F-22 Deployment to Europe a Good Thing, but we need to Protect the United States from Russian Warplanes

by Stephen Bryen

On August 11th Technology and Security wrote the following:

“NATO has weakened even more in the face of Russian provocations in the Baltic Sea.  According to the Free Beacon, NATO has decided on a unilateral basis to reduce its air patrols challenging the incursion of Russian military aircraft into the Baltic area.  NATO countries have been using F-16′s and European Typhoon jet fighters to deter the Russians who have used fighter aircraft and Tupolev Bear strategic bombers flying near the coast of the Baltic Nations, Norway and the UK.  In 2014 NATO intercepted over 150 Russian military penetrations in the Baltic; overall NATO jets have scrambled over 250 times.Until the latest decision, 16 jet fighters have been assigned to the NATO intercept mission.  That number is being reduced to 8 aircraft,  NATO claims that this is a reasonable reduction.”

Now the Defense Department has announced that it will deploy F-22’s to “Europe” according to Air Force Secretary Deborah James.  The actual location of the deployment, the number of airplanes, and the precise mission were not disclosed by the Air Force Secretary nor by the Air Force leadership.  But the most likely location is Poland, where the US previously deployed F-16 fighter jets.  The F-22 is the first 5th generation stealth aircraft in the US inventory, and until the Russian FA PAK T-50 actually enters service, it is the most advanced aircraft in the world.

F-22A

F-22A

There are many reasons to favor the deployment, but also areas of serious concern.

In favor of moving US aircraft to the area is to revitalize the US commitment particularly to the newer NATO member states including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. all of whom are under heavy Russian pressure.

The deployment also will be an object lesson to the Russians who have been flying mostly older aircraft around the periphery of these countries as well as other NATO members including the UK and Norway, and non-NATO players, especially Sweden and Finland.  While there is little that concretely suggests the Russians are interested in anything more than intimidation, and probably lack the military ability to follow up in any concrete way as it would start a war that will be interpreted by NATO as sufficient to mobilize all its forces, nonetheless if incursions are left unchallenged it will temp Moscow’s “ultras” in the military to put even more military pressure on the Baltic countries.

Showing off the F-22 is also a good idea, although it will give the Russians a prime opportunity to test the F-22’s capabilities and look for operational vulnerabilities. It would seem this is a risk worth taking, since it will also have a reverse effect: it will make Russia’s Air Force generals much more circumspect when they set out on their next intimidation mission.  It may well end up they are chased away and before they get too close to any shoreline.

The serious concern remains NATO itself.  The US deployment comes after NATO cut its patrols in half and seems to have been in a mood to let the Russians have their way.  Thus the American deployment of F-22’s is as much a way to revitalize a flagging NATO as it is to challenge the Russians.  NATO is weak and getting weaker, just as the US military is losing its punch with heavy troop reductions and not many new weapons programs. The F-22 is a good wake up call all around.

Beyond that, there is a strong case to be made, as we have said before, in a new upgraded production of F-22 aircraft. The fact of the matter is there is almost universal skepticism among experts about the combat usefulness of the F-35 semi-stealth, which is the only new fighter the US has after F-22 production was prematurely cancelled.  The difference between the two airplanes is profound: the F-22 is a strategic aircraft; at best the F-35 is a tactical airplane that has issues and vulnerabilities against the latest Russian planes such as the SU-35.

Overall the US effort to checkmate the Russians needs upgrading and much more serious policy attention than it is getting. Buzzing coastlines with bombers equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles is a dangerous and reckless gambit by the Russians and, in any case, we should not tolerate it.  The Russians have been simulating cruise missile launches from Bear bombers off the coast of Canada and across the continent in the area of Alaska all the way down to California. The administration has been silent and has not really done much to complain about these “exercises.”  This is a policy error: you don’t let the other guy fly around your coastline with nuclear bombs and act like everything is normal.  While thinking about the Baltics and Europe, the administration also needs to get its act together in protecting the United States.

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Order Arming of Domestic Troops Now!

by Stephen Bryen

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is a pretty good secretary of defense in an administration that is intent on weakening the Pentagon by reducing troops, truncating defense programs, and tying the hands of our front line forces.  Carter has been trying to navigate through this wall of White House disdain and he has managed to do so fairly well under the circumstances.

Having said what is nice, Carter is not going to win any award for Profiles in Military Courage.  Nor are his commanders, generals, Joint Chiefs or any of the others going to earn the plaudits of the American people.  Why?  Because all of them, individually and collectively, have refused to allow our armed forces on domestic duty to be armed.  That is why Carter, who spoke on August 15th in a service honoring the five slain service members, did not do what he should have done and what his commanders should already have done, namely to order all soldiers on duty in the United States to be armed.

America should be rightly proud of her military servicemen and women.  They have willingly and courageously put themselves in harms way to defend their country, even at time when the mission was far from ideal or even wise.  American troops are well trained in how to use firearms, and carry them to war.

But the war has clearly come to America.  This is known to the US intelligence services and to the FBI.  Everyone knows that domestic military installations and individual service members are being targeted by terrorists, especially ISIS which has made clear its intent to kill as many as possible.

That is why it is unconscionable to allow our service members to walk around unarmed, and to serve in highly exposed places such as recruitment centers, which often are in strip malls and shopping centers.

