Thursday, March 28, 2013

North Korea readies missiles after stealth flyby

By David Chance and Phil Stewart

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea put its missile units on standby on Friday to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after the United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in a rare show of force.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight meeting of top generals and "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation", the official KCNA news agency said.

The North has an arsenal of Soviet-era short-range Scud missiles that can hit South Korea and have been proven, but its longer-range Nodong and Musudan missiles that could in theory hit U.S. Pacific bases are untested.

On Thursday, the United States flew two radar-evading B-2 Spirit bombers on practice runs over South Korea, responding to a series of North Korean threats. They flew from the United States and back in what appeared to be the first exercise of its kind, designed to show America's ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes "quickly and at will", the U.S. military said.

The news of Kim's response was unusually swift.

"He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the KPA (Korean People's Army), ordering them to be on standby for fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland, its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea," KCNA said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported there had been additional troop and vehicle movements at the North's mid- and long-range missile sites, indicating they may be ready to fire.

"Sharply increased movements of vehicles and soldiers have been detected recently at North Korea's mid and long-range missile sites," Yonhap quoted a South Korean military source as saying.

It was impossible to verify the report which did not specify a time frame, although South Korea's Defense Ministry said on Friday that it was watching shorter-range Scud missile sites closes as well as Nodong and Musudan missile batteries.

The North has launched a daily barrage of threats since early this month when the United States and the South, allies in the 1950-53 Korean War, began routine military drills.

The South and the United States have said the drills are purely defensive in nature and that no incident has taken place in the decades they have been conducted in various forms.

The United States also flew B-52 bombers over South Korea earlier this week.

US Navy deploys USS Freedom to Pacific

A fast, maneuverable surface warrior, the Navy's first littoral combat ship USS Freedom has joined the 7th Fleet in the Pacific.

Its arrival coincides with further heavy rhetoric from North Korea. News agency KCNA carried the government’s message Wednesday that it had ordered artillery and rocket units into "combat posture" to prepare to target U.S. bases in the United States mainland, Hawaii and Guam.

On its maiden deployment, USS Freedom arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) on March 20 -- a zone that covers more than 48 million square miles, stretching west from the International Date Line to the western coast of India. At any given moment, about 100 ships and submarines are deployed there and assigned to 7th Fleet.

On March 15, the fleet marked the 70th anniversary of its maintaining security and stability in the region.

While North Korea is not thought to have ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, it is capable of striking U.S. bases in the region, including Guam, where Freedom will be visiting.

The ship will participate in some large scale training exercises in Southeast Asia, involving maritime security operations with regional partners.

North Korea, meanwhile, has been carrying out its own large-scale military exercises.

Surface and anti-submarine warfare ready
Designed and developed by Lockheed Martin, the littoral combat ship (coastal and shallow water areas are called “littoral”) is quick and agile, and loaded with mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, countering sea mines and anti-submarine warfare.

Led by Cmdr. Timothy Wilke, Freedom will initially be manned by her crew of 91 sailors, who include mission package personnel and an aviation detachment to operate its MH-60 helicopter.

Freedom can provide critical access and dominance in coastal water battlespaces.

As designed, Freedom can operate with substantially fewer crew, requiring only 40 core sailors plus support crew for the aviation and mission packages.

Should a battle erupt, Freedom can act as a hub to tie together sea, air and land assets.

COMBATTS-21 Combat Systems
The ship’s battle management system, also produced by Lockheed Martin, provides a flexible, next-generation defense system that can be reconfigured for a specific threat in days.

COMBATSS-21 is a self-defense suite and integrates the radar, electro-optical infrared cameras, gunfire control system, countermeasures and short-range anti-air missiles, as well as a variety of missile and torpedo systems, naval guns and more.

Let's say the mission required weapons systems to defeat enemy subs. An anti-submarine package would include an MH-60 Romeo carrying an active dipping sonar, sonobuoys and heavy-weight torpedoes.

What if the enemy had littered the coastal waters with mines? Freedom’s countermeasures package can search twice as quickly as earlier systems. It requires only two operators and would include tech like the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle and Raytheon’s airborne SONAR mine countermeasure detection system, AQS-20A.

Remember the USS Cole incident where American lives were lost? Small boats continue to be an ongoing threat.

To protect the fleet from this sort of asymmetric warfare, Freedom’s tech could include the Gun Mission Module MK 50 MOD, a Non-Line of Sight Launch System Mission Module, a MH-60R helicopter and vertical takeoff drones.

Led by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, the team includes naval architect Gibbs & Cox and ship builder Marinette Marine Corporation

Read more:

USAF flies B-2s to Korean Peninsula in show of strength

The United States military made the rare announcement Thursday that it had flown two of its most advanced bombers in an "extended deterrence mission" all the way from Missouri to the Korean Peninsula, where they dropped inert dummy bombs, in a move clearly aimed at warning North Korea against further provocations.
A statement released by United States Forces Korea said the sortie by the two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers "demonstrates the United States' ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will."
A senior defense official told CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick the B-2 flights were, "intended to demonstrate very clearly the resolve of the United States to deter against aggression on the Korean Peninsula, and our strong commitment to the U.S. alliance with South Korea."
CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett reports that the B-2 flights come amid rapidly increasing tension on the Korean Peninsula as new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ratcheted up the level of both his threatening rhetoric, and his hostile actions against South Korea, and the United States.
A Pentagon official told CBS News that, since March 8, the U.S. military has flown more traditional looking, non-stealth B-52 bombers over South Korea three times, but Thursday was the first run over the peninsula by B-2s.
Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel spoke Wednesday with the South Korean defense minister as part of an intensified effort by the Obama administration to coordinate reaction to the North's belligerence with South Korea and Japan.


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