Take Advantage of the Reserves for Innovation

by Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen

Originally Published by Defense News 19 May 2016

With the establishment of the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX), Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is putting a lot of effort into building a relationship with Silicon Valley, hoping some — but not too much — of the region’s entrepreneurial, cutting-edge methods rub off on the US military.

There are many good things to be said for Silicon Valley, its weather and its methods, but it is not known for its patriotism or its interest in national security. Indeed, it is known for its international workforce, which may be directly inimical to national security in certain cases. But mostly, the valley is known for its interest in profits, big multiples on investment and expanding markets.

After a slow start, Carter is doubling down on the bet by starting a second center in Boston.

Instead of “outposts” in locations that have little affinity for national defense requirements, the Defense Department would better exploit capabilities it already has but barely uses. That is, DoD should start redefining its use of the National Guard and reserves, where patriotism, national security, and scientific and technological “smarts” converge.

Over the past decade, the Guard and reserves in all services served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. While their service has put a considerable strain on the system, it has also exposed thousands of trained and dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines first-hand to problems that confront our fighting forces. When they return to their civilian occupations, they work in business and industry, in R&D, and in academia. They have skill sets that, if properly channeled, can be a bonanza for the Defense Department. Carter has approached this idea by creating a reserve unit specifically for DIUX, led by a Navy Reserve commander who is also an Apple vice president.

Thus far, however, while there are a few units focused on cyber security and intelligence, there is no direct path for converting military experience into products and technology for national security. We need a coordinated approach to the reserves and Guard that works for the 21st century.

1. Virtual Reserve High-Tech Units

Reserve units are largely constructed by geography but increasingly, we live in a virtual world based on the Internet, high-speed connectivity and Cloud systems. An engineer in Seattle can work with a counterpart in Texas and another in New Jersey with ease. And he can work from his office, from home, or on the road. The virtual model would be a terrific way to organize reserve units by providing secure platforms and secure Cloud connections to reservists investigating specific subjects or jointly working on specific projects. On top of creating collaboration among reservists, virtual high-tech units can also integrate the participation of national laboratories and contractors, creating a holistic approach to problem solving and engaging the best talent regardless of geography. Virtual reserve units don’t have to travel — they could log time spent, and the money and time saved can be wrapped into productive work.

Army IT 12 June 2015

2. Venture-backed Reserve Spinoff Enterprises

Reserve units will inevitably generate new products and intellectual property that can be turned over to a contractor or form the basis of a new enterprise that could be run by reservists. These will often be directly aligned with Pentagon requirements, and the military services or DoD will be an immediate customer, making them very attractive in venture capital circles. The Foreign Comparative Testing Program (FCT) already practices the principle. FCT will support a foreign technology if, in advance, a military service has agreed to buy it if it meets expectations after testing. If this can be done for foreign technology, why not for technology developed by American military reservists?

Venture capital companies can be invited to join into a DoD-approved consortium. In exchange for advice to reserve spinoff startup enterprises, venture capital companies would be given a chance to invest in these enterprises. DoD would ensure terms and conditions consistent with industry standards, ethical, and in DoD’s long-term interest.

3. Special Reservists

There are many patriots in industry with a lot to offer in the form of mentoring and leadership, as well as scientific and technical know-how. In past years, when the US mobilized it often recruited top executives, some of whom were put in uniform and served magnificently.

David Sarnoff, chairman and president of RCA, served in the Army at the start of World War II and was called up three times. He was commissioned a brigadier general in 1945, and performed many services of great wartime importance. He regarded becoming a general as the highlight of his life. When he died in 1971, he was buried with his general’s star, so much did he regard the honor afforded him.

David_Sarnoff_becomes_brigadier_general_1945(Above) David Sarnoff becomes a Brigadier General, 1945

More recently, Silicon Valley’s Bob Noyce (sometimes called the “statesman” of Silicon Valley) helped Stephen Bryen when he was director of the Defense Technology Security Agency. In 1982, Bryen visited Intel, which Noyce co-founded, to learn about Intel’s success in microprocessors. But in the wide-ranging discussions held there, Bryen asked Noyce to lend his expertise to help better protect the technology of the Minuteman ICBM program. This he did — as a volunteer — and his help was invaluable. While there was no formal program to support Noyce’s work, the idea of special reservists makes great sense because of what it can do for national security. If properly organized, special reservists can serve by helping evaluate projects and programs, giving valuable management advice and acting as mentors for reserve organizations.

robert noyce

(Above) Robert Noyce

4. National Registry

DoD should create a national registry of the specific expertise of currently serving reservists and retired members of the Guard and reserves. This would allow the Pentagon to enlist their support to cover specific needs, such as artificial intelligence for robots, making weapons smarter, improving intelligence gathering, enhancing cybersecurity, working with new materials such as nano particles, etc. In addition, a national registry could be expanded to include non-reserve experts and managers who are willing to volunteer their services to our country.

One reason the DIUX model is problematic is the security model of the America’s high-tech industry. Silicon Valley and Boston are filled with foreign nationals and much of the development work is outsourced — including to nationals of countries whose national aims may be different from ours, including China. For civilian applications that are nonsensitive this may be an acceptable paradigm — provided it does not shortchange American workers, but when it comes to security it is a nonstarter.

