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Diplomacy & Crisis News

Fake Images and Video Spread of Drone Attack on Navy Aircraft Carrier

The National Interest - Thu, 06/06/2024 - 02:50

Summary and Key Points: Last weekend, Houthi rebels claimed to have struck the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Red Sea with a suicide drone or missile. This week, misleading satellite images emerged, falsely depicting the carrier undergoing urgent repairs.

-In reality, one image was of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, and the other was an old photo of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in Norfolk, Virginia, with fabricated damage.

-U.S. Central Command denied the Houthi claims, labeling them as part of a disinformation campaign. Such misinformation serves to undermine U.S. military credibility and could benefit adversaries like Russia and China.

Debunked: Houthi Claims of Striking Aircraft Carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

Last weekend, Houthi rebels claimed they landed a suicide drone hit (some reports suggest a missile attack as well) on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea.

This week, a couple of satellite pictures that surfaced on X purportedly showed the American aircraft carrier undergoing urgent repairs in Souda Bay, Greece. 

Both pictures were wrong and misleading. 

Misinformation on Aircraft Carrier Attacks 

First things first. In November 2023, Houthi rebels in Yemen started to attack international shipping in and close to the Red Sea as a response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza. 

A U.S.-led coalition quickly reacted to the Houthis with precision strikes on their positions. Those operations have continued, with mixed success. The Yemeni rebels continue to pose a danger to international shipping, firing ballistic anti-ship missiles and suicide drones. 

The U.S. Navy has deployed assets in the region to combat Houthi activity along with allies and partners. At least one U.S. aircraft carrier supports the operation with airstrikes. Over the weekend, the Houthis claimed to have struck USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

However, the satellite pictures displayed by two X accounts do not show what they claim to show. The first picture doesn’t even depict the correct warship, but rather shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov undergoing repairs in the Russian port of Murmansk. The second picture is indeed of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, but it is an old picture of the warship harbored in Norfolk, Virginia. Moreover, the alleged damage on the bow of the aircraft carrier is the crude work of a rather incompetent graphic designer.  

U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for operations in the Middle East and West Asia, categorically denied the claims that the Houthis hit the U.S. aircraft carrier. 

“There is no truth to the Houthi claim of striking the USS Eisenhower or any U.S. Navy vessel,” a U.S. Central Command spokesperson told Voice of America. “This is an ongoing disinformation campaign that the Houthis have been conducting for months.”

Both videos were viewed by millions of online users, sparking discussions on the internet about the capabilities and readiness of U.S. aircraft carriers.

The Denial and Broader Geopolitics 

Misinformation that a U.S. aircraft carrier was hit by a rebel drone or missile would certainly be useful to Russia and China. America’s two near-peer adversaries would benefit from highlighting vulnerabilities on some of the U.S. military’s most fearsome weapons systems, both to boast about their own capabilities and to try to influence neutral countries or U.S. partners that might be on the fence.

As the best propaganda always does, the Houthi claims rely on tangential truths. Yes, the Houthis have impressive capabilities for an insurgent group. Yes, they have used those capabilities to target and strike international shipping. Yes, Western warships have come under direct fire. But evidence shows that USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was never hit by a suicide drone or missile. 

About the Author 

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

Image Credit: X Screenshot/Fake Attack on U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier. 

What Could Go Wrong? Russia Vows to Develop Autonomous Drones

The National Interest - Thu, 06/06/2024 - 02:33

Summary and Key Points: James Cameron's The Terminator hit theaters 40 years ago, popularizing the concept of "killer robots." Today, the threat is becoming reality, with nations like the U.S. and Russia developing autonomous weapons. At the 2018 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence, scientists called for laws against lethal autonomous weapons. While such technology could save lives by taking on dangerous tasks, it also raises significant ethical concerns. Russia is notably advancing its autonomous drone capabilities, including the Scorpion-M "kamikaze robot."

-Despite UN efforts to ban killer robots, both the U.S. and Russia continue to pursue these technologies, posing a potential future threat to humanity.

For those of a certain age, it might be hard to believe, but James Cameron's breakout film The Terminator hit theaters forty years ago this fall.

Cameron wasn't the first to suggest that “killer robots” would turn on their creators—Westworld came out more than a decade earlier. It featured an adult playground for the wealthy to live out their violent fantasies, but the robots did more than just level the playing field.

Sci-fi movies, TV shows, and games have continued to play up the threat of self-aware robots, but it isn't far-fetched fiction anymore.

The danger posed by “killer robots” is being taken seriously, and at the 2018 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm, some of the world's top scientific minds called for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

Autonomous weapons can also help save lives, as they can be employed in missions alongside human operators and take on more dangerous tasks. These platforms could serve as force multipliers, bolstering deterrence against conflict escalation.

Multiple nations, including the United States, continue to develop platforms that employ artificial intelligence and could serve as loyal wingmen for combat aircraft and support vessels at sea. There are likely many who question whether the U.S. military should be trusted with the development of AI-powered systems, but perhaps the bigger danger is how other nations could harness the technology of killer robots.

Russia and Autonomous Drones—a Truly Frightening Concept

TASS reported on June 4 that efforts are underway in Russia to develop more capable autonomous drones in the next three to five years.

“We can expect greater autonomy of drones due to machine vision and artificial intelligence. It will happen regardless of the type of the drone, whether it is a fixed-wing one, multicopter or hybrid. The AI will demand increased onboard computer capacities and will initially process data onboard thus decreasing the load on ground personnel,” Commercial Director of the Future Laboratory Company Pavel Kamenev told TASS at this week's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Kamenev further suggested that AI could take control of re-transmitters of control signals, onboard flight, and power electronics. This could increase the flight range and payload of drones.

“The near-Earth space will be developed and will influence the drones,” Kamenev added. “In general, in 3-5 years it will be impossible to imagine our life without drones. Progress cannot be stopped. Such guidelines, as monitoring, diagnostics of linear and infrastructure objects, cargo delivery and aerial survey will be closely linked to drones.”

Though weapons weren't mentioned, the Kremlin is known to be taking the lead in developing semi-autonomous platforms. These have included land-based and aerial armed drones that can operate remotely and with limited human input. In May, news circulated that Russian forces had deployed the Scorpion-M “kamikaze robot” in the Donetsk region. It is about the size of a small radio-controlled car, but the Scorpion-M can carry more than 55 pounds of explosives and can seek out targets that might escape aerial bombardment, Fox News reported

Russia—and the United States—stood in the way of formal United Nations efforts to block any ban on killer robots, and the technology seems to be advancing rapidly. While there is plenty of reason for concern over U.S. efforts with the technology, Russia has shown it is willing, ready, and able to use nearly any of its weapons platforms in combat.

That should be seen as a danger not just for those in Ukraine today, but perhaps all of humanity in the not-so-distant future. The irony would be that if and perhaps when the weapons do turn on their human masters, it will be Russians in the crosshairs.

About the Author

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

Skunk Works: How the U.S. Military Became a Stealth Fighter Superpower

The National Interest - Thu, 06/06/2024 - 02:11

Summary: When Lockheed's F-117 Nighthawk entered service in 1983, it revolutionized military aviation by using stealth over speed to evade detection.

-This breakthrough stemmed from Denys Overholser at Lockheed's Skunk Works, who discovered Soviet physicist Pyotr Ufimtsev's work on radar wave diffraction.

-This led to the creation of the Hopeless Diamond model, whose radar cross-section was so low that it became invisible during tests, necessitating the invention of a new "stealth pole."

-Despite initial skepticism, these advancements paved the way for the F-117, marking a significant milestone in stealth technology and military aviation history.

When Lockheed’s legendary F-117 Nighthawk first entered service in 1983, it brought with it a revolution in military aviation. After decades of focusing on the development of higher and faster-flying aircraft to avoid enemy air defenses, the Nighthawk proved that, through a radar-defeating design, a subsonic aircraft could actually be more survivable.

What followed was decades worth of stealth innovation, competition, and advancement… but before the Nighthawk could change the world, it was up to Ben Rich, the head of Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works at the time, to sell the Air Force on the idea.

And in order to do that, Skunk Works first had to invent a stealth pole for the Air Force.

Denys Overholser discovered the secret to stealth in a 40-page Soviet research paper

The stealth design leveraged by Skunk Works may have been uniquely American, but it was actually built upon the collective expertise of a number of scientists and researchers — some of whom even came from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. Famously, the concept that led to stealth was born out of the work of Soviet physicist and mathematician Pyotr Ufimtsev, which had gone largely ignored by his own nation before catching the interest of Skunk Works’ Denys Overholser.

Ufimtsev’s paper, called Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction, had just been translated by the Air Force’s Foreign Technology Division. To most, this 40-page treatise focused on developing a theory for predicting the scattering of electromagnetic waves seemed like little more than dry reading. But to Overholser, the equations buried deep in the paper represented the holy grail of low-observable aviation: a means to calculate an aircraft design’s radar cross-section without even having to build it.

