Tag Archives: North Korea

Operation Chimichanga practices North Korean strike?

Three B-1 bombers from the 37th Bomb Squadron, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota took off in the early hours of April 4 on a ten-hour bombing mission to Fort Yukon, Alaska as part of a complex long-range Strategic Command “anti-access” bombing mission dubbed Operation Chimichanga.

The exercise, starting with a simulated warning order to bomb targets in a classified country, included multiple live fly participants and command and control elements, finishing with battle damage assessment and an after action report.

Participants included F-22 Raptors and E-3 AWAC command and control aircraft assigned to the Alaskan 3rd Wing, along with F-16s from Misawa AB, Japan, and KC-135 aerial refuelers from Eielson AFB, Alaska.

F-22s and F-16s escorted the B-1s “into an anti-access target area,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th Fighter Squadron commander.

It was also the first time that increment 3.1, an air-to-ground bombing software upgrade was used on F-22’s, which also acted as follow-on forces, to assess B-1 bomb damage at the target and follow with an immediate restrike.

The B-1 bombers were also carrying new long-range radar evading AGM-158 joint air-surface standoff missile (JASSMs).

North Korea or Iran, take your pick.

Advertisements

Today in Secret History: January 30

On January 30, 2002, the Navy awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to proceed with development of a Tomahawk cruise missile launcher to be fitted into four retired Ohio class submarines.  The “SSGN” conversion program, approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prior to 9/11, was to take retiring strategic nuclear submarines and transform them into cruise missile firing platforms.  In additional to 154 cruise missiles each, firing from Northrop Grumman seven-pack launchers, each boat was also to be extensively renovated to support sustained operations with 66 Navy SEALs and their equipment, or carry up to 102 special operations personnel in one-time missions.

Want to know why we spend gazillions on defense and can’t seem to stop?  The Congressional Research Service reported that the SSGN conversion cost – for four submarines – ended up being about $4.0 billion.  The first of the four was declared operational on November 1, 2007.   As far as I’m aware, not a single cruise missile has been fired from an SSGN in combat, nor has any daring SEAL mission, such as this month’s hostage rescue or the killing of Osama bin Laden, been launched from these submarines.

What happened then to a program initially funded as counter-terrorism in emergency supplemental bills?   First, the patented Clinton administration cruise missile strike fell far out of favor as unmanned aerial drones (and cheaper and more capable precision bombs) proliferated.  Second, nothing of much military value that needs to be done in the Middle East can be done with an independent stealthy force of 66 men; and as The Washington Post reported last week, the Navy now wants to develop a new floating base to serve as a special operations staging platform.  That’s probably why, as GlobalSecurity.org reported, that three of the four converted SSGNs showed up in South Korea, the Philippines, and Diego Garcia in June 2010, tools for some sort of signaling of the bad guys in Asia.

They call it the silent service, and coupled with the even more secretive special operations community, we end up with military capability that I’m sure is awesome to many but is neither visible nor persuasive.  The falsehood of current defense budget cuts is that programs like this get started in the first place to satisfy certain constituencies or appeal to questionable strategies and forms of combat.  Oh I’m not saying that someday a bevy of SSGNs won’t fire their cumulative 600 missiles at some North Korea, but then what?

Today in Secret History: January 29

In his 2002 State of Union Address, President George W. Bush says Iraq, Iran and North Korea constitute an “axis of evil,” and claims that “by seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.” The President warns that the three could provide WMD to terrorists, blackmail the United States, or attack its allies.  Speaking of the war on terror, the President says: “What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that, far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning … If we stop now – leaving terror camps intact and terror states unchecked – our sense of security would be false and temporary.”

Though no one has fully documented and quantified the reality of 2002, there is no question that U.S. efforts in Afghanistan slowed as the 2003 Iraq war began to be prepared: by the end of the year, rotations of forces to Afghanistan had virtually halted and the preponderance of intelligence and special operations assets had been shifted.  More important, all of the attention of the decision-makers and war planners shifted to Iraq.

Some might take from this the lesson that military forces were not large enough then to take on the “two war” mission, as they might bemoan today both the so-called cutbacks and shift to a single war focus.  Perhaps we should examine though why the United States can barely field and support 150,000 troops on the ground given the overall size of the military.  And lost in the shuffle is the question of the actual terrorist or blackmail threat of WMD, powerful and frightening images then, but falsehoods equally perpetrated a decade later.