Hiring thousands of people and spending billions to mitigate the security weaknesses of Silicon Valley-produced electronics and software is not the best course of action for DoD. Instead, let’s use the reserves to power America’s innovation in defense systems and enhance the security of products and technology needed for national defense.


Stephen Bryen served as the first director of the Defense Technology Security Administration and is president of SDB Partners. Shoshana Bryen is the senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, a nonprofit organization, and editor of inFocus magazine.


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Evidence that the Egyptian Airbus was Terrorism

RT has posted the following report concerning the Egyptian airbus that disappeared today, May 19, 2016.

The Post confirms what aviation experts and political leaders already are saying: that the crash was a terrorist act.

Here is what RT reported dramatically today:

“The crew of the missing flight were threatened days before the incident, claims Sharif Mehera, a former EgyptAir pilot, who describes himself as a close friend of the captain of the Airbus A320 that disappeared.
“He told (LINK) LifeNews that someone wrote a menacing message on the hull of one of the planes.
“The message was in Arabic, and read: “the next murder will be the flight number SU-GCC,” Mehera said, adding that it was exactly the flight number of the missing plane and that all security services were aware of this incident.
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The Immortal Regiment: A Solid Idea

by Stephen Bryen

In 2012 the Siberian city of Tomsk marked the first time that relatives of Russian soldiers got together to march celebrating the memory of their family members who fought for Russia in World War II.  From that beginning four years ago, the Immortal Regiment marches have become a feature of Russian  parades and patriotic demonstrations.  This week the Immortal Regiment march took on huge proportions in Moscow where tens of thousands of families marched, many garbed in World War II uniforms and most carrying portraits of their loved ones who served.


The Immortal Regiment idea has spread to Russian communities around the world –large and small marches have taken place in 42 different countries including many cities in the United States.

Unfortunately we do not march in memory of the fallen, neither for the Second World War or for every other conflict in which American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard have given their lives.  Nor do we remember the Merchant Marines who bravely sailed to bring much needed supplies to Europe, to Russia and to our other allies.  1 in 26 Merchant Marine mariners serving aboard merchant ships in World WW II died in the line of duty, suffering a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. services. Overall nearly 10,000 died serving their country.

No longer does America have military parades.  They have disappeared, for the most part, or have been confined to special ceremonies on military bases.  On the fourth of July, our national holiday, no tanks clank down the thoroughfares; no boots strike the ground in unison.  While some military bands play, a good thing, you won’t find a military vehicle passing on parade with the President standing at salute.


It is even worse when it comes to our war dead -those we claim to honor but fall short in showing our affection and respect.  Sure we can visit monuments and military cemeteries. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington is one where the names of the fallen are there to be seen and where proud families of the fallen can feel a special kinship.  But most of the other monuments, no matter how grandiose, in fact are abstractions.  Life is not a hunk of marble.

That is what makes the March of the Immortal Regiment so meaningful.  Here the families, the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren turn out showing respect and pride.


There are some things we should learn from Russia, and this is one.  When you watch a Russian military parade you will see in an honored place old soldiers, sailors and airmen wearing their medals, sometimes in uniform; most are men but there are also heroic women among them.  And just after the soldiers complete their march and the missiles, tanks, airplanes have departed then thousands of families take to the streets with their placards, banners and flags to celebrate the sacrifice their loved ones made during World War II.


Our families deserve a chance to honor their heroes and to do it in the company of other families where such sacrifices have been made.

We have so many to honor in America, but we don’t.  It is time to change that.


All photos taken from RT video of the Immortal Regiment.





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Should You Buy Iodine Pills? A qualified Yes.

by Stephen Bryen*

If you live anywhere near a nuclear reactor, especially if you live or work downwind from a reactor you should consider buying Potassium Iodide (Iodine) tablets for yourself and your family. In fact, that is why Belgium and Holland have now ordered enough pills for their entire populations. And it is why the Department of Homeland Security bought 14 million iodine tablets in 2014.

Officially the reason for buying the pills is the danger of a nuclear accident, caused either by technical failure or a natural event such as an earthquake, tidal wave or flooding like what caused the still-continuing Fukushima crisis. Fukushima involved three nuclear meltdowns; Chernobyl one. Both caused long term evacuations of population.  The authorities created no-go areas. The Chernobyl area has been closed off for thirty years.**

There have been other serious nuclear accidents. In the United States the worst of those reported was, of course, Three Mile Island  (1979) near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

But one of the earliest and worst was the secret Russian reactor built to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Called the Mayak (“Lighthouse”) reactor similar to the US Hanford site*** (which itself remains highly contaminated). Mayak was built between 1945 and 1948. Itself prone to multiple accidents, the worst happened on September 27th, 1957 when a storage tank located at Kyshtym exploded. The Russians told no one, and information about the disaster only became available in 1979, twenty-two years later. The explosion of the storage tank destroyed more than two dozen villages and contaminated a vast area, rendering Lake Irtysh and the Techa River unusable and exposing more than 470,000 people to radiation.


