COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A series of mild earthquakes have shaken homes and residents in central South Carolina.
The U.S. Geological Survey says three quakes Monday in Kershaw County near Elgin registered magnitudes of 3.3, 2.5 and 2.1.
The first earth-shaker rattled window panes and disrupted wildlife but apparently did not cause injuries or major damage. As the earthquake rumbled, with a sound similar to a heavy construction vehicle, it shook homes, caused glass doors and windows to clatter in their frames and prompted dogs to bark.
People reported feeling tremors throughout the Columbia area and as far away as Lexington, about 40 miles southwest of the epicenter.
A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman checks his weapon near Zolote village, in the eastern Lugansk region, on Jan. 21, 2022. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 25 January 2022 05:57 AM
United States spy planes are scouting the build up of Russian forces at its Ukrainian border to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin is deploying tactical nuclear weapons to the theater, The New York Times reported Sunday.
According to the report, Russian officials have signaled that the use of such weapons may be an option as it prepares for an invasion of Ukraine.
“We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, et cetera, if in fact he moves,” President Joe Biden said during a press conference last week. “They are part of NATO.”
According to reports, this could mean between 1,000 to 5,000 troops.
In a televised CBS interview on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Secretary Anthony Blinken said the U.S. and NATO are looking to beef up defense capabilities should Putin make a move into Ukraine.
“Even as we’re engaged in diplomacy, we are very much focused on building up defense, building up deterrence,” Blinken said in the interview. “NATO itself will continue to be reinforced in a significant way if Russia commits renewed acts of aggression. All of that is on the table.”
The military maneuvers, along with the State Department ordering U.S. diplomats and their families to leave Ukraine in the event of Russian military aggression, show a change in the stance from the Biden administration from restraint and threatening severe economic sanctions to a more proactive military posture with NATO.
“This is clearly in response to the sudden stationing of Russian forces in Belarus, on the border, essentially, with NATO,” Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration told The Times. “There is no way that NATO could not reply to such a sudden military move in this political context.
“The Kremlin needs to understand that they are only escalating the situation with all of these deployments and increasing the danger to all parties, including themselves.”https://a5b60c59312a2ed54f7b745f543fd332.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
While there are currently about 4,000 U.S. troops and an additional 1,000 NATO troops stationed in the region, U.S. spy planes have been regularly flying over Ukraine during the last month, listening to the communications of Russian commanders on the ground there, the Times reported.
Air Force E-8 Stars are also flying over the area to log the buildup of service members and any other weapons moving into the theater, including tactical nuclear weapons, according to the report.
As per report by the UK based Janes Defence Weekly on December 29, 2021, India on November 23, 2021 quietly launched its third SSBN (Nuclear Missile Submarine) at the secretive SBC (Ship Building Centre) in Visakhapatnam. Neither the Indian Navy nor the Ministry of Defense confirmed the news but according to the sources in the SBC (Ship Building Centre) in Visakhapatnam and Indian navy, the launch of the submarine was confirmed. The newly launched SSBN called S4 could be critical for India’s credible nuclear deterrence like the previous two SSBNs and could have serious implications for South Asian security.
The submarine has been built jointly by the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy), DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), Russian technicians and scientist and Indian Navy personnel. The publication also reported that the submarine has been relocated near the fitting-out wharf that was previously occupied by the INS Arighat which was launched in 2014 but still awaits its commissioning delayed due to pandemic. As per the report the satellite imagery shows that at 7000 tonnes, the SSBN is slightly larger, with 125.4m load water line measurement as compared to the 6000 tonne and 111.6 m load water line measurement of INS Arighat which is considered the lead boat in its class. Hence the S4 could be categorized as successive boat of Arihant class variants.
The magazine further reported that the additional length of the submarine shows the expansion of vertical launch system of the submarine, it could support nearly eight launch tubes (missiles) which is double as compared to the previous SSBN. The submarine would be able to carry eight K-4 SLBM (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles) or 24 K-15 SLBMs with 3500 km and 750 km strike range respectively. However, the K-4 missile is still under development and not launched yet.
