MAKICHUK: The real enemy may soon be at the gates

China's H-6 bomber may be old, but aviation experts say she still packs one heck of a punch.
China's H-6 bomber may be old, but aviation experts say she still packs one heck of a punch.Handout

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This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a prepared sum-of-all-fears PR exercise designed to intimidate the West, said that Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty or independence is threatened.

While this is not great news by any stretch, it is neither a surprise or anything to get excited about.

Keep in mind, that one US nuclear submarine, could take out just about every major city in Mother Russia — leaving these sites smouldering ruins.

Of course, nobody wants that. But should we be frightened or concerned and fear the threats from the Kremlin's resident psycho?

Should we start building that underground survival shelter?

Ironically, something also happened this week, that many folks didn't see, and to me, this is a far, far greater threat to the free world.

In fact, these are the real bad guys and they are coming with an agenda far more dangerous.

According to a report in Air & Space Forces Magazine, Air Force Gen. Gregory M. Guillot, the new head of the North American Aerospace Defence Command and US Northern Command (NORAD), warned lawmakers on March 12 that Chinese warplanes could begin operating near the US Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) as soon as this year.

Yep, it was bound to happen. Chinese warplanes, right on our doorstep.

All those years of buying their junk at retail stores in Canada and the US has come back to haunt us.

They don't like us and they don't mean well — and their military is expanding by leaps and bounds, while we argue about whether to support our military, or worse, cut back on our military readiness — a readiness in question.

For example, the once mighty USAF plans to shrink its total aircraft inventory in fiscal 2025 (FY25) cutting its plans for new airframes while continuing to retire old platforms, the service revealed in its budget request, released on March 11.

The net result? It plans to divest 250 aircraft in FY25, dropping its total aircraft inventory below 5,000, an unprecedented small number.

Facing budget caps and new procurement delays, the US Navy is poised to reduce the overall size of its fleet, while China continues to expand its naval forces by leaps and bounds.

And as the American public’s perception of the armed forces becomes increasingly divided at the same time the US Army has reached crisis levels of low recruitment — it seems no one wants to fight for America anymore.

Things are no better in Canada.

A leaked document, published by the Washington Post, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told allies he has no intention of hitting the NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP.

Then came a Wall Street Journal editorial that cast Canada as a deadbeat that relies on others for its defence and doesn't deserve to be either in NATO or the G7.

Air Defence Identification Zones are buffer regions that extend beyond territorial boundaries, covering airspace hundreds of miles from the coastline that nations use to track approaching aircraft.

NORAD and  NORTHCOM alternate command centre, Cheyenne Mountain Complex.
NORAD and NORTHCOM alternate command centre, Cheyenne Mountain Complex.NORAD

NORAD tracks aircraft using a network of satellites, ground-based and airborne radars and fighter aircraft and all aircraft entering or exiting US and Canadian airspace from abroad must be identified beforehand.

“Fortunately, we haven’t seen Chinese aircraft operate near our air defence identification zones yet, but I think that that’s coming as early as this year,” Guillot told the House Armed Services Committee.

“That shows an overall concern I have about the growing capability of China not only with aircraft, but also with ships and even submarines being able to range further from China and closer to our shores.”

Russian fighters and bombers enter the US ADIZ on a regular basis without entering US or Canadian airspace, the report said.

Occasionally, NORAD will scramble fighters to intercept those aircraft and escort them out of the ADIZ.

According to the Air & Space Forces report, Chinese aircraft entering the US ADIZ, however, would mark an expansion of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) reach.

In recent years, the PLA has entered the ADIZ around the island of Taiwan hundreds of times, sometimes sending dozens of planes in one day, in moves that observers warn could be probing Taiwanese defences.

Considering that Chinese President Xi Jinping has openly vowed to retake Taiwan, by military means if necessary, the threat of a new Cold War in the Asia-Pacific region is very real.

Meanwhile, US and Chinese aircraft have dealt with each other in the Indo-Pacific — the Pentagon revealed in 2023 that Chinese aircraft conducted more than 180 risky intercepts of US planes in the past two years.

Lawmakers have also expressed concern about the growing military and economic alliance between Russia, China, North Korea and Iran — all nations who wish us ill will, and your basic new Axis of Evil.

The phrase was attributed to speechwriter David Frum in 2002 and presented by President Bush in his State of the Union address.

The only difference between then and now, of course, is that President Biden doesn't have the balls to call it so, while President Bush did.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin rattles the nuclear sabre, yet again.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin rattles the nuclear sabre, yet again.Kremlin photo

That Bush-era credo is back in vogue, to the delight of some and the dismay of others, according to press reports.

The new “axis” however, operates on different principles and its links to US policy are more tenuous.

The perceived threat to the US arising from associations between each of the four members remains uneven and largely tolerated by the US.

These links only become unpalatable when nations step over a particular red line — something Iran did when it allegedly helped Hamas plan the October 7 attack in Israel.

Experts also worry that North Korea could obtain weapons technology from Russia that would speed up Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear development programs to create a greater threat in the region.

While in the first two days of 2023, evidence of a newfound friendship between Russia and Iran was on full display across the war-battered cities of Ukraine in the form of downed kamikaze drones.

Reuters reported that Iran recently provided Russia with about 400 powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.

According to a US Department of Defense (DoD) report, China had more than 500 operational nuclear warheads as of May 2023 and is constructing at least 250 new long-range missile silos at as many as three locations.

"That is on track to exceed some of our previous predictions," a DoD official said, adding that China is developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles.

"If developed and fielded, such capabilities would allow the PRC to threaten conventional strikes against targets in the continental United States, Hawaii and Alaska," the official said. 

In 2021, Adm. Charles Richard, commander of US Strategic Command, warned of a “strategic breakout” by China at a Space & Missile symposium.

“The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking and frankly, the word ‘breathtaking’ may not be enough,” he said. 

Hence the urgent need for further investment in NORAD and NORTHCOM, US officials say.

Surveillance systems need further investment, such as over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) and Long-Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), systems Gen. Guillot called “top priorities.”

The Missile Defence Agency said in January a LRDR missile defense system in Alaska is mostly complete and will begin operations late this year.

Both the US and Canadian militaries have invested in OTHR, with the USAF planning to build four OTHRs for NORAD and NORTHCOM. 

“That would give us capability against cruise missiles, traditional air tracks, as well as the hypersonics,” Guillot said.

“Keeping that program on track is the number one priority of NORTHCOM, because of that great capability that it would bring.”

“Hypersonics are probably the most destabilizing weapon that we face now,” Guillot said.

“They shorten detection time and the fact that they don’t follow a traditional ballistic track means they’re very unpredictable and the area of uncertainty is huge, based on their speed and their maneuverability.

"That’s what makes them such a challenge to not only detect, but to track and eventually defeat.”

China is coming, ladies and gents, part of a new Axis of Evil that is rapidly weaponizing. And the sooner we get prepared for it the better.

A nuclear standoff is coming, it's only a matter of time.

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