The Dark Age of Mesopotamia



After their victory over the Kassites the Elamites did not occupy Babylonia for long, either because the conquest of vast territories in western Iran absorbed all their energy or because they already felt the presence of the newly arrived Medes and Persians as a dagger in their back. However this may be, the Elamite garrisons withdrew or were expelled, and princes native of Isin founded the Fourth Dynasty of Babylon, also called ‘Second Dynasty of Isin’. Soon the new kings were powerful enough to interfere in Assyrian domestic affairs, and when Elam sank into anarchy after the brilliant reign of Shilak-Inshushinak, the Babylonian Nebuchadrezzar I (c. 1124 – 1103 B.C.) attacked that country. A first campaign met with failure – Elamite followed and I fled before him; I sat down on the bed of weeping and sighing’ – but the defection of one of the Elamite lords, Shitti-Marduk, who fought on the Babylonian side, made the second campaign a glowing success. The account of the war, written on a kudurru granting privileges to Shitti-Marduk as a reward for his assistance, is one of the most poetic military records of antiquity.

From Dêr, the holy city of Anu, he (the King of Babylon) made a leap of thirty double-leagues. In the month of Tammuz (July – August) he took the road. The blades of the picks burn like fire; the stones of the track blaze like furnaces; there is no water (in the wadis) and the wells are dry; stop the strongest of the horses and stagger the young heroes. Yet he goes, the elected king supported by the gods; he marches on, Nebuchadrezzar who has no rival…

The battle was fought on the banks of the River Ulaia (Karun):

At the command of Ishtar and Adad, the gods of the battle, Hulteludish, King of Elam, fled and disappeared for ever, and King Nebuchadrezzar stood up in victory: he took Elam and plundered its treasures.

Among the booty was the statue of Marduk, taken to Elam at the end of the Kassite dynasty. This gave Nebuchadrezzar an aura of glory, and perhaps enabled Marduk to reach the top of the Mesopotamian pantheon, but his victory had no lasting political results. Elam was not truly conquered, and Nebuchadrezzar’s successors had to fight not for the possession of foreign lands but for the protection of their own kingdom against the eternal rival: Assyria.

Despite a serious crisis of succession and the temporary loss of their eastern provinces to Shilak-Inshushinak, the eleventh century as a whole was for the Assyrians an epoch of prosperity. Ashur-dân I, ‘who attained to grey hair and a ripe old age‘, and Ashur-rêsh-ishi, both contemporaries of the first kings of the Fourth Dynasty of Babylon, received tribute from the Sutû, kept the Ahlamû at bay, won a few battles over the Babylonians and did a considerable amount of repair work on the palace and temples of their capital-city. But at the end of the century storms gathered at the four points of the compass, which could have destroyed Assyria had it not been for the restless energy of one of the two or three great Assyrian monarchs since the days of Shamshi-Adad: Tiglathpileser I (1115 – 1077 B.C.). To the north the Mushki – perhaps related to the Phrygians – had crossed the Taurus with twenty-thousand men and were marching down the Tigris valley in the direction of Nineveh; to the east the Zagros tribes were hostile; to the west the Aramaeans – now mentioned for the first time – were established in force along the Euphrates and had started crossing the river; and to the south Marduk-nadin-ahhê, King of Babylon, had captured Ekallatum, bringing his frontier up to the Lower Zab, thirty kilometres only from the city of Assur. Tiglathpileser first marched against the Mushki and massacred them and their allies. Then, anxious to secure his northern frontier, he went up ‘to the heights of the lofty hills and to the top of the steep mountains’ of the land of Nairi, penetrated into Armenia and set up his ‘image’ at Malazgird, far beyond Lake Van, while one of his armies chastised, the lands of Musri and Qummani at the foot of the Taurus range. The Aramaeans were forced beyond the Euphrates and pursued to their stronghold Jabal Bishri, west of Deir-ez-Zor, but the Syrian desert was swarming with this new, tough enemy:

‘Twenty-eight times,’ says the king, ‘I fought the Ahlamû-Aramaeans; (once) I even crossed the Euphrates twice in a year. I defeated them from Tadmar (Tidmur, Palmyra), which lies in the country Amurru, Anat, which lies in the country Suhu, as far as Rapiqu, which lies in Kar-Duniash (Babylonia). I brought their possessions as spoils to my town Assur.’

It was probably in the course of these campaigns that Tiglath-pileser ‘conquered’ Syria and reached the Phoenician coast, where he received tribute from Arvad, Byblos and Sidon. Finally, came the victorious war against Babylon:

‘I marched against Kar-Duniash… I captured the palaces of Babylon belonging to Marduk-nadin-ahhê, King of Kar-Duniash. I burned them with fire. The possessions of his palace I carried off. The second time, I drew up a line of battle chariots against Marduk-nadin-ahhê, King of Kar-Duniash, and I smote him.’

To these military exploits, the King of Assyria added hunting activities, and he was out for big game: four wild bulls ‘which were mighty and of monstrous size’ killed in the country of Mitanni, ten ‘mighty bull elephants in the country of Harran and in district of the River Khabur‘, 120 lions slain on foot, 800 lions laid low from the royal chariot and even a narwhal ‘which they call sea-horse’ killed in Mediterranean waters near Arvad.

The murder of Tiglathpileser, however, put an end to this glorious period. The mounting tide of Aramaean invasion, the desperate efforts made by the Assyrians to dam it up, the irremediable decadence of Babylon, Sumer and Akkad wide open to the Sutû and the Aramaeans, foreign wars, civil wars, floods, famine, such is the pitiful picture offered by Iraq during the tenth and ninth centuries B.C. If ever there was a time of ‘troubles and disorders’, of confusion and hardship, a dark age rendered even darker by the paucity of our sources, it was the 166 years which elapsed between the death of Tiglathpileser I (1077 B.C.) and the advent of Adad-nirâri II (911 B.C.).

Through the fragmentary annals of the Assyrian kings we can follow in broad outline the Aramaean progression in northern Mesopotamia. Under Ashur-bêl-kala (1074 – 1057 B.C.) they were still on the right bank of the Euphrates, but fifty years later they had crossed the river and advanced as far as the Khabur. A few decades later, during the reign of Tiglathpileser II (967 – 935 B.C.), we find them around Nisibin, half-way between the Khabur and the Tigris. Ashur-dân II (934 – 912 B.C.) tried to push them back and claimed great success, but it appears clearly from the annals of Adad-nirâri II and of his successors (see next chapter) that at the dawn of the ninth century the Aramaeans had settled en masse all over the steppe of Jazirah: there were Aramaean kingdoms on the Euphrates (Bit-Adini) and on the Khabur (Bit-Bahiâni, Bît-Hadipé), and powerful Aramaean tribes occupied the mountain Tûr ‘Abdîn, north of Nisibin, and the banks of the Tigris. Caught between the nomads and the highlanders, Assyria was threatened with asphyxia.

In Babylonia the situation was even worse, as shown by the ancient chronicles. Under the reign of Nebuchadrezzar’s fourth successor, Adad-apal-iddina (i..1067 – 1046 B.C.), the Sûtu plundered and ruined one of the greatest sanctuaries of Akkad: the temple of Shamash in Sippar – an event which probably gave rise to the great Babylonian poem of war and destruction known as the Erra epic. Between 1024 and 978 B.C. Babylon had seven kings divided between three dynasties. The first of these dynasties (Babylon V) was founded by a Kassite born in the Sea-Land; the second (Bit-Bazi), probably by an Aramaean; the third, by a soldier, also born in the Sea-Land but bearing an Elamite name. Under Nabû-mukin-apli (977 – 942 B.C.), the first King of Babylon VIII, all kinds of bad omens were observed and ‘the Aramaeans became hostile’. They cut off the capital-city from its suburbs, with the result that for several years in succession the New Year Festival (which required the free movement of divine statues to and from Babylon) could not be celebrated: ‘Bêl (Marduk) went not forth and Nabû went not (from Barsippa to Babylon)’. The following monarchs are hardly more to us than mere names on a list, but in all probability it was during this obscure period that a number of Aramaean tribes known from later Assyrian inscriptions – the Litaû, Puqudû, Gambulû – settled between the lower Tigris and the – frontier of Elam, and that the Kaldû (Chaldeans) invaded the land of Sumer. No one could have then imagined that three hundred years later the Kaldû would give Babylon one of its greatest monarchs, the second Nebuchadrezzar. But in that short interval the Assyrian empire had grown, reached its peak and collapsed.