India in its quest to complete its nuclear triad plans to build six SSNs (Nuclear Powered Submarines). The naval platform is considered to be the most significant leg of the nuclear triad as it assures the second-strike capability of the state. But looking at India’s ambiguous NFU (No First Use Policy) such developments could become huge threat to the strategic stability of the South Asia. Development of SSBNs by India are matter of concern for not only Pakistan and Indian Ocean littoral states but for the international community as well. With the development of nuclear-powered submarines, India has entered the club of handful of countries that can construct, design and operate such submarines.
The belligerent and aggressive attitude of the India’s leadership raises serious concerns regarding responsible nuclear stewardship in India and threatens the strategic stability of South Asia. Construction of SSBNs and increased frequency of missile tests every year shows the aggressive posturing of India. Moreover, the deployment of nuclear weapons by India also requires the international community to reassess the non-proliferation benefits provided to India by various arms control and non-proliferation cartels. Pakistan being a responsible nuclear state is committed to objective of strategic stability in the region. Pakistan believes that the only way forward for both the states is to agree on nuclear and missile restraint measures.
Pakistan is also continuously strengthening its sea-based capabilities in order to deter India’s triad of land, sea and air launched nuclear weapons. There should not be any doubt about Pakistan’s capabilities and resolve to the challenges postured by the latest developments both in conventional and nuclear realms in South Asia. Pakistan has already built Baber-3 (Sea Launched Cruise Missile) that has MIRV (Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle) capability to counter growing submarine capability of India. It would provide a credible second-strike capability to Pakistan which would augment the existing deterrence considering the provocative nuclear posture and strategies in neighborhood by developing ship borne nuclear missiles and nuclear submarines. Other than that, even though India had successfully tested K-4 missiles, its range still remains sub-optimal that would require the SSBN to operate at Bay of Bengal north eastern fringes. This means that these submarines in order to target China’s economic and political hubs would have to travel round the Bangladeshi and Burmese littoral waters. Hence India’s sea-based deterrence capability would remain incomplete unless it is able to deploy SSBN fleet with inter-continental range missiles.
*The writer is working as a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.
Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), left, and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) transit the Philippine Sea on Jan. 22, 2022. US Navy Photo
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Two U.S. Navy carrier strike groups are currently drilling in the South China Sea amid the latest show of force of Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone on Sunday.
The Carl Vinson CSG and Abraham Lincoln CSG began dual-carrier operations in the South China on Sunday, the same day Taiwan said the People’s Liberation Army Air Force flew 39 planes in Taiwan’s ADIZ.
The CSGs “will engage in joint operations to include enhanced maritime communication operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction operations to strengthen maritime integrated-at-sea operations and combat readiness,” the U.S. Navy said in a news release, adding that training will take place in accordance with international law in international waters.
Throughout the last year there have been multiple incursions of Chinese aircraft in Taiwan’s ADIZ, heightening tensions between the both the U.S. and China and Taiwan and China.
“Our ability to rapidly aggregate and work collectively alongside CSG 3, highlights the U.S. Navy’s ability to deliver overwhelming maritime force, when called upon, to support a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Adm. Dan Martin, the commander of CSG 1, said in the Navy news release. “We are committed to ensuring the lawful use of the sea and free flow of commerce while deterring those who challenge the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific now and into the long-term future.”
The two American CSGs conducted an exercise in the Philippine Sea last week with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, the America Expeditionary Strike Group and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier JS Hyuga ( DDH-181) and destroyer JS Myoko (DDG-175).
In a news release issued today, the JMSDF said the exercise took place in the vicinity of Oki Daito Island, an uninhabited island 315 kilometers, or about 196 miles, southeast of Okinawa. In December, the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) conducted flight operations in the same area.
CSG 1, which is the Carl Vinson CSG, currently includes aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and USS Chafee (DDG-90), replenishment ship USNS Yukon (T-AO-202) and dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11). The Abraham Lincoln CSG, CSG 3, includes USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9; cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53); and destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sampson (DDG-102) and USS Spruance (DDG-111). Sampson has since been detached and is now heading to Tonga to assist in relief efforts following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano earlier this month.