I know a little about this because my son-in-law, prior to getting his medical training, served in recruiting centers in the Army. And my daughter, who recently retired as a Lt. Colonel with a combat badge and bronze star, felt more at risk on a US base in Texas than a FOB in Iraq.

According to the latest news report Carter has asked for a review of the situation and “urges military leaders to consider the option of adding armed personnel and to submit an “action plan” by August 21.”

Huh?  While the 21st is not far off, arming our domestic troops is a no brainer entirely supported by intelligence information. Leaving our troops exposed even for another single day is irresponsible.

Secretary Carter should not wait for his commanders to report to him. They have already shown they have little interest in sticking their necks out politically and bucking the White House.  But Carter is safe and Obama won’t fire him because he can’t without risking impeachment.  It is time for Secretary Carter to buck up and do the right thing. Now.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

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Bryen on Josh Tolley Radio Show Talks the Iran Deal

Stephen Bryen appeared on the nationally and internationally syndicated John Tolley show (August 14th).  The entire program is available on the John Tolley Show Podcast.

To listen to excerpts of the program featuring the Bryen-Tolley interview, please visit Stephen Bryen’s website.

The Iran discussion centered on Dr. Bryen’s core argument that the Iran “deal” is just a cover or ruse by the current administration to try and normalize relations with Iran.  Pointing to a retreat by the United States from the Middle East and Persian Gulf, Dr. Bryen argues both that Iran will now be the aggressive growing military power dominating the region and that the United States is in retreat.

In the interview a number of related subjects are treated including the exclusion of the Defense Department from participating in the negotiations, the opening up of conventional arms sales to Iran allowing it to strengthen its military and increase the threat to its neighbors, and the lack of inspection of military sites in Iran.

John Tolley Show

John Tolley Show

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Russia’s New Air Force is Formidable and Exportable

by Stephen Bryen

F-117A Canopy from downed jet now in a museum in Serbia.

F-117A Canopy from downed jet now in a museum in Serbia.

Russia is building a new Air Force around two platforms: the SU-35 and the FA PAK T-50. These two platforms are powerful and highly capable.  The SU-35 exceeds the performance of the US Joint Strike Fighter F-35; the emerging T-50 is a stealth aircraft that challenges the US F-22 and may be more modern and capable.  
 
While the US no longer manufactures the F-22 and, in any case, was barred by Congress from exporting them, the Russians are exporting the SU-35 and are in negotiations to export the T-50 PAK with the first customer India.
 
Many American allies wanted the F-22 and for good reason.  It was the world’s most advanced jet, with a very high level of stealth and with considerable power thanks to its twin engines.  Designed to replace the F-15 with something even more formidable, Australia, Israel and Japan wanted the F-22 to protect it from the proliferation of Russian platforms –for Japan and Australia also worry about China’s emerging stealth planes in the Pacific. China also has just bought from Russia 24 SU-35’s.  These will arrive before the US JSF will appear in either Australia or Japan, and the SU-35 may perform better than the F-35.
F22 Raptor

F22 Raptor

 
As for the F-22 the United States has 184 usable aircraft.  However, the availability of the F-22 is sub-par and, under the best circumstances, only 63% of the aircraft are flyable at any one time.  Plans to improve F-22 availability seem to have been either delayed or scrapped; and in any case the goal was to reach only 70%.  As the F-22’s age, availability will probably decline further.  Unfortunately the cancellation of the original program that projected over 400 F-22’s, the poor availability, and other issues that have plagued the aircraft compounds into a serious problem as the Russians move forward with the PAK T-50.
The strategic concept of US stealth fighters is to kill opposing aircraft well beyond visual range and before the opposing aircraft can “see” them.  In the US mix of F-22’s and F-35’s, the F-22’s are supposed to destroy high value targets like ground to air missiles, enemy radars and command and control centers; the F-35’s would then be used to bomb enemy forces and degrade the enemies ability to fight.
 
To some degree the stealth “solution” followed the tactics Israel developed in Operation Mole Cricket 19 where it took out Syrian missiles and radars and then proceeded to decimate the Syrian Air Force mainly over the Bekaa Valley in 1982.  The difference is that in that older conflict, Israel did not have stealth, so it made its attacking planes disappear by the use of jammers and by creating bogus targets using drones.  It exploited the superiority of US F-15 and F-16 fighters in the air to air war, and deployed look down shoot down radars which the Syrians lacked.
 
Stealth was proven on the  now retired F-117A stealth fighter that was used in the Panama “war” against an inept and poorly equipped enemy; in the Balkans it performed less well, and one was shot down by the Serbians using an SA-3 missile.  Two others were hit but survived.  In the Iraq war the F-117 did a fair job, but its ability to hit targets accurately was only around 40%.  
Serbia sends a message about the F-117A to the US after the shootdown.

Serbia sends a message about the F-117A to the US after the shootdown.

 
Of course the F-22 is a huge step above the subsonic F-117.  But there are not enough of them and none of our allies have them because we would not export them.
 
The savior airplane is supposed to be the F-35.  The F-35 is a tactical, not a strategic airplane.  It maneuvers poorly, is vulnerable from behind because its “stealth” is primarily frontal; when it opens its bomb doors it lights up radars, and its growth potential is open to question.  Meanwhile the Russians have been developing jammers, new types of radars based on L-band that can detect stealthy airplanes; and advanced sensors using infra red and optical scanning.  Moreover, like the US the Russians either are fielding or are about to field very long range air to air missiles, but with a significant advantage over current US systems.

