Once the F-22s are airborne, there isn’t anything in the PRC’s military arsenal that can touch them. The F-22 has no peer in air to air combat and F-22s flying from their air bases close to China can shut down any airspace they can cover with their range and munitions.
There’s talk about China’s development of the J-20 and J-31 and how they can go toe to toe with the F-22 but this is incorrect in my opinion: These aircraft were not designed to fight other stealth fighters like the F-22. They were built to use their stealth to engage support aircraft like AWACs, Air refuellers, Recon aircraft and non-stealth combat aircraft using their long range missiles and with their stealth being used to hide them from counter retaliation from F-22s and F-35s in the area as much as possible.
In effect, the J-20 and J-31 are stealth so they can operate in the same airspace as a hostile F-22 with their stealth as a protective measure from the F-22’s radar.
The Chinese media and public may offer up certain military capabilities to assure the nation that they have assets comparable to the F-22 for domestic political consumption, but the Chinese military understands well that there is nothing in their arsenal that can threaten an F-22 once it’s airborne. Any non-stealth assets they have will be shot down before they even get close and the stealth assets are too valuable to be thrown against F-22s, they are better used being preserved for missions against the support infrastructure that surrounds the F-22. With the understanding that the performance of the F-22 would degrade overall if too many support aircraft fall victim to long range missiles from PLAAF stealth fighters.
This doesn’t mean that the PRC has nothing in it’s arsenal to go against the F-22. What they do have is just not the PLAAF, it’s the PRC rocket force.
I have been writing about this subject a bit in the past, so I’ll quote from an older answer here:
However, the US lead in stealth has some major problems that should be addressed. The problem is the basing of these stealth fighters. The US has 6 major bases in Japan and 1 in Guam. The USAF does not use the 80–90 airbases that the Japanese air force uses, and this might be because of how the US wants to control access to it’s stealth fighters but also because it has to equip its bases with perform the complex maintenance that it’s stealth fighters require.
So in theory, there’s only 7 total major bases you can place your stealth fighters at where you can control access to them and also do the whole fancy maintenance they require like re-applying coating etc.
That is…not good, because it means the Chinese don’t have to worry about shooting down these stealth fighters. They just need to concentrate their ballistic missile bombardment on those 7 bases with stealth fighters to knock those bases out or at least interdict operations out of them.
The USAF has realized this problem and are trying to see if they can spread the fighters out a bit more to the 90 bases the Japanese operate but it’s still a work in progress.
There is one other thing: There’s something called the “German Disease” where you get trapped in the idea that as long as you make a VERY high quality platform, it’s gonna be worth 10 of the enemy’s platforms and that’s better than matching the enemy head to head. This is very seductive thinking for a wealthier, more technically advanced power. But it means you are fighting a war with platforms you aren’t willing to lose which is not a good proposition.
The F-22 is a bit of a German Disease for the USAF because there’s only like 170 of them left and they aren’t making any more of them. Each F-22 lost is a permanent loss for the USAF and if a war against China drags on and attrition becomes a factor, a lot of these very high quality assets that the USAF isn’t willing to lose will need to be pulled from the theater after a while once their losses reach 33% per squadron. Now, no one has ever fought the US in a conventional war since Vietnam and managed to drag it out.
But if that does happen, and the US is losing say 2 F-22s a day on average from ballistic missile strikes on bases, losses due to accidents, very rare occasions when an F-22 is show down by the Chinese, this kind of loss rate might start to hurt a month into the conflict. And the USAF would have to withdraw the F-22s at some point so they still have some left in reserve and put the 4.5+ Gens into the missions the F-22s were doing. Very rare a war would last that long with China and for that high a loss rate, but you never know. The F-22s would primarily suffer more from being forced away from their 7 bases in the first island chain and being forced to operate at their max ranges from second island chain bases, but the loss rate from conflict as well in a long war cant be ignored.