Pictish king Brude son of Mailcon


In 685 the Battle of Dun Nechtain or Battle of Nechtansmere. The Battle of Dun Nechtain or Battle of Nechtansmere (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Dhùn Neachdain, Old Irish: Dún Nechtain, Old Welsh: Linn Garan, Old English: Nechtansmere) was fought between the Picts, led by King Bridei Mac Bili [Brude], and the Northumbrians, led by King Ecgfrith on 20 May 685.
The Northumbrian hegemony over Northern Britain, won by Ecgfrith’s predecessors, had begun to disintegrate. Several of Northumbria’s subject nations had rebelled in recent years, leading to a number of large-scale battles against the Picts, Mercians, and Irish, with varied success. Following sieges on neighbouring territories carried out by the Picts, Ecgfrith led his forces against them, despite advice to the contrary, in an effort to reassert his suzerainty over the Pictish nations.
A feigned retreat by the Picts drew the Northumbrians into an ambush at Dun Nechtain near the lake of Linn Garan. The battle site has long been thought to have been near the present-day village of Dunnichen in Angus. Recent research, however, has suggested a more northerly location near Dunachton, on the shores of Loch Insh in Badenoch and Strathspey.
The battle ended with a decisive Pictish victory which severely weakened Northumbria’s power in northern Britain. Ecgfrith was killed in battle, along with the greater part of his army. The Pictish victory marked their independence from Northumbria, who never regained their dominance in the north.

Bede describes Brude as rex potentissimus, ‘a most powerful king’. This means that he was an overking who held lesser kings as clients and from whom he received hostages, tribute-payments and military manpower. His elevated status will have been achieved through aggressive warfare, threats and intimidation, driven by strength of will and ruthless ambition. Overkingship in this period was not hereditary: it did not pass by default to the royal heir but had to be earned through success on the battlefield. Victory in war resulted in easy plunder, the defeat of enemies and the confiscation of their wealth via the receipt of tribute. Some foes were internal ones, and every king had to contend with them – dynastic rivals and competitors – whenever they rose up inside his kingdom. Other enemies hailed from lands beyond the border and included rebellious under-kings as well as challengers from further afield. A ruler who waged successful military campaigns, and who placed enemy territory under tribute, was likely to become the overlord of a wide domain. This was how Brude, Maelchon’s son, increased his power to achieve the status of rex potentissimus.

In warfare and in all other royal ventures, a king of the Early Historic period commanded by personality and reputation. Some consultation with trusted advisers among the secular and religious elites occurred from time to time, but there was no governmental structure in the modern sense. Adomnán speaks of a Pictish senatus or ‘council’ accompanying Brude during Columba’s visit, but these men were senior warriors rather than bureaucrats or administrators. A king in this period ruled alone, using his individual qualities to turn himself into a successful warlord who thus earned respect from friend and foe alike. Brude certainly possessed these qualities and used them to consolidate his hold on the outer fringes of Pictavia, but his enlarged realm was basically a one-man show which could not be bequeathed to an heir. When he died in the early 580s his overlordship of distant provinces and faraway territories died with him.

A measure of Brude’s power is that he held other kings under his sway. An indication of the wide extent of his authority emerges from the Vita Columbae in a story about Cormac, a monk of Iona. Columba told Brude that Cormac and some other Ionan monks wanted to sail away in search of a remote place where they could establish a monastic retreat. Among those present at the royal court was the regulus or ‘under-king’ of Orkney, into whose territorial waters Cormac was likely to venture. This ruler was in a tributary relationship to the Pictish overking, but his continuing loyalty was ensured because members of his family were living at Brude’s court as hostages. Neither Adomnán nor the Irish annals mention Brude warring in Orkney but, at some point during his reign, he subjected the islands to his rule. His authority was therefore not confined to mainland Britain but extended beyond the Pentland Firth to encompass the outer fringe of Pictish territory. There is no doubt that the Orcadians – the inhabitants of Orkney – regarded themselves as Picts. At the Brough of Birsay, a high-status site on the largest island in the group, a carved stone adorned with four Pictish symbols and three spear-bearing warriors once stood in an old graveyard. The stone dates from the seventh or eighth centuries and is therefore later than Brude’s time, but it adds to other archaeological evidence indicating that the Brough of Birsay was an important residence of Orcadian kings. The three warriors on the stone might even represent descendants of the regulus who acknowledged Brude’s authority in the sixth century.

Columba visited Brude at a royal fortress near the mouth of the River Ness. The site is not named in the Vita, but it was clearly some kind of elevated stronghold or hillfort, accessed via a steep path. Many historians identify it as the old fort of Craig Phadraig, which lies close to Inverness on a ridge overlooking the Beauly Firth. Excavations have shown that this was built in the fourth century BC and abandoned in the early centuries AD. Sometime later, in the fifth or sixth century, it was re-occupied as a residence for people of high status. This phase of occupation was the last and was marked by signs of neglect. Despite the discovery of a metalworking mould and other indications of an elite presence, the gradual dereliction and eventual abandonment of the site in the 500s has cast doubt on the theory that this was where Brude met Columba. However, one curious factor in its favour is that the approach to the summit involves a strenuous ascent, which brings to mind Adomnán’s mention of the steep path trodden by the monks. Aside from this anecdotal support the case for Craig Phadraig does not look very convincing, but it is not the only candidate. Two other possible locations for Brude’s fortress have been suggested. One of these is the Castle Hill at Inverness, which stands in a dominant position above an important ford, while another is the hillfort of Torvean. Archaeologists might one day pinpoint the the site of the royal residence more closely but, until such time, its location remains unknown.

The image of Brude holding court beside the River Ness has led to a belief that the core of his domain lay in northern Pictavia. This seems to be supported by Bede’s reference to Columba converting the northern Picts rather than their southern cousins. However, neither Bede nor Adomnán explicitly states that Brude did not also rule south of the Mounth. In Chapter 4 it was observed that one of the characteristics of Early Historic kingship was an itinerant royal court, which enabled a monarch and his entourage to conduct regular ‘circuits’ of the kingdom, visiting prominent local lords who offered gifts and hospitality. At various prestigious sites scattered around his realm the king presided over rituals and ceremonies where bonds of fealty and clientship were cemented through mutual gift-giving and the renewal of oaths. Brude’s fortress on the River Ness may have been an occasional royal residence of this sort, but there were probably other places of equal status elsewhere in his domains. Some may have lain further south, in Perthshire, but were not necessarily of lesser importance than the northerly stronghold visited by Columba. There is in fact no reason to assume from the testimony of Adomnán that Brude did not hail from southern Pictavia. This was an ideal power-base for ambitious rulers, being an area of prime agricultural land and thus a source of wealth. On the other hand, since the sources associate later Pictish kings with the province of Fortriu, an area now identified with Moray, it may be assumed that this was Brude’s home territory. It is worthwhile to note that the name Brude, borne by a number of kings of Fortriu, may have been especially associated with this area. Maybe Brude himself hailed from Fortriu and was a northern Pict by birth? If so, then his stronghold near the River Ness was probably an ancestral residence, the citadel of his forefathers, as well as being a suitable venue for dealing with sub-kings from Orkney, Caithness and other northerly districts.