When a nuclear reactor incident occurs, a variety of radioactive poisons are released, some of which become airborne and the rest contaminate the earth and underground and surface water sources. The typical radioactive fallout includes radioactive iodine (I131, I132), Cesium (Cs137, Cs134) and Tellurium (Te132).

Radioactive iodine is a major uranium and plutonium fission product. It has a half life of a little more than 8 days, and it is the greatest immediate threat to populations near a nuclear reactor or nuclear storage site. (The other nuclear contaminants can last from hundreds to thousands of years!)

The human thyroid will rapidly absorb radioactive iodine, which can immediately cause severe radiation sickness and leading to a variety of cancers starting with thyroid cancer. However, if the thyroid is pre-treated with non-radioactive iodide salts, it will have no room to absorb radioactive iodine. Consequently, the best defense against radioactive iodine caused by a nuclear “event” is either a potassium iodide tablet or liquid that can be rapidly administered before an individual is actually exposed to radioactive iodine. These pills and liquids (for infants and the elderly) are what the Department of Homeland Security and the Europeans are stockpiling. They are also readily available for individual purchase on the open market without a prescription in the United States.


Why all of a sudden are countries buying up large supplies of these pills?

There is worry about a nuclear accident or disaster from man-made accidents or natural causes. The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz has calculated that such events may occur every 10 to 20 years, some 200 times more than earlier estimates. And while Fukushima may have convinced the Germans to consider shutting down nuclear reactors (there are 8 in Germany), and the Italians to reverse a decision to go back into the reactor business, Fukushima does not explain the rush to buy iodine pills.

The real threat is terrorism. In Europe there are 185 nuclear power plants and more are under construction. In addition, there are many “research” reactors and also storage sites for radioactive materials as well as labs that produce radioactive materials for industry and for medicine. In the United States there are 99 nuclear reactors, of which 61 are commercially operating power plants. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sources of radioactive materials and plenty of targets for terrorists to exploit.

We know with absolute clarity based on the findings that have emerged from investigations in Belgium and France that Islamic terrorists plan (not just planned) to attack nuclear reactor sites and associated laboratories, in one case even kidnap a nuclear manager. We also know that many of these facilities have been heavily penetrated by Jihadists. There is virtually no available evidence that suggests such threats have been removed. And, as far as the situation in the United States is concerned, we have no real idea of the security of US nuclear facilities, either civilian or military.


Jose Padilla( also known as Abdullah al-Muhajir or Muhajir Abdullah,) was arrested in Chicago. He was planning a radiological attack in the United States.

Many questions also arise whether governments are capable of rapidly distributing the pills and liquids they have purchased. Unlike Israel where kits are pre-distributed and renewed on a regular basis (against chemical, biological and nuclear threats), there is no system in the US or Europe that is even marginally comparable. In case of a nuclear  event one can say that it is unlikely that even a fraction of the pills can be distributed in an actual crisis. Thus, a reactor failure in Maryland or Virginia, for example, would create a massive crisis as people scrambled to try to get their hands on iodine pills.

It would be even worse if a dirty bomb hit New York City or downtown Washington DC.  A dirty bomb basically is radioactive materials that are packed into a conventional bomb and exploded.

cesium(left) A cesium  “dirty” bomb found in a Moscow Park claimed by Chechen terrorists

There are three vital steps that must be taken to protect populations against nuclear disaster.

First, clean up the security around all nuclear facilities. Bring in competent and powerful forces to guard the facilities from external attack and move to clean out security risks inside. In the US this might mean using the National Guard to protect the perimeter of nuclear sites and the FBI to vet employees and validate security systems. In Europe it means using NATO forces for perimeter protection and Interpol to check internal security and validate employees, with authority to remove anyone suspected of a connection to radical Islamic organizations.

Second, set up a real distribution system on the Israeli model for people living in the vicinity of nuclear installations and in sensitive urban areas under threat. This means putting vital supplies  such as potassium iodine in the hands of businesses and families now, not after a terrorist strike.

Third, really crack down on the Jihadists such that they cease to exist. The wimpy approach of the Europeans is not an example of how to deal with an existential threat. America isn’t much better. If we really use draconian force against terrorists, we will finally be a lot safer. If terrorists are under severe pressure, they will run away.  If they don’t run away, run them down so they cannot operate inside of sympathetic local communities.  For this it is justified to give law enforcement and special units special authorization to do what is necessary to liquidate the threat.

Meanwhile, check out where you live and order some iodine pills if you are in an at risk area.


*Dr. Stephen Bryen is the former Director of the Defense Technology Security Administration and a fellow of the American Center for Democracy.  Some parts of this article are from his new book, Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers (Transaction Publishers).

**In Chernobyl there are no-go areas and also strictly controlled zones.  In Fukushima there is a 20km exclusion zone.

***A day after this was written there are reportedly seriously ill people as a result of Hanford contamination.



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Reviving the F-22 –Common Sense or Not?

The F-22 is a great strategic aircraft, but we may have other more pressing priorities

The F-22 is America’s premier air superiority fighter plane.  Developed mostly in the 1990’s it entered service in 2005.  It is a pure stealth fighter but, unlike the F-117 stealth fighter jet, it is supersonic and has super-cruise capability, meaning it can operate at afterburner speeds without using the afterburner and without consuming excess fuel.  Thus the F-22 has great range, a superior radar, and beyond visual range (BVR) weapons.  Above all it is a strategic airplane.  Its role is to balance against an enemy air force and provide superior intelligence and kill capability to knock out their fighters and bombers.