SU-35 in flight

SU-35 in flight

 
The reason is that the Russian planes -both the SU-35 and the T-50 fly much higher and faster than the F-35.  This means that when they launch air to air missiles the missiles are flying both faster and farther than anything that the F-35 can release. Aviation experts sense that this may be enough to close the gap entirely on the US approach to beyond visual range tactics.
 
Russia has built up a first class aviation industry and is close to producing power plants for Russian jets that are as good as anything coming from Pratt and Whitney or GE, the two main producers in the US.  While there are still gaps on the Russian industrial side, the Russians have got help from European defense companies and are able to buy just about any equipment they need.  The COCOM system that regulated exports to the USSR and Warsaw Pact was shut down by Bill Clinton in 1994.  Since then the Russians, even during the period when they were buying almost nothing in the way of new military equipment (from the end of the Cold War in 1991 until as late as 2011), they were steadily building a new defense industry based on industrial know how and equipment that they could not get in the Cold War period.  
 
One can add to the new and more robust nature of the Russian defense industry the fact that the Russians have developed a cyber capability that has proven more than able to steal defense secrets from the US and its allies.  In this one can posit, but not prove, that the Russians also benefit from Chinese espionage that follows the same principals.  For its part the US has not found a way to deal with what is nowadays called the advanced persistent threat.  Not only is it persistent: it is growing exponentially.
 
But the most important aspect in Russia’s strategy is its willingness to export its front line aircraft.
 
From the Russian point of view this is a necessity because the Russians need the money and they want the influence.
 
There has been a lot of criticism of the F-35 and doubts as to whether it can survive on the modern battlefield if challenged by the latest Russian aircraft.  Most importantly, it is a tactical airplane and our allies don’t have the F-22, which is a vital piece to being able to mount a proper challenge to Russian-made platforms.

President Putin inspects the SU FA-PAK T-50 prototype.

President Putin inspects the SU FA-PAK T-50 prototype.

 
Some think manufacture of the F-22 should be revived, in the form of an improved model. But to make that approach at all viable, its exportability also needs to be reconsidered.  In the current political and budget environment there is scant chance the F-22 will be reincarnated.  To a degree the US is facing an uncertain future; our allies are even in a more dangerous position.
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The Writing is On the Wall for the U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf

By Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen

FIRST APPEARED IN AMERICAN THINKER 8 AUGUST 2015

The long U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt is likely drawing to a close. What once worked to assure stability in the region and keep the oil flowing will not work in the face of Iranian nuclear capability, and the administration is disinclined to rethink a workable strategy. The United States will likely reengage, but only when the resulting chaos spreads to our shores, as it surely will.

How different it was twenty-five years ago this month, when President Bush (41) said Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait “would not stand.” American and allied forces rushed to the battlefield despite concerns about Iraq’s unconventional weapons — primarily poison gas, which had already been used against the Kurds in the north. But Israel provided a counter-threat to Saddam, letting him know that if Israel were threatened with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons it would join the war. It was a threat Saddam took seriously, as his nuclear program at Osirak had been destroyed by Israel a decade earlier.

Israel’s counter-threat worked. Iraq fired some 80 Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia. None had chemical or biological warheads; and, of course, none were nuclear.

Without actually fighting, Israel proved to be a key security asset that allowed American troops to operate with relative freedom against Iraq.

Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, on the other hand, will similarly constrain American military planning, but this time Israel will not be able to offer a counter-threat. In the simplest terms, the U.S. facing a nuclear Iran will either have to significantly change how it deploys to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, or get out of harm’s way. The weakening of the overall American military posture under sequestration makes the latter most likely.

There are a number of factors that need explication:

(1) Prior to the Israeli strike on Osirak, Iran had sent its own Phantom jets to try to knock out Iraq’s centrifuge facility adjoining the reactor; reports have it that the Iranians also shared photo reconnaissance with Israel of their raid to help Israel pinpoint the right targets and finish the job. Israel’s strike caused a firestorm in American policy circles because Washington had a secret relationship with Saddam Hussein and was turning a blind eye to the transfer of nuclear technology to that country. But Iraq could never be sure whether/when Israel would strike again. Thus Israel created an enforceable red line. The U.S. has none with Iran.

(2) The Shah of Iran was after nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The work started by the Shah simply continued under the Mullahs. As with Iraq, technology from many countries, Western and otherwise, flowed into Iran and is still pouring in. The scope of the Iranian nuclear drive dwarfs anything Iraq attempted.

(3) All “wannabe” nuclear powers follow multiple paths to weapons development. No country can afford to risk everything on a single solution that could fail for technical reasons, be blocked politically, or destroyed by a hostile force. Iran may be unique because it has positioned some of its nuclear weapons development capabilities outside the country, most notably in Syria where there were at least three sites, one of which was destroyed by Israel, and North Korea. Iran also has a very sensitive relationship with South Africa, which has highly enriched weapons grade uranium, enrichment facilities, and knows how to build nuclear weapons.

(4) Once Iran reaches nuclear weapons operational capability, if the United States wants to continue as the guarantor of regional stability it will have to introduce active nuclear forces into the region as a deterrent. Or, alternatively, it can decide to pull back from the area. But no responsible American planner can overlook the fact that Iran can achieve an operational capability in perhaps as little as five years. Not for nothing did the Obama administration keep the Pentagon out of the Iran negotiations. President Obama and Secretary Kerry were seeking a political — not a military — deal. The JPCOA is not an arms control agreement.