The US may be planning for a short war with China given their preference for Shock and Awe tactics using their overwhelming conventional strength, but as the old axiom goes: Those who plan for short wars tend to lose long ones.
The current concentration of F-22s (and possible F-35s) in seven major basis is not just a threat to the platforms themselves though but the pilots as well.
Recall that the Iranian bombardment of US military bases was done in a way that they deliberately avoided targeting areas where US troops were housed to avoid escalation but they still fired in the proximity of the base to send a message.
This bombardment led to major health issues in US troops stationed on those bases:
A total of 50 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injury from this month’s Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops, the Defense Department said Tuesday.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can include concussions. Of the 50 patients, 31 were treated in Iraq and have returned to duty, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement.
F-22 pilots aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, and they are pretty much elite pilots of whom a limited pool exists. The impact on their physical health from being stationed on seven bases under intense ballistic missile bombardment leads to the question of pilot attrition rather than F-22 attrition: That is, can the Chinese cause enough physical degradation in the health of F-22 pilots with constant missile bombardment to the point that there aren’t enough pilots in forward positions left to carry out a large enough number of sorties to make a difference in combat. Say you are into week 2 of the war and approximately 40% of your pilots have suffered brain injuries from the bombardment (if not killed outright). You might have to drop your F-22 sortie rate from say 100 a week to 40 a week to conserve your pilots and your aircraft assets (i’m not even taking into account sorties reduced due to airbase disruptions from the missile strikes).
This has the effect of reducing the effectiveness and presence of the F-22 to make a meaningful difference in the overall war without actually having to shoot down the F-22.
The solution, as mentioned above is to distribute your stealth fighters across the 90 bases the Japanese have and hope this dilutes the effectiveness of Chinese missile strikes but with a significant increase in your resources spent equipping all these bases to carry out the complex maintenance an F-22 requires (the stealth coating itself is a hassle), making sure the bases are secured from PRC spies trying to get close to F-22s and that all of these bases are capable of withstanding a PRC rocket force barrage.
There is of course the option of trying to knock out PRC missile bases on the mainland to reduce the barrage. But for the most part, even with all the US’s recon and surveillance capabilities, I doubt they can stop the movement and operations of these in a meaningful manner:
The PRC ballistic missile force’s primary goal is to make US bases unusable. The short range missiles are aimed at the US bases in Okinawa while the more medium range missiles are designed to disrupt operations from bases in Japan.
And the DF-26 is designed to make even operations from bases like Guam risky if not maybe as disrupted as the other bases.
The PRC ballistic missile threat is in part inspired by the US military’s failure to effectively hunt and destroy SCUDs in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Which leads the PRC to believe that if they have mobile, solid fueled missile systems, they would not be as prone to destruction from US military forces and pose a considerable threat for the duration of any war with the US. These kinds of missiles are hard to hunt, can quickly break from cover, set up and fire before the enemy can fire back at them.
With a mobile missile system like the SCUD, you have a 15 minute window to detect and destroy it once it breaks from cover. This is currently not within the capability of the US military.
My current feeling is that, for the most part, Japanese and US bases will see a constant stream of attacks from the Chinese Strategic Rocket force that will disrupt and hinder operations for the duration of the war (or till the Chinese run out of missiles).
There are unseen variables here. How well the US changes up their base designs, how well they integrate their airforce elements with Japanese airbases to withstand missile bombardment (particularly after reflecting on the lessons of the Iranian missile strike).
There are also unseen variables on the side of the Chinese: What’s the state of their strategic Rocket Force? The current reports coming out of China are that the Strategic Rocket Force (BTW I think their new name is Strategic Support Force) are the worst in terms of mental and physical health among all the armed forces. They spend long amounts of time underground away from sunlight, exposed to chemicals in the air from rocket fuel which is above the health and safety limit. The morale isn’t exactly peak and unit readiness obviously has to be called into question.