How far Brude’s realm extended westward is uncertain. During his reign there was military conflict with Dalriada and pressure by the Scots on Pictish communities in frontier areas. In the far west these areas may have included the Isle of Skye, which was certainly inhabited by Picts at this time. Three stones bearing Pictish symbols have been found on the island, but a significant piece of additional information comes from Adomnán’s story of Columba meeting an old pagan called Artbranan. The latter, described as the leader of the ‘Cohort of Geona’, arrived on Skye in a small boat when the saint was visiting the island. He asked Columba for baptism and, after this was performed, promptly died and was buried on the spot. During the baptism the two men communicated through an interpreter, whose presence indicates that Artbranan spoke a language other than Gaelic. This suggests that he was a Pict from Skye or from some other place not far away. He was the leader of a distinct group, perhaps a warband, and therefore a person of high or aristocratic status. Ultimately, he may have been answerable to Brude or to some other Pictish ruler whose authority included the coastlands around Skye. An alternative possibility is that Artbranan already acknowledged the kings of Cenél nGabráin as his new overlords and felt compelled to show this allegiance by seeking baptism from their spiritual patriarch.

The story of Artbranan contains a few details, but little is really known about the people of Brude’s kingdom. One family of Picts appears briefly in the Vita Columbae as pagans encountered by the saint near Loch Ness. Columba interrupted a journey on foot to make a detour to this family’s residence, which lay within a prosperous agricultural estate at Glen Urquhart. There he baptised an old man called Emchath who lay on the brink of death. Emchath’s son, Virolec, also received baptism, as did other folk of the estate. Emchath and Virolec belonged to a family of high status who ruled a ‘household’ of retainers, tenant-farmers and other dependants. The family’s main residence may have been the Early Historic fort located by archaeologists beneath the ruins of Urquhart Castle at the mouth of the glen.




For years there has been much debate about the ‘Amerika Bomber’. Today frequent reference is made to an ‘Amerika Bomber’ programme and numerous German bomber projects are regularly associated with it. But there is no contemporary evidence for a programme using that term.

However, there are several references in contemporary British intelligence reports indicating that the Me 264 had indeed been given a nickname by German personnel. Was this the ‘Amerika Bomber’?

A. I. 2.(G) Report No. 2208 of December 26, 1943, states: “The information which has been received concerning the Me 264 is of a rather spectacular nature. It was originally believed that this was to be a twin-engined aircraft but more recent reports describe it as a four-engined long-range recce-bomber. Particular emphasis is laid upon range, which has been variously indicated as 9300 miles; 6200 miles (with four- ton load); and ‘sufficient to attack the USA’. There has also been a reference to sleeping accommodation for four out of a total crew of nine.”

A later account, A. D. I.(K) Report No. 169/44 of April 18, 1944, says: “Two P/W [prisoners of war] who were at Lechfeld during the summer of 1943 had seen an aircraft which they referred to as a Me 264 at that airfield. It appears that one aircraft of this type was standing in the open at Lechfeld airfield for several months up to August 1943 when it suddenly disappeared.

“It aroused P/W’s interest owing to its reputed prodigious range; it was usually referred to as the ‘USA Bomber’, as it was supposed to be capable of attacking the United States, and one P/W asserts that it has been flown to Tokyo and back.”

A. D. I.(K) 1346 dated October 18, 1944, refers to the “Me 264 ‘York Bomber’” presumably meaning ‘New York Bomber’. The most oft-stated reference for the Me 264 as being the ‘Amerika Bomber’ comes from a speech given by Hermann Göring at his Carinhall retreat on March 18, 1943. He is quoted as saying: “I well remember that at Augsburg – it was exactly a year ago – I was shown an ‘Amerika Bomber’ that really called for nothing more than to be put into mass production.” In fact, word for word, the original transcript actually says: “I remember – it is years ago now – when I was in Augsburg, I was shown an ‘America’ aircraft which had only to be put into large-scale production.”

This interesting speech is reproduced in its entirety elsewhere in this publication. So there appears to be no contemporary source that puts ‘Amerika’ and ‘Bomber’ together. Where, then, does this common ‘secret projects’ term come from?

The earliest verified reference appears on p15 in the November 1952 issue of American magazine Flying and is used in reference to a postwar Soviet-supervised Junkers design, the EF 132. It states: “More German scientists and equipment arrived and more German aircraft and engine plants took roots in Russian soil. Professor Doctor Schiebe, Freundel, Wocke, Hartmann and hundreds of others went to work on different projects, such as the most secret Luftwaffe plan of transatlantic bombing with the JuEF 132 – The ‘Amerika Bomber’.”

There is scant evidence from the 1960s but writing in his highly influential 1970 work The Warplanes of the Third Reich, William Green stated that the Me 264 was ‘dubbed unofficially the Amerika-Bomber’. Green was writing at a time when most if not all documents and reports relating to German projects were still classified and unavailable. He therefore did what he could with what he had.

No doubt as a consequence of this description, Herbert Molloy Mason stated in his 1973 book, The Rise of the Luftwaffe, that the Me 264 was known as the Amerika-Bomber, and in his 1978 Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare, Bernard Fitzsimons said the Me 264 was ‘popularly called’ the Amerika-Bomber. In the 1987 Smithsonian Book of Flight, Walter J Boyne also uses ‘Amerika Bomber’ to refer to the Me 264.

Nathan C Goldman, writing in 1992, used the term to refer to Eugen Sänger’s suborbital bomber, as did NASA writer A M Springer in 2003. In 1999, Isolde Baur called the Me 264 an ‘Amerika-Bomber’ in her biography of her husband, Messerschmitt test pilot Karl Baur.

Perhaps most influentially in recent times, David Myhra referred to the Horten XVIII as an Amerika Bomber in his 1998 book Secret Aircraft Designs of the Third Reich. This followed his interview with Reimar Horten in 1980, where Horten stated: “The Ho 18 was to have been a very long-range all-wing bomber which Walter and I were ordered to design and build for Hermann Göring in April 1945. The project already had a nickname – it was being called the ‘Amerika-Bomber’.”

Suffice to say that only Göring and perhaps Horten himself ever used the ‘nickname’ since the XVIII was entered for a competition that was meant to result in a bomber capable of attacking England and, to a limited degree, supply vessels in the Atlantic. Following Myhra’s lead, Walter J Boyne also refers to the Horten XVIII as the ‘Amerika-Bomber’ in his 2002 Air Warfare encyclopaedia, as does Jean-Denis G G Lepage in his 2009 Aircraft of the Luftwaffe, and Lance Cole in his 2015 Secret Wings of World War II.

USAF – Korean War





War Begins

During May 1950, KMAG reported a military buildup on the northern side of the 38th parallel. At four o’clock on the morning of June 25, 1950, these forces invaded, crossing the 38th parallel and brushing aside the inferior South Korean army. The main invading force headed toward Seoul, the South Korean capital, about 35 miles below the parallel, while smaller forces moved down the center of the Korean peninsula and along the east coast. The North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) took Seoul, whereupon President Harry S. Truman ordered General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U. S. Far East Command, to supply the ROK with equipment and ammunition, because most supplies had been abandoned in the retreat of ROK forces.

USAF elements were the first U. S. military units to respond to the invasion. By the afternoon of June 25, North Korean fighters attacked South Korean and USAF aircraft and facilities at Seoul airfield and Kimpo AB, just south of the capital. On June 26, FAR EAST AIR FORCES (FEAF) fighters provided protective cover while ships evacuated American nationals from Inchon, 20 miles west of Seoul. On June 27, as the communists closed in on Seoul, FEAF transports evacuated more Americans, and FIFTH AIR FORCE fighters, escorting the evacuation transports, shot down three North Korean MiGs— the first aerial victories of the war.

