MORNING RECON: China Launches First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier; U.S. Sends F-35’s to the Baltics; McCain Calls for Asia-Pacific Buildup; Russia

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Morning Recon

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to MORNING RECON.  On this day in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the German military tests its powerful new air force, the Luftwaffe, and the principles of Blitzkreig, on the Basque town of Guernica in northern Spain.

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Today’s Top Stories

NATIONAL War Zone Contractors’ Role Under Trump Questioned
By Paul D. Shinkman, U.S. News & World Report: “The Defense Department under President Donald Trump has employed thousands fewer private contractors for its wars in the Middle East, according to newly released documents." Mattis and Trump: The Odd Couple That Works
By David Ignatius, The Washington Post: “As President Trump nears the 100-day benchmark, it’s a good moment to examine the relationship that has evolved between the mercurial and inexperienced commander in chief and his unflappable defense secretary, Jim Mattis."

McCain Calls for Asia-Pacific Buildup
By Dianna Cahn, Stars and Stripes: “Citing China’s steady military and economic rise along with its refusal to exert its influence over North Korea, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday urged President Donald Trump’s administration to create a comprehensive Asia-Pacific initiative that would counter China’s aggressive stance and reassert the U.S. commitment to its allies, South Korea and Japan, and to freedom of the seas."

Senate Heads to White House for Briefing on North Korea
By Dan De Luce & Paul McCleary, Foreign Policy: “The president of the United States can, in theory, launch nuclear war by personal decision—without any checks or balances. Whether we really think any of the candidates for president in 2016 would cavalierly start a nuclear war, the bombastic and bizarre character of much of this year’s electoral debate should make us take this question seriously."

DIA’s “Shark Tank" Helps Startups Pitch Spy Apps
By Patrick Tucker, Defense One: “The innovation division, headed by Al Bolden, turns the analysts’ thoughts into more formal requests posted to the agency’s Needopedia platform, a sort of Craigslist for spy stuff open to cleared vendors, academics, and the like . . . “

Harris Creating U.S. Army Waveform for Denied Environments
By Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense Magazine: “Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has been “pretty vocal that he needs to prepare the Army for a different kind of warfare than what we’ve been in for the last 16 years," Moran said. “The Army is stepping out very aggressively to put waveforms in place that will provide the required connectivity in an electronic warfare environment.""

U.S. Air Force Invests Millions on Cyberweapons
By Patrick Howell O’Neill, CyberScoop: “Raytheon, Northrop Grunman and Booz Allen Hamilton have all seen their stock prices rise 10 to 20 percent since the November 2016 U.S. election. Investors sprinted to military contractors based on Trump’s promises for higher spending on — among other warfighting capabilities — the cyber domain."

U.S. Navy’s SeaRAM Block II Destroys Drone
By Kris Osborn, Scout Warrior: “The live-fire exercise used a new, high-tech launcher system to fire a Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 able to protect surface vessels by detecting, tracking and destroying approaching enemy missile attacks."

Air Force to Test Minuteman III ICBM Today
By Travis J. Tritten, Washington Examiner: “The scheduled launch from Vandenberg Air Force base is meant to demonstrate U.S. nuclear capabilities, the Air Force said, and comes as tensions are flaring over North Korea’s recent missile tests."

Defense Industry Bulls Are Turning Bearish
By Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One: “If Congress does not pass a full-year budget — by extending the continuing resolution for the remainder of the year — top generals have warned it would force them to curtail training and other expenditures. For companies, it prevents the Pentagon for launching new projects — curtailing others — or changing the quantities of arms and equipment buys."

INTERNATIONAL U.S., SOUTH KOREA: U.S. Military Starts Installing Controversial THAAD Battery in South Korea
By Anna Fifield, The Washington Post: “The United States military started installing a controversial anti-missile defense system in South Korea overnight Tuesday, triggering protests and sparking criticism that it was rushing to get the battery in place before the likely election of a president who opposes it. " CHINA: China Launches First Indigenous Aircraft Carrier
By Charles Clover, Financial Times: “China launched its second aircraft carrier on Wednesday — the first it has made itself from scratch, marking the latest milestone in Beijing’s superpower ambitions."

U.S., BALTICS: U.S. Sends F-35’s to the Baltics
By Saagar Enjeti, The Daily Caller News Foundation: “The fighter jets will likely not be permanently stationed in the country but are part of the European Reassurance Initiative, put in place by the U.S. after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. The show of force also follows repeated Russian bombers incursion into Alaska’s air defense zone earlier in April."


A Cyber Pearl Harbor?
By Gail Harris, Lima Charlie News: “In the case of Pearl Harbor, in one day the strong isolationist sentiment and desire by Americans to not get involved in another European world war ended. In terms of military developments, prior to Pearl Harbor there was an ongoing debate in the Navy on the value of air power and the role of the aircraft carrier. Many believed battleships should remain the centerpiece of the Navy, while others, led by Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, believed that aircraft carriers should play a major offensive role. Seventy-six years later the aircraft carrier remains the centerpiece of naval strategy." 
The Terrorist Threat to Aviation
By Bruce Hoffman, The Cipher Brief: “Despite the massive improvements in aviation security after 9/11, terrorist hadn’t forgotten about this target set. They still regarded it as important and as attractive as they ever had and were still intent on developing new and novel means – in this case liquefied explosives – to take down planes." 

Could North Korea Annihilate Seoul with Its Artillery?
By Kyle Mizokami, The National Interest: “For most armies, artillery is just one component of an all-arms force consisting of infantry, armor and artillery. But North Korea’s curious strategic location, with the enemy capital within striking range, has turned the country’s arsenal of howitzers and rocket launchers collectively into a weapon of mass destruction, capable of reducing Seoul to rubble within days. Or does it? Has the threat to the capital by North Korea’s “King of Battle" been overstated?" 

Is China the Solution to the North Korean Problem?
From Stratfor: “Based on the completed review of Washington’s North Korea policy, the U.S. administration has no plan to respond to Pyongyang’s next nuclear test with military might. But U.S. President Donald Trump has taken every opportunity to show that he still considers all options — including a military strike — to be on the table." 

“Political Will" Needed to End War in Syria
By Roger McDermott, Eurasia Daily Monitor: “Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has outlined the country’s military modernization achievements in the context of the ongoing drafting and internal discussion regarding the new State Armaments Program to 2025 (Gosudarstvennaya Programma Vooruzheniya—GPV). Shoigu put forward a vision of greatly enhanced military capabilities, but he has moved beyond simply promising more military hardware and modern systems." 

“Political Will" Needed to End War in Syria
By Rachel Ansley, Atlantic Council: “As US sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have failed to end the war in Syria, the international community must exercise the political will to do so—and, in the meantime, establish safe zones that would put civilians out of harm’s way, according to two members of the Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), also known as the White Helmets." 

ADM Stavridis’ Latest Reading List
By Christopher Nelson, War on the Rocks: “Now Stavridis is out of uniform, but ever the voracious reader and advocate for self-improvement, he has co-authored a book titled The Leader’s Bookshelf, for which he interviewed 200 general officers and flag officers about their reading habits and their favorite books." 
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