The Chinese are trying to improve this through a number of fronts: Increasing the rotation of troops so they spend less time underground due to shorter stints, more VR based training to help them deal with the stress of war when their positions are being bombed and they are constantly hunted when out on mobile launchers, increased access to mental health facilities.
People often forget that war is at the end of the day fought by people, not just platforms. The same way the Traumatic brain injuries of an F-22 pilot can determine the war, the mental health and lung damage of a PRC Rocket force soldier can also determine it.
The PLAAF has done it’s own bit of upgrading and modernizing their force structures. They have broken down from the soviet era brigade structures to smaller structures called flights (similar to squadrons in the west). They have increased the level of pilot participation in flight planning, increased the pilot autonomy in the air and moved away from ground based interception tactics. They have their own Red vs Blue exercises and VR training programs as well.
However, my guess is that these won’t make difference in preparing the PLAAF for fighting against F-22s for the simple reason that even USAF pilots in F-15s and F-16s who are veterans are unable to beat F-22s in air combat. The tech gap is simply too large.
The only benefit of these modernizations I see is that the J-20 pilots whose job it is to skim around the F-22s, using their stealth to protect themselves from the F-22’s missiles, can carry out more effective missions hunting the support aircraft that support the F-22s.
There are some last issues that could impact how China’s fight against American American stealth fighters will play out:
- American Production Lines
- American Joint operations with allies
On the issue of production lines:
The F-35 production line right now is 15 aircraft a month at peak production. This is considered low by some standards but to be honest, considering that it’s a very advanced fighter it doesn’t seem to matter much. The problem however, is that this is under the assumption that every single F-35 produced will be deployed against China which is not true because the US has to manage multiple theaters (Russia-Europe, Home Air Bases etc.).
Also, the F-35 is a multi national project, so those 15 F-35s being made every month have to shared between 12 Airforces, 1 Marine Corp and 2 Navies across the planet. Further reducing the number of stealth fighters the US can deploy against China.
At the moment the US has built around 600 F-35s but not all of them have been deployed against the PRC in the Pacific theater. A good chunk of these have gone to allied forces who might not participate in a war against China or to squadrons the US might not redeploy to the Pacific. The 15 a month production line means it will be some time till the US can field the same hundreds of F-15s/F16s/F-18s that they fielded against Iraq or deployed around Iran.
The F-22 has no production lines anymore so every F-22 lost is a permanent loss.
The PRC on the other hand gets to field every single stealth fighter they build to the Pacific theater and don’t have to share the production lines with allied forces.
But as discussed above, this might be a bit of a moot point since the PRC could deploy their J-20s or J-31s to missions that don’t bring much chance of air to air combat against other stealth fighters.
The second is that the US has to coordinate military activities with allies like Japan and Taiwan. NATO and the US-South Korean militaries are heavily integrated already at the moment but it’s unclear how well the US and Japanese militaries or the US and Taiwanese militaries will work together. The Pentagon bureaucracy is appallingly bad while the US works with militaries world wide, actively integrating them into the overall command structure led by the US for a war against China is a bit of a new thing for them to do.
The PRC, being a single entity, does not face this problem.
Missile Defense and Missile Defeat
The US has begun to understand the lethality of the Chinese missile arsenal and the threat it poses to US naval and airpower assets in the Pacific which is why they have begun to invest in the idea of 2 forms of counter missile operations:
- Missile Defense
- Missile Defeat
The missile defense aspect is the idea that you have platforms capable of shooting down enemy missiles in a way that moves away from the kinetic interceptor technology of today.
The current interceptor technology of Patriots and THAADs are incredibly expensive which is why you can only deploy them in a low density manner to counter isolated missile launches such as ICBMs from North Korea.
The cost of individual interceptors is so high that you would bankrupt yourself making enough of them to shoot down missiles that cost a fraction of the interceptor’s cost. If you are building 2 $50 million dollar interceptors to shoot down 1 $10 million dollar missile, you are bankrupting yourself.