Armed with this new approach to analyzing aircraft designs, Rich’s team at Skunk Works set about designing an aircraft with a radar cross-section literally thousands of times smaller than the SR-71-based D-21 supersonic reconnaissance drone, the stealthiest platform they’d built to date. This effort led to a 10-foot wooden model that the Skunk Works team dubbed the Hopeless Diamond. The design was stealthy enough for Rich to win a bet against legendary engineer Kelly Johnson, but the bigger hurdle would be convincing the Air Force that stealth was real.

A Skunk Works design so stealthy… all radar could see was the pole

To test their stealth design, the Skunk Works team brought their Hopeless Diamond model to McDonnel Douglas’ radar test range in the Mojave Desert and mounted it atop a 12-foot pole. This was a common practice for testing the radar returns of new aircraft designs. But when the radar array was powered on… something seemed to be wrong.

The radar operator, manning an array just 1,500 feet from the model, looked to Ben Rich and told him that the Hopeless Diamond must have fallen off the pole. Rich looked and confirmed it was still there, but it wasn’t until a blackbird landed on top of the model that the operator registered a radar return. Mistaken, he thought the bird must be the aircraft. As Rich later recounted, it was the first time he felt certain that stealth was the real deal.

In March of 1976, it was time for Skunk Works to prove their design was as stealthy as they claimed to the Air Force. Moving on from the 10-foot Hopeless Diamond, they arrived at the White Sands radar range with a 38-foot mock-up of the aircraft, made of wood and painted black. They were set to compete against Northrop’s stealth design for an Air Force contract, and the Air Force had brought its most powerful radar arrays to size up each firm’s entries.

With five radar antennas, each broadcasting in different frequencies zeroed in on a wooden pole in the tabletop-flat test range, Rich’s team mounted their model and stepped back, waiting to hear how their design would fare against the best radar systems and operators the world had to offer…

But all they could see on radar was the pole.

‘Since you're so damned clever, build us a new pole!’

According to an account later written by Denys Overholser, the pole itself registered at minus 20 decibels on radar, which compared to most aircraft, was basically invisible. But compared to the Hopeless Diamond, it might as well have been a barn.

You’d think being stealthier than what had previously been considered a practically “invisible” pole in the desert would be a huge win for the Skunk Works team… but it wasn’t all good news.

“An Air Force colonel confronted me in a fit of pique: ‘Well,’ he snorted, ‘since you’re so damned clever, build us a new pole.'” Overholser wrote.

“I thought, ‘Oh, sure. Build a tower that’s 10 decibels lower than the model. Lots of luck.'”

With no intention of being beaten by a pole, Overholser set about designing a double-wedge pylon for the Air Force that was big enough to mount large models on, but created a radar return just “the size of a bumblebee.”

Designing and building a stealth pole for the Air Force wasn’t an anticipated expense for the Skunk Works team. In fact, they ultimately had to split the half-million dollar cost (about $2.6 million today) with Northrop to get the competition going again.

Of course, this ultimately proved to be a better investment for Lockheed than for Northrop at the time. As Overholser recalls, Northrop’s program manager saw the radar return on the new pole when testing recommenced and whispered, “Jesus, if they can do that with a frigging pole, what can they do with their damned model?”

Just one year later, Lockheed’s Have Blue would take its first flight on its way to change aviation history.

About the Author

Alex Hollings is a writer, dad, and Marine veteran who specializes in foreign policy and defense technology analysis. He holds a master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communications from Framingham State University.

This article was first published by Sandboxx News.

Image: Creative Commons.

Israel Launches Military Campaign in Central Gaza

Foreign Policy - Thu, 06/06/2024 - 01:00
The civilian death toll continues to mount as U.S., Egyptian, and Qatari officials scramble to secure a cease-fire deal.

Modi Hits a Roadblock

Foreign Policy - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 23:00
After a decade of always bouncing back, the Indian leader and his Bharatiya Janata Party suffer a setback at the ballot box.

What the West Can Learn From Singapore

Foreign Policy - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 22:33
Data shows that in key areas, Singapore is better at governing than the U.S. and Britain.

The Harrier II Fighter Will Keep Flying (Just Not for America)

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 22:26

Summary and Key Points: Earlier this spring, the last U.S. Marine Corps aviators completed training on the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, a V/STOL tactical attack aircraft in service for 40 years. The final Harrier squadron, VMA-223, will transition to the F-35B Lightning II by September 2026. Meanwhile, Spain will keep its Harrier fleet operational until at least 2030, with seven currently deployed on the flagship Juan Carlos I.

-Spain is considering the F-35B as a replacement but faces potential delays due to a backlog of orders.

-The Harrier II, praised for its role in the 1991 Gulf War, remains a capable but aging warbird.

Farewell to the Harrier: USMC's Final Training and Transition to F-35B

Earlier this spring, the final United States Marine Corps aviators completed training on the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, the vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) tactical attack aircraft that first entered service with the Marine Corps forty years ago. As previously reported, the AV-8B Harrier II Fleet Replacement Detachment (FRD), Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), graduated the final two pilots to receive the 7509 Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 is now the final Harrier squadron in the U.S. Marine Corps, but it will only continue operating the platform through September 2026. At that point, the squadron will transition to the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II. Thus in just over two years, the Harrier II’s days in service with the U.S. military will come to an end.

However, the AV-8B will remain in operation with NATO member Spain, at least for a few years longer. Last month, the Spanish Navy announced that its fleet of Harrier jets won’t be retired until at least 2030. Madrid’s sea service operates a total of ten Harriers, seven of which are currently deployed on the flagship Juan Carlos I for Operation Dédalo 24, Aerotime first reported.

The deployment to the Spanish Navy’s amphibious assault ship began in early April and is scheduled to continue until the middle of July. The warship has operated in the diverse waters around Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Though the Harrier IIs have been in service with the Spanish Navy since the mid-1980s, the remaining aircraft now in service are in good condition, according to Spanish officials. Madrid has secured contracts to continue supporting the aircraft until 2028, but has looked to extend the service life of the remaining ten Harrier IIs until 2030.

“This figure underscores the professionalism and good work of the maintainers at all levels,” Captain Regodón Gómez, commander of the Spanish Naval Aviation, told the Spanish military news outlet Info Defensa. “We are very aware that the challenge is very important because the other two users of the model [the Italian Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps] decommission it.”

Madrid has been mulling the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II as the eventual replacement for the Harrier II, and the Spanish Navy remains the only current Harrier II operator not to officially opt for the F-35B. However, if Spain doesn’t move forward to secure a deal, it would potentially be left without a capable fix-winged aircraft that can operate from its flagship.

Moreover, even if Spain agrees later to obtain the S/VTOL Lightning II variant, it may find itself on a waiting list due to the backlog of orders. An aircraft carrier isn’t much good without aircraft—and while the Harrier II is still a capable warbird, it is showing its age.

As a rugged and reliable aircraft, the AV-8B was routinely deployed onboard amphibious assault ships and simple forward operating bases since the 1980s. U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf named the AV-8B Harrier II one of the most important weapons of the 1991 Gulf War—but that was more than thirty years ago.

About the Author: Peter Suciu 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

All images are Creative Commons. 

F-111: The Air Force Warplane Built To Kill Everything (Everywhere)

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 22:19

Summary and Key Points: The F-111 Aardvark, developed in 1962 by General Dynamics, was a groundbreaking warplane with swept wings and advanced radar systems, allowing it to fly at supersonic speeds and low altitudes.

-Initially intended as a fighter for both the USAF and the Navy, it was repurposed for deep strike missions after the Navy deemed it unsuitable.

-The F-111 saw significant action in the Vietnam War, Libya, and Operation Desert Storm, proving its worth despite early flaws.

-Its operational success led to international adoption, and its last flight was in 2010 by the Australian armed forces. The Aardvark's speed and versatility offer lessons for future aircraft design.

F-111 Aardvark: The Supersonic Warplane That Redefined Combat

File this under “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To.” The F-111 Aardvark was a history-making warplane. Developed in 1962 by General Dynamics, this warbird had a unique design and an even more exciting service record. With swept wings, she could hit the wild blue yonder in as little as 2,000 feet (when her wings were fully extended, that is). When those wings were fully retracted, the great warbird could blast along at supersonic speeds. In fact, the Aardvark made history as the fastest-flying plane at a low altitude.

Thanks to its advanced (for its time) “terrain-hugging” radar system, the plane could fly at extremely low altitudes and achieve supersonic flight without much risk of hitting anything. At higher altitudes, she could break easily into Mach 2.2. Further, the F-111 could make transoceanic flights without needing to refuel.

The F-111 Aardvark was ahead of its time and packed quite a punch in combat, having seen much service in the Vietnam War.

F-111: Not What the Pentagon Intended

Interestingly, the F-111 was originally intended as a fighter for both the United States Air Force and the United States Navy. It cost $75 million in 1964 (or about $750 million today). Upon completion of the craft, however, the Pentagon’s brass found that the aircraft was unacceptable for its intended use. Therefore, the Navy backed out entirely from the program (although the failure of the Aardvark led to the design of the F-14 Tomcat, probably the Navy’s greatest plane ever made).

