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Globally Top-Respected Experts on Middle East Warn Syrian War May Produce WW III

Eric Zuesse

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Abdel Bari Atwan, the retired editor-in-chief (1989-2013) of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi and author of widely respected books on the Middle East, headlined on February 18th, “A superpower confrontation could be triggered by accident in Syria” and he opened: Qatar’s plans to build a gas pipeline to the Mediterranean were a major cause of the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Seven years on, Syria’s oil and gas reserves east of the Euphrates, and especially around Deir az-Zour, have the potential to trigger World War III.

Four military aircraft were downed over Syria in the course of one week: an Israel F-16 shot down by a Russian-made Syrian missile; a Russian jet hit by an American-made shoulder-fired MANPADS; an Iranian pilotless drone intercepted by Israeli missiles; and a Turkish helicopter brought down in the countryside of Afrin by US-backed Kurdish fighters.

Warplanes from at least six countries crowd Syria’s airspace, including those of the American and Russian superpowers, while numerous proxy wars rage on the ground below involving Arab, regional and international parties.

Atwan goes on to note the reason why the war has ratcheted up after Donald Trump became America’s President: The US has made clear that it has no intention of withdrawing its 2,000 military personnel from Syria even after the expiry of the original pretext for deploying them, namely to fight the Islamic State (IS) group. Administration officials have repeatedly affirmed that these forces will remain indefinitely in order to counter Iranian influence in the country.

Trump has abandoned former U.S. President Barack Obama’s excuse for invading Syria, and replaced it by what is now clearly an American hot war against Iran, which indisputably has become the U.S. President’s target — no longer (even if only as an excuse) ISIS or “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Iran never attacked the U.S. However, Iran did overthrow the U.S.-installed Shah in 1979 and capture the U.S. Embassy, which had ruled Iran (and allowed or disallowed what the Shah did) ever since America’s 1953 coup there overthrew Iran’s democratically elected progressive secular Government and installed instead the Shah’s brutal dictatorship. But the aggression was by the U.S. Government, not by Iran’s Government.

And, after 1979, Iran never committed aggression against the United States; so, the U.S. is entirely in the wrong, now, to be planning (or instructing Israel) how to destroy Iran.

This U.S. President clearly wants an invasion of Iran, which Israel is now preparing to launch.

Iran is an ally of Russia. On February 19th, Russia’s Tass news agency headlined “Moscow calls on US not to play with fire in Syria” and reported the Russian Foreign Minister’s statement: “I once again call on our American colleagues not to play with fire and measure their steps proceeding not from immediate needs of today’s political environment, but rather from long-term interests of the Syrian people and of all peoples of this region.”

Here is a description of what will likely be entailed if Israel launches a military attack against Iran; it was published on February 22nd, by Russian geostrategic expert Peter Korzun, under the headline “Israel and Iran: Inching Toward Conflict”If Iran itself is attacked, its sites related to its nuclear program will top the list of the prime targets for Israel’s F-35, F-15, F-16, and Kfir fighters, drones, and intermediate-range Jericho missiles. There are different routes they could take, but all of them would require flying through the airspaces of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, or Turkey. None of these Muslim countries will openly allow Israel to use their airspace, but anti-Iran sentiments are strong in the Sunni-dominated Arab states. Some of them might be willing to look the other way. A clandestine agreement to tacitly allow Israeli aircraft to cross their air space is entirely possible. Anger could be vented publicly once the mission has been completed.

Iraq is not focused on monitoring its airspace – it has many other problems to deal with and Israel could take advantage of that. The route through Iraq looks like it might be the best option.

The distance that would need to be covered would be between 1,500 km (930 miles) and 1,800 km (1,120 miles). The aircraft will also have to make a return trip, so in-flight refueling will be a necessity. Israel is only believed to own between eight and ten large tanker aircraft (such as Boeing 707s). That will hardly be enough. The Israeli military is not particularly adept at aerial refuelling. If the aircraft have to fly undetected, the F-35s will have to forgo their externally mounted weapons in order to preserve their stealth capabilities. Then their payload will be reduced to only two JDAM-guided bombs in the internal bay. Pretty underwhelming.