The only cost effective way to shoot down swarms of Chinese missiles is using energy based weapons but that is not something that’s deployable today as the technology is still being developed.
Missile Defeat is the second form of defense: Where you saturate your conflict zone with sensors so that you can have longer early warnings of missile launches and be able to target them and defeat the missile launches before they actually launch. So basically, solve the problem of the 15 minute window that the US faced when scud hunting in the Iraqi desert.
This is currently being developed as well and is not in a finalized solution.
And of course, the Chinese aren’t sitting around either and will come up with ways to counter energy based missile defense and sensor networks attempting to defeat missile launches.
At the end of the day, the US military is no joke and the F-22 is probably the single most deadliest fighter ever created, probably even more so than the F-35 which funnily enough is crippling the US economy in peacetime with it’s $30–50,000 dollar per hour maintenance cost.
Stealth fighters are great to have in a war but terrible to have in a peace and at a time when US social unrest is at an all time high due to economic inequalities, perhaps the greatest threat to F-22s are congressional budget hearings rather than any weapon in the Chinese arsenal.
Nevertheless, the PRC has been investing heavily in denial weapons that would deny free air and sea access to the US military operating close to the Chinese seaboard (and keep them away from Taiwan).
One potential scenario is that assuming the US doesn’t rebase the F-22s to the 90 Japanese air-fields but keeps them concentrated in the current 8 or so bases they have:
The F-22s would probably not face that many losses from missile strikes but pilot rotation would have be high due to high churn over because of mental/physical strain from constant Chinese missile bombardments on F-22 airfields. F-22s would be more at risk of malfunction due to disruptions in their maintenance routines because of missile strikes. They would probably also fly lower numbers of sorties than optimal because of constant bombardment and these would normally be air defense or air escort sorties for aircraft trying to get closer to the Chinese sea board for recon or to disrupt Chinese air support for any potential invasion of Taiwan. They could also be used for strike missions on the mainland on high value military targets that non-stealth fighters would not be able to reach.
Edit: Thanks to Walter Tak in the comments pointing out that a fully loaded F-22 might only be restricted to hitting coastal targets rather than anything deep inside Chinese territory due to range limitations.
The F-22s would have to face several situations where they were operating at the edge of their combat radius because of the constant threat to air refuellers from Chinese stealth aircraft that would utilize their stealth to hunt for USAF/Japanese AWACS, EW, Recon and Refueling platforms in contested airspace. The F-22s would also be paired with a drone UCAV wingman that the F-22 would control remotely when operating in high-danger environments where the F-22 can’t be risked and a remotely piloted wingman from the invisible F-22 would take on the risk instead (assuming stable links can be maintained in the face of Chinese EW). If such comm links are disrupted, the UCAV would have to operate autonomously using onboard AI.
The longer the war drags on however, the worse it is for the F-22s as the US would have to begin pulling F-22 pilots from squadrons not based in the Pacific as the problem they would face is pilot shortages rather than F-22 shortages. A small but significant number of F-22s might be lost due to destruction on the ground or air crashes due to maintenance disruptions (more so the latter than the former). But the primary issue the USAF would face is that their F-22 pilots on the 8 air bases facing constant missile bombardment would begin to face serious mental and physical health problems due to concussions/mental strain/shell shock. They would need to be rotated out of combat in tours as short as a few days given how intense a US-China open conflict would be. The sortie rate could be maintained as long as pilots are able to recover and cognitively function once returned to combat after their tour. If they don’t and their mental/physical injuries are more permanent or long duration, the F-22 fleet would have to drastically reduce sorties correspondingly.
This strain isn’t a one way thing either: Chinese Rocket Force troops who are in underground silos, launching hundreds of missiles a day, breathing in toxic fumes from rocket fuel and facing constant bombardment of their own from US assets would face similar strains and have to be rotated constantly.