(5) This leaves Iran as an emerging nuclear power facing Israel, which is also a nuclear power. What isn’t clear is whether the Israelis can risk a nuclear Iran or whether Israel has to conjure a way to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Prime Minister Menachim Begin acted on multiple fronts to kill the Iraqi program: before Osirak was taken out, Saddam’s nuclear accomplices in Europe were raided and bombed and at least one top Iraqi scientist was killed in France. Iran is much farther down the road than Iraq was and it has moved some of its assets offshore — in some cases to points outside Israel’s reach, i.e., North Korea. Europe will likely step up its cooperation with Iran to supply nuclear knowhow, just as the Russians are upping the ante.

(6) An American pullback from the Gulf is not anathema to the Obama administration or to the American public, and one can argue it has already happened. The U.S. is gone from Iraq and nearly so from Afghanistan. It is no longer either the protector of European and Asian energy supplies or the strategic partner of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Israel. Middle Eastern oil is no longer essential to the United States, which is nearly energy independent. Americans generally see no reason to protect oil resources for other countries, and are horrified by a culture war in the Middle East that is entirely alien to American values. The American public may be inclined to accept a decision that the U.S. can reduce its posture in the Gulf and not seek to play a significant military role in the area.

This is an uncomfortable and dangerous situation and without some dramatic intervention does not augur well for the future. The spread of chaos under Iran’s nuclear shield will ultimately require a return of U.S. power, but it will happen under conditions far less favorable.

The long U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt is likely drawing to a close. What once worked to assure stability in the region and keep the oil flowing will not work in the face of Iranian nuclear capability, and the administration is disinclined to rethink a workable strategy. The United States will likely reengage, but only when the resulting chaos spreads to our shores, as it surely will.

How different it was twenty-five years ago this month, when President Bush (41) said Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait “would not stand.” American and allied forces rushed to the battlefield despite concerns about Iraq’s unconventional weapons — primarily poison gas, which had already been used against the Kurds in the north. But Israel provided a counter-threat to Saddam, letting him know that if Israel were threatened with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons it would join the war. It was a threat Saddam took seriously, as his nuclear program at Osirak had been destroyed by Israel a decade earlier.

Israel’s counter-threat worked. Iraq fired some 80 Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia. None had chemical or biological warheads; and, of course, none were nuclear.

Without actually fighting, Israel proved to be a key security asset that allowed American troops to operate with relative freedom against Iraq.

Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, on the other hand, will similarly constrain American military planning, but this time Israel will not be able to offer a counter-threat. In the simplest terms, the U.S. facing a nuclear Iran will either have to significantly change how it deploys to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, or get out of harm’s way. The weakening of the overall American military posture under sequestration makes the latter most likely.Osirak

There are a number of factors that need explication:(1) Prior to the Israeli strike on Osirak, Iran had sent its own Phantom jets to try to knock out Iraq’s centrifuge facility adjoining the reactor; reports have it that the Iranians also shared photo reconnaissance with Israel of their raid to help Israel pinpoint the right targets and finish the job. Israel’s strike caused a firestorm in American policy circles because Washington had a secret relationship with Saddam Hussein and was turning a blind eye to the transfer of nuclear technology to that country. But Iraq could never be sure whether/when Israel would strike again. Thus Israel created an enforceable red line. The U.S. has none with Iran.

(2) The Shah of Iran was after nuclear weapons and delivery systems. The work started by the Shah simply continued under the Mullahs. As with Iraq, technology from many countries, Western and otherwise, flowed into Iran and is still pouring in. The scope of the Iranian nuclear drive dwarfs anything Iraq attempted.

(3) All “wannabe” nuclear powers follow multiple paths to weapons development. No country can afford to risk everything on a single solution that could fail for technical reasons, be blocked politically, or destroyed by a hostile force. Iran may be unique because it has positioned some of its nuclear weapons development capabilities outside the country, most notably in Syria where there were at least three sites, one of which was destroyed by Israel, and North Korea. Iran also has a very sensitive relationship with South Africa, which has highly enriched weapons grade uranium, enrichment facilities, and knows how to build nuclear weapons.

(4) Once Iran reaches nuclear weapons operational capability, if the United States wants to continue as the guarantor of regional stability it will have to introduce active nuclear forces into the region as a deterrent. Or, alternatively, it can decide to pull back from the area. But no responsible American planner can overlook the fact that Iran can achieve an operational capability in perhaps as little as five years. Not for nothing did the Obama administration keep the Pentagon out of the Iran negotiations. President Obama and Secretary Kerry were seeking a political — not a military — deal. The JPCOA is not an arms control agreement.

(5) This leaves Iran as an emerging nuclear power facing Israel, which is also a nuclear power. What isn’t clear is whether the Israelis can risk a nuclear Iran or whether Israel has to conjure a way to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Prime Minister Menachim Begin acted on multiple fronts to kill the Iraqi program: before Osirak was taken out, Saddam’s nuclear accomplices in Europe were raided and bombed and at least one top Iraqi scientist was killed in France. Iran is much farther down the road than Iraq was and it has moved some of its assets offshore — in some cases to points outside Israel’s reach, i.e., North Korea. Europe will likely step up its cooperation with Iran to supply nuclear knowhow, just as the Russians are upping the ante.