Then Iran’s radars will have to be spoofed, and its air defenses, especially the Russian-made S-300, will have to be knocked out. It won’t be easy.

Israel has a few dozen laser-guided bunker buster bombs (the GBU-28). The Jericho III is an Israeli three-stage solid propellant missile with a payload of more than a ton and capable of carrying multiple low-yield independently targeted reentry warheads. All the targets in Iran fall within its range of up to 6,500 km (4,038 miles). These missile strikes are capable of destroying every command and control site, as well as all major nuclear facilities.

The Heron-2 and Eitan drones can hover in the air for more than 20 consecutive hours to provide guidance and intelligence and to jam Iranian communications and confuse its radar.

Israel would wage electronic warfare against Iran’s military and civilian infrastructure, such as its electric grids and Internet, creating interference with Iran’s emergency frequencies.

After the war has begun, Israel will come under rocket and missile attack from Iran’s proxies: Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah has up to 150,000 rockets that can reach anywhere in Israel. It is true however, that Israel possesses a sophisticated, multilayer, air-defense shield. A first-class intelligence and early-warning system will mitigate the fallout, but substantial damage will be unavoidable.

Israeli troops will have to deploy in the Strip and move across the Lebanese border. But the Shia group will have to fight on two fronts: in Syria to prop up the Assad government, and in Lebanon against Israel. Syria is likely to find itself involved in combat operations. Israel will go to any length to keep Iran and Hezbollah away from its border.

Iran may try to block the Strait of Hormuz. But even if it does not, global oil prices would go up. Iran or its proxies might attack US forces in the Middle East, primarily in Syria and Iraq. Should that happen, Iraq would likely become a battleground between US forces and Iranian proxies, with American reinforcements rushing in. Iran could punish the Americans for their support of Israel in Afghanistan.

An attack against Russia’s ally would be an attack that will significantly weaken Russia. Will Russia come to the defense of its ally, the victim of this uncalled-for invasion by America’s proxy, Israel? Will Russia retaliate by destroying Israel — and maybe destroying also its sponsor?

Most scenarios for a world-ending nuclear war entail “errors,” or else a traditional non-nuclear conflict (perhaps in Syria, or in Ukraine — or it could be in Iran, or in North Korea) producing victory for one side (it could be either the U.S. versus Russia, in Syria, Ukraine, or Iran; or else the U.S. versus China, in North Korea), unless the other side (it could be either Russia versus the U.S., or else China versus the U.S.) blitz-launches almost its entire nuclear arsenal against the other side and against the other side’s strategically key allies. (For example, if Israel invades Iran, then perhaps Russia will launch a blitz-nuclear invasion of both Israel and the United States.) The first-to-strike in an all-out war between the nuclear superpowers will have the best chance of winning (i.e., in military parlance “winning” means simply inflicting more damage on the other side than it inflicts upon the “winner” — regardless of how damaged both sides — and the rest of the world — are). If the U.S. or its allies invade more than they’ve already done (practically all allies of Russia), then a blitz from Russia and/or China would be reasonable, because then obviously the U.S. aims to become conqueror of the entire world — the only super-power. Once one side has lost the traditional conflict in Syria and/or Ukraine, or elsewhere, the other side will either unleash its nuclear stockpile against the other (except for whatever anti-missiles it holds in reserve against any of the enemy’s missiles that haven’t yet been destroyed in that blitz-attack), or else it will surrender to the other. There will be a ‘winner’, but the entire world will be the loser. This is what America’s ‘democracy’ has brought us to.

Billionaires (including owners of controlling interests in weapons-manufacturers whose main or only customers are the U.S. Government and its allied governments — the ‘democratic’ decision-makers who had won political power because of donations from those billionaires) are planning to survive nuclear war. There seem to be two main ways:

Google this line: billionaires moving to “new zealand”

Others are buying bunkers deep underground in countries where they already reside — such as here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here — to protect themselves from the nuclear blasts, though nothing can protect anyone (not even, ultimately in New Zealand) from the resulting nuclear winter, and global famine and die-off.