As mentioned earlier, in war we sometimes focus too much on the platform aspect and forget that it’s real human beings fighting it. And the question of the F-22 in the Pacific might ultimately boil down to which side has enough soldiers standing and in fighting condition at the end of the day: A tale as old as war itself
Edit: Thanks to JL Shin for the correction: the Strategic Rocket Force is still separate from the Strategic Support Force and both exist as separate entities so the ballistic missile force referred to in this answer would be the Strategic Rocket force.
The disparity between the defense secretary and President Trump added another twist to an ever-evolving explanation for a strike on an Iranian general that led to the brink of war.
They had to kill him because he was planning an “imminent” attack. But how imminent they could not say. Where they could not say. When they could not say. And really, it was more about what he had already done. Or actually it was to stop him from hitting an American embassy. Or four embassies. Or not.
For 10 days, President Trump and his team have struggled to describe the reasoning behind the decision to launch a drone strike against Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite security forces, propelling the two nations to the brink of war. Officials agree they had intelligence indicating danger, but the public explanations have shifted by the day and sometimes by the hour.
On Sunday came the latest twist. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said he was never shown any specific piece of evidence that Iran was planning an attack on four American embassies, as Mr. Trump had claimed just two days earlier.
“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Mr. Esper said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But he added: “I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies. The embassies are the most prominent display of American presence in a country.”
The sharp disparity between the president and his defense secretary only added to the public debate over the Jan. 3 strike that killed Iran’s most important general and whether there was sufficient justification for an operation that escalated tensions with Iran, aggravated relations with European allies and prompted Iraq to threaten to expel United States forces. General Suleimani was deemed responsible for killing hundreds of American soldiers in the Iraq war more than a decade ago, but it was not clear whether he had specific plans for a mass-casualty attack in the near future.The Trump Administration’s Fluctuating Explanations for the Suleimani Strike
While agreeing that General Suleimani was generally a threat, Democrats in Congress, as well as some Republicans, have said the administration has not provided evidence even in classified briefings to back up the claim of an “imminent” attack, nor has it mentioned that four embassies were targeted. Even some Pentagon officials have said privately that they were unaware of any intelligence suggesting that a large-scale attack was in the offing.
But senior government officials with the best access to intelligence have insisted there was ample cause for concern even if it has not been communicated clearly to the public. Gina Haspel, the director of the C.I.A., and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — who were both appointed by Mr. Trump but are career officials without a political history — have said privately and forcefully that the intelligence was compelling and that they were convinced a major attack was coming.
The challenge for the Trump administration is persuading the public, which has been skeptical about intelligence used to justify military action since President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 based on what turned out to be inaccurate intelligence indicating that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Trump himself has made clear in other circumstances that he does not trust the intelligence agencies that he is now citing to justify his decision to eliminate General Suleimani. Moreover, given his long history of falsehoods and distortions, Mr. Trump has his own credibility issues that further cloud the picture. All of which means the administration’s failure to provide a consistent explanation has sown doubts and exposed it to criticism.
“If indeed the strike was taken to disrupt an imminent threat to U.S. persons — and that picture seems to be getting murkier by the minute — the case should be made to Congress and to the public, consistent with national security,” said Lisa Monaco, a former senior F.B.I. official and homeland security adviser to President Barack Obama. “Failure to do so hurts our credibility and deterrence going forward.”
Intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive data collection, have said there was no single definitive piece of information about a coming attack. Instead, C.I.A. officers described a “mosaic effect,” multiple scraps of information that came together indicating that General Suleimani was organizing proxy forces around the region, including in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, to attack American embassies and bases.
Several officials said they did not have enough concrete information to describe such a threat as “imminent,” despite the administration’s assertion, but they did see a worrying pattern. A State Department official has privately said it was a mistake for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to use the word “imminent” because it suggested a level of specificity that was not borne out by the intelligence.