F22 Raptor

Stealth reduces an aircraft’s radar signature, sometimes called the radar cross section.  The F-22 looks to a conventional radar like a small grapefruit, if it sees it at all.  This gives the F-22 a massive advantage because it can penetrate an enemy’s air space and both attack an enemy’s airborne assets and provide critical surveillance and intelligence to other US fighter aircraft that are not necessarily as stealthy as the F-22.  In this role it becomes a type of AWACS surveillance platform, but one that can get close.

That is not to say that the F-22 is invulnerable.  In fact, a lot of what can be said about the F-22’s capability is presumptive, or based on simulations and test environments.  The plane has been used to chase some old Russian Tupolev bombers, but it has never been in a layered defense environment.  Its use in Iraq, for example, was more of a demonstration that the F-22 was functional; it had no air adversary or even any ground base threats of significance (in the form of missile batteries, for example).  We also do not know how the F-22 will perform in a heavy jamming environment, something the Russians have and continue to perfect.  Nor do we know how stealthy it is against unconventional radar (for example L-Band) and radio based detectors that do not use conventional radar frequencies, most typically X-Band.  Indeed, no matter how confident we think we are about the F-22’s performance, a lot remains to be proven.


VERA Passive Surveillance System can “see” Stealth

But we can say for sure that the F-22 was not designed against low-capability third world countries.  It was designed as a strategic system to balance what other potential adversaries might have in their arsenal.  In that sense, the F-22 appears to differ fairly radically from what the Russians and Chinese are up to.
The Russians are working on a stealthy fighter the Su-50 PAK.  This airplane is still under development, with some major components still not ready including its engines and radar. Moreover, we do not know the level of integration of the airplane’s systems.  We do know that it has some stealth features, but it is not as complete as the F-22 and has more in common, in that department, with the F-35.  Moreover the Su-50 is both a strategic and tactical aircraft by design, and it is exportable.  The F-22 is definitely not a tactical platform and is not exportable.

Su-35 demonstrator #709 displays a mix of R-27 Alamo and R-77 Adder BVR missiles (KnAAPO). (Air Power Australia & Dr. Karlo Kopp)

We don’t know how many Su-50’s the Russians plan to build, but given the state of Russian finances and the intrinsic capability of Sukhoi to build these platforms, the best guess is considerably less than one hundred airplanes; probably more like 50 to 60.  From a purely numbers game approach there are already 184 F-22’s in inventory.  Congress is asking whether the F-22 fleet should be over 380, a massive expenditure if the production line was restarted because these planes used to cost over $400 million a copy (and over $600 million each counting non-recurring R&D).  They are also fabulously expensive to operate.  The cost per flight hour is $68,362 (the costly F-35 comes in at a fat $42,200 to operate per hour).  An inventory of 380 F-22’s would incur an annual cost that is budget busting if the planes are really flown.
Now it is true the Chinese are also working on stealthy airplanes and they have showed one of the prototypes off.  It is easy to get excited about, but until we know a whole lot more about the Chinese planes, it is hard to calculate them into any strategic assessment.  Japan is buying the F-35 to counter Chinese air power, but Japan’s first choice was the F-22.  It is probably the only viable customer that could afford the F-22.  Would we restart a production line for Japan?  Hardly.  A better solution would be to base a significant number of our F-22’s in Japan and ask Japan to pay the cost.  That may sound like Trump (sorry, but he is right), but it makes sense.
There is also a serious issue in the idea of restarting a production line.  Before that can be done two things are needed: the tooling for the airplane and the upgrades that are needed since some of the F-22’s systems are in need of improvement.  While there is only speculation about the tooling, most experts think most of it was trashed to make room for F-35 manufacturing. Recreating it is a big and expensive job, and where to put such production is also up for grabs.
Because of the costs, and the fact that Russia is still some years away from finishing the Su-50 PAK, it is unlikely anyone can justify producing the F-22.  Indeed, given the many trade offs, a better area for investment might be in jamming and other countermeasure equipment and improved radars and other types of sensors that can track a stealth airplane.  Like anything else, stealth has a half-life and there is little doubt we are on the right hand side of the bell curve.  Unfortunately we don’t know what the actual half life will be, but it can’t be much more than 10 to 15 years.  That is not good news for a re-start of the F-22.
ECM “Khibiny” wing tip module on Su-34
There is yet another factor of serious importance: should be prepare for regional conflicts or for strategic ones?  Obviously we need  the ability to deal with all kinds of threats, but priorities are important.  Looking at the US aircraft inventory, we are in rather bad shape (notwithstanding the arrival in depth of the F-35).  Our airplanes (F-16’s and F-15’s especially) are close to worn out.  The Marines tell us their F-18’s and their helicopters are more than 80% used up.  Maybe the F-35 will fill the hole  –that is what Lockheed and the Air Force are claiming.  But it is a risky bet.  The F-35 lacks a lot of the combat characteristics desirable for regional conflicts, and it is not a strategic aircraft.  It does not have super-cruise, and its weapon’s portfolio is old.  The F-35 would have a hard time against Russia Su-35 and even many of the earlier Sukhois and MIGs.  And worse yet, it is a very expensive platform to use as a (poor) close support aircraft, something the Air Force is pushing.
If we must focus on strategic platforms, then the F-22 or an evolved F-22 makes sense.  If we are thinking about regional conflicts, the F-22 is unnecessary, and so maybe is the F-35.
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Taiwan on its Own

It is important not to allow the civilian component of the Pentagon and RAND to dictate measures that are suicidal for Taiwan and harmful to security in the Pacific and American credibility.