More about what’s behind this can be seen in an excellent article by Edward Curtin, which has been published at a number of terrific news-sites — especially Greanville Post, Counter Currents, Global Research, and Off-Guardian (all four of which sites are prime ones to visit regularly, if a person wants to understand today’s world) — and it is aptly titled “The Coming Wars to End All Wars”.

originally posted at The Saker

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Defense

India’s strategies short of war against a hostile China

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Since India’s independence several peace and border cooperation agreements were signed between the India and China. Prominent among them was the Panchsheel Agreement signed in 1954. A majority of the agreements were signed between 1993 and 2013. Recently genuine efforts were made by PM Narendra Modi by engaging Xi Jinping at the Wuhan and Chennai summits. But China is nowhere near to settling the border dispute despite various agreements and talks at the military and civilian levels.

After the 1962 war peace was largely maintained on the Indo China border. During the Mao and Deng era consensus building was the norm in the communist party. XiJinping appointed himself as chairman of the communist party for life. Today power is centralized with XiJinping and his cabal. Through Doklam and Galwan incidents Xi Jinpinghas disowned the peaceful principles laid down by his predecessors. China’s strategy is to keep India engaged in South Asia as it doesn’t want India to emerge as a super power. After solving a crisis on the border China will create another crisis. Beijing has declining interest in the niceties of diplomacy. Under Xi Jinping China has become more hostile.

China has been infringing on India’s sovereignty through salami tactics by changing the status quo and attempting to own the border territory. At Galwan on Xi Jinping’s birthday the PLA demonstrated hooliganism by assaulting Indian border positions. China violated the 1996 and 2005 bilateral agreements which states that both armies should not carry weapons within 1.24 miles on either side of the border. India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar mentioned that the standoff situation with China in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh is “surely the most serious situation after 1962.”China is constructing infrastructure, increasing forces and deploying weapon systems on the border.

Options for India

India led by PM Narendra Modi has implemented a realist foreign policy and a muscular military policy.India ended the age of strategic restraint by launching special operations and air strikes in Pakistan. Since the Galwan incident India has increased the military, diplomatic and economic deterrence against China. India is constructing military infrastructure and deploying weapon systems like SU 30 MKI and T 90 tanks in Ladakh. India banned a total of 224 Chinese apps, barred Chinese companies from government contracts and is on the verge of banning Huawei. Other measures include excluding Chinese companies from private Indian telecommunications networks. Chinese mobile manufacturers can be banned from selling goods in India.

India should offer a grand strategy to China. India has a plethora of options short of war. Future talks should involve an integrated strategy to solve all the bilateral issues and not just an isolated resolution of a localized border incident. All instruments of military and economic power and coercive diplomacy should be on the table.

Foreign Policy

China expects other nations to follow bilateral agreements and international treaties while it conveniently violates them. India should abrogate the Panscheel agreement given China’s intransigence and hostility. China claims 35,000 square miles of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. China occupies 15,000 square miles of India’s territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas. India’s primary objective is to take back territories like Aksai Chin. While the secondary issue is the resolution of the border issue and China’s support to Pakistan. India can leverage the contemporary geopolitical climate to settle all issues. India can target China’s soft underbelly characterized by issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and the economy. China raises the Kashmir issue at international organizations. As a countervailing measure India can raise Xinjiang at international organizations and conferences.

China has been militarily and diplomatically supporting Pakistan against India. Pakistan is a rentier and a broken state that sponsors terrorism. India can establish bilateral relations with Taiwan thus superseding China’s reunification sensitivities. China has territorial disputes with 18 countries including Taiwan and Japan. India can hedge against China by establishing strategic partnerships with US, Australia, Japanand Vietnam.

Military policy

An overwhelming military is a deterrence for China’s belligerent foreign and military policy. The 1990Gulf War demonstrated the capabilities of high technology weapon systems. As compared to China’s rudimentary weapons systems India has inducted 4th and 5th generation weapons like the SU 30 MKI, AH 64 Apache and T 90 tanks. The deterrence capacity of fighter aircrafts is reduced as they cannot target China’s coastlines due to their restricted range. Full deterrence can be achieved by ICBMs and nuclear powered submarines. With these weapons India can target centers of gravity like Shanghai and Shenzhen.