“I have not seen the intelligence, just to be clear, but it is sometimes possible for the reporting of planned attacks to be very compelling even without specificity of time, target or method,” said John E. McLaughlin, a former acting C.I.A. director. “In a sense, that is the story of 9/11. Our reporting gave us high confidence that a big attack was coming — and we so warned — but we were unable to nail down key details.”
Mr. McLaughlin said that the administration may well have had intelligence adequate to compel action, but that it was a separate question whether killing General Suleimani was the most effective response, as opposed to hardening targets or choosing a less provocative option.
John B. Bellinger III, who was the top lawyer for the National Security Council and later the State Department under Mr. Bush, said the president would have legal authority to strike under the Constitution whether or not there was fear of an imminent attack.
But under the United Nations Charter, the United States cannot use force in another country without its consent or the authority of the Security Council except in response to an armed attack or a threat of an imminent armed attack. “So under international law, the attack on Suleimani would not have been lawful unless he presented an imminent threat,” Mr. Bellinger said.
Claims that an imminent attack could take “hundreds of American lives,” as Mr. Pompeo put it right after the drone strike, have also generated doubts because no attack in the Middle East over the past two decades, even at the height of the Iraq war, has ever resulted in so many American casualties at once in part because embassies and bases have become so fortified.
The contrast in descriptions of what the administration knew and what it did not came in quick succession on a single Fox News show last week.
On Thursday night, Mr. Pompeo, while sticking by his description of an “imminent” attack, acknowledged that the information was not concrete. “We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real,” he told the host, Laura Ingraham.
The next day, in a separate interview, Mr. Trump told Ms. Ingraham that in fact he did know where. “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” he said.
That left administration officials like Mr. Esper in an awkward position when they hit the talk show circuit on Sunday. While the defense secretary revealed on CBS that he had not seen intelligence indicating four embassies were targeted, he sounded more supportive of Mr. Trump’s claim on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“What the president said in regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well,” he said, seeming to make a distinction between belief and specific intelligence. “And he said he believed that they probably, that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region.”
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Robert O’Brien, the president’s national security adviser, played down Mr. Trump’s claim of specific, imminent threats to four American embassies in the region.
“Look, it’s always difficult, even with the exquisite intelligence that we have, to know exactly what the targets are,” Mr. O’Brien said. “We knew there were threats to American facilities, now whether they were bases, embassies — you know it’s always hard until the attack happens.”
“But,” he added, “we had very strong intelligence.”
Senator Mike Lee of Utah, one of the administration’s most outspoken Republican critics after the strike, said on CNN that he worried about the quality of the information that national security officials were sharing with Congress and had not “been able to yet ascertain specific details of the imminence of the attack.”
“I believe that the briefers and the president believed that they had a basis for concluding that there was an imminent attack, I don’t doubt that, but it is frustrating to be told that and not get the details behind it,” he said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck a similar tone, telling ABC’s “This Week” that “I don’t think the administration has been straight with the Congress of the United States” about the reasons for killing General Suleimani.
On “Face the Nation,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, accused the president and his top aides of “fudging” the intelligence.
“Frankly, I think what they are doing is overstating and exaggerating what the intelligence shows,” Mr. Schiff said. Officials briefing the so-called Gang of Eight top congressional leaders never said that four embassies were targeted, he added. “In the view of the briefers, there was plotting, there was an effort to escalate being planned, but they didn’t have specificity.”
Incirlik Air Base has a U.S. Air Force complement of about five thousand airmen, with several hundred airmen from the Royal Air Force and Turkish Air Force also present, as of late 2002. The primary unit stationed at Incirlik Air Base is the 39th Air Base Wing (39 ABW) of the U.S. Air Force. Incirlik Air Base has one 3,048 m (10,000 ft)-long runway, located among about 57 hardened aircraft shelters. Tactical nuclear weapons are stored at the base.