Source: Taiwan on its Own

Taiwan on its Own

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 10.01.56 PM

By Stephen Bryen* and Rachel Ehrenfeld*
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 @ 10:03PM

Originally published by the American Center for Democracy


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It is important not to allow the civilian component of the Pentagon and RAND to dictate measures that are suicidal for Taiwan and harmful to security in the Pacific and American credibility.

The assumption for many years has been that that if China attacked Taiwan, Taipei would hold off China until the United States brought its power to bear and helped Taiwan survive.  The theory is no longer valid because the US lacks both the resources and the will to reliably intervene in time. Taiwan will have to save itself, and it is in the U.S. strategic interest to help Taiwan have the defense equipment and technology it needs to protect its territory.

Unfortunately, a RAND’s study of Taiwan’s air defenses, which was commissioned by Office of the Secretary of Defense, is more political than analytical. The study starts with a deeply flawed assumption – but one that the Pentagon and State Department politicians appear to favor – namely that Taiwan should all but abandon its air force and defend itself with its cache of air defense missiles, after China’s airplanes and missiles attack.

While the study talks about options, it aims at getting Taiwan to keep only a small number of upgraded F-16’s and get rid of all the rest, which means scrapping 275 fighter jets including all of Taiwan’s home built IDF jets and all its Mirage 2000’s!

RAND’s thesis is quite outlandish: When China decides to attack Taiwan with missiles and an overwhelming number of aircraft, Taiwan, with little air defense and early warning capabilities, will not be able to defend itself. Instead, it will have to watch how its planes are destroyed on the ground, and its airfields blasted away by Chinese missiles.

This is a strategy that no other country in the world would entertain. It is not NATO’s strategy vis-a-vis Russia; Israel’s facing Iran, or Japan facing China. Among these, Israel has good air defense missiles.  But why would Israel, which has good air defense missiles or Japan, or NATO put their military assets and their population under threat by waiting for the enemy? Suggesting that Taiwan becomes a sitting duck is preposterous.

Taiwan’s air force is competitive in size and capability to Japan’s. But the Pentagon is not advising the Japanese to scrap their airplanes as the RAND study and the Pentagon are advising Taiwan.

Of course, Taiwan is not Israel or Japan.

The U.S. sells Israel, Japan, and many others the means to defend themselves. Why then the refusal to sell Taiwan the weapons it needs to counter the growing threat from China? The last time Washington sold an airplane to Taiwan was 1992 when George H.W. Bush’s decided to provide them with the early model of F-16. Since then, his successors refused to sell upgraded versions of the F-16 with better range and capability to penetrate China’s airspace.

Fighter bombers (as opposed to purely air defense planes) have been absolutely out of the question.  Thus, Taiwan never got F-15’s or F-18’s, which would have helped ward off the Chinese.  Australia, Israel, and Japan got F-15’s, (Australia also got  F-18’s) and are now getting F-35’s.  Why not Taiwan?  The RAND study did not even consider this issue, and therefore offered no change in policy.

The RAND analysis misunderstood or ignored Taiwan’s home-produced fighter plane, known as the Indigenous Defense Fighter or IDF (technically the CK-1).  Although the IDF will soon be upgraded, it is already a prodigious dog fighter.  While it is not stealth, it can hide in and around Taiwan’s mountainous terrain and pop up and hit any Chinese fighters venturing into Taiwan’s airspace. Taiwan, of course, has no plans to scrap these planes or the 60 French Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft as RAND recommended.   Instead, it is planning to replace them.

As for the IDF, Taiwan should consider extending the range, equipping it with improved BVRweapons and better radar, and consider reducing the plane’s radar signature wherever possible.  The new government in Taiwan, which will take office in late May, is now evaluating options either for an entirely new aircraft or improving the IDF.  It would be sensible to do both.

To offset China’s move to stealthy aircraft Taiwan needs to improve its surveillance radars and expand the types of radars it uses to track enemy planes. Some experts, including Carlo Kopp from Air Power Australia, have studied developments in Russia and China, and the spread of stealth technology globally. Kopp sees a definite need for the U.S., Australia, and others to put in place a new generation radar sensors that can pick up stealth aircraft and attack it with long-range air-to-air and ground-to-air weapons.

When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir refused to preempt the Egyptian and Syrian military build-up in 1973, Israel learned that waiting for the enemy to attack first could be a near-death experience.  Her refusal to act preemptively cost the lives of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and airmen, allowed the Egyptians to cross the Suez Canal and blow away the Bar Lev defensive line that was supposed to protect Israel. Meir mistakenly believed that not shooting first would earn her important political support and military assistance from the U.S. But the U.S. resupply of weapons to Israel was dangerously tardy, and the delay almost led to a nuclear war.