(6) An American pullback from the Gulf is not anathema to the Obama administration or to the American public, and one can argue it has already happened. The U.S. is gone from Iraq and nearly so from Afghanistan. It is no longer either the protector of European and Asian energy supplies or the strategic partner of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Israel. Middle Eastern oil is no longer essential to the United States, which is nearly energy independent. Americans generally see no reason to protect oil resources for other countries, and are horrified by a culture war in the Middle East that is entirely alien to American values. The American public may be inclined to accept a decision that the U.S. can reduce its posture in the Gulf and not seek to play a significant military role in the area.

This is an uncomfortable and dangerous situation and without some dramatic intervention does not augur well for the future. The spread of chaos under Iran’s nuclear shield will ultimately require a return of U.S. power, but it will happen under conditions far less favorable.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/08/the_writing_is_on_the_wall_for_the_us_military_in_the_persian_gulf.html#ixzz3iY2ZQqzv

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NATO WEAKENS EVEN MORE IN FACE OF RUSSIAN PROVOCATION

By Stephen Bryen

NATO has weakened even more in the face of Russian provocations in the Baltic Sea.  According to the Free Beacon, NATO has decided on a unilateral basis to reduce its air patrols challenging the incursion of Russian military aircraft into the Baltic area.  NATO countries have been using F-16′s and European Typhoon jet fighters to deter the Russians who have used fighter aircraft and Tupolev Bear strategic bombers flying near the coast of the Baltic Nations, Norway and the UK.  In 2014 NATO intercepted over 150 Russian military penetrations in the Baltic; overall NATO jets have scrambled over 250 times.

TU-95 Bear Strategic Bomber

TU-95 Bear Strategic Bomber

Until the latest decision, 16 jet fighters have been assigned to the NATO intercept mission.  That number is being reduced to 8 aircraft,  NATO claims that this is a reasonable reduction.

Given the persistence of the Russians and the concern raised among the NATO allies that face the Baltic, the argument is simple nonsense and a coverup.

The Baltic area includes Denmark, Germany, Poland,  Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and on out into the North Sea Norway and France and the UK, plus the neutral nations of Sweden and Finland.  Deploying only 16 aircraft to the job of protecting the airspace of the region given the length of the coastlines involved, was stretching the point.  Dropping to 8 aircraft is virtually to have no continuous coverage and no ability to shadow Soviet operations.

From the Russian standpoint, Putin has received a gift of inestimable value. It will reaffirm in the minds of Moscow planners that NATO is not only a gutless wonder, but that its leaders are deliberately pulling back and allowing Russia to flex its muscles.

Of course this should come as no surprise. It is one thing for NATO to beat up on hapless and alliance-meaningless countries such as Afghanistan and Libya, it is an entirely another matter to behave like a serious defense alliance.

Nor can this message be lost on the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, who are already under intense Russian pressure. How this will play out is anyone’s guess, but one can anticipate serious political destabilization, changes of government, and more accommodation to Russia.

One gets the impression such an outcome may be fine in the minds of the bigger NATO players, namely the US, Germany and the UK. (I exclude France because the French have never played a serious role in NATO, just a polemical one.)

Why then are the bigger NATO countries disinterested in playing a strong role in upholding NATO’s security interests?

Surely leaders like Merkel and Cameron “get it” when it comes to the challenge Russia poses.  But they obviously are going along with the voluntary slashing of NATO’s defensive patrols.  One detects an American hand in this: the United States is a country in full retreat and intends to do little or nothing to support its “new” NATO allies.  This has already been clear by the pittance of support to Poland and to the Baltic countries as the Russian challenge began to materialize. With America’s military seriously gutted and weakened from a strategic point of view, the Pentagon is not in much of a mood to press its civilian leaders to take the Russians seriously.  Indeed, the complete non-participation of the Pentagon in the Iran negotiations underscores the emasculation of the US military: which is, for those who look at ideology, a goal of the far left of the Democratic Party and the White House.

The problem with all this is that maintaining a balance of power is a fundamental issue in geopolitics.  Anytime a vacuum is created, it is open to exploitation.  And while it may look for a while as if nothing has happened, sooner or later the other foot drops and real trouble starts.  It could be a skirmish on the border of Poland, or a shoot down of a Russian bomber over Latvia, or countless other possible missteps that will lead to war.  Where military force postures are balanced, skirmishes and blunders can be managed; where there is an imbalance it is an invitation to increase military activity and square accounts.

Looking at the current situation, NATO’s reduction of aircraft is a blunder with long term, serious consequences.  Are we at the start of the unwinding of the NATO alliance that has preserved peace since the end of World War II?

[Photo Credit: http://www.airliners.net/photo/Russia—Air/Tupolev-Tu-95MS/1328519/L/]

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No High Level Military Participation In Iran Deal

by Stephen Bryen

It is glaringly obvious that the US military played no role, or only a minor role, in the recently concocted Iran deal.  The absence of any senior military officials in Geneva illustrates better than anything else that the deal is an entirely political one which is designed to mainly be window dressing on a restart of relations with the Iranian regime.  For this pleasure the United States and its allies in Europe are contributing massive amounts of high technology and releasing money so Iran can buy products from them.  Ironically, the fact is that Iran will probably spend the bulk of the money on armaments, mostly from Russia, China and North Korea, and on underwriting the costs of its nuclear and missile programs.