2016 Turkish coup attempt
As a result of the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt and several Turkish Tanker Aircraft fuelling rogue Turkish F-16’s, external electrical power to the base was disconnected. A Turkish no fly order was also put into effect for US military aircraft in the area. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook at the time stated that “U.S. facilities at Incirlik are operating on internal power sources.” EUCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez said: “All our assets in Turkey are fully under control and there was no attempt to challenge that status.” “There was no chaos at this base,”. The security level at base did however move to DELTA, the highest level, U.S. personnel are ordered restricted to base, and locals were denied access. By 17th of July commercial electrical power remained disconnected but permission from Turkey to conduct US anti-ISIS air operations from Incirlik resumed, the Turkish base commander, General Bekir Ercan Van, was arrested by Turkish forces loyal to sitting president Erdoğan. General Van sought asylum from the United States but was denied.
Flooding will only worsen as the seas rise and the planet warms. Sea level at Norfolk has risen 14.5 inches in the century since World War I, when the naval station was built. By 2100, Norfolk station will flood 280 times a year, according to one estimate by the Union of Concerned Scientists... “We don’t talk about climate change,” Capt. Dean VanderLey told visiting journalists in a tour of the base before the election. “We talk about sea-level rise. You can measure it.”.. The Defense Department operates more than 555,000 facilities on 28 million acres of land with a replacement value of $850 billion.. In the Arctic, the region warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, the combination of melting sea ice, thawing permafrost and sea-level rise is eroding the Alaska shoreline enough to damage several Air Force radar early warning and communication installations. At one base, half a runway has given way to erosion, preventing large planes from using it. Damage to a seawall has allowed waves to wash onto the runway at another base. Thawing permafrost has also affected access to training areas... An Air Force radar installation to help track space junk, built on an atoll in the Marshall Islands, at a cost of $1 billion, is projected to be underwater within two decades, the Associated Press reported... “Timing is critical,” he says. “Just like timing for sorties out of Norfolk in advance of a hurricane is critical—if you wait too late, you can’t get the ships out because the seas are too high. The same kind of thing is going on with sea-level rise. You can’t wait for a certain yes, it’s going to be here or not. You’ve got to make decisions in advance, based on the uncertainty that you have.”
The starkest aspect of Comey’s prepared statement was the president’s lack of curiosity about the long-running, deep-reaching, well-executed and terrifyingly effective Russian attack on American democracy. This was raised more than once in the hearing — that after Trump was briefed in January on the intelligence community’s report, which emphasized ongoing activity directed by the Kremlin against the United States, he has not subsequently evinced any interest in what can be done to protect us from another Russian assault. The president is interested in his own innocence, or the potential guilt of others around him — but not at all in the culpability of a foreign adversary, or what it meant. This is utterly astonishing.
.. Even if the president and his team were correct, and the Comey testimony definitively cleared the president of potential obstruction of justice or collusion charges — even if that were true, that does not also exonerate Russia. Nonetheless, this is a line the president seems to want drawn.
1. No matter what is true or not, we have moved toward the fractured, inward-looking, weakened America that President Putin wants to see.
.. The Russian narrative is increasingly being echoed by far right media, and finding its way into mainstream conservative media. Episodes of violent unrest, and the potential for wider chaos, don’t seem far off.
.. Meanwhile, no one seems to be watching what Russia is still doing to us. No one is systematically speaking about the tactics of Russian hybrid warfare, and that these go beyond “fake news” and “hacking” into far-reaching intelligence operations and initiatives to destabilize Western countries, economies and societies. No one is talking about how Russia provides training for militants and terrorists in Europe, even as U.S. generals say it is supporting the Taliban as it attacks American forces in Afghanistan. No one is leading a unified effort to roll back Russian influence in Europe or Asia or the Middle East. No one is commenting on Russia’s new efforts to entrench its presence near eastern Ukraine, escalate the fighting there and destabilize the government in Kyiv.