The Air Force, however, determined that the supersonic plane could be used for something else: deep, penetrating strikes into enemy territory. This was the F-111’s experience in Vietnam, against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and in Operation Desert Storm.

In fact, the Air Force’s fateful decision to accept the plane but to re-task it as a bomber changed history. This is a case of the Pentagon in the early days of the Cold War being far more innovative and cost-effective in its acquisitions than it ever could be today. The Air Force turned a failure into a long-term win with the Aardvark. The Navy’s loss, then, was the Air Force’s—and America’s—gain. Rather than scrap the whole project and basically burn the U.S. tax dollars that went into making it, the Air Force recognized that this plane could be used in far more unique ways than it was intended to have been deployed.

The F-111 got its nickname, “Aardvark,” because, like the African animal of the same name, the F-111 travels close to the ground, hunting its prey. In 1966, the Aardvark set the record for the longest, low-flying flight at supersonic speeds. From that point on, the Air Force knew it had a diamond in the rough. Despite its potential, when the Aardvark was first deployed to Vietnam in 1968, it performed terribly due to a wing stabilizer flaw. The Air Force had to withdraw all its Aardvarks from the fight. Many at the time believed the F-111’s days were numbered. But the stabilizer problem was soon rectified. 

A Decades-Long Operational Success Story

By 1972—during Operation Linebacker—the Aardvark was redeployed and led the way in dangerous night bombings in which the supersonic planes skimmed the tops of the dense jungles just below. The Aardvark had proven itself after an inauspicious start. The Aardvarks were used brilliantly to soften up North Vietnamese air defenses that would have otherwise been deployed against the Air Force’s far more valuable B-52 Stratofortress bombers. The Aardvarks had one of the best performance ratings in Vietnam once that stabilizer problem was repaired. 

Of the 4,000 missions that the F-111 flew in the unfriendly skies above Indochina, only six units were lost.

Ultimately, the F-111 went international. Britain and Australia ended up purchasing variants of this warplane. The Australians had a special variant—the F-111C—unique only to their armed forces. The final flight of the F-111 as a combat plane took place in 2010. However, it was not piloted by the Americans who had built her but rather by the Australians who had come to love the plane.

F-111: An Inspiration for the Future of American Air Power?

The F-111 Aardvark was quite literally able to outrun whatever air defenses it faced. And this is a key feature that plane manufacturers should consider today when designing next-generation warplanes. Stealth is, of course, a massively helpful feature that most new American warplanes and bombers are incorporating. 

But there’s something to be said about building a plane that can simply go faster than the defenses that an enemy can deploy. With advances in detection technology and the rise of sophisticated anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, the Pentagon might want to stop prioritizing stealth and start amplifying the speed of its next-generation fighters and bombers.

About the Author

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

China's J-20 Stealth Fighter 'Defeated' Rafale Fighters in Simulation

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 22:12

Summary and Key Points: China's Chengdu J-20 "Mighty Dragon" stealth fighter, developed under the J-XX program, marked a significant milestone with its maiden flight in 2011 and official service entry in 2017.

-Despite its advanced design and new WS-15 engines, the J-20 remains untested in real combat.

-In a 2020 simulation, it reportedly outperformed India's Dassault Rafale fighters, downing 17 of them.

-However, experts caution that simulations can't fully replicate real combat conditions. While the Rafale has proven its capabilities in various conflicts, the J-20's actual combat performance remains unproven.

The Chengdu J-20 Fighter vs. Dassault Rafale: Who Comes Out on Top?

Beijing has continued to hype the capabilities of its domestically-built "fifth generation" Chengdu J-20 "Mighty Dragon" stealth fighter – even as China struggled to develop a capable engine for the seemingly advanced aircraft. Finally last June, a new J-20 prototype flew as the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation powered by two WS-15 turbofan engines. That event was seen as a major milestone for the engines, for the aircraft and even for China, as the J-20 could finally live up to the Mighty Dragon moniker.

The Chengdu J-20 was the result of Beijing's J-XX program of the 1990s, which set out to develop an air superiority fighter with precision strike capability. The result was the world's third operational "fifth generation" fighter aircraft – after the United States Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

The aircraft took its maiden flight in 2011.

Dubbed the Mighty Dragon, the aircraft was officially adopted and entered service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 2017. It is a sleek, modern aircraft that has been noted for its canard-delta configuration, blended fuselage with low radar cross-section, and large canted twin tails. It is equipped with two large internal weapon bays for long-range and air-to-air missiles.

Yet, despite the hype, the J-20 remains untested in actual combat.

Perhaps wanting to prove something to the world, Beijing employed the J-20 Mighty Dragon in a 2020 simulation against the Indian Air Force's French-made Dassault Rafale fighter.

The twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft Rafale has been described by Dassault as an "ominrole" 4.5 generation aircraft that can perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence missions.

17 Rafale's Shot Down!

In the simulation, the J-20 Mighty Dragon came out the victor, reportedly downing 17 of the Rafales.

According to a report from the Eurasian Times, a Chinese pilot of the Wang Hai Air Group from the PLA Eastern Theater Command, along with his colleagues, claimed to have shot down Rafale fighters in the exercises. The Wang Hai Air Group was the first air wing to be equipped with the Mighty Dragon, and thus the most experienced with China's fifth-generation fighter.

Such military simulations can be quite realistic – replicating conditions a pilot might experience in actual combat as well as a degree of uncertainty. However, aviation experts will still be quick to respond that a simulation, no matter how accurate, can never compare to the real deal when it is truly a matter of life and death.

And while Chinese military aviation experts have praised the capabilities of the J-20 following the exercise, it would have been unexpected for Beijing to actually suggest otherwise.

Accordingly, an Indian Air Force expert also told EurAsian Times on condition of anonymity that PLAAF might have set the simulations in a way to equip its J-20 with all the critical strengths, something that is not possible in real combat.

Finally, the J-20s have been marketed as fifth-generation stealth jets, yet the platform's biggest deficiency is that the Mighty Dragon has yet to prove itself in combat, while the French-based Rafale has been in service for nearly a quarter of a century, during which time it has conducted operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and Syria – conducting ground strikes. Those may not have been air-to-air kills, but the Rafale is a warbird that has employed its claws in combat, while the same can't be said of the Mighty Dragon.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

All images are Creative Commons or Shutterstock. 

The F-22 Is So Stealth It Flew Under an Iranian F-4 Undetected

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 22:04

Summary and Key Points: In November 2012, two Iranian Su-25s attempted to shoot down a U.S. MQ-1 Predator drone in international airspace, but the drone escaped unscathed. In response, the U.S. began providing fighter escorts for its drones. In 2013, unaware of this policy, Iranian F-4 Phantoms engaged another MQ-1, only to be surprised by a stealthy F-22 Raptor escort. The F-22, with advanced stealth and sensor capabilities, covertly assessed the F-4s before revealing its presence and advising them to withdraw, which they did.

-This incident highlights the ongoing tensions and technological disparities between the U.S. and Iran, amidst broader geopolitical negotiations.

F-22 Stealth: How the U.S. Protected Its Drones from Iranian Jets

In November 2012, two Iranian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25s tried to down a U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator drone. At the time, the MQ-1 was flying in international air space, 16 miles from the Iranian border; the drone flight was legal, but understandably instigatory. Iran scrambled the two Su-25s, which quickly closed on the drone. But the Su-25 was designed for close air support, not air superiority, and it struggled impotently with its cannons to shoot down the MQ-1.

The American drone escaped the interaction unscathed, having filmed the entire sequence with on-board cameras. In response to the incident, the U.S. modified its procedures to better protect its vulnerable drone fleet. It began providing drones with a fighter escort.

One year later, in 2013, the Iranians – apparently unaware of this new U.S. drone-escort policy – engaged another MQ-1. This time, the Iranians sent a jet with some air-to-air game, the F-4 Phantom – an aircraft the U.S. exported to Iran in the 1970s, back when the two countries were allies. Unlike the Su-25, the F-4 was entirely capable of bringing down the MQ-1. But when the Iranian F-4s moved to engage the MQ-1, they discovered they were not alone.

Escorting the MQ-1, lurking silently, was a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor – a fifth-generation stealth fighter. As the Iranian pilots learned that day, the F-22 “is equipped with stealth technology that enables it to operate virtually undetected by radar.”

Iran, F-4 and Those Stealth F-22 Raptors

Indeed, the Iranians were oblivious to its presence as the F-22 stalked them from below.

This aircraft is packed with enviable, cutting-edge technology. “The F-22 Raptor is a technological marvel,” I noted previously.

“The world’s first operational fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 was designed with a bevy of novel features – stealth technology, supercruise, supermaneuverability, and sensor fusion – all combined to create the preeminent air superiority fighter.”

The Iranians flying in Vietnam War-era F-4 Phantoms were ill-equipped to match an F-22. Granted, the F-4 was a capable airframe – the most produced American supersonic military aircraft ever – but it first flew in 1958. The F-22, on the other hand, was an up-to-date, 21st century marvel.

“The F-22’s software is advanced and impressive. Using sensor fusion, data from multiple onboard sensor systems are synthesized to create a more comprehensive tactical picture,” I explained a few years back.

