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The A 10 Warthog Could Ravage North Korea. So Why Does the Air Force Hate It?

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The much-maligned A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack airplane could prove to be a savior if fighting breaks out with North Korea. However, the US Air Force wants to get rid of the plane, and is not asking for funds to fix the wings on some 100 A-10s, which therefore may end up in the scrap yard.

In any conflict with North Korea, a US-South Korean-Coalition’s objective will be to knock out North Korea’s nuclear facilities and missiles. This will surely involve strategic bombers and maybe even stealth aircraft. But one immediate consequence will be that North Korea will attack South Korea, probably aiming first at neutralizing US and Korean forces by destroying bases, airfields, depots and equipment.

North Korea has a very large army that may number 3.5 million men and women, although the quality of the forces is open to question and skepticism. The country also has a considerable armored capability. There are 4,200 tanks, 2,200 armored personnel carriers, 8,600 artillery pieces and 4,800 multiple rocket launchers. While most of these are of old designs, if North Korea is able to move them in position, cross the DMZ and mount an attack on the south, its army could quickly defeat the south.

But if that is what the North Koreans are betting on, they had better be ready for US airpower. And the aircraft that could cause them the most  harm is the A-10.

The A-10 was originally designed and deployed to support NATO forces against a land attack coming from the Soviet Union. It was purposely built to be able to knock out tanks, APCs and other mobile hardware.

A Soviet attack never came and the Soviet Union disintegrated by 1991. Consequently the A-10 was repurposed to perform COIN (counterinsurgency) duties and was used heavily in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only was it used to blast away at Taliban and al-Qaeda, and more recently ISIS formations, but it also played an important role in offering close support to advancing coalition forces.

But the threat from North Korea of a massive land attack is no different than the one that was feared from the USSR. The A-10 design is perfectly suited to the mission.

The heart of the A-10 is its formidable and highly effective GAU-8 30mm canon. The GAU-8, termed the “Avenger,” is a 7-barrel gatling gun that can fire 4,200 rounds per minute. It carries two types of ammunition: an armor piercing shell that uses a depleted uranium core, and an incendiary shell. It could take out any and all of North Korea’s armor.

The US Air Force has been trying to kill the A-10 program. It claims (among other things) that existing aircraft can fill its role (argument 1) and that the plane is not survivable in complex environments where the enemy has real air defenses (argument 2).

Of course, when the A-10 was built and first deployed, the adversary had air defenses in depth. These were shown off by Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, where fighting, especially in the Sinai, was a clash of large armies and where air power was crucial to Israel’s ability to blunt the Egyptian attack and turn the war around.

Israel’s Air Force faced SA-6 air defense missiles coupled with ZSU Quad 4 23mm guns. Both were mobile and could move with the Egyptian armored force. In seeking to knock them out, Israel used A-4s and had a tough time, losing many aircraft (mostly to the ZSU guns). Most of the time the losses happened when the A-4s were pulling away  from an attack and got shot up when they were most vulnerable.

North Korea has fairly modern air defenses, especially a system known as the S-75 and another called the KN-06. The S-75 is more or less the same things as the Russian SA-2. The KN-06 is thought to be an early version of the Russian S-300, but manufactured locally.

These systems are great targets for the F-35 or F-22, or they can be jammed and knocked out by long range bombers such as the B-1.

The argument the Air Force carefully avoids is that US aircraft don’t operate singularly. The F-22 is a strategic long-range pure stealth fighter bomber; the F-35 is a new tactical stealth plane that can play a role against North Korean missile sites. Much of North Korea’s largely obsolete Air Force is food for F-15s and F- 16s.

While nothing ever works exactly as advertised, combinations of coalition aircraft can keep the skies clear and go to work on the main strategic targets (long range missiles and nuclear facilities), leaving the A-10 with a prime role of blasting North Korea’s armored forces.

The A-10 is the perfect aircraft to blast any plans Kim Jong-un has to dominate the Korean peninsula. If his army is chopped up and decimated, he will only have himself to blame. And if he survives, he will remember the A-10.


 

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France’s air force is shooting for the stars

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A new name, a new raison d’être.

The French Air Force is aiming high, very high.