.. Even behind closed doors, Trump reportedly did not once mention Russia to the NATO heads of state — not to discuss Russian attacks against our allies, and not to discuss Russia’s menacing of NATO skies, seas and borders. Instead, he browbeat our allies. Maybe it’s news to the White House — but it was Russia’s aggression, not Trump’s hectoring, that inspired the alliance to boost national military spending.
.. the president’s tirades against countries hosting our men and military assets — Qatar, South Korea, Germany, etc. — complicate our ability to execute on-task.
.. A constantly misunderstood narrative was revisited during the Comey hearing — questions about whether Russian actions “changed” the vote. The focus on whether this means Russia physically changed votes is the greatest diversion tactic of all. Ironically, D.C.’s political class — whose existence is based upon the ability to deploy narratives that get some people to vote, and others not to — refuses to admit that outside interests could change a small percentage of votes in the Rust Belt.
.. If the Trump campaign itself has openly discussed its use of data-backed information operations to conduct targeted voter-suppression campaigns, possibly at the individual level — why would we believe the Russians wouldn’t be experimenting with the same tools and tactics?
.. In fact, you can track the radical changes in the belief of certain narratives during the time period Comey identified as when the most intensive Kremlin-led activities were underway (beginning in summer 2015 through present day). During this time frame, Republican views on free trade agreements dropped 30 points, from roughly the same as Democrats to radically divergent (Democratic views remained relatively steady). Putin’s favorability rating increased
.. An isolationist America that is softer on Russia and more in favor of authoritarian traits in leaders fits right into the narratives that the Kremlin nurtures and spends billions to promote. And if views changed so dramatically on these aspects of Russian narratives — why is it we believe their efforts didn’t change any votes?
.. This tactic works because it prays on doubts and grievances that are already present — as the best information warfare does. Truth doesn’t matter. Once we know how we feel about something, who cares what the truth is? And information is just one act of Russia’s shadow war.
.. And yet the most concise encapsulation of the Russian concept of hybrid warfare — the chart depicting the “Gerasimov doctrine,” developed by the Russian chief of the general staff — shows that information warfare is the constant through all phases, and that the ideal ratio of nonmilitary to military activities is 4:1. The more important war is, by far, the shadow war.
President Trump’s impetuousness and his simplistic view of American interests have again put national security at risk. He has taken sides with Saudi Arabia and four other Sunni states in their attempt to isolate and bully Qatar, the tiny gulf nation that is arguably America’s most important military outpost in the region.
.. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen chose to cut ties to Qatar for a number of reasons .. principally because Qatar has a relatively close relationship with the Sunni states’ greatest rival, Shiite Iran.
.. even if his goal is to isolate Iran, allying with Saudi Arabia to punish Qatar is a self-defeating way to go about it: Qatar is home to the forward headquarters of the United States Central Command and is a major intelligence hub. It hosts Al Udeid Air Base, with more than 11,000 U.S. and coalition forces.
There is no sign that Mr. Trump has actually thought any of this through.
.. It is true that Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, can be a troublesome partner, but Saudi Arabia’s complaint about Qatar and terrorism is hypocritical. Qatar has long been accused of funneling arms and money to radical groups in Syria, Libya and other Arab countries. But so has Saudi Arabia
.. Qatar has a reason to work with Iran: They share a large natural gas field in the Persian Gulf. At the same time, Qatar is helping a Saudi-led coalition fight the Iranian-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen, and backing insurgents fighting an Iranian ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
.. Even the $110 billion weapons package he signed in Riyadh turned out to be fantasy, a collection of letters of interest or intent, not contracts, all begun during the Obama administration
.. Legislation blocking this deal is working its way through Congress. At a minimum, lawmakers should refuse to resupply the Saudis with precision-guided munitions that are killing civilians in Yemen and implicating America in the process. Even better would be to hold up the package until the Saudis enter into serious negotiations on Yemen and resolve their differences with Qatar.