JMSDF landing ship tank JS Osumi (LST-4001), Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01), United Kingdom Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Spey (P234) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) multi-role support vessel HMNZS Canterbury (L421) are also heading to Tonga to join the relief effort. RNZN offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington (P55) and replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) are already on the scene conducting relief operations. Osumi departed today from Kure, while the others are already in transit to Tonga. The French Navy is sending Patrol Vessel FNS Arago (P675) Offshore Patrol Vessel FNS La Glorieuse (P686).
“The Self-Defense Fleet has been making efforts to deepen friendly relations and strengthen cooperation with the Pacific island nations by conducting goodwill visits and training exercises at ordinary times, with the aim of realizing a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific.’ In this mission, we will do our best to support the reconstruction of our friend, the Kingdom of Tonga, hoping for its early recovery and sustainable development,” Vice Adm. Hideki Yuasa, the commander of the Joint Task Force for International Disaster Relief Operations in Tonga, said in a JMSDF news release about the departure.
Tonga’s Fua’amotu International Airport has now been cleared of volcanic ash, allowing Royal Australian Air Force C-17s, Japan Air Self-Defense Force C-2s and C-130s, and RNZAF C-130s to fly in relief supplies and equipment.
In other developments, German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned on Saturday following a furor over his comments in India on Friday, when he downplayed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions over Ukraine.
“Is Russia really interested in … a small, tiny strip of Ukraine’s soil? No, this is nonsense,” Schönbach said during a session at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, which was uploaded to Youtube. The admiral added that “what he really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … so if I was asked, it is easy to even give him the respect he really demands, and probably also deserves.”
He went on to say that “Russia is an old country. Russia is an important country. Even we, India, Germany, we need Russia, because we need Russia against China.”
The German Navy Chief also remarked that “the Crimea peninsula is gone. It will never come back, this is a fact,” a statement that contradicts Western nations’ position that the annexation was unacceptable and that the territory should be returned.
His remarks came amid criticism of the German government for its unwillingness to supply Ukraine with weapons, while other NATO countries were doing so in an effort to deter Russia, which has massed troops along its border with Ukraine.
Schönbach announced his resignation on Saturday in a release stating: “I have just asked the Federal Minister of Defense to release me from my duties and duties as Inspector of the Navy with immediate effect. The thoughtless comments I made in India on security and military policy are increasingly weighing on my office. In order to prevent further damage from the German Navy, the Bundeswehr, but above all from the Federal Republic of Germany, I consider this step to be necessary. The Federal Minister accepted my request. The Commander of the Fleet and Deputy Inspector of the Navy, Rear Admiral Kaack, will lead the German Navy until a successor decision is made.”
Schönbach only recently took over as German Navy Chief in March of 2021.
Schönbach was in India in conjunction with the visit of German Navy Frigate FGS Bayern (F217), which arrived on Friday in Mumbai during the final leg of its seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Bayern departed today from Mumbai and conducted a passage exercise with Indian Navy destroyer INS Visakhapatnam (D66) as it left.
Trapped in the nuclear talks, which are teetering on the verge of collapse, the Iranian regime has launched a drone attack on its Middle Eastern neighbors, similar to the drone attack it launched on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in September 2019.
This time, the regime launched an attack on Abu Dhabi’s airport in the UAE, with assistance from their Yemeni proxy group, the Houthis. This is just the latest attack among many that have been destabilizing the region for many years.
The regime plunders the wealth of the Iranian people in a bid to continue spreading terrorism across the globe, in a bid to fuel the flames of wars in the Middle East. Aimed at engaging the international community and the region, these crises serve as an insurance policy for the regime. This is despite the regime’s claims about new and expanding relations with the ‘East’ which in and of itself is proof of its international isolation and weakness even if it succeeds to secure a favorable outcome during the nuclear talks in Vienna.
As for the latest attack, the state-run Vatan-e Emrooz daily wrote on January 20, “What the Emiratis did not imagine finally happened. The nightmare of instability and insecurity has finally cast a shadow over the center of Wall Street in the Arab world. Henceforth, the Yemeni war has acquired different characteristics and must be approached from new angles.”