RAND’s recommendation to solely rely on ground-based missile air defense – though these missiles are not easier to protect than Taiwan’s air bases – is a prescription for failure.

Democratic Taiwan is a U.S. ally and an asset in Asia. The civilian component of the Pentagon and the RAND Corporation should not be allowed to dictate measures that are suicidal for Taiwan and harmful to the security in the Pacific, and the U.S.  Stripping Taiwan of its fighting capabilities would send the wrong message to China.



* Dr. Stephen Bryen is the author of Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers(Transaction Publishers) and Fellow at ACD; Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is Director of ACD.

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Russia Buzzes Our Ships

by Stephen Bryen*

Pairs of Russian SU-24 fighter-bombers buzzed the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, about 70 km (43.5 miles) from Russia’s naval base at Kaliningrad, the home of the Russian Baltic fleet. The Donald Cook had departed the Polish port of Gdynia around 3PM on Monday the 11th of April intending to carry out exercises with Polish naval helicopters. A few hours later the first SU-24’s buzzed the Donald Cook, close enough to the water to create a wake and endangering the ship and the crew.


(above) USS Donald Cook and SU-24 

From the US angle, the Russians were simulating an attack on the Donald Cook with 20 close flybys, some of them only a few feet above sea level (“on the deck”) -a well known tactic to make it hard for radar to lock onto the attacking planes and to reduce response time. The SU-24’s were unarmed, as was a KA-27 helicopter that also made seven passes around the Cook. The US immediately complained that the simulated attacks were unprofessional and dangerous. For their part, the Russians rejected the US complaint. Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov  told the Russian Tass newspaper that the Russians acted within international rules.

This is not the first time that the USS Donald Cook has been involved in incidents with the Russians. The Donald Cook entered the Black Sea on 9 April, 2014 just around the time the Russians had annexed the Crimea, and was carrying out exercises with the Ukrainian navy. On the 12th of April Russia SU-24’s buzzed the Donald Cook in a manner like the simulated attacks on the 11th and 12th of April.

Stories have circulated (but have never been confirmed) that the SU-24’s that operated against the Cook in 2014 carried a special radar jamming system which, according to the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, contained a Russian electronic warfare device called Khibiny. The word Khibiny is Russian for “electronic countermeasure system” produced by the Kaluga Research Institute of Radio Engineering. The system has been recently tried out in Syria mounted on the wingtips of a SU-34. According to the manufacturer, it has never been mounted on the SU-24, and there is nothing in the photos made by the US Navy of these incidents that show the Khibiny on board.


(above ) Su-34 with ECM modules “Khibiny” on the wing tips

Another incident in May 2015 Russian Su-24s repeated similar maneuvers over the USS Ross, another destroyer sailing in the Black Sea. The Ross had just left port in Romania.

The Ross and the Donald Cook are powerful ships equipped with cruise missiles and the SM-3 anti-ballistic missile system as well as Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Clearly the US has been using these ships to project power in eastern Europe, in part to compensate for an Obama administration decision to abandon placing US ballistic missiles in Poland and the ABM radar for the system in the Czech Republic, ostensibly to defend against “Iranian” missiles. From Russia’s point of view, placing missile defenses in eastern Europe facing Russia was provocative.



The original idea for putting US missile defenses in eastern Europe came from President Bush in 2001 before the 9/11 attacks and before Iran’s missile and nuclear program were understood. The subsequent outcry from the Russians gained momentum over the ensuing years as development of the system continued. But after 13 failed tests, Obama abandoned the program but replaced it with an AEGIS-based missile defense system on seaborne platforms. The USS Donald Cook is an Arleigh Burke guided missile cruiser which is equipped with an ABM radar system and the latest SM-3 missile interceptors. In a similar fashion the USS Ross, also an Arleigh Burke guided missile cruiser, was updated with the same ABM system.

Based on the weapons on board these platforms, and their presence near critical Russian ports that include Kaliningrad, the headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet, and Crimea’s Sevastopol port, the home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, it is clear that the Russians are trying to make clear their extreme displeasure over the US fleet presence so close to such sensitive Russian facilities.

It is clear that had Obama stuck with the original Bush idea of land based ballistic missile defense in Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere inside NATO, the Russians would have been checkmated because they could not overfly national territory.  Big mistake.  Nor could they claim the systems were too close to any Russian base.

Even so, the US can have in place sea borne ballistic missile defenses to protect NATO in the Baltic area without being adjacent to sensitive Russian ports and defense installations. One wonders if the Russians have, at least for now, checkmated the US for going too far, unnecessarily so. It would make sense both both sides to reduce their profiles before things get out of hand.


*Dr. Stephen Bryen is the author of Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers (Transaction Publishers).


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Defense News: “Un-Niching” the Niche

April 11, 2016

by Stephen Bryen*

The venerable publication Defense News and along with it Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Times and Federal Times have been sold by Sightline Media Group, formerly Gannet Government Media. A number of the top executives of Defense News have been dismissed, including its top man Vago Muradian, and the future shape of the company remains unclear. The buyer is Los Angeles based Regent Equity Partners (“Regent”) which also owns www.historynet.com and a number of publications including Military History, America’s Civil War, Vietnam, World War IIand Aviation History.