Besides, the F-4 was not built for dogfighting. “The Phantom was not particularly maneuverable,” I explained in a previous article on the F-4. “Enemy MiGs could typically outturn the F-4, which wasn’t designed for dogfighting and suffered from adverse yaw in tight turns. Instead, the F-4 was intended to fire radar-guided missiles from beyond visual range, not engage in air combat maneuvering.”

Well, the F-22 was comfortably within visual range: It was directly below the Iranians.

The F-22’s pilot, operating undetected, had sidled right in. “He flew under their aircraft to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there,” then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said. Having determined the F-4’s payloads, the Raptor pilot finally alerted the Iranians to his presence.

He “pulled up on their left-wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home,’” Welsh said. The F-4s complied and bugged out.

The incident is indicative of the friction that has underscored the U.S.-Iranian relationship since the late 1970s. Currently, the two sides are working toward a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, which is reportedly nearing break-out capacity and has made Iran an international pariah. The world is watching closely as the negotiations unfold. In the meantime, hopefully the two rival nations can avoid any further dogfighting incidents.

Author Biography: Harrison Kass 

Harrison Kass is a senior defense editor with over 1,000 published articles. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken. Email the Author:

Image Credit: Shutterstock and Creative Commons. 

China Freaked: The Navy Surfaced 3 Missile Submarines Simultaneously as A Warning

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 21:52

Summary and Key Points: The last 12 years have been historically action-packed, making 2010 feel like a different era. Since then, we've experienced a global pandemic, economic collapse, populist uprisings, and significant geopolitical events. In 2010, Obama signed "Obamacare," and U.S. forces were still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, China was emerging as a significant power, evidenced by its massive naval expansion. The U.S. responded by demonstrating its naval strength, notably with the surfacing of three Ohio-class submarines in 2010. Today, China has the largest navy, and the focus remains on maintaining balance in the Pacific amidst rising tensions.

China's Naval Rise and the U.S. Response: A 2010 Retrospective

The year 2010 feels like a long, long time ago. Today, when the news cycle is seemingly instantaneous – leaving citizens with the impression that more is actually happening – the 12 years that have passed since 2010 feel historically action-packed, making 2010 feel like some other epoch. 

A lot has happened. A coronavirus pandemic and the corresponding economic collapse. Populist uprisings across the globe, resulting in the elections of Trump, Orban, Bolsonaro, and the UK’s Brexit. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The Americans withdrew from Afghanistan. The Russians invaded Ukraine. ISIS, Crimea, Occupy Wall Street, Libya, MeToo.

Looking at the Past

Back in 2010, President Obama was still in his first term. In March, Obama signed his hallmark achievement, the technocratic Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or “Obamacare.” U.S. forces were still engaged in Iraq – and Afghanistan. The “Pivot to Asia” would not occur for two more years. Yet, trouble was surfacing in the Pacific – as underscored by a June 2010 incident. China had become fully impossible to ignore. The world’s most populous nation was beginning to realize her awesome potential, and America, for the first time since the Soviet Union’s demise, was at risk of facing a true rival, a regional hegemon in Northeast Asia.

“China is the key to understanding the future distribution of power in Northeast Asia,” John Mearscheimer wrote in his seminal 2001 text, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. “Because of the vast size of China’s population, it has the potential to become much wealthier than Japan, and even wealthier than the United States. To illustrate China’s potential, consider the following scenarios. Japan’s per capita GNP is now more than 40 times greater than China’s. If China modernizes to the point where it has about the same per capita GNP as South Korea does today, China would have a GNP of $10.66 trillion, substantially larger than Japan’s $4.09 trillion. If China’s per capita GNP grew to be just half of Japan’s present per capita GNP, China would have a GNP of $20.04 trillion, which would make China almost five times as wealthy as Japan.”

More importantly, China has the power to meet and surpass the United States.

“Another way of illustrating how powerful China might become if its economy continues growing rapidly is to compare it with the United States. The GNP of the United States is $7.9 trillion (in 2001) ... If China’s per capita GNP equals Korea’s, China’s overall GNP would be almost $10.66 trillion, which is about 1.35 times the size of America’s GNP.” Still, despite China’s unrivaled potential, the Bush 43 administration instigated two wars in the Middle East – a resource suck that directly interfered with the more important mission of balancing against China.

Pivot from Trade With China to Defense

Obama would pay closer attention to China than his predecessor. And rightly so. China was a potential great-power rival – the only nation with such potential. And where China’s potential – and ambition – had become most obvious, was in the maritime realm, where China had convened the largest naval force expansion in modern history. 

In 2000, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had roughly 100 maritime platforms available. By 2005, PLAN’s force size had doubled, to over 200 maritime platforms. “This tsunami of Chinese shipbuilding has tremendous potential implications for the PRC’s effort to coercively envelop Taiwan, resolve other sovereignty disputes in its favor, carve out the region as a zone of exceptionalism to international rules and norms, and project Beijing’s power and influence around the world,” reported. In June 2010, amidst China’s shipbuilding frenzy, the U.S. chose to send a pointed message to Beijing: “the U.S. still controls the seas.” The message’s courier: three Ohio-class submarines, which surfaced in the Philippines’s Subic Bay.


The Ohio is a nuclear-powered submarine, capable of firing ballistic missiles. The third largest submarine class in the world, the Ohio can carry 24 Trident II missiles. So, when three Ohio submarines surfaced in the Indo-Pacific carrying a combined 72 ballistic missiles, the message to China was clear, if not explicit. 

Still, in the years since the Ohio incident, China has proceeded with its shipbuilding efforts. “Sometime between 2015 and 2020, China’s Navy crossed a critical threshold: it fields more battle force ships than the U.S. Navy, making it the world’s largest navy numerically,” reported. “Today, at around 360 hulls, it exceeds its American rival by more than sixty warships.” 

Hopefully, the Biden administration can maintain focus on China and the Pacific, without getting too preoccupied with Russian-related concerns, for Russia, while aggressive, lacks the hegemonic potential of China.  

About the Author: Harrison Kass

Harrison Kass is an attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass. Kass has over 1,000 published defense and national security articles over the span of his career. 

Russia's B-52: The Tu-95 Bear Bomber Is Not To Be Toyed With

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 21:44

Summary and Key Points: In early May, U.S. Air Force F-16s intercepted Russian Tu-95 bombers near Alaska. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported that two "Bear Bombers" were on a scheduled flight over the Bering Sea, supported by Su-30SM aircraft, lasting over 11 hours.

-The Tu-95, a Cold War-era aircraft, remains a key part of Russia's aerial fleet due to its long-range capabilities and various modifications over the years.

-The interception highlighted ongoing tensions and the strategic importance of these bombers.

Russian Tu-95 Bombers: Still Relevant After 70 Years

The U.S. Air Force reportedly intercepted Russian Tu-95 bombers near Alaska in early May. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, two “Bear Bombers’ were conducting a flight over the Bering Strait when American F-16 Fighting Falcons were scrambled to escort them away

"Two Tu-95MS strategic missile-carrying bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces' long-range aviation carried out a scheduled flight in the airspace over the neutral waters of the Bering Sea near the western coast of Alaska. The flight lasted over 11 hours. The crews of Su-30SM aircraft of the Aerospace Forces provided fighter support," the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement to TASS

By flying the Tu-95 near Alaska, Moscow was demonstrating its commitment to long-range aviation capabilities. This Cold War-era aircraft has remained in service for more than half a century, adopting new roles over the years to retain its relevance. Despite its old age, the Bear Bomber remains a mainstay of Russia's aerial fleet.

Introducing the Tu-95 Bear Bomber

In order to counter the strategic bombers fielded by the U.S. military during the Second World War, Soviet engineers envisioned a homegrown counterpart. The USSR first issued a request in 1950 for a four-engine bomber capable of flying 5,000 miles to strike targets across the continental U.S. Some consider the Tu-95 bear Russia's own version of the B-52 bomber - just in turboprop form. 

The Bear was fitted with four Kuznetsov turboprop engines equipped with two contra-rotating four-blade propellers. The Soviets opted for the turboprop engines because early jet engines burned a lot of fuel in flight. The Bear’s powerful engine system was designed by Ferdinand Brandner – a Nazi party member who was captured by Soviet troops after attempting to flee to Prague toward the end of the war.

The Tu-95 took its maiden flight in 1952 and officially entered service with the Soviet Air Force a few years later. In 1961, Khrushchev revealed that the USSR was planning to detonate the most powerful nuclear bomb in the world. The Tsar Bomba, also referred to by its designation, AN602, was eventually dropped by parachute aboard a Tu-95V aircraft. This modified Bear variant was equipped with redesigned engines, suspensions, and release mechanisms in order to successfully release the large nuclear weapon. 

Over the years, other Bear bomber variants were created, including the Tu-142 Russian Air Force naval aviation model. As detailed by Airforce Technology, “The Bear J radio relay aircraft are equipped with VLF communications sets with a VLF ventral antenna pod under the centre fuselage. The satellite communications radome is installed just to the aft of the flight deck canopy. The aircraft maintain communications between the submarines of the Northern and Pacific fleets and the Russian command stations.” 