The same day, the Donya-e Eghtesad daily highlighted, “The Yemeni crisis is the main and key element in Iran-Saudi relations in the Middle East regional equation, especially in the current situation. Any opening or impasse in it will play a very important role in reconciliation or tension between the two countries. As the crisis hotspots in relations between the two countries, especially Syria and Bahrain, have largely waned, Yemen still has the potential to keep the Iran-Saudi relationship tensions active.”
The regime’s officials, and supreme leader Ali Khamenei, believe that by carrying out such actions, they will be able to garner more concessions from Saudi Arabia and keep them away from joining the nuclear negotiations actively and adding their own demands, such as the regime’s commitment to stop its destructive behavior in the Arab World. However, given the regime’s already weak position, it is likely that these latest acts of aggression will have an opposite effect.
On January 19, the Noandish daily warned Khamenei’s mouthpiece, Kayhan daily regarding the consequences of the regime’s terrorist attack on Abu Dhabi. “The happiness of friends in Kayhan about such attacks is quite understandable because they are generally not interested in improving Iran’s relations with other countries from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, escalating tension now is the last thing that the country needs.”
This warning is a stark message to the regime that it is high time it stops blackmailing other countries with terrorism, missile, and drone attacks.
The Noandish daily further stated, “At a time when Vienna’s talks to revive the JCPOA, and talks with the Saudis to resume diplomatic relations, have reached a critical juncture, the recent Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi could complicate the equation and act as a double-edged sword. While this attack may strengthen Iran’s position, it might very well disrupt the talks.”
The president is also considering deploying warships and aircraft to NATO allies, in what would be a major shift from its restrained stance on Ukraine.
Published Jan. 23, 2022Updated Jan. 24, 2022, 7:16 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — President Biden is considering deploying several thousand U.S. troops, as well as warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, an expansion of American military involvement amid mounting fears of a Russian incursion into Ukraine, according to administration officials.
The move would signal a major pivot for the Biden administration, which up until recently was taking a restrained stance on Ukraine, out of fear of provoking Russia into invading. But as President Vladimir V. Putin has ramped up his threatening actions toward Ukraine, and talks between American and Russian officials have failed to discourage him, the administration is now moving away from its do-not-provoke strategy.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about internal deliberations.
Mr. Biden is expected to make a decision as early as this week, they said. He is weighing the buildup as Russia has escalated its menacing posture against Ukraine, including massing more than 100,000 troops and weaponry on the border and stationing Russian forces in Belarus. On Saturday, Britain accused Moscow of developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine.
So far, none of the military options being considered include deploying additional American troops to Ukraine itself, and Mr. Biden has made clear that he is loath to enter another conflict following America’s painful exit from Afghanistan last summer after 20 years.
And the deployment of thousands of additional American troops to NATO’s eastern flank, which includes Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Biden administration officials said, is exactly the scenario that Mr. Putin has wanted to avoid, as he has seen the western military alliance creep closer and closer to Russia’s own border.
In his news conference last week, Mr. Biden said he had cautioned Mr. Putin that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would prompt Washington to send more troops to the region.
“We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland, in Romania, et cetera, if in fact he moves,” Mr. Biden said. “They are part of NATO.”
During a phone call this month, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III warned his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoygu, that a Russian incursion into Ukraine would most likely result in the exact troop buildup that Mr. Biden is now considering.
At the time of the phone call — Jan. 6 — the Biden administration was still trying to be more restrained in its stance on Ukraine. But after unsuccessful talks between Mr. Blinken and the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, on Friday, the administration is eying a more muscular posture, including not only diplomatic options like sanctions, but military options like increasing military support to Ukrainian forces and deploying American troops to the region.
“This is clearly in response to the sudden stationing of Russian forces in Belarus, on the border, essentially, with NATO,” said Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration. “There is no way that NATO could not reply to such a sudden military move in this political context. The Kremlin needs to understand that they are only escalating the situation with all of these deployments and increasing the danger to all parties, including themselves.”
A former top Pentagon official for Europe and NATO policy, Jim Townsend, said the administration’s proposal did not go far enough.
“It’s likely too little too late to deter Putin,” Mr. Townsend said in an email. “If the Russians do invade Ukraine in a few weeks, those 5,000 should be just a down payment for a much larger U.S. and allied force presence. Western Europe should once again be an armed camp.”