China is not a signatory to arms limitations treaties like Start I and Start II. China continues to expand its nuclear weapons stockpile and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) like DF 21 and DF-26B which are banned by the INF Treaty. India is a law abiding stable democracy in an unstable region with two hostile nations on its flanks. US and Russia can relax the arms control mechanism considering India’s’ impeccable record on peace and non proliferation. This will allow India to buy Russian weapon systems like Zircon and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, Topol and Bulava ICBMs and Yasen and Borey class SSBN submarines. While US can sell SSBN submarines and C4ISR gathering platforms like RC 135 and RQ 4 Global Hawk.

China remains a security threat for Asia. As China foments instability the APAC region from South Asia to South China Sea remains volatile. The Quad can be expanded to include Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia and multinational naval exercises can conducted in the South China Sea.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. China fought small wars with India, Vietnam and Soviet Union. Vietnam defeated the PLA at Lang Son in 1979 with advanced weapon systems and guerilla warfare. India can increase militarily cooperation with Vietnam. China attacked the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river leading to heavy PLA casualties. Historically relations between Russia and India have been close. As a result of the Indo Soviet Friendship Treaty China did not support Pakistan during the 1971 war. India can enhance its military and diplomatic ties with Russia to the next level.

Strategic partnership with US

Its time for a partnership between the world’s largest and the world’s biggest democracies. India and the US have a common objective to preserve peace, maintain stability and enhance security in Asia. India’s reiteration at leaders’ level and international forums that both countries see each other as allies for stability in the APAC region is not enough. India has to go beyond the clichés of the need for closer ties.

Due to the China threat the US is shifting its military from Europe and Middle East to the APAC region.US and India can establish an Asian equivalent of NATO as China’s destructive policy frameworks and threatening postures remain a strategic threat. India should enhance and deepen cooperation with the US intelligence community in the fields of MASINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, TECHINT and CYBINT. Both countries can form an alliance of democracies. If China militarily or economically targets one of the member country then the alliance can retaliate under a framework similar to Article 5 of NATO. Thus power will be distributed in the APAC region instead of being concentrated with China. A scorpion strategy will ensure that China does not harass its neighbors. The strategy involves a military pincer movement by India from the west and US from the East against a hostile China. India can conduct joint military exercises with the US in Ladakh. China cannot challenge Japan and Taiwan due to the US security agreements with these countries.

Conclusion

The world has entered the age of instability and uncertainty. The 21st century is characterized by hybrid warfare through military and coercive diplomacy. South Asia is not a friendly neighborhood where peaceful overtures lead to harmonious relations. China is a threat to India even in the context of a friendly relationship. Diplomatic niceties have no place in India’s relations with China. India can impose costs on China which can be more than the benefits offered by normalizing relations. The application of measures short of war without engaging the PLA will reap benefits. India can fulfill its national security requirements and global responsibilities through a grand strategy.

A policy of engagement and deterrence is crucial against an antagonistic China. While India attempts to develop cooperative ties with China it will need to continue to enhance and implement its military and coercive diplomatic strategies. China does not represent a direct military threat to India but at the same time one cannot deny that challenges remain.

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COVID-19 and Challenges to the Indian Defence Establishment

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created an uncertain situation all over the world. It is defined as the greatest challenge faced by the world since World War II. At a certain point, the pandemic had forced world governments to announce lockdowns in their respective countries that led to more than half of the human population being home quarantined. Since then, social distancing, travel bans, and cancellation of international summits have become a routine exercise. Most sectors such as agriculture, health, education, economy, manufacturing have been severely hit across the globe. One such sector which is vital to national security that has been impacted due to the pandemic is defence.