On Sept. 11, it became the French Air and Space Force, completing a process initiated by President Emmanuel Macron in July 2019 when he announced the creation of a space command, Defense News reported.

A new logo, revealed Friday, accompanies the new name. The logo features a thin, curved line that runs above the word “armée” and then behind the word “air.”

It represents the surface of the world, above which soars the stylized sparrow-hawk, which has been the logo for the Air Force for a decade, the report said.

The bird’s position has been very slightly modified to make it look more like a hunter. And the phrase “& espace” has been added.

The Air and Space Force says the reason for the discreet changes in the logo is to underline the continuity of the mission rather than a revolution in the mission, the report said.

“Today aviators must look higher, further, towards space, this new field of confrontation that is highly strategic and increasingly connected,” Air and Space Force Chief of Staff General Philippe Lavigne said to service members.

French Air and Space Force logo, established Sept. 11, 2020. Credit: Handout.

“Your qualities enable you to master the skies. They will now lead you to conquering space.”

In a statement, the Air and Space Force said given “the vital implications for military operations,” France had defined space as being “a major stake” for its strategic independence, and so the Space Command — locally known as CDE, or Commandement de l’espace — was created on Sept. 3, 2019.

The command is led by Brigadier General Michel Friedling, who reports to Joint Chief of Staff General François Lecointre where cooperation, capabilities and military operations are concerned, and to Lavigne when training and force preparation are involved, the report said.

Based in Toulouse, the Space Command should reach full operational capacity in 2025 with a staff of almost 500.

There are currently 220 men and women working on developing capabilities to protect military satellites from being approached by satellites operated by foreign powers.

The command has already set up LISA, a laboratory dedicated to military innovation in space, and it is also preparing for AstérX, the first European military space exercise planned for November 2020.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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Gunfire Sends Conflict Shockwaves in Ladakh Border

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The Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army have exchanged gunfire for the first time at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on Monday as Beijing claimed that Indian troops crossed the border in Ladakh. AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan

The first shots fired in Ladakh in more than four decades have reverberated from Beijing to New Delhi with a chilling message that peace can no longer be taken for granted in the region if the India-China standoff is not resolved soon.

It also seems to mark the demise of agreements to desist from using firearms to prevent any escalation.

Each country had its versions of the evening gunfire on Monday, albeit just warning shots in the air.

India says Chinese troops fired in the air to signal their own troops to hold back from proceeding towards Indian positions on a high point. According to China, Indian troops fired to threaten patrolling border guards.

Either way, the first shots since 1975 at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) of the disputed border seem to be loaded with messages.

A warning shot from India would be sending a loud message that India means business. After being on the back foot for more than four months, and having regrouped and positioned itself well and gained ascendance in some parts of the embattled region, India is in a position to send a bold message.

“India, while is committed to disengagement and de-escalating the situation on the LAC, China continues to undertake provocative activities to escalate,’’ the Defense Ministry in New Delhi said.

“At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to use of any aggressive means, including firing.’’

For China, it could be an excuse to escalate to come closer to achieving its objectives, foreign policy experts say. China has been incensed at being pushed back to a disadvantageous position around Pangong Lake in Ladakh, rendering useless years of planning for a stealth encroachment into Indian territories.

India’s actions seriously violated the relevant agreements and agreements between China and India, pushing up regional tensions and easily causing misunderstandings and misjudgments,’’ PLA spokesman Zhang Shuili said. “They are serious military provocations and are of very bad nature.’’

While China still holds on to the gains it made from the incursions from late April to early May in other areas across Ladakh, it can see for sure its image of invincibility being shattered along with its position of dominance and intimidation over India.

To make matters worse for China, it lost the crucial position on commanding heights on surrounding mountains that has tilted the balance of power. India now has its battle tanks, artillery guns, and its troops battle-ready with a clear view of Chinese positions and can react swiftly to prevent any further aggression.

Helping India gain the critical positions was a mission by soldiers from a special forces unit on the night of August 29. The unit comprises soldiers whose origin is Tibet. Elders of these soldiers took refuge in India after being ousted by China in 1950 as it invaded the plateau and annexed the roof of the world, leaving them seething and bitter.