Other experimental Bears were envisioned by the Soviets, including the Tu-95LAL and the Tu-95K. The variants that made it to the production phase include the Tu-95MR photo-reconnaissance aircraft and the Tu-95K, which is capable of launching Kh-22 missiles.

About the Author: Maya Carlin 

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Image Credit: Shutterstock. 

How to Sink a $3 Billion Dollar Submarine: Leave a Hatch Open

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 21:10

Summary: Going to sea has always been risky, especially for military personnel, where the dangers are compounded. Countless sailors have perished due to these risks, often due to human error or poor planning. Notable incidents include the USS Enterprise striking Bishop Rock in 1985, the Vasa sinking due to design flaws in the 17th century, and a German U-boat's mishap with a high-pressure toilet during WWII. Perhaps the most embarrassing incident was the near-sinking of India's first nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, in 2017 due to a hatch left open, resulting in extensive repairs and a year-long inoperative period.

How Human Error Nearly Sunk a $3 Billion Nuclear Submarine

Going to sea has never been without risks.

For those in military uniform the dangers are compounded, and it has always taken a special breed of men and women willing to head out over the horizon.

Countless sailors have lost their lives due to the dangers of the sea – but in a few cases, it was due to stupid mistakes.

What Happened to This Submarine: Open the Hatch 

This has included collisions and some dozen U.S. Navy ships have been seriously damaged due to such accidents. USS Enterprise (CVN-65) suffered serious damage when she struck a portion of the 13-mile-long Bishop Rock that damaged its hull in November 1985.

Other times it is simply the case of poor planning or design and as a result some vessels barely made it out to sea on their maiden voyages. That was certainly the case with the Vasa, described as the most high-tech warship when it was built in the 17th century. The Swedish warship sank within just twenty minutes of setting sail after a gust of wind capsized the majestic vessel – likely due to the heavy cannons on her gun deck.

Some other naval accidents were the result of "human error" of the most extreme kind. At the end of the Second World War, a German Type VIIC submarine nearly sank on its maiden voyage because the boat's new deepwater high-pressure toilet was used "improperly," reportedly by the captain no less! Sea water flooded the boat's batteries, which caused them to generate chlorine gas, which forced the U-1206 to surface. The crew then scuttled the submarine after it was bombed by British patrols. Three men drowned in the heavy seas.

A Hatch Left Open

Perhaps the most embarrassing mishap in military maritime history is what happened to INS Arihant, India's first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine when it began its deployment in 2017.

The then-brand new $2.9 billion submarine was left completely inoperative for nearly a year simply because a hatch was left open, which allowed seawater to rush in, almost sinking the boat in the process.

The nuclear submarine was the first of an expected five in class, designed and constructed as part of the Indian Navy's Advanced Technology Vessel project. The Arihant was designed with four launch tubes that could carry a dozen K-15 short-range missiles or K-4 intermediate-range nuclear missiles. While the sub's weapons and capabilities were advanced, the training of the crew certainly wasn't.

In addition, the Arihant faced a number of problems during her development and manufacture, and that included delays in its construction and notably major differences between the Russian-supplied design and the indigenous fabrication. Those were all minor of course compared to the damage that occurred from human error.

When the hatch was left open, not only did the propulsion compartments fill with seawater, but there was substantial damage to the pipes that ran through the submarine. Given how corrosive seawater can be to the various pipes, including those that carry pressurized water coolant to and from the ship's eighty-three-megawatt nuclear reactor, all had to be cut out and replaced. The six-thousand-ton INS Arihant remained out of service at the docks while the water was pumped out, and the pipes replaced. The entire process took ten months.

India had attempted to conceal the mishap, without much success. INS Arihant's absence was first noted in the Doklam border standoff with China in the summer of 2017. At the time, the Indian military only confirmed that the submarine had undergone repairs in early 2018. As naval mishaps go the Arihant may have been among the more embarrassing but at least it didn't result in the loss of life.

Despite a rough start, the submarine has reportedly had a largely successful service history.

Author Experience and Expertise

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Image Credit: Creative Commons. 

A Russian Submarine Accidently Destroyed Itself By Its Own Torpedo

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 21:01

Summary: On August 12, 2000, two explosions rocked the Barents Sea, leading to the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk during a naval exercise.

-The initial explosion occurred due to a leak of high-test peroxide (HTP) from a practice torpedo, causing a secondary, more massive explosion that doomed the vessel.

-Rescue efforts were delayed, and international assistance was initially rejected. All 118 crew members perished, with 23 surviving temporarily in the submarine's rear compartment.

-The incident was later attributed to inadequate training, poor equipment maintenance, and mismanagement.

Explosions and Cover-ups: The Sinking of the Kursk Submarine

On August 12, 2000, the waters of the Barents Sea were shaken by two explosions. Sailors aboard the Russian submarine Karelia detected the explosions but presumed they were related to a major naval exercise of which the Karelia was a part.

Tragically, however, the detonations had occurred aboard the Oscar-class submarine Kursk, and they spelled disaster for that submarine and its crew. 

Kursk: What happened?

The Kursk was a cruise missile submarine launched in 1994, one of the first ships built by the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Oscar class was designed to rain cruise missiles down on a U.S. carrier strike group and was one of the largest submarines ever, behind only Soviet Typhoon-class and U.S. Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. 

In August of 2000, the Kursk was participating in the Summer-X exercise, the first major fleet maneuver of the Russian Navy. As part of the test, the vessel was to launch a pair of training torpedoes at a Russian cruiser. In addition to these dummy warheads, the Kursk carried a full complement of live ordnance, from torpedoes to cruise missiles.

It was one of the few Russian ships authorized to do so. A few hours after requesting permission to begin the test, the first explosion measuring 1.5 on the Richter scale was detected by Russian naval assets, as well as by a Norwegian seismic monitoring station. Just over two minutes later, a second, much greater explosion was detected — 4.2 on the Richter scale. 

The Rescue Effort

The Kursk was supposed to check in that afternoon following the completion of the test, but senior officers were not overly concerned at first. They suspected a failure of the communication equipment, a common problem aboard the sub.

It wasn’t until nearly five hours later, and after repeated failures to contact the sub, that a search and rescue effort was ordered. 

Two Russian mini-submersibles, the AS-32 and AS-34, headed up the rescue effort.

By the evening of Sunday, August 13, they had located the stricken Kursk on the seabed, 354 feet below the surface. The bow was completely destroyed, and the first four compartments were flooded.

The submersible made repeated attempts to gain a seal over the rear escape hatch but was ultimately unsuccessful. In the following days, the rescue effort was hampered by increasingly strong winds and heavy seas. Additional submersibles were brought in, but they too failed to successfully seal against the escape hatch. Diving bells lowered by ships on the surface encountered the same problem. 

The U.S. and other Western nations were aware of the accident the day that it happened, and a coalition including the UK, France, Germany, Norway, and Israel offered assistance to the Russian Navy.

Russia turned down this assistance as Moscow sought to downplay and obfuscate the nature of the disaster, both from the world at large and from its own citizens. Finally, five days after the accident and in the face of considerable media and public backlash, Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted British and Norwegian help. 

Tragic Conclusion

Initially there was a great deal of hope that some survivors had held out in the relatively undamaged rear of the submarine. As the rescue dragged on, however, hope waned. When a Norwegian dive team finally gained entry to the wreck 10 days after the accident, they only found bodies. 

Once it was determined that none of the crew had survived, Russia moved to salvage the Kursk. A Dutch company was contracted to lift the submarine from its resting place on the seabed. The bow was removed before the sub was lifted, due to concerns over unexploded ordnance and structural instability. It was eventually destroyed where it lay on the seafloor. 

Upon refloating the Kursk, the full nature of the disaster was revealed. There had indeed been survivors — 23 sailors that congregated in the rearmost, ninth compartment. The nuclear reactors powering the sub had gone into emergency shutdown. This was a blessing in that they were inert and stable, but it meant all power, light, and air recycling processes were shut down. 

The men in the ninth compartment managed to survive for a time using battery-powered lights and chemical oxygen scrubbers. Their fate had already been sealed, however, due to where they were and the type of boat they were on. Although 354 feet is deep, the men would have most likely been able to survive an emergency ascent. Being stuck in the icy cold of the Barents Sea, however, would have been a sure death sentence if they were not swiftly spotted and rescued. Furthermore, some personnel were too injured to clamber into the escape trunk and attempt the ascent. 

Once the crew decided to stay aboard, they became victims of a quirk of the Kursk, and indeed of all Oscar-class submarines — an imperfect seal where the propeller shafts exited the hull. When stationary, water leaked in around the shafts. With the sub at rest on the seabed, water continued leaking in, driving up the pressure inside the compartment and making an emergency ascent physiologically impossible. 

With the air scrubbers turned off, the survivors relied on chemical scrubbers to remove poisonous carbon dioxide. Ultimately, it appears one of these scrubbers was dropped as the crew attempted to replace a used cartridge. When it splashed into the oily water, a chemical reaction ignited a flash fire in the pressurized air that burned off all the remaining oxygen, causing the remaining survivors to asphyxiate. 

