Two US F-35s land in Bulgaria today

Two F-35 Lightning IIs and 20 supporting airmen are in Bulgaria Friday to bolster Europe’s defenses, U.S. European Command announced.

“This deployment clearly demonstrates our nation’s contribution to the security and collective defense here in Europe,” said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe. “It shows we are serious about territorial integrity and will defend our interests with the most advanced capabilities our nation has to offer.”

The deployment is the second time the U.S. has sent F-35 Lightning IIs close to Russia this week. Lightning IIs were sent to Estonia on Tuesday.

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Departing from Italy, US deploys more forces into Afghanistan

The Trump administration is determined to take a regional perspective on the Afghan- Pakistan issue, the White House said on Thursday, noting that the previous regimes have “not done enough” to address the challenges in the war-torn country.

The White House is currently in the middle of a review of its Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, which is expected to be ready before the NATO Summit in Brussels in about a months’ time.

Early this week, US defence secretary James Mattis made an unscheduled trip to Afghanistan, the first member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to visit Kabul. His Afghanistan trip was preceded by that of the national security advisor Lt Gen H.R. McMaster who also travelled to Pakistan and India.

While on the face of it the Trump administration seems to be focused on North Korea and against the Islamic State terror group in the Middle East, it has not taken its eyes off Afghanistan.

Early this month, the US used the ‘mother of all bombs’ against ISIS hideouts in Afghanistan and has been holding an intense discussion with its allies on the current situation in Afghanistan. “We are in the midst of a policy review, so I don’t really want to foreclose on any of the discussions we’re going to have with the national security team and with the president,” a senior Trump administration official told reporters.

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Today, US military vehicles moving by railway near Cheongnyangni Station, South Korea, apparently heading South-West

The US has signalled sanctions and diplomatic pressure are its priorities for dealing with North Korea as senators who attended a White House briefing said they had not been presented with “a specific military option”.

Tensions between the US and North Korea are already inflamed before an anticipated sixth nuclear test from Pyongyang, which has accelerated its long-range missile development programme.

A statement on Thursday from the South Korean president’s office said Seoul and Washington had agreed “to swiftly take punitive measures” against North Korea in the event of more provocation, following a telephone conversation between the US national security adviser, HR McMaster, and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin.

“The two sides pledged that in the event of additional strategic provocation by the North to swiftly take punitive measures, including a new UN security council resolution, that are unbearable for the North,” the statement said.

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Russia keeps sending military vehicles toward far eastern borders

Russia continues to send air defence systems toward far eastern borders as new video reportedly shows military train moving around Iswestkowy, Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

Russian officials said that these troop movements are not a “public matter” and not related to North Korean tense situation.

US Minuteman III, intercontinental ballistic missile, Operational Test Launch in show of force against North Korea

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — A combined team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen from the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a single test re-entry vehicle April 26 at 12:03 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The missile used in GT220 launched in the early hours of the morning with a launch command delivered from the Air Launch Control System on a Navy E-6 Mercury jet.

The ICBM’s re-entry vehicle, which contained a telemetry package used for operational testing, traveled to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, approximately 4,200 miles away from the launch site. Test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the Minuteman III ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

“I can’t say enough great things about the partners I share this mission set with,” Col. Craig Ramsey, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander, said. “The men and women from the Task Force, the Airmen from my squadron, and our host unit here at Vandenberg made this look easy, but it was anything but that! It’s a testament to the dedication and professionalism of these proud organizations. I’m proud to play a small part in it!”

F.E. Warren AFB is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces. The Minuteman III is one of three legs of the nuclear triad, which is also comprised of strategic bombers such as the B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit, as well as submarine launched ballistic missions, provided by U.S. Navy submarines.

“I’m extremely proud of the 16 maintainers and operators from the combined 90th Missile Wing and 341st Missile Wing Task Force who worked hand-in-hand with the 576 FLTS to make this launch possible,” said Lt. Col. Tony Rhoades, Task Force commander. “This mission requires a tremendous amount of discipline, training and attention to detail. Our Airmen demonstrated this with true professionalism and proved that the Minuteman III remains the nation’s premier deterrence and assurance capability.”

The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational credibility of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.

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North Korea stages large-scale artillery drill as U.S. submarine docks in South (via @Reuters)

(Reuters) – North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military as a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The port call by the USS Michigan came as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group steamed towards Korean waters and as top envoys for North Korea policy from South Korea, Japan and the United States met in Tokyo.

Fears have risen in recent weeks that North Korea would conduct another nuclear test or long-range missile launch in defiance of U.N. sanctions, perhaps on the Tuesday anniversary of the founding of its military.

But instead of a nuclear test or big missile launch, North Korea deployed a large number of long-range artillery units in the region of Wonsan on its east coast for a live-fire drill, South Korea’s military said. North Korea has an air base in Wonsan and missiles have also been tested there.

“North Korea is conducting a large-scale firing drill in Wonsan areas this afternoon,” the South’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The South Korean military was monitoring the situation and “firmly maintaining readiness”, it said.

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UK Typhoons arrive in Romania

Four RAF Typhoons and 150 military servicemen are being sent from Lincolnshire for deployment in Eastern Europe.

The Coningsby personnel and jets will be based in Romania during the summer as part of a Nato operation to protect the airspace over Europe.
They will perform air policing missions alongside Romanian Air Force pilots to support allies in the region.