The absence of the Pentagon from the negotiations is not, of course, lost on America’s allies in the Middle East. Because the deal is political and has no solid national security component, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the smaller Persian Gulf states have reason for alarm.  And the United States, aware fully that the agreement is wallpaper on a trade and political deal, has sent its Defense Secretary off to the area to offer weapons du jour to them as some form of compensation.

Clearly no one in the region can afford not to be prepared against a formidable ambitious Iran equipped with nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

That is why Israel is beefing up its ballistic missile defense systems.  The newest of these in the last stage of development is called David’s Sling.  It will compliment the existing Arrow and Iron Dome systems already deployed.

“David’s Sling is designed to intercept medium-range ballistic weapons, especially highly accurate missiles and large rockets such as Hezbollah’s M-600,” according to the left wing Israeli paper, Haaretz.  A number of US companies led by Raytheon and ATK are working with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems on this new system, which will replace the aging Hawk and Patriot systems deployed in Israel.

But as the experts know fully well, there is no 100% missile defense system.  The excellent Iron Dome, for example, did not defeat all of the missiles fired by Hamas onto Israeli territory; it did however focus on the missiles most likely to hit civilian and defense targets.  Similarly, David’s Sling is optimized so it can distinguish between real threats and dummy warheads, something important in reducing the threat profile to something more manageable.  But with atomic weapons on Iranian missiles, even an off target rocket threatens this small and vulnerable country.

So it can be expected that Israel will significantly upgrade its early warning capability and its offensive nuclear strike capacity.  Meanwhile Saudi Arabia is nearly defense-less against an Iranian threat.  Will it rely on the US for protection? Or even secretly on Israel?  Or will the Saudis try and accommodate the Iranians, if any real accomodation is possible. One cost for Saudi Arabia will be halting support for Sunni rebels and pulling out of Yemen.  The Iranians will also demand political changes in Egypt as the price of any deal.  Because the Saudi dream is closely linked to its leadership of Sunni muslims, this will be a serious blow to their political ambitions and could imperil the regime at home.

Israel will bolster its first strike capability by adding satellite capability to detect any preparations for an attack on Israel and by building its nuclear strike ability.  Because the new Stealth F-35 is questionable as a nuclear weapons platform, it is likely Israel will embark on a modernization program for its F-15’s by working to minimize radar profiles and improve its counter measure systems, especially to counter Russian supplied S-300 air defenses.  One can imagine the role of the F-35 will be to take out the S-300 while the F-15’s take out the Iranian missile site with tactical nuclear weapons.

David_sling_missile

There is little doubt Iran has been working with North Korea on both its nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. This include missiles and other means, perhaps mini submarines.  The North Koreans have developed mini submarines which are hard to detect and, on suicide missions, could try and enter Israeli harbors.  In addition, Iran is putting some of its nuclear assets off shore: they have three sites in Syria plus the work done in North Korea, which probably includes weapons testing.  US intelligence is half blind when it comes to North Korea, but there is no doubt the Iran-Syria-North Korea linkage is very deep. In 2004 there was a massive train explosion in Ryongchŏn North Korea. The North Koreans said it was an accident and it was at first thought the explosion was designed to occur when a train carrying the North Korean dictator was passing by.  But later and credible reports consider the explosion an Israeli Mossad operation designed to take out Syrian nuclear scientists on board. Iranian scientists may also have been among them.

Unfortunately none of these subjects nor their implications were part of the Iran negotiations.  Whether the Pentagon raised any objections to the deal, or tried to take part in the process, remains unknown.  While the Pentagon’s budgets are being slashed and troop strength reduced, the Pentagon has not shown much courage about anything.  Even so, had the Pentagon participated the lousy deal we have would never have been agreed, and Iran would not have been cut loose with billions of dollars to pursue its nuclear program.

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The Iran Deal Will Help Russia Have a Stealth Air Force

by Stephen Bryen

The Iran deal will boost Russia’s arms industry and make it possible for Russia to replace its older aircraft with newer stealth models.

Thanks to the deal approved by the U.S., the allies and by Russia, the arms embargo on Iran will “officially” be lifted in 5 years. But the rush to sell arms to Iran has been on for some time and defense companies from Europe along with the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans have been flocking to Tehran offering their wares.

The biggest single need for Iran is fighter and bomber aircraft. There have been many reports that iran has already made deals with China and Russia, but the big deals are still ahead of us. That’s because until now Iran did not have the cash. The nuclear deal is pouring cash into Iran most of which will be spent on arms.

Iran’s Air Force is dilapidated. It has old F-4 Phantom Jets (64, the number in service not known), F-14’s (44 out of 80 remain in service) and F-5’s (60 out of 140 operational) from the United States. Iran has 30 MIG-29A’s of which 24 are in service and 24 Mirage F1’s that were evacuated from Iraq and never returned. Iran has some 20 Sukhoi-24 bombers and some Sukhoi Su-25’s both of which were formerly Iraqi aircraft. Reportedly Iran sent 7 of the Su-25’s back to Iraq to use against ISIS. Iran also has around 20 Chinese F-7M fighters it bought in the 1980s.

None of the aircraft in Iran’s inventory can stand up to US made F-15’s and F-16’s let alone deal with the F-22 or the forthcoming F-35. For Iran to claim regional power it must upgrade its air force radically. Most of all, to stay abreast it needs a genuine stealth fighter bomber.