The U. S. delegation to the United Nations secured a Security Council resolution that UN members assist the ROK. Armed with this, President Truman mobilized U. S. air and naval forces. On June 28, FEAF, under the command of Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, began flying interdiction missions between Seoul and the 38th parallel, photo-reconnaissance and weather missions over South Korea, airlift missions from Japan to Korea, and CLOSE AIR SUPPORT missions for the ROK troops. On June 29, the 3rd Bombardment Group made the first American air raid on North Korea, bombing the airfield at Pyongyang, and FEAF Bomber Command followed with sporadic B-29 missions against North Korean targets through July. At last, in August, major B-29 raids were launched against North Korean marshaling yards, railroad bridges, and supply dumps.

U. S. ground forces were committed to war on June 30, 1950. On July 7, the UN established an allied command under President Truman, who named General MacArthur as UN commander in chief. In the meantime, the 5AF, under Major General Earl E. Partridge, established an advanced headquarters in Taegu, South Korea, 140 miles southeast of Seoul, also the location of Eighth Army headquarters. However, during this early period of the war, most FEAF bombers and fighters operated from bases in Japan, which was a major disadvantage in flying short-range F-80 jet aircraft. Nevertheless, USAF pilots worked in concert with carrier-launched naval aircraft to attack enemy airfields, destroying much of the small North Korean air force on the ground. Before the end of July, USAF and navy and marine air units claimed air superiority over North and South Korea.

By August 5, the relentless retreat of UN ground forces had stopped, and FEAF air support, effective ground action, and the unsupportable lengthening of North Korean supply lines ended the communist offensive. The UN troops held a defensive perimeter in the southeastern corner of the peninsula, in a 40- to 60-mile arc about the seaport of Pusan. Holding the Pusan perimeter required careful coordination between ground action and close air support.

UN Forces Take the Offensive

Beginning on September 15, 1950, UN forces assumed the offensive when the U.S. X Corps made a spectacular amphibious assault landing at Inchon, 150 miles north of the battle front. In the south, the U.S. Eighth Army (including U.S., ROK, and British forces) counterattacked on September 16. The 5AF provided close air support, while, far to the north, FEAF bombed Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and Wonsan, an east coast port 80 miles north of the 38th parallel. U. S. Marines retook Kimpo AB on September 17. On the 19th, the first FEAF cargo aircraft landed there. From this point on, the AIRLIFT of supplies, fuel, and troops would be virtually continuous. Air controllers accompanied advancing Eighth Army tank columns to support tank commanders with aerial reconnaissance and to call in close air support. Seoul was recaptured on September 26, and, on September 28, fighter-bombers returned permanently to Taegu. Engineers also rebuilt other airfields, beginning with Pohang, on the east coast 50 miles northeast of Taegu, and, on October 7, USAF flying units returned to Pohang and to other rebuilt airfields at Kimpo and at Suwon, 20 miles south of Seoul. The ability to operate from bases in Korea greatly increased the effectiveness of the limited-range jet fighters.

On October 9, UN forces took the war into North Korea when the Eighth Army crossed the 38th parallel near Kaesong. American and South Korean forces entered Pyongyang on October 19 while FEAF B-29s and B-26s continued to bomb transport lines and military targets in North Korea, 401 and B-26s, F-51s, and F-80s provided close air support to the advancing ground troops. FEAF also continuously supplied photo reconnaissance, airlift, and air medical evacuation.

On the east coast of Korea in the meantime, ROK forces crossed the 38th parallel on October 1 and captured Wonsan on October 11. On October 26 South Korean forces reached the Yalu River, the border with China, at Chosan, 120 miles north of Pyongyang.

Chinese Intervention

On the night of November 25, 1950, Chinese forces, in great strength, attacked the Eighth Army on its center and right. Two days later, even more powerful Chinese attacks overran units of X Corps on its left flank. By November 28, UN positions were caving in as about 300,000 Chinese troops entered North Korea.

UN troops rapidly withdrew, and even UN air superiority vanished as Soviet-built Chinese MiG-15 jet fighters easily outflew U. S. piston-driven craft. By December 15, UN forces had withdrawn all the way to the 38th parallel and were now establishing a defensive line across the breadth of the Korean peninsula.

5AF provided close air support to cover the withdrawal, and U. S. F-80s did their best against the Chinese MiG-15s. During November, FEAF medium and light bombers, along with U. S. Navy aircraft, attacked bridges over the Yalu River and supply centers along the Korean side of the river —operations severely hampered by orders to avoid violating Chinese air space. Despite the handicap, on November 25, bombers destroyed key bridges, but the communists responded by rapidly erecting pontoon bridges. As winter set in, they also crossed the ice of the frozen Yalu. B-29 raids were effective against North Korean supply dumps, however.

In response to the introduction of Chinese MiG-15s, USAF commanders requested and received rush consignments of the newest and best jet fighters. On December 6, the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing, flying F-84 Thunderjets, arrived at Taegu. On December 15, the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing flew its first mission in Korea using the most advanced aircraft, the F-86 Sabre. It was the timely introduction of the Sabres that allowed UN forces to regain and maintain air superiority.

As 1950 came to a close, FEAF flew interdiction and armed reconnaissance missions to slow the advancing Chinese. 5AF pilots killed or wounded some 33,000 enemy troops during December, forcing the Chinese to move only by night. Yet the communist advance continued, and, on January 1, 1951, Chinese forces crossed the 38th parallel. They entered Seoul three days later. On January 15 UN forces halted the Chinese and North Korean armies 50 miles south of the 38th parallel, on a line from Pyongtaek on the west coast to Samchok on the east coast.

UN Counteroffensive

UN forces began a counteroffensive on January 25, 1951, with the object of wearing down the overextended enemy. On February 10, Kimpo AB was again recaptured, and, when thawing roads made ground transport impossible, the 315th Air Division airdropped supplies to the ground forces. UN forces reoccupied Seoul on March 14. On the 23rd, FEAF airlift forces dropped a reinforced regiment at Munsan, 25 miles north of Seoul.

Up north, between the Chongchon and Yalu rivers, communist forces established an air presence so formidable that 5AF pilots called the region “MiG Alley.” By March 10, Sabres were fighting in MiG Alley while also escorting FEAF B-29 attacks against area targets. From April 12 to 23 the FEAF bombers attacked rebuilt airfields on the outskirts of Pyongyang. By this time, Eighth Army ground units had regained the 38th parallel. Between April 17 and 21, with close air support, ground units penetrated beyond the 38th parallel.

Communist Chinese Spring Offensive

On April 22, 1951, Chinese forces began a new offensive with an assault on ROK army positions 40 to 55 miles northeast of Seoul. U. S. Army and marine forces, in concert with British ground troops, stopped the new communist drive by May 1. Two weeks later, however, the Chinese and North Koreans attacked near Taepo, between the east coast and Chunchon, 45 miles northeast of Seoul. The advance was halted by May 20, and, on May 22, UN Command (now under the overall direction of General Matthew Bunker Ridgway, who had replaced General MacArthur—removed by President Truman for insubordination) launched a counterattack. FEAF and navy fliers maintained air superiority during this period by means of aerial combat and continual bombing of North Korean airfields. The 5AF and a U. S. Marine air wing extended airfield attacks on May 9 to include Sinuiju airfield in the northwest corner of Korea. The attacks were devastating to communist air power in the region.

General Stratemeyer, FEAF commander, suf- fered a heart attack in May 1951, and Lieutenant General O. P. Weyland took over FEAF. Through- out most of this period, Chinese pilots stayed on the Manchurian side of the Yalu River, but, on May 20, 50 MiGs engaged 36 Sabres in aerial combat. It was during this fight that Captain J AMES J ABARA shot down two MiGs, which, added to his four prior kills, made him the first jet ace in aviation history.

FEAF, marine, and navy air forces coordinated carefully to help force the North Koreans and Chinese to restrict their movements and attacks to periods of darkness and bad weather. FEAF also supplemented sealift with airlift during this period. In late May, FEAF began Operation Strangle to interdict the flow of communist supplies south of the 39th parallel, and, in June, the campaign was extended to attacks against railroads.