Cause of the Sinking

With the sub on the surface, investigators were able to determine the cause of the mishap.

The Kursk was using torpedoes propelled by high-test peroxide (HTP). This chemical compound is normally stable, but in the presence of a catalyst it becomes a highly potent oxidizer. It appears the practice torpedo in use leaked enough of this fuel when it was loaded into the tube to cause the first explosion.

The forces of the initial explosion tore through the torpedo compartment, burning at temperatures estimated at nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Such monumental pressure and temperature caused at least seven other torpedoes to detonate, producing the second explosion. Water swiftly rushed into the ruined bow of the submarine, tearing through bulkheads until it was stopped by reinforced bulkhead number five, which protected the nuclear reactors. 


The Russian state sought to spin and cover up the botched rescue that might have saved the trapped sailors. Attempts were made to deflect blame by stating the mishap was caused by a collision with a NATO submarine that was monitoring the exercise. It was noted that the sub’s rescue beacon, designed to automatically float to the surface in the event of disaster to aid in location, had been disabled prior to a deployment to the Mediterranean the year before. 

Review of documentation aboard the Kursk revealed that the crew had not been adequately trained to handle HTP torpedoes, or indeed the specific type of torpedo loaded. A secret report found “stunning breaches of discipline, shoddy, obsolete and poorly maintained equipment" and "negligence, incompetence, and mismanagement." It went on to criticize delays in initiating the rescue operation.

Ultimately, apart from some shake-ups in Putin’s cabinet, few were held to account for the tragic loss of the Kursk and all 118 sailors aboard. 

About the Author: Maya Carlin

Maya Carlin is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Image Credit: Creative Commons. 

Forget F-35 or NGAD: Is a 7th Generation Fighter Possible?

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 19:42

Summary: The development of fighter jets has progressed through five generations, starting with the Messerschmitt Me 262 in 1943. Each generation has introduced significant technological advancements, such as transonic speeds, multi-role capabilities, advanced avionics, and stealth technology. Today, fifth-generation jets like the F-22 and F-35 dominate, while sixth-generation fighters are on the horizon, likely featuring unmanned options and advanced connectivity. Future generations like a 7th generation fighter may shift towards fully autonomous drones, potentially making the traditional manned fighter jet a relic of the past.

7th Generation Fighter: Could They Happen? 

Will there ever be a seventh-generation fighter jet?

It’s hard to say right now, given no one has created a  sixth-generation fighter jet.

But as drone technology and artificial intelligence progress, we do seem to be approaching a watershed – some moment that changes the predictable trajectory of aerospace development.

Fighter Jets: What Came Before

Before considering what comes next, let’s consider how we got to where we are – with the fifth generation of fighter jet aircraft in the skies, and on the verge of welcoming the sixth. 

Jet aircraft generations are not perfectly delineated, and there is some debate over where the lines sit. But generally, there is an understanding that fighter jet technology has progressed gradually through five generations, beginning in 1943 with the introduction of the first ever fighter jet, Nazi Germany's Messerschmitt Me 262.

First-generation jet aircraft were simple machines, not unlike the piston aircraft that came immediately before. Most first-generation aircraft had straight wings. All flew at subsonic speeds and carried conventional armaments. Examples include the DH Vampire and P-80 Shooting Star.

The second generation is generally understood as beginning in 1953 with the introduction of transonic/supersonic abilities, air-to-air missiles, and radar. Second-generation types include the F-86 and MiG-15, which dominated the skies during the Korean War.

Where the third generation begins is debatable, but it is often pegged to the introduction of multi-purpose fighter-bombers in the 1960s. Examples include the F-4 Phantom, MiG-23, and Mirage F1. Third-generation jet aircraft enjoyed a heyday during the Vietnam War era.

Fourth-generation fighters are in many respects still relevant today. This generation introduces advanced avionics, modern weaponry, and high maneuverability. Examples include the F-14, F-15, F-16, MiG-29, and Mirage 2000, all of them developed between 1974 and 1990.

Most pundits (and aerospace manufacturers) describe a fourth generation-plus – airframes that are a touch too advanced to be fourth-generation, but are not quite fifth-generation. Fourth-generation-plus aircraft were typically designed in the 1980s and 1990s and include types like the F/A-18, Su-30, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, and MiG-35.

Then comes the fifth generation, introduced in the 21st century and featuring stealth technology, supercruise, thrust vectoring, and cutting-edge avionics. The generation includes, to-date, just four airframes: the F-22, F-35, Su-57, and J-20. Today, fifth-generation aircraft are the most advanced fighter jets in service anywhere. But aerospace developers in North America, Europe, and Asia are already working to develop a sixth-generation platform.

Future Generations of Fighter Jets: Ehter a 7th Generation Fighter 

In all likelihood, someone will develop a sixth-generation fighter in the near to middle future. What exactly the sixth generation will include is not yet clear, but will of course be more advanced than the fifth generation, likely with an unmanned option, data fusion, and network interconnectivity.

Will there be a seventh generation? Hard to say. Any next generation likely won’t emerge for another 30 or 40 years, at which point fighter jets as we know them may mostly be a thing of the past. Drones and artificial intelligence are progressing at a rate where the flesh-and-blood pilot is likely to be replaced partially or entirely in the next decade or so. If there is a seventh generation, it might not include human operators.

About the Author: Harrison Kass 

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

All images are Creative Commons. 

Narendra Modi’s Disappointing But Not Disastrous Election

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 19:35

Yesterday, India concluded its six-week, drawn-out parliamentary elections. As always, the country did not fail to surprise the global community. The conventional wisdom was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would win in a landslide, and the exit polls appeared to confirm that his coalition would gain between 355 and 380 seats in the Lok Sabha (India’s lower house of parliament) of 543 seats. 

As in other countries, the exit polls were wrong, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies won 291 seats—enough to form a government but a far cry from the 400 seats that the party bragged it would win. The general consensus was that with a sweeping majority, the Modi government would take drastic steps to reshape Indian society along ideological lines. Instead, the electorate voted for a more pluralistic parliament. Why did this happen, and what are the implications for Indian democracy?

Modi based his electoral strategy on seeking to accelerate development and appeal to the Hindu cultural agenda. The first did not deliver the goods, and the second did not sway voters who were not already committed. Instead, the appeal to Hinduism not only alienated the Muslim vote—in a country of over 200 million Muslims—it led minority voters to mobilize effectively against the ruling party. On the economic front, large-scale inflation, especially for foodstuffs, hit the pocketbooks of the average Indian, causing disillusionment with the government’s policies. Further, the tendency to use the state to intimidate the opposition, the media, and think tanks did not resonate well with the general public or the intelligentsia and gave the opposition the incentive to organize and coordinate successfully. 

Yet, these factors do not fully explain the results. The BJP made inroads into the states where it was not expected to make an impact, although some of this stems from the anti-incumbent tendency in Indian politics. What India has ended up with is the BJP as the largest party in parliament, with 140 seats more than its nearest rival. It will, therefore, form the next government in coalition with allied parties.

In part, this is because the opposition, while tapping into the resentment against the BJP’s policies, did not provide a clear agenda of its own. In the past, the opposition coalitions have won only to squabble and break up in government. The Indian electorate, which wants good governance above all, grows weary of such ham-handed efforts to grab power. Further, the opposition wants to wean away parties from Modi’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition to gain a majority and form its own government. Still, the prime minister’s allies, for now, are standing firmly with the current government. They, too, know of the ineptness of the opposition to form and maintain governments. Does this mean, however, as some commentators are now suggesting, that Modi’s power is on the wane? The answer is that it depends. 

If the BJP learns from its disappointing electoral performance, then it will focus on internal reform and strengthen its economic platform. Internal reform means tolerating an opposition and allowing it to provide healthy dissent. This would restore confidence in the Indian political system, both domestically and internationally. It also makes Modi look like a resilient and confident leader who can listen to criticism and learn from it. 

Reform also means toning down the Hindutva rhetoric, which has made both minorities and the average Indian uncomfortable with the majoritarian direction the republic is headed. The government banked heavily on lavish spending to build a temple in the city of Ayodhya, which is the birthplace of the god Ram. Movie stars, athletes, and a who’s who of Indian celebrities attended the inauguration of the temple, which was built on a razed mosque, and the event was seen as significantly boosting the BJP’s electoral chances as the defenders of Hinduism. Instead, the BJP candidate from Ayodhya lost the race for parliament. Religious appeals obviously have their limits, and they cannot smooth over pressing economic concerns. 

This is where, however, Modi can succeed if he is able to accelerate growth in an already hot economy. The government’s emphasis has long been on building highways, airports, and other critical transportation infrastructure. There, its record is impressive. Where it has lagged behind, as Ashoka Mody has persuasively written, is in job creation despite high GDP growth. Yet, jobs are the top concern for the majority of the population that is under the age of thirty. 