That is why the lifting of the arms embargo is fortuitous for Iran since it allows the Russians to offer their new Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 stealth fighter bomber. The T-50 is a fifth generation air superiority and attack aircraft that uses stealth technology, has a supercruise capability and is regarded as far more maneuvreable than the F-22 or the F-35. In fact, the PAK FA T-50 is the Russian Air Force answer to the F-22.

The F-50 is not yet in production. There are many problems on the Russian side, but the biggest one is lack of cash.

That is why the Russians have been working hard to convince India to be the first international customer for the F-50. But the Indians have been taking their time, raising objections, criticizing the workmanship of the aircraft and have evinced alarm about the reliability of the F-50 engines. In turn this has created a major delay in the Russian ability to finance the F-50 for its own air force. Initial production has been delayed and pushed into 2016, with many experts suggesting it will even be delayed further.

Iran, therefore, can bail out the Russian Air Force by helping to finance the PAK-T-50 program. Helping to finance based on future deliveries probably is consistent with the deal struck by the allies, since it is not quite a sale and the aircraft won’t immediately be transferred to Iran.

When the PAK T-50’s get to Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will face a formidable problem. The Russian plane has the latest radars and weapons packages and its stealth will make it hard to defeat the T-50 with stand off weapons. The entire theory of the F-35, for example, is based on the idea of knocking the enemy out before the enemy detects the F-35. But if Russia’s stealth system turns out to be good, that advantage is liquidated.

For the western countries, most arms sales to Iran are likely to be electronics and spare parts instead of major systems. Iran will want parts for its F-5’s and F-4’s, perhaps for its F-14’s, and may also seek improvements on those platforms such as better radars or electronic warfare pods. But for sure the big potential benefactor is Russia.

One other significant impact is that the opening up of arms sales undermines the sanctions on Russia put there because of Russia’s military adventurism in the Ukraine. For the most part this deal makes those sanctions largely superfluous because, other than the export of its mineral wealth, Russia productivity is largely focused on its military industry. That is why the Russians are pushing so hard on the Ukraine, because a significant share of their military manufacturing is in Ukrainian hands and the Russians want it back.

While Congress will look at the nuclear deal primarily from the point of view of its adequacy and enforceability, the fact that the deal will boost Russia’s arms industry and help it rapidly build its Air Force’s stealth capability is a major strategic concern that should not be swept under the table.

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Cyber Security Is A National Security Imperative, But We Are in Failure Mode

by Stephen Bryen
The resignation of the Director of OPM is far from a solution to the massive data breach which now jeopardizes the privacy of millions of Americans and creates a national security threat of unknown and unprecedented dimension.
Worse yet, the government does not have a clue how to fix the problem.  We have the dumbest leaders and managers in the world, and the stupidity is so extreme that there is not a single organization in the government capable of advancing a fix to the cyber threat problem.  Administrations and Congress have been talking about all this for years and passing meaningless legislation that has improved nothing.  Meanwhile America’s adversaries are mining the gold that we as taxpayers underwrite, by stealing our technology and penetrating our entire critical infrastructure such that in any war everything will be shut down: power, water, communications, transport, food supply, fuel –the lot.  The simple minded folks in Washington blow billions of dollars on non-fixes and hire countless of security experts who would not know what to do in a traditional war. What makes anyone think they will know what to do in a cyber war?
The Pentagon stood up an organization to combat cyber crime by fighting fire with fire.  But so far as anyone can tell, they are incapable of doing this because they do not have any rules of engagement and, in any case, have barely an idea of what targets they should address.
There are two major cyber issues afflicting America.
The first is network integrity.  Because we universally rely on crappy commercial software to run our networks, built primarily for accessibility and entertainment, any idea of imposing a security envelope on them is pie in the sky.  They are untrustworthy junk.  Every network is totally vulnerable to denial of service attacks and a host of other penetration schemes for which they are not only ill prepared, they are not prepared at all.
The second issue is protection of information, which our government has proven that it cannot be trusted to carry out the task.  There are billions of records and tons of information ranging from the technological to the personal, from financial to health, that are mishandled by the government all the time.  None of the information is protected by encryption.  None of it is restricted by need to know.  Not only is it careless and sloppy; it is criminal.  The answer is straightforward but, for idiotic institutional reasons (the information is not classified) it is not safeguarded with encryption and compartmentalization.
So what are the answers.
The first is that a sort of Manhattan Project is needed to replace garbage commercial software the government uses for its networks.  This Plan should also include all the critical infrastructure.  A Manhattan Project will be tasked in two years to replace all the garbage with an impenetrable system that works; a system that is kept secret from our enemies; and perhaps even lives on a separate Internet, not the commercial one that is killing us all.
The second is that all government data should be classified which then will require that it is encrypted.  This will stop the nonsense that government officials say they can’t encrypt non-classified information.  The easy solution: classify everything. Collective stupidity is a disease and sometimes it needs a cure that revivifies the dead.  You can be sure the government brain is dead.  It must be fixed.
One of the great problems of government is there is no collective or individual responsibility or accountability.  People screw up and get away with it and the taxpayer is raped over with consistent success.  I am happy the head of OPM resigned, but what about her rotten security staff or the equally inept and incompetent morons who run all the other government agencies. They keep getting their paychecks.
Fire the lot.  Get new people. Put a Manhattan Project in place.  Classify everything and only release what you have to selectively. Take critical infrastructure protection not as a casual “wanna do” but as a national security imperative.  Most of all, fight the war and don’t trust anyone to do it for you.
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Regulating Encryption: Can it be done? Yes.

by Stephen Bryen

NIST Scanner

The Director of the FBI in a warning to Congress points out that ISIS is now using encryption to mask messages it is sending to thousands of Americans favorable to the ISIS cause, exhorting them to kill military and police and other hated targets. He, along with others in the Obama administration are urging “Silicon Valley” to consider building backdoors into encryption products they sell so that law enforcement can tap encrypted phones or computers and properly “do its job.”