Negotiations Begin

In July 1951, delegations began cease-fire negotiations at Kaesong, North Korea, on the 38th parallel. During these talks, UN forces continued pushing the communist troops northward, until, by July 8, the front had returned to the 38th parallel.

Negotiations formally began on July 10, 1951, and broke down on August 23, whereupon the UN Command launched an offensive in central Korea. FEAF settled in for a war of attrition and devoted much effort to rebuilding and improving its Korean airfields. Beginning late in July, the Chinese air force conducted an air campaign to challenge UN air superiority. In September they targeted the 5AF, whose pilots, however, shot down 14 MiGs, while suffering 6 losses.

Despite U. S. victories, the Chinese air offensive forced the 5AF to suspend fighter-bomber inter- diction in MiG Alley until the winter. During this period, UN air command concentrated on railroad targets outside of MiG Alley and on new North Korean airfields. These raids proved unsuccessful. However, on November 12, 1951, truce negotiations resumed, now at Panmunjom, and UN ground forces ceased offensive action, settling into a war of containment.


While negotiations dragged on, the USAF received more F-86 Sabres to counter the Chinese air force. Beginning in December 1951, members of the 51st and 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wings downed 26 MiGs in two weeks, breaking the back of the Chinese air offensive. For the rest of the winter, MiG pilots generally avoided aerial combat. Despite this, pilots of the 5AF destroyed 127 communist aircraft in aerial combat between January and April 1952. USAF losses were only nine planes. 5AF B-29 raids also continued during this period. However, during the winter of 1951–52, with battle lines static, the need for the close air support mission was greatly diminished. USAF commanders concentrated instead on aerial bombardment of enemy positions alternating on a daily basis with artillery attacks on those same positions. The communist response was to dig in, rendering both aerial and artillery bombardment fairly ineffective.

In an effort to end the stalemate at Panmunjom, UN air commanders resolved to attack targets previously exempted or underexploited. Accordingly, in May 1952 the 5AF shifted from interdiction of transportation to attacks on supply depots and industrial targets. Beginning on June 23, U. S. Navy and 5AF units also made coordinated attacks on the electric power complex at Sui-ho Dam, on the Yalu River near Sinuiju, followed by strikes against the Chosin, Fusen, and Kyosen power plants. On July 11, Pyongyang was bombed by aircraft of the Seventh Fleet, the 1st Marine Air Wing, the 5AF, the British Navy, and the ROK air force. At night, FEAF sent in B-29s. Allied air forces returned to Pyongyang again on August 29 and 30, and, in September, 5AF attacked troop concentrations and barracks in northwest Korea, while FEAF bombed similar targets near Hamhung in north- east Korea.

During the summer of 1952, many F-86Es were upgraded to more powerful and more maneuver able F-86Fs. MiG activity increased during August and September, but U. S. pilots achieved an 8-to-1 ratio of victories to losses.

Despite the pressure of the air campaign, the Panmunjom talks produced nothing, and the war entered its third winter.

Continued Stalemate

While the stalemate continued, USAF Sabre pilots continued to shoot down MiGs, even though they were generally outnumbered and flew aircraft that were still technically inferior to the MiG-15, at least at high altitude. On February 18, 1953, near the Sui-ho Reservoir on the Yalu River, four F-86Fs attacked 48 MiGs, shot down two, and caused two others to crash while taking evasive action. All four Sabres returned safely to base.

The success of 5AF Sabres was not matched by that of the aging B-29s of FEAF Bomber Command. The big bombers increasingly fell victim to interceptor and antiaircraft artillery attacks at night. Missions were curtailed, although important industrial targets continued to be targeted.

In the spring of 1953, a POW exchange agreement broke the stalemate at Panmunjom, and productive talks continued.

The War Winds Down

During the renewed talks, the communists sought to improve their position with a major assault on June 10 against the ROK II Corps near Kumsong, a small town in central Korea. In combating this offensive, FEAF flew a record-breaking 7,032 sorties, mostly to deliver close air support. When the offensive was renewed, FEAF flew another 12,000 combat sorties, again mostly in close air support.

During the offensives, the 315th Air Division airlifted an Army regiment (3,252 soldiers and 1,770 tons of cargo) from Japan to Korea, and, from June 28 through July 2, airlifters flew almost 4,000 more troops and over 1,200 tons of cargo from Misawa and Tachikawa air bases in Japan to Pusan and Taegu airfields in Korea. These were the last major airlift operations of the Korean conflict. During May, June, and July 1953, Sabre pilots achieved 165 aerial victories with only three losses—a magnificent achievement.

The war ended not in victory or defeat, but with the armistice of July 27, 1953. The number of Chinese and North Korean troops killed is unknown, but estimates range between 1.5 and 2 million, in addition to at least a million civilians killed. South Korean civilian casualties probably equaled those of North Korea. United States losses were 142,091 casualties, including 33,629 deaths and 7,140 captured. USAF losses were fairly light, 1,841 casualties including 379 killed in action, 11 deaths from wounds, and 821 missing in action and presumed dead. In addition, 224 fliers were captured.

UN and U.S. action in the Korean War did succeed in confining communist rule to North Korea, but, beyond this, the conflict ended inconclusively.

Panzerkampfwagen III (Flamm) (Sd.Kfz.141/3)


One of the 15 Panzerflammwagen issued to the 6. Panzer-Division was backfited with Schuerzen on the hull sides in May 1943.



The pump-driven flamethrower system that had al- ready been developed for the Pz. Kpfw. B2 (Fl) was mount- ed in the Pz. Kpfw. III turret. The turret could be continuously traversed through 360 degrees by installing a packing box connection on the flame oil delivery pipe. The flamethrower and coaxially mounted M.G.34 machine gun could be elevated through an arc from minus 10 to plus 20 degrees. Instead of a sighting telescope, at first the flame- thrower was roughly aimed by using an inverted “V” blade sight in front of the front vision block on the commanders cupola. This was later improved by mounting a rod with range pegs on the flamethrower armor guard, positioned directly in front of slit painted on the front vision block in the commander’s cupola. The containers inside the hull held 1020 liters of flame oil.

A range of 50 meters could be achieved with cold flame oil (60 meters when ignited) at a pressure of 15 to 17 atmospheres provided by the Koebe pump at a flowrate of 7.8 liters/second. The Koebe pump was driven by a two- stroke, 28 metric horsepower, Auto Union ZW 1101 (DKW) engine using a mixture of oil and gasoline. The flame oil was ignited using electric “Smitskerzen” (Smits’ glow plugs).

A second M.G.34 machine gun was mounted in a traversable ball mount in the superstructure front plate with an elevation arc from -10 to +20 degrees. This ball- mounted machine gun was aimed using a K.Z.F. 2 gunsight registered at a range of 200 meters. 3750 rounds of belted ammunition were carried for the machine guns in bags each containing 150 rounds of S.m.K. (armor piercing) ammunition.

A crew of three manned this 23.8 ton Flammpanzer. The commander also served as the gunner for the flamethrower and the turret mounted machine gun. A radio operator seated at the right front manned the Funkgeraet 5 radio transmitter and receiver set and also served as a gunner for the ball-mounted machine gun. The driver was located in the left front.

Armor protection was enhanced by welding 30 mm thick plates to the hull front as well as to the upper hull front. This, along with the 20 mm Vorpanzer on the superstructure front plate and gun mantle, made the Pz. Kpfw. III (Flamm) invulnerable to 75 mm armor piercing rounds fired at its front at normal combat ranges. Due to the increased threat of fire, a total of five fire extinguishers were carried, three on the inside and two on the outside.