Over the years Defense News, widely read by the top echelon of the Department of Defense and by foreign readers in the global defense establishment, focused mainly on Pentagon plans and programs and on the contractors looking for business from the DOD and the military. As a result, despite trying to do some television and modernizing its web presence, Defense News (and its sister publications) has been a niche weekly magazine largely supported by defense company advertising. But, because of a small audience (no matter how influential), advertising could not really sustain these publications. While no numbers have been published, it is a good guess that Defense News and its brethren all were losing money. Indeed, if these publications continued as they were it is almost certain they would remain unprofitable and slow growing, if there is any real growth at all.

So what would a private equity firm want to do with a business like this?


One early move that Regent will want to make is likely to be to consolidate the management of its existing property, historynet with the new acquisition of Defense News. This could significantly reduce expenses for overhead and bring in better operating numbers fairly quickly.

But that really does not solve the overall business model which cannot grow beyond what it is now without a significant refocus.

The real play for Defense News in its consolidated form is to restructure and reinvest to compete with History Channel with something like a History and Security Channel or History and Defense Channel.

Above all this means doubling down on the cable-TV market space and probably offering multi-platform support. Sports, especially ESPN, today feature programming that users can enjoy on their tablets and smartphones or, as the advertising says, just about anywhere. Interest in technology, defense systems and history is strong, but most of the presentation available today is limited and not well produced.

A glimpse of what can be done can be found, of all places, on RT, the Russian news and propaganda TV and Internet outlet. RT has been producing outstanding video of the war in Syria, for example, and is also increasingly reporting events in Europe, using very high quality technology and somewhat less capable reporters and commentators. Apparently RT’s success has contributed mightily to Russian arms sales because Russian systems are featured in a way that was never possible or permitted during the Soviet era. In short, among its other benefits, RT is a money maker for Russia.

I don’t want to compare RT to a future history and defense network, but the model is there and Regent, it would seem, has grabbed an exciting property at a presumably low cost, because of the narrow focus on the old niche market served by these publications. I believe the path to making this acquisition into a powerhouse is “un-niching” the niche and creating something new, accessible and exciting.

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Atom Bombs Away -Was Trump Right?

By Stephen Bryen*

Presidential candidate Donald Trump riled the feathers of the White House and America’s allies South Korea and Japan when he suggested both countries get their own nuclear weapons. He told CNN that “At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself.”  “Wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?””

It was this statement, which Trump made in the midst of the largely unproductive Nuclear Summit in Washington, that spun up the criticism.

But was Trump so far off the mark?

My late colleague, Undersecretary of Defense Fred Ikle, told the US China Economic and Security Commission in July, 2003 that Korean unification would immediately create a unitary nuclear power on the Korean peninsula because North Korea already has nuclear weapons.   It is well known that North and South Korea have been secretly discussing unification for many years.  About the only worthwhile incentive North Korea has, other than cheap labor, is nuclear weapons.

Japan, for its part, can become a nuclear power in a matter of a few months at most.  Just as Sweden has successfully hidden its nuclear weapons program from public view, so too has Japan.  Its vast supply of plutonium and its far advanced space program means that Japan has the capability to offset pressure from China and North Korea  with its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  The only issue is when and where for Japan to reveal it has them.

Indeed Japan has long been a nuclear power.  It has been thus since World War II.

In my new book, Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers I explain some of Japan’s history on nuclear weapons.  It is a history that was misrepresented by American-imposed censorship at the end of World War II.  And, because Japan was a victim of two atomic bombs (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), Japan’s public to this day is deeply opposed to nuclear weapons and to the politics that underlays them, namely Japanese militarism.

The “official” explanation of Japan’s atomic weapons program during World War II is that Japan’s attempt to build atomic weapons was  both small scale and a failure.  But nothing can be further from the truth.

Japan had two atomic weapons programs underway during the war.  One, headed by the Army, known as the NI project, was based primarily in Tokyo at the RIKEN (Rikagaku Kenkyūsho) Institute for Physical and Chemical Research..  RIKEN is Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution.  Founded in 1917 RIKEN attracted important scientists such as Albert Einstein.  Its leading experts were linked to US universities such as Princeton and the California Institute of Technology,  and to leading centers in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.

                                              (Above) Albert Einstein visits RIKEN, 1922

RIKEN was deeply involved in refining uranium. Its cyclotrons were similar to the Calutrons at the Oak Ridge’s S-20 plant and a Nazi cyclotron plant in Heidelberg built by Walther Bothe and Wolfgang Gentner which became operational in 1943.   Five Japanese cyclotrons were recovered at the end of World War II, broken up, and dumped into Tokyo harbor by a special unit of the US Army known as ALSOS (ALSOS means “grove” in Greek and the head of the Manhattan program in the United States was Lt. General Leslie Groves).

The other Japanese program was known as F-Go and was headed by the Navy.  A large part of that program was in what is today North Korea, specifically at Konan (now Hamhung). Konan was not targeted by US bombers, had hydro power to drive critical uranium conversion equipment, and had significant natural resources  including uranium and thorium.  (In 1950, at the start of the Korean War, the US bombed the Konan NZ facility and took out the thorium plant located there.)