The Indian electorate also likes Modi’s foreign policy because it is seen as muscular and gaining respect on the international stage. Indians approved of the 2019 decision to carry out a punitive strike on Pakistan following a terror attack in India that killed forty military personnel (Modi blamed the attack on Islamabad), and this most probably was the catalyst to win the 2019 election handily. Although the attack on a facility in Pakistan met with large-scale approval, it was muted somewhat by the shooting down of an Indian fighter jet in the skirmish that followed. 

More worrying, perhaps, is the simmering border dispute with China. Over the past few years, there have been three confrontations between Indian and Chinese soldiers, leading in one case, Galwan, to the confirmed death of twenty Indian soldiers and an unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers as well. The Indian media and parts of the Indian military have been pushing for a more assertive policy towards China by displaying the country’s military muscle. A full-blown war between the two countries would stymie Indian developmental efforts. If the conflict did not end in a manner that satisfied the Indian public, it would lead to large-scale protests against the Modi government. 

Modi, however, has been careful not to get into a war of words with the Chinese and has pursued a less provocative strategy. Instead, he has sought to quietly build up Indian infrastructure along the border so as to allow for the better deployment of Indian troops to counter Chinese incursions. He is also engaging in a general buildup of the Indian armed forces, but even this is limited by the Indian public’s demand to prioritize development over defense. 

Those writing Modi’s political obituary are premature. His party has the largest number of seats in parliament, and opportunistic members of the opposition are prone to switching sides for personal and political gain in India. He could, therefore, gain more members for his alliance. However, the key question is whether the Modi government can learn from its mistakes. If it does, the party can emerge stronger since it has the discipline and drive to function as a coherent and effective political unit. Modi would emerge as a leader who has the sagacity to learn and reform. If, however, the next term becomes a game of political tit-for-tat, then his coalition members may seek greener pastures. 

Amit Gupta is a Senior Fellow of the National Institute of Deterrence Studies. The views in this article are his own.

Image: Exposure Visuals /

Correction: An initial version of this article stated that the BJP won 100 more seats than the Indian National Congress (INC). The exact difference is 140 seats. The National Interest apologizes for this oversight. 

Fake Video Shows Missile Attack on a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 19:19

Summary: A video posted on X falsely claims to show the likely destruction of the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower by the Houthis.

-Experts have confirmed the video is fake, likely created with CGI.

-Despite its inauthenticity, the video highlights several important issues: the impact of deep fake technology on national security, the vulnerability of aircraft carriers in modern warfare, and the resentment towards the American military presence abroad.

A Fake Attack on a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier 

X user @JTMprincenews has posted a video purporting to show the destruction of the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier.

“In this video, we can see how USS Dwight Eisenhower is being blown off by the Houthis,” the caption reads. “Home to 60 fighter jets wit a crew of 5000 staffs & Navy personnel. Aerodrome of death, with sole purpose of bring USA’ madness around the world. Its fate is [similar] for others.”

The National Interest has consulted with multiple experts, and each confirmed that the video is a fake. Not that we really needed to consult the experts – the video looks like it was made as a high-school CGI project. 

Nevertheless, the video raises a few worthwhile talking points. First is the ramifications of deep-fake videos on national security. Second is the survivability of aircraft carriers in future combat. And third is the resentment that American military presence abroad still engenders, especially in the Arab world. 

Deep Fakes   

The rise of deep fakes – of AI-manufactured videography and photography – will surely complicate national security. Discerning what is real from what is fake has long been a challenge of intelligence-gathering. But as the ability to generate increasingly authentic-looking content increases with the rise of AI-assisted video-generation programs, the challenge of discerning what is real will only grow.

Videos claiming the outright destruction of an aircraft carrier will always be relatively easy to confirm or deny, since you can pick up the phone and call the boat in question (though such videos do have the potential to exacerbate the fog of war). More subtle videos with more subtle national security implications will be harder to discern. The location of a human target, for example, or correspondence between two human targets. The problem is beginning to manifest itself on the civilian side, with AI-assisted videos being used as leverage in blackmail schemes and the like. Expect similar schemes to crop up in the national security realm.

Sitting Duck: Aircraft Carriers Could Be Targets in Real Life - and Take on Damage 

The video is fake, but it plays on a legitimate fear: that a U.S. supercarrier could be sunk. The survivability of the aircraft carrier, and indeed of all surface vessels, has been called into question lately. The rise of anti-ship technology has improved. Drones and missiles in operation can plausibly interfere with the operation of an aircraft carrier. 

The success of the low-tech Houthis in disrupting the operations of U.S. warships in the region has raised questions about how those warships might fare in a conflict against a more sophisticated opponent such as China. So while the video in question here is fake, the premise is concerning and on the minds of war planners.  

Breeding Resentment

The posting of the video emphasizes how much of the world’s population does not appreciate the U.S. presence abroad. The U.S. has strategic interests that in some cases require a U.S. presence abroad – but at a certain point, the U.S. presence begins to run counter to U.S. interests. Where exactly that tipping point lies is very situation-specific. But Americans should not grown complacent to, or dismissive of, the fact that significant portions of the international community believe a ship flying the Stars and Stripes is an “aerodomes of death” for the “sole purpose to bring USA madness around the world.” 

The U.S. must take better care to assert itself in situations and places that benefit American interests. And if for no other reason than our own callous self-interest, Americans must be more mindful of the resentment they can sow abroad. 

Note: As the video might be disturbing, we have not embedded it. You can watch it on X here

About the Author: Harrison Kass 

Harrison Kass is a defense and national security writer with over 1,000 total pieces on issues involving global affairs. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Main image is a screenshot from X. All others are Creative Commons. 

Appeasement of Iran: The Path to More Conflict in the Middle East

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 19:07

When they look across the Middle East and beyond, Iran and its terrorist minions in the “axis of resistance” must be happy with what they see – a global community that not only refuses to confront their aggression but actually rewards it, laying the groundwork for more war down the road.

For starters, the United StatesNATO, and senior European Union officials all expressed their condolences on the recent deaths in a helicopter crash of President Ebrahim Raisi and other top Iranian officials.

Such diplomatic niceties are appropriate at times, but Raisi was a close ally of the virulently anti-Western Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; he was known as the “Butcher of Tehran” for his “role” in the deaths of thousands of political prisoners in 1988; and he directed the brutal crackdowns of public protests in recent years in which hundreds were killed and more than 20,000 were detained.

While the condolences must have delighted the mullahs in Tehran, they outraged human rights activists within Iran who oppose the authoritarian regime and have been the targets of its ire.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Tehran is enriching more uranium to near weapons-grade purity – enabling it to make enough weapons-grade uranium for almost eight nuclear weapons in a month – and that Tehran continues to thwart the IAEA’s efforts to monitor all its nuclear activities.

Nevertheless, Washington reportedly is pressing its European allies not to censure Tehran at the IAEA’s next board meeting in early June, out of fears that a censure could further raise Western tensions with the Islamic Republic and give Tehran a “pretext” to further expand its nuclear activities.

The world also is rewarding the terrorists Tehran sponsors, funds, and equips for their aggression of late.

Spain, Norway, and Ireland in recent days “formally recognized” a new Palestinian state that would include the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem in hopes of bringing peace to, or imposing it on, Israel and the Palestinians. In addition, Algeria proposed a draft UN Security Council resolution to demand, among other things, that Israel “immediately halt its military offensive” in Rafah.

Such moves can only encourage Hamas, which slaughtered 1,200 Israelis in barbaric fashion on October 7, to continue its efforts, as outlined in its charter and reiterated in the public comments of its leaders, to destroy Israel and create a Palestine “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.”

While Hamas has resumed its rocket attacks from Gaza in recent days, Hezbollah continues the rocket barrage from southern Lebanon that it began on October 8 in solidarity with its “axis of resistance” partner.

Lest he needed further encouragement, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah boasted that the International Criminal Court’s decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was the outgrowth of all different kinds of global pressure on Israel.

None of this bodes well for a peaceful future for the region, no matter how long Israel’s war with Hamas continues.

Buoyed by Western divisions over Tehran and global condemnations of Israel, Iranian officials are mapping out plans to escalate short-term attacks on the Jewish state while developing a strategy to destroy it over the long term.

For the short term, Iranian officials met in Tehran with members of its “axis of resistance” and directed that Hamas harden its stance in negotiations with Israel over the hostages and a ceasefire, ambush Israel’s forces and abduct its soldiers, and conduct military operations throughout Gaza.

It also directed Hezbollah to use long-range precision missiles and Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles to bring down Israeli planes. Hezbollah would be using such missiles for the first time in its battles with Israel, and it hopes to “stun” Jerusalem and the world with its ability to down Israeli aircraft.

For the long term, Iranian officials are “drawing lessons” from the current war, which they believe has revealed “Israeli vulnerabilities,” to develop a strategy to destroy its arch enemy once and for all.

Convinced that they and their proxies are winning the current war, Iran’s leaders are “examining ways to use proxy forces and terror to destabilize the Israeli state and Israeli society” – that is, to destroy Israel without having to defeat the Israeli Defense Forces and without triggering a war that could “draw in the United States.”