One hundred Pz. Kpfw. III Ausf. M chassis (with Fgst. Nr. 77609 to 77708) were completed in automotive running order by the firm of Miag in Braunsweig in January and February 1943. These were delivered to Wegmann in Kassel where the flamethrowers were installed and the turrets mounted on the superstructures. The production schedule had called for 20 to be completed in January, 45 in February, and 35 in March 1943 . Following a one month delay, 65 Panzerflammwagen (Sd. Kfz. 141) were accepted by the Waffenamt inspectors in February, 34 in March, and the last one in April1943 . It was not until later that the official designation was changed to Pz. Kpfw. III (Fl) (Sd. Kfz. 141/3).

China -Growing Superpower



Since the 1991 Gulf War, the PLA’s strategy has been premised on preparing to fight local wars under conditions of informatization. Efforts have been focused on creating a PLA capable of winning a war against a higher technology adversary, unnamed but assumed to be the United States. Military analysts have carefully studied the performance of the U.S. military in the Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq in an effort to understand American strengths and weaknesses.

The PLA’s active defense military doctrine is based on the three principles of nonlinear, noncontact, and asymmetric operations. Nonlinear operations entail launching attacks from multiple platforms in an unpredictable fashion, ranging across the enemy’s operational and strategic depth. Noncontact operations involve targeting enemy platforms and weapons systems with precise attacks from sufficiently far away to minimize the opponent’s ability to strike back. Asymmetric operations bring the PLA’s strengths to bear against the enemy’s weaknesses. For example, America’s heavy reliance on computer technology is considered to be its Achilles’ heel: successful interdiction of its computer network could destroy command and control functions. PLA literature also makes frequent mention of three types of warfare: media, psychological, and legal. In simplest form, these involve efforts to win over public opinion in the target country by convincing its civilians, and perhaps Chinese soldiers and civilians as well, of the justice of the PRC’s cause.

The PLAN has been tasked with a three-stage strategy. The first stage is to develop a force that can operate within the first island chain, stretching from Japan down through Taiwan and the Philippines. In the second stage, a regional naval force will operate beyond the first island chain to reach the second island chain, which includes Guam, Indonesia, and Australia. In the third stage, to be attained by midcentury, PLAN will constitute a global naval force.

Airpower expert Mark Stokes describes the PRC’s aerospace strategy as an integral component of firepower warfare involving the coordinated use of PLA Air Force (PLAAF) strike aviation assets, Second Artillery (Missile) Corps, conventional theater missiles, and information warfare. Although the military leadership seems to be developing a range of options for all levels of warfare, Stokes believes that the PLA is disposed toward a denial strategy that emphasizes operational paralysis in order to compel an adversary to comply with Beijing’s orders.

The PLA’s successful antisatellite (ASAT) test in January 2007 revealed its developing capabilities in space warfare. The test followed several years of discussion by PLA officers in defense journals and books of the need to have the ability to deny the use of space to others. While the authors differ somewhat in their suggestions, the need for secrecy is a common theme. The program should be “internally tense while [appearing] outwardly relaxed.” Having an orbiting network of concealed space weapons that can launch surprise attacks against U.S. assets fits in well with both the psychological component of the three-warfares doctrine and the need to practice asymmetric warfare.

China’s inventory of space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, and communications satellites is being expanded. These share functions with the country’s commercial space program, allowing military uses to be downplayed. A navigation satellite was launched in 2009, and a full network of satellites is scheduled to provide global positioning for military and civilian users in the 2015–2020 time frame. Also launched in 2009 was the Yaogan, the sixth in China’s series of reconnaissance satellites sent into orbit since 2006. The development of the Long March V rocket, now delayed until 2014 owing to technical problems, will more than double the size of China’s current low earth orbit and geosynchronous orbit payloads. A newly constructed launch facility on Hainan will support these rockets. In addition to its ASAT program, the PLA is known to have at least one ground-based laser program.

With regard to nuclear weapons, China is believed to have at least 200 warheads, including 20 liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States, numerous other missiles with shorter ranges, and nuclear-armed submarines. The PRC has pledged a no-first-use policy, but from time to time, high-ranking figures have phrased this policy in ways that suggest the existence of unspecified caveats. It is not known, for example, whether demonstration strikes, high-altitude bursts, or strikes on what Beijing considers its own territory are included in the no-first-use policy. Recently, attention has focused on China’s proliferation activities, principally with regard to Iran and North Korea.

Training programs are designed to emphasize three strikes (sometimes translated as three attacks) and three defenses. The three strike targets are stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, and gunship helicopters. The three actions to defend against are precision strikes, electronic jamming, and reconnaissance and surveillance.

The PRC seems to be moving away from Deng Xiaoping’s advice of the early 1990s to “observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capabilities, and bide our time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership.” A growing point of view is that, while Deng’s advice may have been excellent when China was still weak, recent developments, including its rapidly expanding economy and military power, call for a more assertive strategy to secure China’s core interests. In 2010, the South China Sea was added to the list of China’s core interests, which have traditionally been focused on territories such as Tibet and Taiwan. A more assertive strategy also seems appropriate in light of the financial woes of the Western world and the perception that the United States, mired not only in financial difficulties but also in expensive, protracted conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, has entered a stage of rapid decline.


Aware that more technologically sophisticated military weapons will require better-educated and better-trained personnel to operate them, the PLA has made efforts to recruit university graduates, particularly those with science and engineering backgrounds, into the officer corps. Military academies also concentrate on producing technologically knowledgeable personnel, adapting their curricula to put more stress on science and technology.

In a national defense student program begun in 2001, the military offers training to those willing to join after graduation; in return, the students’ tuition is paid, and they receive a modest monthly living allowance. University graduation is followed by a year of formal training in a military academy. In the first year the program was offered, there were few takers, but when one-third of university graduates from the PRC’s newly expanded university system were unable to find jobs, incoming freshmen found the military option increasingly attractive.

Another priority is the noncommissioned officer corps. New recruits are now required to have at least high school diplomas, and the size of the corps is being expanded to constitute 40 percent of the army. The military as a whole now enjoys improved pay and benefits, as well as better creature comforts in the form of new barracks and karaoke clubs.

Consonant with PLA’s more outward-oriented stance, the navy and air force have in recent years received priority over the traditionally favored ground force. Though the ground force, at 64 percent of the total, is still by far the largest of the services, this is a drop from 73 percent in 1998. The navy now constitutes 14 percent of the total, up from 10 percent in 1998, and the air force has increased to 23 percent from 17 percent. These changes have been accompanied by proportional increases in budgetary allocations and weapons acquisitions. The ground force maintains an important role in protecting the country’s long land borders and in ensuring domestic stability as the Chinese population becomes more outspoken and increasingly prone to demonstrations and protests. In theory, keeping the domestic peace is the role of the People’s Armed Police (PAP), but the PAP has sometimes been judged unable to carry out its mandate effectively. According to credible reports, many of the personnel used to quell disturbances in Xinjiang in 2009 were PLA members who had been ordered to put on PAP uniforms because it would look less repressive to the foreign media.

The Outline of Military Training and Evaluation that became standard in the PLA in 2008 emphasizes realistic training conditions, training in complex electromagnetic and joint environments, integrating new and high technologies into the force structure, and amphibious warfare. Training exercises have become more sophisticated and are concentrated on achieving true jointness. In the past, different service arms typically converged in the same area but carried out their activities essentially separately. Service in a joint assignment is increasingly seen as a desideratum for those who aspire to be promoted to senior-level positions. The PLA recently established the Jinan Theater Joint Leadership Organization—the first of its kind—to integrate at the campaign level all services, including the Second Artillery Corps, the provincial leadership, and leading personnel from other organizations.

A National Defense Mobilization Law passed in 2010 gives the state the legal right to requisition civilian facilities and property. The new law, formalizing what would occur anyway, was presented in terms of its continuity with the Maoist People’s War and its emphasis on close military-civilian cooperation. In the post-Mao era, however, local governments have tended to resent the burden of supporting military units by supplying food, fuel, and financial contributions, thus necessitating a law that more clearly defines their obligations and responsibilities.

