelated and we must leverage our capabilities and assess today’s threats in an integrated manner to ensure strategic stability,” the admiral continued. “In a world where our traditional adversaries are modernizing, emerging adversaries are maturing and non-state actors remain elusive and dangerous, we must get 21st century deterrence right… the reality is that an effective modernized nuclear deterrent force is needed now more than ever.”
At the same time, the group, formerly known as Isis, has been trying to encircle Baghdad – untroubled by air strikes. Its manoeuvres near the national capital in recent days have consolidated gains it has made in the last two tumultuous months and made the very existence of Iraq in its current borders ever more precarious.
With a new central government only three weeks from being sworn in, Iraqi leaders are imploring the US to honour what they perceived to be an implicit deal to protect Baghdad once an inclusive leadership was installed.
Officials say that support for only one side will guarantee the end of Iraq, allowing the Isis insurgents menacing the capital to whittle away what is left of state control and terrorise large numbers of people into fleeing.
The officials, led at first by ousted leader Nouri al-Maliki, had said that only US air power could put a halt to Isis’s momentum. Iraq’s military had refused to fight the jihadists, surrendering large parts of the country as they advanced into Mosul and Tikrit, and towards Kirkuk.
Ever since, they have been unable to reclaim lost ground and are struggling to defend oil and energy sites that are essential to Iraq’s viability. What remains of the Iraqi military is operating without US air cover. Kurdish forces, on the other hand, have taken comfort from air strikes that beat back Isis less than 30 miles to the south-west of Irbil.
On Thursday, the jihadists staged a series of attacks in an area 40 miles south of Baghdad labelled nine years ago by the US military as the “triangle of death”. Iraqi military officials say that area is next to impossible to defend without strategic weapons, or US air support.
Iraq’s small, American-trained air force has been busy in the skies over the country, but is unable to turn the tide against Isis. “We are hitting them 24 hours a day in Tel Keyf, Khazir, Shalalat and in Mosul,” said pilot Raad Faqe, a Kurd.
“I have bombed Mosul myself. We do a lot of bombing but our weapons are not good. Our best weapon is the Hellfire [missile]. The problem with Hellfire, it does not cause major damage, but it is good in terms of hitting the target. I fly a Cessna Caravan 202 which is designed for transport purposes but we have converted it into a bomber.”
Faqe confirmed that Iranian air force pilots were active above the skies of Iraq. “I have seen with my own eyes that the Iranians have brought Sukhoi planes,” he said. “Everything in that unit is Iranian including the pilot and the mechanics. They are in Rasheed base, a huge base in south of Baghdad … the Iranians make barrel bombs and then use Antonov and Huey planes to drop them in Sunni areas. Some Iranian pilots have been shot down.
“When we go to bomb a place, the ground troops don’t accompany us. We bomb a place and kill a few, then Isis disperses, but they regroup later.”
The pilot said that five helicopters had been brought down by the militants, while another seven planes were put to the torch on an airfield in Tikrit.
As the war of attrition with Isis steadily tips in the militants’ favour, resentment is growing among influential Iraqis. “The American policy is shameful,” said Hassan al-Fayath, the dean of al-Nahrain University in Baghdad. “The Americans always say they are the leaders in fighting terrorism but they didn’t lift a finger when Isis was taking parts of Iraq. The only time the Americans got involved was when they found it started threatening their interests by getting closer to the oil fields and to Irbil.
“Isis succeeded in securing Iraqi oil and now they have the resources to recruit more fighters and buy weapons. Why did everyone let them go that far and not intervene earlier?”
Asked whether US jets will return to the skies over Baghdad, he said: “Obama will launch more strikes to save the oil and his Kurdish friends.”
Issan al-Shimary, a political analyst, said: “America said it won’t intervene unless the Iraqis manage to find a new prime minister and now this has happened. This will put more international pressure on Obama to be more involved in Iraq.
“I believe the American air strikes didn’t happen because they already knew … that Maliki was leaving. Now we hear about more American involvement through logistical help, weapon supplies and even sending troops to the western deserts. This has all happened as a result of the Iraqi policy changing.
“American intervention is a must. It’s the most powerful country and they have the power to defeat Isis. I’m optimistic. I believe that Iraq will be a bridge to build communication between the US and Iran. It’s something both parties want to do.”
Not all are convinced of the merits of more US jets, though. Saleh al-Obeidi, a spokesman for influential Shia cleric Moqtadr al-Sadr, said: “Moqtadr approves [of] the US involvement in Iraq only if it is within the framework of an international rescue. But he doesn’t want a new American footprint in Iraq.”