The effect of influenza and pneumonia during WWI on the US military was huge. The necessity to mobilise troops across the Atlantic made it even ideal for the diseases to spread rapidly among the defence personnel and civilians. Between mid-1917 and 1919, the fatalities were more so due to the disease than getting killed in action. Due to COVID-19, there have been many implications within the defence sector. Amid the ongoing transgressions in Ladakh, it becomes imperative to analyse the preparedness of the Indian defence establishment to tackle the challenges at hand.

Disrupting the Status Quo

Many personnel in the Indian armed forces have been tested positive for COVID-19. This puts the operational capabilities at risk. In one isolated incident, 26 personnel of the Navy had been placed in quarantine after being tested positive for COVID-19. The French and the Americans had a great challenge ahead of them as hundreds of soldiers were getting infected onboard their Naval vessels. Furthermore, the Army saw some cases being tested positive as well. In one such incident, the headquarters of the Indian Army had to be temporarily shut down because of a soldier contracting the virus. These uncalled disruptions are very dangerous for our armed forces. These disruptions challenge the recruitment process and training exercises.

Since the Indian Army has been involved in quarantining tasks, this exposes the personnel to the virus. As a result of this, the first soldier was tested positive on March 20 in Leh. Among them, those who work as medical personnel are even more exposed to the virus. In order to enforce damage control to the operational capabilities, the Army made sure that the non-essential training, travel, and attending conferences remained cancelled. They called off any foreign assignments and postings for the time being. The Army also made it a point to extend leaves for that personnel who were already on absence. This was a major preventive measure adopted to prevent further infection.

As a result of the lockdown that had been imposed nationwide, the defence services were forced to temporarily stall all the activities that relate to soldiering during peacetime. These activities include training, pursuing professional qualification, fitness tests and regimes, equipment maintenance such as unit assets and stores, up-gradation of the cadres among others. Since the Indian Army boasts of a force that has signed up voluntarily to guard the borders, most of the troops are away from their families, which makes it even more difficult during the times of crises. The mega biennial naval exercises scheduled to be held in Vizag were cancelled due to COVID-19. A total of 41 navies were planned to be a part of the joint exercises called MILAN. The Service Selection Board (SSB) training and the recruitment process have been put to a halt as well. This will severely impact the intake process for this year.

Handling Biohazards

The Army’s capable of operating in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) environment and has sufficient equipment like infantry vehicles, helicopters and tanks which can operate without any hassles. Since instances of chemical warfare have been witnessed in West Asia and other regions in the last two decades, the focus of the Army has been on that and not on biological warfare. Most Armies believe that bio-weaponry is still fictional and won’t come into play any time soon. Naturally, due to this mindset, most Armies are not capable of handling biohazards. This is a major setback in the time of COVID-19 and has to be addressed.

Riding Down the Slope

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian economy has been nose-diving day by day. This is some bad news for the defence sector since the military spending will possibly be reduced as a result of the slowdown. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent. This is one of the lowest in the history of post-independent India. Allocations and spendings will naturally take a hit and will take a long time to revive again. Defence manufacturing will also face a setback and discourage indigenous players who are looking at getting involved in the manufacturing and innovation sector. MoD has already received the Ministry of Finance’s circular that called for the defence spending to be limited to 15-20 per cent of the total amount allocated. This will ensure that the defence budget is not the priority for the finance ministry. A gap of Rs. 1,03,000 crore has been highlighted between the requirement and the allocated money. More than 60 per cent of this allocated amount anyway goes towards paying salaries and pensions. This means that the modernisation efforts will face a major slowdown in the next two years. Defence procurement is already difficult due to the bureaucratic hurdles, now the monetary crunch only adds more woes.