Also in 2010, PLAN ships carried out exercises in the Mediterranean that were described as unprecedented. The flotilla then visited the capital of Burma and cruised up the Irrawaddy River. A second group crossed the Coral Sea on a Pacific tour, visiting Tonga and Vanuatu.

Several exercises have been held in the South China Sea, presumably to signal to other countries Beijing’s determination to enforce its claim that this area constitutes one of the PRC’s core interests. In another 2010 exercise, all three of the navy’s fleets took part in a joint exercise that simulated the invasion of an island in the South China Sea controlled by another nation. Amphibious assault ships and tanks were used to land troops while countering electromagnetic interference and missiles fired by other troops posing as the enemy. To make the semiotics perfectly clear, the exercise was attended by almost 275 invited military attachés from seventy-five countries.

This kind of military theater generally has the desired effect and can be considered an operationalization of the three types of warfare—media, psychological, and legal. Domestic sources generally announce when such exercises will be held and explain why they constitute breakthroughs for the military. The stories are then picked up by foreign media, which, according to Western military experts, tend to amplify the exercises’ actual military significance. Another important motivation appears to be the desire to impress the Chinese public with the PLA’s increasing prowess and to take pride in its rapidly advancing capabilities.

The military has also diversified its training to include military operations other than war, including antiterrorism, emergency response, disaster relief, and international humanitarian operations. As of 2010, the PRC had seconded more than 2,100 personnel to U.N. peacekeeping operations. Although this was only one-fifth the number contributed by Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, it represents a significant change of attitude. In the past, China rejected peacekeeping missions as unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. In 2010, China and the United Nations conducted a peacekeeping training class at the Ministry of National Defense in Beijing. Nineteen mid- to high-ranking PLA officers took part, and an accompanying press release declared that the information imparted would enable the PLA to further contribute to world peace.

As for antipiracy operations, a three-ship naval task force has been deployed on rotation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia since the end of 2008, marking the first time in its sixty-year history that the Chinese navy has conducted such operations. Military units also play an important part in domestic disaster relief operations following earthquakes and floods, and they have helped to quell ethnic unrest when the PAP was deemed inadequate to the task. Antiterrorism exercises have been conducted, sometimes in coordination with other members of the Shanghai Cooperative Organization, including Russia and several Central Asian states. These allow the PRC to cultivate an image of a responsible global actor while simultaneously accustoming its military to long-distance and long-endurance deployments. This experience enhances the PLA’s ability to protect China’s interests beyond national borders and to protect its access to the sea-lanes over which China’s commercial and energy imports and exports must move. There may be other potentially useful benefits: sources at the Indian defense ministry have complained that when its antipiracy vessels passed near those of China, the Chinese ships appeared to be probing the sonar capacities of the Indian naval vessels.


Announced Chinese military spending has increased nearly twenty-five-fold, from 21.53 billion yuan in 1988 to 519.1 billion yuan in 2010. Even as other countries drastically cut back their military spending due to the end of the Cold War, the PRC’s defense budget increased by double digits each year until 2010—the one exception, a 9.6 percent increase announced for 2003, actually reached 11.72 percent by the end of the year. It is possible that the planned 7.5 percent increase for 2010 ended in double-digit figures as well. In any case, defense was one of the more generously treated sectors in the 2010 budget, which was intended to wean the country off a generous stimulus package enacted the year before to ease the impact of the global financial crisis. The PLA was promised that its budgetary allocations would increase as the economy recovered, which it has done.

While some of this largesse can be accounted for by inflation, increases also occurred in years when the inflation rate was small and even when the economy had slipped into deflation. Military budgets have slightly exceeded the increases in the PRC’s annual economic growth and are not believed to be so large as to place an undue burden on the economy as a whole.

Published defense budgets may not accurately reflect true military spending, which is estimated at two to three times the announced figure. Research and development for nuclear programs are not part of it, and payments for foreign weapons purchases come from the budget of the State Council; local areas are responsible for at least part of the costs of billeting troops. Finally, even accurate figures would not tell us how wisely the monies are spent. Procurement wastes are believed to be substantial. And, as in other sectors of the PRC’s economy, corruption is a serious problem.


Funding for research and development in science and technology has greatly increased. In 2006, the State Council announced a National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology 2006-2020, with the goal of transforming China into an innovation-oriented society by its end date. All the program’s key elements have military applications, including nanotechnology research; information technology; technology for the creation of new materials and for deep-sea operations; laser and aerospace technologies; radar; counterspace capabilities; secure command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR); high-resolution satellites; and manned spaceflight. Important advances in weaponry have been made through a combination of innovative research, purchases from foreign countries, reverse engineering, and espionage.

The U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on the military strength of the PRC notes that China has the most active land-based ballistic and cruise missile program in the world. It is developing and testing several new classes and variants of offensive missiles, creating additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading selected missile systems, and devising methods to counter opponents’ ballistic missile defenses. Missiles are becoming more accurate, more deadly, and more difficult to detect and evade. Of particular recent concern to foreign countries are the following:

• Aircraft carrier research and development program. China purchased the former Soviet carrier Varyag from Ukraine in 1998, towing it to a shipyard at Dalian and experimenting with improvements. The Soviet-era carrier is expected to be used for training purposes, and several indigenously produced carriers are scheduled to enter service in the 2015–2020 time frame. Negotiations with Moscow over purchasing Su-33 carrier-borne fighter planes were delayed by Russian concerns that the PRC would reverse-engineer the two planes it wanted to buy. The deployment of aircraft carrier battle groups would greatly expand the PRC’s strategic reach.

• Submarines. China has introduced four new classes of domestically designed and built submarines and now operates the largest submarine force among Asian countries. The second-generation Type 093/ Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine and Type 094/Jinclass nuclear-powered missile submarine have already entered service. Older Type 033/Romeo-class and Type 035/Ming-class diesel-electric submarines, which were based on 1950s-era Soviet technology, are gradually being replaced by the newer indigenous Type 039/Song class and Russian-built Kilo class. The even newer Yuan class has also entered batch production.

• Antiship ballistic missiles (ASBMs). China has now attained initial operating capability for an ASBM, a military milestone that most analysts regard as a game-changer for the military balance in Asia. Designated the DF-21 D, it is the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. This has important implications for the anti-access area denial strategy; it will enable the PRC to consolidate its claims to the South China Sea by preventing the United States from defending its Pacific allies.

• Stealth aircraft. The PLAAF’s fifth-generation fighter program achieved another breakthrough with the January 2011 test flight of the Chengdu J-20. Similar in design to America’s F-22 Raptor and Russia’s Sukhoi T-50 fighters, the plane has the potential to compete with the F-35, the most advanced fighter in the inventory of the U.S. Air Force. The J-20’s relatively large size indicates that it will have a long range and the ability to accommodate heavy weapon loads. Its ground clearance is higher than that of the F-22, which will facilitate loading larger weapons, including air-to-surface munitions. Newly developed air-to-ground weapons are required to be compatible with the J-20.

• Cyberattacks. The PRC has the world’s largest number of Internet users. Researchers based in Canada traced to China an electronic spying operation that penetrated computer networks in 103 countries. Among the sites entered were those of defense and foreign ministries, news media, private companies, political campaigns, and nongovernmental organizations. In some cases, information was exfiltrated; in others, the websites were defaced and data were destroyed or altered. Although a distinction is sometimes made between cyberespionage and cyberwarfare, the skills involved in intelligence gathering are the same as those involved in taking offensive action in wartime: the difference is what the keyboard operator does with, or to, the information after he or she has penetrated the network. American analysts were further disconcerted when a paper appeared in a Chinese scholarly journal detailing how a cascade-based attack could take down the U.S. power grid. Net attacks cannot be definitively linked to the Chinese government, and even assuming these attacks are perpetrated by “patriotic hackers,” we do not know whether the hackers are being cued by the Chinese government. Nonetheless, cyberattacks fit in with the asymmetric warfare that is part of the PRC’s military strategy. A worst-case scenario envisions a kind of technological Pearl Harbor in which U.S. command systems would be paralyzed and its major combat platforms destroyed by a sudden strike. Those who advance such a possibility point out that it is consonant with the traditional Chinese emphasis on strategic deception and surprise, as well as with current discussions of the topic in the PRC’s military journals.