But the question is, is there a practical solution?

I have been in the encryption business, or more clearly I have built commercial products that use encryption. In the early 1990’s I founded a company called SECOM (for Secure Communications). We developed a computer chat program that provided a secure, encrypted chat. In those days the Internet was only just getting underway and everyone was using modems (there was no WIFI or data connections except for big business and banks). Nor were there smartphones. The PC, however, was very popular and we built our product to run on PC’s running MSDOS or Windows. And because computers were slow, we built a little plug in computer card which did the actual encryption and decryption work.

Then the fun began. NSA did not like our solution because it was too hard to crack, so they “recommended” reducing the key size. It got to the point where the key size was too small to assure security, and after thinking it over (and investing a lot of development money), we decided we could not sell a product that failed in its critical mission: to protect the users from intercepts. We closed the company.

It was a bad outcome for us. And, as we pointed out at the time, because we used hardware and software we could have controlled who the end users were and assured that only bona fide users, not criminals or terrorists, would have access to the product.

What we went through was nothing new. A few years before IBM had proposed building encryption into all PCs so that all the data stored by them would be secure. NSA again objected, and despite IBM bringing rather heavy guns to bear on the problem, in the person of a direct appeal from the chairman of IBM to the head of the NSA, IBM had to stand down. No encryption chips would live on the IBM circuit board.

NSA and its counterpart the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) wear two different hats: on the one hand NSA is charged with carrying out spying in support of its US government “customers”; on the other NSA and NIST produce guidelines for security and even sponsor encryption solutions such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) which has replaced the old Data Encryption Standard (or DES). These sponsored products can be used without any licenses and can be exported abroad.

It may seem odd, therefore, that the government is worried about encryption if it is also facilitating its development and export.

We can add to that known efforts by NIST to actually publish a random number generator for so-called elliptical curve encryption was found to be buggered. The buggered product found its way into corporate security systems in the US and around the world.

The latest alarm in our government is more a consequence of the embarrassing and dangerous leaks by Edward Snowden then anything directly to do with ISIS. Terrorists have been using encryption for a number of years, and they easily get it on the open market. The Russians, Chinese, Europeans, Israelis as well as many companies in the United States develop and sell a wide range of security products that use encryption. And the “Dark Web” on the Internet is also a source of supply for covert type programs and applications.

My own thought is that the government is trying very hard to cut a deal with Snowden so that he will serve a little jail time and then shut up. It seems he still has a large bagful of information that exposes US spying activities. In fact that is the only logical way to interpret statements by our former attorney general Eric Holder who says a deal is possible with Snowden. He should know.

Whatever the case, the availability of encryption on a global scale seems to suggest that trying to control it is a furtive exercise. But that is what the government is saying. So the question is what can the government actually do to mitigate the situation?

Many in Silicon Valley (and here we are talking about most of the really big high tech computer and mobile players in the United States) worry that the government will insist on putting a back door into their encryption schemes, or some other way where the government can get into encrypted communications and data transfers. Clearly this is a scheme the government has pursued for a long time, but it brings with it two risks: either the “security” is so weak as to be meaningless, pushing users to outside solutions or the backdoor or hole in the system is uncovered, as Snowden has already proven. But there is even a third risk: that the backdoor or hole is uncovered by a professional adversary such as China or Russia, meaning that everything you thought was safe is out the window. Given the plethora of escalating exponential cyber attacks on our government and on corporate America, this “solution” is far more dangerous than abandoning encryption altogether, largely because it creates a false expectation of security.

An alternative solution the government could pursue is simply to make the use of encryption in the United States illegal. Such a thing would be very hard to enforce, but in the mobile world it can be done basically by shutting down any encrypted communication that is unauthorized. The technology for this certainly exists today in the form of network sniffers and scanners.

A modified form of the no encryption approach is to allow encryption only on authorized devices that US industry and licensed political and social organizations can use. To me this makes a lot of sense, and in fact I proposed an alternative idea back in the 1980’s when I dealt with export controls.

The idea propounded then was a sort of Gold Card for industry allowing them to get around the red tape and delays that hurt their business performance.

The idea has merit. We are using it today at American airports, either to have more rapid treatment in security processing (the so called “PRE” benefit) or as part of the Global Access Program to allow Americans who travel a lot to get past long lines at border crossings, especially airports.

Such a scheme would make sense in protecting America and allowing us to secure our communications and data. Naturally it would not stop terrorists from using encryption, but they would not be able to use it with their clients and wannabes in the United States. Such communications would be taken down by scanners.

I think this is an excellent solution for law enforcement because it forces the bad guys out into the open. Then it is law enforcement’s job to put them out of business here. And it is the job of the DOD and CIA to shut them down beyond our borders.

Above all else it is vastly important to make America safe, and it is vital that our communications can be secure and our data repositories free from exploitation. This the government itself should understand from its gross mishandling of sensitive but unclassified information, like the millions of non-encrypted records recently stolen by the Chinese.

Let’s hope we can arrive at a sensible solution to security for America.

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