B-1 Bombers Key to a U.S. Plan to Strike North Korean Missile Sites

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  • As UK defence contractor billed US more than $50m in expenses

The Pentagon has prepared a specific plan for a preemptive strike on North Korea’s missile sites should President Trump order such an attack.

Two senior military officials — and two senior retired officers — told NBC News that key to the plan would be a B-1B heavy bomber attack originating from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Pairs of B-1s have conducted 11 practice runs of a similar mission since the end of May, the last taking place on Monday. The training has accelerated since May, according to officials. In an actual mission, the non-nuclear bombers would be supported by satellites and drones and surrounded by fighter jets as well as aerial refueling and electronic warfare planes.

“Of all the military options … [President Trump] could consider, this would be one of the two or three that would at least have the possibility of not escalating the situation,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and an NBC News analyst.

Six B-1B “Lancer” bombers are currently positioned in Guam, 2,100 miles by air to North Korea. Military sources point out that the battle tested B-1, a workhorse for the past 16 years in both Afghanistan and Iraq, has been modernized and updated — “doubled in capability,” according to the Air Force.

The target set, multiple sources say, would be approximately two dozen North Korean missile-launch sites, testing grounds and support facilities. The sources told NBC News they feel confident they have accurately identified a set of relevant targets. They say that the months-long standoff between North Korea and the Trump administration, together with North Korean activity and testing of a wide variety of missiles since January, has helped them to refine their understanding of North Korea’s web of missile facilities.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon released a written statement from Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterating American military readiness for both offense and defense.

“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means,” the statement said, “it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.”

In the meantime, a British company hired to help train Afghan intelligence officers billed the US government for more than $50m (£38.4m) in expenses that included luxury cars and salaries paid to the “significant others” of the company’s top executives, according to a Pentagon audit.

New Century Consulting (NCC) also spent $42,000 on automatic weapons, using cash to get around a prohibition in the contract on purchasing the firearms and showered other personnel with hefty pay and bonuses. Missouri senator Claire McCaskill summarised the audit’s major findings in a letter to the US defence secretary, Jim Mattis, which she released on Wednesday.

McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, is demanding to know which Defence Department office was responsible for overseeing the work, what steps are being taken to recover the millions of dollars in disputed payments and whether the US government has considered prohibiting NCC from receiving federal contracts in future. “Whoever approved of this spending should be fired – it’s a slap in the face to Missouri taxpayers and the entire contracting process,” McCaskill said in a statement.

Michael Grunberg, chief executive officer of NCC, said the company strives to follow federal acquisition rules and “other relevant obligations”. He said it “is most unfair and is significantly inaccurate” that the executive assistants were paid inappropriate salaries.

Grunberg said the audit “questioned solely the use and depreciation treatment of vehicles” and that NCC “accounted for no more than three vehicles across the entire business at any one time”.

Grunberg also said the purchase of the weapons was done properly and at the direction of the US-led command overseeing the training and equipping of the Afghan security forces.

Asked to respond to the allegations by the Guardian, Grunberg said it would be “inappropriate for us to comment on an ongoing matter”.

McCaskill’s disclosure of the audit’s key findings is a rare glimpse into the opaque world of battlefield contracting. Contractors are indispensable in Afghanistan, handling security, transportation, construction and more. Yet the Defence Department has faced widespread criticism that it often fails to perform rigorous oversight of the work and how exactly US dollars are spent.

MSN with additional report from Guardian

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