Those in Washington, in Europe, at the United Nations, and elsewhere who are appeasing Tehran, pressuring Jerusalem, and recognizing a Palestinian state may believe that’s the path to more peace and stability. But, in fact, they’re encouraging Tehran’s nuclear and hegemonic ambitions, as well as genocidal intentions against the Jewish state, which it shares with its terrorist proxies.

Only a serious U.S., Western, and global change in direction will ease the momentum for greater conflict in the coming months.

About the Author

Lawrence J. Haas is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and the author of, most recently, The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire (Potomac Books).

Image Credit: CSIS/Creative Commons. 

F-35I Adir: Israel Will Soon Have 75 Stealth Fighters Even America Doesn't Have

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 19:00

Summary: Israel remains the sole Middle Eastern operator of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter. With 36 of 50 ordered jets already delivered, Israel recently signed a deal for an additional 25, bringing the total to 75 within the next decade.

-The $3 billion deal, financed by U.S. military aid, will see deliveries starting in 2028. Israel's F-35I "Adir" variant includes customized electronic warfare systems, tailored helmets, and enhanced data processing capabilities.

-The Israeli Air Force operates three F-35 squadrons from Nevatim Air Base and has employed the aircraft in combat, notably against Iranian targets in Syria and drones.

Israel Expands F-35I Adir Fleet with $3 Billion Deal for Additional Stealth Fighters

The State of Israel remains the sole operator of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter in the Middle East. Currently, 36 of the original 50 ordered by the Jewish state have been delivered, but the total force could grow to as many as 75 within the next decade, as Israel signed a deal on Tuesday for an additional 25 of the fifth-generation fighters – to be delivered at a rate of three to five annually beginning in 2028.

The deal, financed by U.S. foreign military aid, totals approximately $3 billion.

As noted by Lockheed Martin, the aircraft's prime contractor, "Israel became the first country to select the F-35 through the United States government's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process when a Letter of Agreement was signed in October 2010."

On June 22, 2016, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) received its first F-35A at a ceremony at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas facilities, and the following year the fifth-generation multirole stealth fighter was declared operational.

The Mighty One – Meet the F-35I

Though an "early adopter" of the F-35, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) expressed concerns that the aircraft's stealth capabilities could be partly overcome within a decade despite the 30 to 40-year service life. To address that very serious issue, Israel sought to utilize its own electronic warfare system (EWS). Initially, the U.S. refused to allow such changes over security concerns.

However, it eventually agreed to allow Israel to integrate its own EWS, including sensors and countermeasures, on top of the U.S. systems. Additional changes included a special, IAF-tailored helmet-mounted display, and bespoke datalink functionality that is specific to the IDF, while other enhancements further improved the F-35's already-potent data gathering and processing capabilities.

All of those new enhancements to the stealth aircraft were also significant enough to warrant an 'I' designation, making the F-35I one of just a handful of formally acknowledged F-35 variants. The Israeli Air Force gave the F-35I the name Adir, meaning "Mighty One" in Hebrew.

The IAF operates three F-35 squadrons out of Nevatim Air Base, located southeast of Be'er Sheva, near Moshav Nevatim. These include the 116 Squadron, "Lions of the South," which became the first to transition to the fifth-generation fighter; the 117 Squadron, "First Jet," which operates as an F-35I training squadron; and the 140th Squadron, also known as the "Golden Eagle Squadron," which was reactivated specifically in 2015 to receive the Adir.

In addition to being the first foreign nation to adopt the F-35, Israel has the distinction of seeing the aircraft employed in combat. On May 22, 2018, Israeli Air Force commander, Major General Amikam Norkin, reported that the F-35s were used to strike Iranian missile launch sites in Syria. In April 2022, an Israel F-35 also shot down a pair of Iranian drones for the first time.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author:

All images are Creative Commons. 

The Democrats Legal War Against Donald Trump Only Hurts America

The National Interest - Wed, 05/06/2024 - 18:51

Summary: The conviction of Donald Trump in New York on 34 misdemeanors, elevated to felonies, has sparked significant controversy.

-Critics argue that the trial was marred by legal irregularities, a biased judge, and political motivations, comparing it to Soviet show trials.

-The case involved allegations of paperwork errors related to campaign finance, yet the indictment did not specify the exact laws violated.

-The jury's quick verdict and the judge's refusal to allow expert testimony on federal campaign finance law have further fueled claims of injustice.

-This case has raised concerns about the impartiality of the American justice system, likening it to those in third-world countries.

Outrage Over Donald Trump's Conviction: A Flawed Trial?

It’s hard to adequately describe what happened to Donald Trump in Venezuela-on-the-Hudson. Outrageous? A travesty of justice? A devasting blow to the sanctity of our justice system and its reputation for fairness and nonpartisanship? An American repetition of the Soviet show trials of the 1930s?

It’s all of those things. And you don’t have to be a Trump supporter to understand that.

A former president was convicted of 34 misdemeanors for paperwork errors (whose statute of limitations had run out) that were changed to felonies because he had supposedly violated another state law – nowhere mentioned in the indictment – that makes it a crime to use “unlawful” means to promote or oppose the election of a candidate.

And what was that “unlawful” means? Well, the defendant didn’t know because those other “unlawful” means (i.e., other crimes) weren’t mentioned in the indictment either. The judge told the jurors that they didn’t need to even agree on what other crimes the defendant had committed, seemingly in conflict with hundreds of years of English and American jurisprudence, including the Constitution’s guarantee of due process of law.

No, said the judge, the jury could consider violations of tax law or a violation of federal campaign finance law or of some other unnamed law for listing as a legal expense – instead of as a campaign expense – a settlement payment made to an individual who was represented by counsel in a perfectly legitimate, and perfectly legal, transaction. But no need for a unanimous decision on that issue.

A violation of federal campaign finance law? What were a local prosecutor and a state court judge doing bringing up a violation of federal law over which they have no jurisdiction whatsoever? And if that was something the members of the jury—who know nothing about federal campaign finance law—could consider, why did the judge tell the defendant he would not allow Brad Smith, a former Federal Election Commissioner and one of the nation’s leading experts on federal campaign finance law, to explain to the jury what is considered – and what is not considered – a campaign-related expense under federal law?

The judge acted as if he was a member of the prosecution team throughout this case, a case so lacking in merit that the prior district attorney—the one who preceded the Soros-supported rogue prosecutor Alvin Bragg—refused to file it. Judge Juan Merchan consistently ruled against Trump and allowed the prosecution to essentially do whatever it wanted, including admitting evidence and allowing testimony to matters that were completely irrelevant to the actual charges and whose only purpose was to confuse the jury and blacken the character of the defendant.

Judge Merchan committed the same sorts of error that recently prompted the New York Court of Appeals in People v Weinstein to throw out Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction. How so? Because the trial judge in that case abused his discretion by admitting irrelevant testimony and evidence that was comprised of, as the appeals court said, “untested allegations of nothing more than bad behavior that destroys a defendant’s character but sheds no light on their credibility as related to the criminal charges lodged against them.”

Moreover, Judge Merchan should never have presided over this case in the first place, just like this prosecution should never have been brought in the first place. Merchan should have recused himself from handling it from the very beginning. In addition to the fact that he donated money to the Biden campaign as well as to a group called “Stop Republicans,” his daughter is a Democratic political consultant who worked for the Biden-Harris campaign and whose clients have been raising money off of this kangaroo court trial.

After a six-week trial, the jury took less than two days to find Trump guilty of 34 felony charges. This hardly seems like enough time to take a hard, objective look at the lack of evidence produced by the prosecution that an actual crime had been committed. This suggests that political bias and animus towards the defendant for reasons unconnected to the case may have been a decisive, if not the decisive, factor during their hasty deliberations.

This is especially so since the only people who could provide any insight into what Trump did and what he knew with respect to the alleged offenses were Allen Weisselberg—the Trump Organization’s CFO whom the prosecution did not call as a witness—and Michael Cohen—who lied under oath on innumerable prior occasions, admitted that he hates Donald Trump, blames Trump for everything that has gone wrong in his life, stole from Trump, recorded their conversations in violation of the attorney-client privilege, and said he would profit handsomely if Trump is convicted.

When the defense teams files its appeals brief, it will probably have to be the size of the novel, “War and Peace,” to list all of the legal errors and fallacies committed by the judge and the prosecution. The Appeals Court of New York should follow the example of the U.S. Supreme Court. When Trump’s lawyers filed an appeal with that court over Colorado’s unconstitutional action in disqualifying Trump from the ballot, the court acted with unprecedented speed to put the matter on an expedited schedule in order to get a decision out as soon as possible.

The New York courts have a duty and responsibility to do the same thing. I don’t have a lot of faith in those courts, many of whose judges, as we have seen in this case and the meritless civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, seem infected with partisan politics influencing what they do.

One final point about all of this. One of my colleagues just got back from an international conference that had representatives from all over the world, including many third-world countries. Their reaction to these prosecutions of the former president was that the United States has finally joined the ranks of their home countries where their governments use the judicial system to go after their political opponents.

It is a said day for America and a justice system that was, until now, much admired and copied around the world.

About the Author: 

Hans von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a former Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.