During the meeting at Camp David, Mr. Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared by video from the Pentagon and from General Milley’s quarters, where he has been quarantining since he tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials said that if Mr. Biden approved the deployment, some of the troops would come from the United States, while others would move from other parts of Europe to the more vulnerable countries on NATO’s eastern flank.
Ominous warnings. Russia called the strike a destabilizing act that violated the cease-fire agreement, raising fears of a new intervention in Ukraine that could draw the United States and Europe into a new phase of the conflict.
The Kremlin’s position. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has increasingly portrayed NATO’s eastward expansion as an existential threat to his country, said that Moscow’s military buildup was a response to Ukraine’s deepening partnership with the alliance.
American officials did not describe in detail the ground troop reinforcements under review, but current and former commanders said they should include more air defense, engineering, logistics and artillery forces.
Besides the troops, Mr. Biden could also approve sending additional aircraft to the region.
Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Sunday that the United States also needed to conduct more training in those NATO nations.
“We need joint exercises in Poland, the Baltic States, Romania, Bulgaria, to show Putin that we’re serious,” Mr. McCaul said on “Face the Nation.” “Right now, he doesn’t see we’re serious.”
According to Poland’s defense ministry, there are currently about 4,000 U.S. troops and 1,000 other NATO troops stationed in Poland. There are also about 4,000 NATO troops in the Baltic States.
The United States has been regularly flying Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic-eavesdropping planes over Ukraine since late December. The planes allow American intelligence operatives to listen to Russian ground commanders’ communications. The Air Force is also flying E-8 JSTARS ground-surveillance planes to track the Russian troop buildup and the movements of the forces.
The Biden administration is especially interested in any indication that Russia may deploy tactical nuclear weapons to the border, a move that Russian officials have suggested could be an option.
More than 150 U.S. military advisers are in Ukraine, trainers who have for years worked out of the training ground near Lviv, in the country’s west, far from the front lines. The current group includes Special Operations forces, mostly Army Green Berets, as well as National Guard trainers from Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
In the event of a full-scale Russian invasion, the United States intends to move its military trainers out of the country quickly. But it is possible that some Americans could stay to advise Ukrainian officials in Kyiv, the capital, or provide frontline support, a U.S. official said.
Katie Benner, Edward Wong and Lara Jakescontributed reporting.
Hypersonic weapon programmes are highly secretive, with little public information about them, and as the technology advances they are changing fast.nullnullnull
Here’s what we know from information released by sources including the People’s Liberation Army, its Rocket Force University of Engineering and its National Defence University, as well as the US Department of Defence.
Hypersonic weapons are those that can travel at five times the speed of sound, or faster, in the air.Advertisementnull
Their high speed and manoeuvrability makes it difficult for existing air defence systems, including that of the United States, to discover, track or shoot down hypersonic weapons.
According to a recent PLA report, there is a 78 per cent chance on average of an air defence system failing to intercept a missile travelling at five times the speed of sound, and this failure rate rises to 90 per cent if it is travelling at six times the speed of sound.
Hypersonic weapons have been studied in China since the 1950s, notably by rocket scientist Qian Xuesen, known as the country’s “father of space technology”. Qian proposed a design for a hypersonic glide vehicle as early as 1948.Advertisementnull
Chinese military reports suggest that the appeal of hypersonic weapons lies in their ability to cripple a powerful competitor without fighting a nuclear war.
Most of China’s hypersonic missiles will be armed with conventional warheads, and could be able to destroy high-value targets such as aircraft carriers while sticking to China’s no-first-use principle on nuclear weapons.Advertisementnull
The US was once the leader in hypersonic technology, with air force pilot William Knight making the world’s first manned hypersonic flight on an X-15 test plane powered by a rocket back in 1967.Advertisementnull
But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, US policymakers saw hypersonic flight technology as unnecessary, and many promising projects were cancelled after they experienced a few failures.
In recent years, however, the US hypersonic weapon programme has been fast-tracked and a number of research, development and testing facilities have been built.Advertisementhttps://878f5d6c149879df96ea0dcf4897de2e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The top-secret facility – whose location and highest speed rating remain classified – allows for ground tests that could expose critical engineering and technical issues before a missile gets to the test-flight stage, according to scientists involved in the project