Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
  • Nuclear North Korea is If, Not When

    ​Adm. Harry Harris told Congress Thursday that Kim Jong Un’s driving ambition is to develop “a nuclear capability against the United States.” He admitted “there is some doubt … within the intelligence community whether he has that capability today or whether he will soon have it.” But he assured the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea’s achievement of the goal “is clearly a matter of when.” Harris said that, in his estimation, Kim Jong Un “is not a leader who is afraid to fail in public,” and he compared him to Thomas Edison, an early innovator of the light bulb, saying the North Korean leader is “going to continue to try until he gets it right.” Nonetheless, Harris advocated sticking with the sanctions strategy that has defined the US response to North Korean provocations for years. “There are some areas in the sanctions regime that we have not yet explored,” he said, “and I think we should do those before we move to the kinetics.” However, he expressed support for the Trump Administration’s “all options on the table” strategy, and he said, “I believe that the best enhancement to diplomacy is a strong military capability.”

  • US Has No Answer for North Korean Artillery Aimed at Seoul

    Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and US Forces Korea commander, meets with Korean soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division of the ROK Army, during a visit to the DMZ. US Army photo by Sgt. Russell Youmans.

    ​While the world’s focus is trained like a laser on the danger of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the commander of US Pacific Command says Pyongyang’s conventional forces also pose a serious threat. Adm. Harry Harris told Congress this week the US does not currently have an answer for the artillery forces North Korea has deployed near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) within striking distance of Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea. “We do not have those kinds of weapons” to counter such an attack, Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, Harris described the “very dramatic challenges” associated with defending Seoul and its “25 million people in a relatively small area within artillery range of the DMZ.” He said that North Korean premier Kim Jong Un has “a vast array of rocket forces and artillery” located on “the heights north of the DMZ.” He confirmed that the recently deployed THAAD system “is not designed to counter those kind of basic weapons,” and that the US still needs to “develop that capability” to do so.

    Air Force Magazine visited South Korea last year. Read our story on USAF operations on the Korean peninsula from the November 2016 issue.

  • PACOM Boss Says INF Treaty is Outdated

    ​Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific forces, believes the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is outdated and the US is “being taken to the cleaners by countries that are not signatories,” he told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday. “I do think we should look at renegotiating the treaty,” he said before the Senate Armed Services Committee the next day. The INF treaty, which bans US and Russian ground-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, was signed in 1987 for “a bi-polar world” defined by the competition between the US and the Soviet Union, he told SASC. “Now we’re in a multi-polar world, where we have a lot of countries developing these weapons.” Of immediate concern are China and Iran, who are not signatories to the treaty. Harris said that 90 percent of China’s missiles fall into the category banned by the treaty, and Iran test launched such a missile in January. The US has no such weapons, Harris said, because “we adhere to the INF treaty religiously, as we should.” However, Russia deployed a new cruise missile in February in violation of the treaty. Harris also said he is “concerned about Chinese and Russian hypersonic weapons development” because the ability of the US to build similar systems would “run up against treaty restrictions.”

  • Chinese Pressure on North Korea Might be Working

    ​Adm. Harry Harris, boss of US Pacific Command, told Congress Thursday that Chinese efforts to pressure North Korea on its nuclear provocations might be working. “I think we’re in a different place now,” Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he pointed to a recent meeting between US President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping of China. Harris said that while China has always had “the capability to influence and affect North Korean behavior,” in the past “it had chosen not to.” While he emphasized that “it’s too early to tell” for sure, Harris believes a shift has occurred recently in China’s willingness to reign in its neighbor. “From a month ago forward we’re seeing some positive behavior from China, and I’m encouraged by that, so I think we should let this thing play out a little bit,” Harris told SASC. North Korea has not tested a nuclear warhead or an intercontinental ballistic missile within the past month, and while he offered no evidence that China’s economic pressure on North Korea is related to Pyongyang’s hiatus, Harris insisted it is important that the US “give President Xi and China a chance.”

  • Two US Troops Killed in Afghanistan

    ​Two US service members were killed Wednesday after coming under attack by ISIS-Khorasan fighters in the Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan. A third US service member was wounded. The service members were conducting an operation alongside Afghan National Defense and Security Forces when they came under attack, US Forces Afghanistan said in a statement. USFOR-A did not disclose the specific service of those killed. “The fight against ISIS-K is important for the world, but sadly it is not without sacrifice,” USFOR-A Commander Gen. John Nicholson said in the statement. Nangarhar Province is where US Army Special Forces SSgt. Mark De Alencar was killed while conducting counter ISIS operations. It is also the sight of the April 13 air strike when an Air Force MC-130 dropped the GBU-43 “mother of all bombs” on an ISIS tunnel network.

  • William Leslie Kirk, 1932-2017


    ​Retired Gen. William L. Kirk. Official Air Force photo.

    ​Gen. William Kirk, one of the USAF leaders credited as a “father” of the Aggressors and the Red Flag exercise, commander of US Air Forces Europe, a two-time MiG killer and a noted expert in electronic warfare, died April 26 in Florida.

    Read the full obiturary by John A. Tirpak.

  • House Introduces Weeklong Budget Extension

    ​The House introduced a joint resolution late Wednesday night that would fund the government for one more week, until May 5. The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Friday. If Congress cannot approve a budget—or another continuing resolution—before then, the federal government will shut down. With the new joint resolution, the House is proposing to revise the end date of the current CR to provide more time for final budget negotiations. "We've made substantial progress on an agreement to complete the 2017 appropriations process,” Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) told NPR. “Let's pass this new continuing resolution, and make good use of this extra time to enact overdue legislation to provide for national defense and meet our country's needs.”

  • Hill F-16s Make Final Deployment


    ​F-16 Fighting Falcons from Hill AFB, Utah, taxi down the runway April 21, 2017, at Albacete AB, Spain, to participate in the Tactical Leadership Programme. Air Force photo by SrA. Justin Fuchs.

    ​F-16s from Hill AFB, Utah, are on their final deployment before the base fully transfers to F-35s and the jets move on. Eight F-16s and more than 200 airmen from Hill’s 388th Fighter Wing and 419th Fighter Wing are deployed to Albacete AB, Spain, for a NATO Tactical Leadership Programme deployment, which will last until May 19. The annual program focuses on increasing NATO air defense among allies, according to an Air Force release. The exercise includes 11 total countries, with 20-30 aircraft flying daily. “This is the last time the F-16 will deploy with the Hill designator ‘HL’ painted on its tail,” Col. Michael Miles, commander of the 388th Maintenance Group, said in the release. Hill is home to the Air Force’s first operational F-35 squadron, and will eventually have three squadrons by the end of 2019. The F-16s eventually will be assigned to Holloman AFB, N.M., where they will service as fighter production units under Air Education and Training Command.

  • ALIS 2.02 Ready to Go


    ​Airmen from Eglin’s 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron; and three F-35 units, the Air Force’s 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; the Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 101, and the Marine Corps, Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, take an Autonomic Logistics Information System supply course at the F-35 Academic Training Center. Air Force photo by Maj. Karen Roganov.

    ​Lockheed Martin announced Wednesday that the newest version of its Autonomic Logistics Information System, or ALIS, which the company calls “the IT backbone of the F-35,” has been approved for installation on Air Force and Navy F-35s. Another version of ALIS, to be fielded by early 2018, would be coming before the F-35 can close out the system design and development phase.

    Read the full story by Wilson Brissett.

    (Editor's note: This entry originally ran in the April 27 column, but the hyperlink was broken due to a technical issue.)

  • ​​​​​