South Korea planned to introduce a new counter to North Korea's burgeoning nuclear weapons program: drones. South Korean news wire agency Yonhap reported Tuesday that the nation planned to roll out a new weaponized drone unit next year. "The Army plans to set up a special organization to lead the development of dronebots, establish a standard platform and expand the dronebot program by function," an Army official told Yonhap, asking not be named because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter. "To begin with, we will launch a dronebot combat unit next year and use it as a'game changer' in warfare." The drones primary function will be for surveillance -- North Korea has launched a number of ballistic missile tests this year and many of them came without warning.
North Korea had plans to direct a cyber attack against power grids in the United States and successfully launched an attack directed at South Korea's Ministry of Defense, NBC News reported. While the campaign may have failed, the attempts of North Korean hackers to target utility companies presents a growing risk for American companies that are responsible for keeping the lights on for millions of homes across the country. Many power grids operate on a network separate from the public internet, insulating the systems that control the grid from attackers. North Korean hackers were able to successfully infiltrate South Korea's defense ministry and stole a large collection of military documents that purport to detail wartime contingency plans developed by South Korea and the U.S. A total of 235 gigabytes of military documents were reported to be stolen from South Korea's Defense Integrated Data Centre in a breach that took place in September 2016, and 80 percent of those stolen files have yet to be identified.
"The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. Carla Babb, the Pentagon correspondent for Voice of America (VOA) tweeted Tuesday saying the sources have confirmed that the Iranian-made drone shot down by the U.S. fighter jet was being operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday it would exert new control over the skies of western Syria in response to the downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the U.S. Air Force on Sunday, reports said. "From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any airborne objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets," CNN reported citing the Defense Ministry statement. The U.S. military has established a roughly 50-kilometer "deconfliction" ring around al-Tanf and has warned the pro-Assad forces -- through a Russian deconfliction channel -- that movement within the zone could be considered hostile and the Iranian drone was outside that deconfliction area when it was shot down, the Washington Post reported citing a U.S. defense official.
Reuters reported Wednesday U.S. officials are concerned such cutting-edge technologies as artificial intelligence and machine learning could be used by the Chinese to augment their military capabilities and achieve greater advancements in strategic industries. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are seen as key components of the military drone program, which is an integral part of the fight against the Islamic State group. Reuters said it had reviewed a Pentagon report that warns China is avoiding U.S. oversight and gaining access to sensitive technology as the debate continues on strengthening the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies based on national security considerations. An aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Reuters the lawmaker is working on legislation that would give the committee, which is composed by representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, State and Energy, more authority to block some technology investments.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles, is being deployed in Seongju in order to protect South Korea from Pyongyang's growing threats. "It was confirmed that (the craft) took photos of the THAAD site in Seongju," a South Korean defense official told reporters, adding that the distance between the border and the zone in North Gyeongsang Province is around 168 miles. A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. "The THAAD defensive missile system is critical to protecting South Koreans from Kim Jong Un's arsenal," U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said in a statement last week.
Just days after China announced plans to grow its defense budget, the country's largest missile maker has started developing military drones with stealth abilities that can evade anti-aircraft weapons, local media reported Thursday. The move comes as China continues to advance in its military modernization program amid growing threats from its neighbors and the West. Amid tensions with U.S. over the South China Sea, and the recent threats from North Korea after its missile launches, China, which is ranked third in the list of biggest military in the world has stepped up research into military drones. Tensions between China and the U.S. erupted after Beijing's island building and military advancement in the disputed South China Sea, through which over $5 trillion of maritime trade passes annually.