Il-Khanate (1256–1335/56)



Created as a result of MÖNGKE KHAN ’s 1252 decision to send his brother HÜLE ’ Ü (1217–65) to the Middle East, the resulting Il-Khanate dynasty suffered from hostility on three fronts and severe social conflicts.


Until 1252 the Mongols’ great khan, the Jochid GOLDEN HORDE , and the other princely lines shared rule over the area from Afghanistan to Turkey. The great khan appointed governors and confirmed client kings, but always with the prior approval of the Jochid ruler on the Volga. No member of the imperial family resided in this area, but many had appanages in the area and appointed representatives to guard their interests. Two TAMMACHI , or permanent garrison armies, occupied the area, one based in Afghanistan and the other based in Azerbaijan and Armenia. Neither was commanded by a member of the imperial family. In 1252 Möngke appointed his brother Hüle’ü to campaign personally in the Middle East, thus upsetting this balance. RASHID – UD – DIN FAZL – ULLAH claims that Möngke secretly intended from the beginning that Hüle’ü would stay permanently in the Middle East despite public plans for Hüle’ü to return at the end of his mission.

As soon as he crossed the Amu Dar’ya, Hüle’ü took the Azerbaijan area for himself, ordering Baiju Noyan, commander of the tammachi troops there, to relocate to Anatolia. After his conquest of Baghdad in February 1258, Hüle’ü began calling himself Il-Khan, or “obedient khan,” implying a status as a deputy or viceroy of the great khan Möngke, despite the public statement that Hüle’ü would return to Mongolia. Thus, when Möngke Khan died in August 1259, Hüle’ü’s status was unclear. By 1260 criminal accusations leveled against Jochid princes in Hüle’ü’s service strained relations with the Golden Horde rulers, and in 1262 a complete purge of the Jochid princes and Hüle’ü’s support for QUBILAI KHAN in his conflict with ARIQ – BÖKE brought open war with the Golden Horde. Nevertheless the special contempt shown toward the Il-Khans by the rulers of the Golden Horde and CHAGHATAY KHANATE demonstrated the khanate’s latecomer status.


The administration of the Il-Khans centered on the khan elected at a QURILTAI (assembly). Like previous Turkish dynasties in Iran, the Mongol dynasty did not have a fixed succession rule. Stable succession thus depended on consensus among the great commanders ( NOYAN ). As in the Yuan dynasty, a threefold ethnic class distinction of the conquest elite, the subject class, and an intermediate mixed class permeated government. The division of the first two classes, often summarized as “Mongols and Muslims,” was as much cultural, social, and political as strictly religious. Mongol meant the nomadic military class and Muslim the native sedentary Iranian and Iraqi population. The intermediate class was specialists and royal clients who were either foreign (Turkestanis), non-Muslim (Assyrians, Armenians, Jews), or both ( UIGHURS , Chinese). Ghazan Khan’s reign eliminated the intermediate class’s previous power. The core of the Mongol class was the khan’s household, consisting of his own keshig, or imperial guard, and intimate servitors and the palace-tents ( ORDO ) of his wives with their affiliated estates. These estates, or injü ( INJE ), constituted the khan and his family’s private demesne, in contrast to the dalai, or state lands. The keshig was divided into four three-day shifts, and from 1291 on the four shift chiefs, three of whom were drawn from the Mongol great noyans, countersigned all decrees of the khan with their black seals. Among the chief noyans, the families of Elege of the JALAYIR and Su’unchaq of the Suldus were the most prestigious. The OIRATS of Diyarbakir, frequent QUDA (marriage allies) of the khans, remained a discrete tribal body. Outside the court was the Mongol army, organized by the traditional DECIMAL ORGA – NIZATION and clan affiliations. Opposite these Mongol noyans was the financial administration, staffed by Persian Sunni Muslim clerks and headed by one or two viziers (always two after 1295), the senior of whom handled the supreme red seal, or al tamgha. Nevertheless the Mongol and Persian orders were not hermetically sealed. The great noyans had their own appanages administered by Persian clients, provincial commanders and governors frequently colluded, and the senior vizier himself served in the keshig as the head of the khan’s personal three-day shift. 233 By 1305 a number of autonomous client kingdoms had been turned into provinces, and Ghazan Khan’s reforms of 1300 created for the first time a single coinage and standard of weights and measures. By the dynasty’s end the Il-Khan regime had eight directly administered provinces of the center, in addition to the semi-independent viceroyalties of Khorasan and Anatolia. In addition to the universal qubchiri, or poll tax, the eight central provinces paid “divan dues” based on traditional agricultural taxes, while the center’s 20 main cities paid separate tamgha, or commercial tolls. Major cities and the provinces received a (usually) Persian malik (governor) who handled finance and administration, a Mongol emir, or noyan, who commanded the troops, and a DARUGHACHI (Persian, shahna) of the Mongol or intermediate class. Assignment of important provinces (particularly GEORGIA , Diyarbakir, and Iraq) as camping grounds for princes offered a further layer of supervision. The Il-Khanate practiced the traditional muqata‘at, or tax-farming system. The treasury drew up contracts specifying the total amount of taxes paid and the deductions the tax farmer could take for expenses. Maliks of major provinces were usually concurrent tax farmers, subcontracting the taxes in districts and villages. Theoretically, the tax farmer could not collect more than the contracted amount, but supervision was lax and over collection rife. The eager attention the Il-Khans usually paid to reports from ayqaqs (informers) about untapped or embezzled revenues put constant upward pressure on taxes and made the tenure of governors and viziers exceedingly uncertain—all but one of the viziers under the Il-Khans were executed with torture on charges of embezzlement, treason, or both. Hüle’ü stored the booty of his conquests of 1256–58 in a tower by Lake Urmia, but by Sultan Ahmad’s reign (1282–84) the tower had partially collapsed, and the remaining treasure was shared out as coronation gifts. From then on the treasury was carried in the khan’s ordo in chests. Except under diligent khans such as Ghazan Khan, treasury procedures were lax and embezzlement routine. Unbudgeted drafts on outlying provinces hindered financial planning, and random seizures by messengers (elchi) damaged the economy. These problems peaked in the 1290s. Ghazan Khan’s reforms did curb the abuses, particularly of the messenger system, but did not eliminate the constant pressure for more revenue.


The immigrant Mongols, composed of the tammachi (garrison) armies dispatched in the 1230s to Afghanistan and to the Armenia-Azerbaijan area, as well as Hüle’ü’s new army, constituted the Il-Khan’s military core. Nevertheless once counted and incorporated into the decimal organization, designated military households in the settled population also supplied infantry and cavalry that served under Mongol commanders in garrisons or the field. The theoretical reserve of the Il-Khan’s army added up to 30 tümens (each nominally 10,000), although tümens averaged perhaps only 40 percent of paper strength. In reality the largest battlefield force ever mobilized was about 70,000 men. Thus, the Il-Khans had enough troops only to confront one of their three major enemies—Egypt, the Golden Horde, or the Chaghatayids—at a time. The court equipped and provisioned at most one out of five army units, leaving remoter units, Mongol or native, to feed and equip themselves. Even so, the Il-Khanid army was better armed than the larger Chaghatayid and Golden Horde forces. In addition to the Mongol units, Georgian cavalry participated in virtually every battle, and the client kingdoms of Lesser Armenia and Seljük Turkey in the west and Kerman and Fars in the east also supplied troops for major campaigns.