Ryan Clarke, a visiting senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, writes in a new analysis that the stakes for both the countries are much higher than they were in 1962, when the two last had a war.

“What drives today’s tensions are likely much broader strategic and environmental considerations, and not short-term tactical considerations or ephemeral factors, such as nationalism,’’ Clarke wrote in his report on India-China conflicts.

Last night’s incident carries several messages for China before the September 10 meeting of foreign ministers of India S. Jaishankar and China’s Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Moscow.

A similar meeting between defense ministers of the two countries in Moscow on September 5 ended with both reiterating their positions. India sought talks to help defuse and de-escalate the situation, China declined to cede any land it occupied. China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe accused India of unilaterally altering the status quo.

Soon after last Friday, in a seemingly unrelated but significant development, Chinese President Xi Jinping cancelled his visit to Pakistan, giving Covid-19 as a reason, but triggering speculation.

Since the Moscow meeting, India’s Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary have said the border dispute and overall relations can’t be separated and that it can’t be business as usual until China restores the status quo as it existed in March-April before its incursions.

It is possible to sense a change in sentiment and determination. Since the incursions, more than half a dozen meetings of Special Representatives haven’t yielded India much, except to be prepared for any eventuality.

China yesterday fired another warning shot, stating it never recognized the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of India, describing it as South Tibet instead. The statement added concern in India with its 3,488km mountainous and largely un-demarcated border with China.

In a major boost to its military, India yesterday successfully tested a hypersonic missile and joined the small club of the United States, Russia and China that have this technology. A clear message is India can fire at six times the speed of sound and fire beyond Asia, including all of China. Nuclear-armed India at present has a wide range of missiles.

In New Delhi, the army chief today briefed the defense minister and the chief of defense staff held meetings with the chiefs of all the three services. The army chief was also scheduled to meet the top commanders.

On September 10, France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly will arrive in India in a special aircraft for the induction of Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force. The Rafales are expected to give greater teeth and maneuverability to the air force. (Asian Times)

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Indonesia-Russia Military Ties in Focus With Defense Ministers Meeting

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The high-level meeting spotlighted some of the activities both sides are exploring for their future military ties.

Earlier this week, Russia’s defense minister paid a visit to Indonesia in the first such interaction of 2019. The trip spotlighted some of the ongoing activity within the military aspect of ties between the two sides and how they are looking to develop it further for the rest of the year and into the future more generally.

As I have noted before in these pages, Russia and Indonesia have long had a defense relationship that they have looked to continue to develop over the years. While most of the attention tends to be focused around areas such as new arms purchases, there are also a range of others such as exchanges and dialogues, along with discussions about technology transfer and even joint development and production amid challenges that remain.

This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Indonesia. Shoigu was on his first scheduled trip to the Southeast Asian state of 2019.

The visit consisted of a series of interactions between the two sides, including a meeting between Shoigu and Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu. The visit was framed generally as being an opportunity for both sides to help strengthen ties between the two defense ministries as part of their broader effort to enhance high-level political and military relations.

The meeting between the two defense ministers and their delegations touched on various existing aspects of defense collaboration as well as future areas too. According to Indonesia’s defense ministry, Ryacudu suggested that increased cooperation be sought in fields such as information exchange, joint training, and annual dialogues between the two sides, in addition to current collaboration in areas like procurement and counterterrorism. Shoigu, for his part, discussed some of Russia’s intended areas for future collaboration and also invited Indonesian participation in various upcoming for a in the country, including conferences and parades.

Beyond defense issues, the two sides also discussed the future direction of their overall relationship as well. Per TASS, Shoigu pointed out that the top priority for both sides was to implement agreements reached by the two leaders at their Sochi meeting in May 2016 and then at the East Asia Summit in November 2018, and he also made reference to broader developments, including the fact that Indonesia’s position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2019-2020 period which offered an opportunity to collaborate on wider regional and global issues.

Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics were publicly disclosed about the exact details of how the two sides aim to solidify their defense relations moving forward through 2019 and into 2020. Nonetheless, the relationship will continue to be important to monitor amid wider developments, including the 70th anniversary of the bilateral relationship in 2020 which both sides have already been highlighting this year as well. DIPLOMAT


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