Japan’s objective in World War II was either to attack a major US  port with an atomic bomb (one candidate was San Francisco) or to try and destroy the US invasion force about to be launched against Japan.  Such weapons would most likely be delivered by submarine.  In this the Japanese strategy differed from the Germans, although there was substantial cooperation between Japan and Germany especially between 1944 and 1945.  Germany shipped uranium to Japan and other supplies suitable for nuclear reactors (at the time called nuclear piles). To get ships through there was a succession of Japanese, German and Italian U-Boats.  Thanks to MAGIC intercepts the US was able to target these submarines and most of them were either destroyed or surrendered.  At least some of the uranium aboard one u-boat, U-234 was said to be either weapons grade or partially refined uranium with some claims that the material ended up in the Hiroshima uranium  bomb four months after U-234’s surrender.

David Snell, a young journalist for the Atlanta Constitution was able to interview an important Japanese prisoner on his way to repatriation in Japan.  He was probably an engineer or chemist who was in the F-Go project.  This prisoner alleged that Japan had exploded two test atomic weapons of small yield, one in Manchuria and the other offshore of Konan. It would appear that what inhibited the Japanese was a shortage of fissile material suitable to a gun type device.

Generally speaking there are two basic forms of proven atomic weapons.  The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was packed with weapons grade uranium, U-235.  The mechanism to make the bomb work was fairly simple, but because of US weapons grade uranium shortages,, the Hiroshima bomb was never tested before it was used.

The other form is a plutonium fueled atomic bomb.  The bomb tested in 1945 at Almagordo(known as “the Gadget“) and the weapon dropped on Nagasaki was a plutonium fueled weapon. Unlike an uranium bomb, the triggering mechanism  to get a fission event in such a bomb is fairly elaborate and requires exquisite timing of a succession of explosive charges.  By the time the Nagasaki bomb was dropped the US had three or four such weapons ready for use.

There is, yet, a third way to get an atomic bomb, a method that allows the use of a gun type device and works with a combination of U-233 and a small amount of plutonium.

U-233 does not exist in nature.  It is produced by converting thorium (thorium oxide) intoprotactinium (PA-233).  PA-233 has a half-life of 1.8 seconds and rapidly changes to U-233 which is fissile.  U-233 combined with plutonium can be used in a gun type weapon, although there are stability and other issues at work that makes this complicated.  The great advantage is that the amount of material needed in such a weapon is significantly less and the gun type weapon is advantageous because it can easily be fabricated.  It is known that the Nazis were building special devices for manufacturing protactinium and had taken virtually all of France’s supply of thorium.  As Paul Frame has written: “Auer Gesselshaft, a German chemical company involved in securing and processing uranium, had taken over the French company Terres-Rares during Nazi occupation. Ominously, Auer had shipped Terres-Rares’ massive supply of thorium to Germany.” There are those who have argued that Germany tested an atomic weapon based on U-233 at Ohrdruf, although this has not been conclusively proven.

In the context of the time, Japan was desperate  and trying to survive against a strong allied force about to overrun them.  At the same time the Japanese were in a dangerous atomic race with the United States. So, too, were the Russians making every effort to lay their hands on Nazi and japanese nuclear scientists and equipment.  In the closing weeks of the war, Russian forces sprinted to Konan.  Thanks to effective Russian spying inside Japan, they understood the importance of what the Japanese had, and were especially focused on thorium.  Until the US took out the Konan thorium facility in  1950 at the start of the Korean war, something the Koreans and Russians worked hard to stop by blowing up bridges and reinforcing air defenses, they failed.

What the history tells us, at least about Japan, is that it had the scientific know-how, the industrial capacity, and most of the raw materials (save enough enriched uranium as a feed stock for producing plutonium) to deliver an atomic bomb to a target.  It had two major deficits: it was out of submarines by the last few weeks of the war, which made delivering a weapon all but impossible since no surface ship could get through the US naval blockade; and Japan was out of critical supplies like partially enriched uranium.  The US program to intercept and destroy submarines heading for Japan with nuclear supplies worked. The last few Nazi U-boats surrendered after they were ordered to do so after Hitler met his end.

The broader lesson from history, properly understood, is that states that have reason to fear for their survival will develop nuclear weapons.  That is what Japan did during World War II.  That is what North Korea has done facing a hostile United States.  And it is quite likely that is what South Korea may be doing, although there is no proof it is so.

Neither Japan nor South Korea need advice from US political candidates when it comes to an issue impacting their survival in a hostile world.

But, by the same token, this also partially vindicates what Donald Trump said.  The vindication is only partial because Trump’s statement bypasses some issues of great concern to the United States.  Principally the United States wants to contain, not exacerbate, nuclear threats.  If South Korea or Japan had nuclear weapons and was under great pressure, using such weapons could lead to an even broader conflagration of incalculable dimensions.  In this sense, Trump’s proposal fails the test as a component of a sensible US strategy.  But, sadly, he may correctly be anticipating the future, because America’s ability to control nuclear proliferation  may be entering the twilight zone.


Reprinted from Bryen’s Blog (www.bryensblog.com).

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