Moreover, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had announced earlier that more than 9,000 posts belonging to the Military Engineering Services (MES) will be abolished in the said industrial division. The reason cited was that this would bring about a balance to the expenditure. Due to the lockdown, the military development has taken a hit and has seen a decline in the production of freights. As of now, there is no manufacturing that is ongoing as far as fighter planes or aircraft, in general, is concerned. Some of the signed defence deals and contracts are said to be reviewed due to the financial crunch. India’s defence budget is expected to see some cuts due to the economy slowing down. The pandemic has worsened this even further. There is already an existing order to cap the spending for the first quarter of this fiscal year. Most of the payments that are being disbursed is largely that of paying for the existing contracts. This will diminish any scope for procurement of newer defence equipment that helps in modernising the armed forces in the long run. According to a report, it says that the Ministry of Defence is looking at a savings of anywhere between Rs. 400 and 800 billion in the 2020-21 financial year. To quote Yuval Noah Harari from his recent article in the Financial Times would seem relevant in this case, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours.”  India has displayed the significant political will to make impactful decisions during the pandemic. The question is, how far and how soon can we push ourselves to be prepared on all fronts?

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Rafale deal: A change in aerial balance in South Asia?

Shaheer Ahmad

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The induction of the first consignment of five Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force inventory is considered to be a game-changer in the aerial balance of the South Asian region. A multi-billion-dollar package will be beneficial to increase the air prowess of Indian Airforce. While equipped with weapons of tangible accuracy including long-range SCALP and Meteor missiles, it will be able to hunt any target with accurate precision.  The arrival of French-made engines has concerned neighboring Pakistan and China due to its high accuracy of conducting sea and ground attacks.

The experience of operation ‘Swift Retort’ and Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, compelled New Delhi to introspect the efficiency of IAF in any major or minor engagement in the future. The deal to acquire Rafale fighting jets to plug the loopholes in the aerial power of IAF was inked in September 2016.  This induction is meant to enhance the Indian Air force’s operational capabilities and will also assist it to overcome the technological disparity with the US manufactured Pakistan’s F-16 and Chinese Chengdu JF-17 thunder. However, the task for PAF to restrict IAF moves in the future has become more challenging. Despite its competence and better training of its personals as compared to IAF the air superiority is still not guaranteed if the technological gap between IAF and PAF gets wider. Notably, it’s hard to assess the proficiencies of one jet over another because the ‘man behind the machine is more critical’. 

Rafale is a twin-engine Medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRC) whose design instigate from Dassault Mirage with an up to date frame of the 1990s, already used by the French Navy and air force as well as by Egypt and Qatar. Furthermore, these jets were also engaged in combat missions in Afghanistan and Libya where they demonstrated a high proficiency. Whilst JF-17 thunder holds a conventional design originating from Mig 33 having an airframe of 1980s and it also demonstrated its capabilities in PAF’s Operation “Swift Retort”.

In an overall assessment, JF17 is a lightweight, conventional, fuel-economical, and cost-effective jet aircraft. The most momentous factor in JF17 thunder is it’s beyond visual range capabilities and integration of AESA radar that will not only allow detecting the wide-ranged targets but also to detect and lock multiple targets instantaneously. Meanwhile, it is less disposed to jamming and leaves a low sign to radar that makes the detection of fighter difficult hence increasing its reliability. Moreover, a crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform and its cost-effectiveness makes itself a suitable aircraft for the Pakistan air force. Similarly, the ability of any up-gradation domestically for JF-17 also increases the feasibility of this aircraft, while Rafale lacks this opportunity because Indians lack the platform that can guarantee any domestic up-gradation for Rafale. Generally, Dassault Rafale is advanced in airframe, delta wing Canard design, semi stealth specter to counter threats as well as MBDA meteor that makes it a very affluent fighter with a high operational cost.

Rafales are considered superior over existing fighter jets present in PAF inventory and with the advanced technology they will relish an edge over Pakistani jets. But in case of any aerial engagement on Pakistani soil, Experts orate that in such a scenario Pakistani fighters will enjoy an edge due to its enhanced Air defense ground environment (ADGE) and also a window will remain open for PAF that when and where to carry out a counter strike as it did during operation ‘Swift Retort’. In such case, Indian numerical advantage and war resilience will be of less significance because these factors are relished by the party having a counter-strike option and that party will decide that how much allocation of resources is needed to engage for a mission after having a careful assessment of adversary’s air defense capabilities.

It’s also important to know that PAF and IAF can carry out surprise air raids nearby to the international border in peacetime without the probability of interception by adversary radars. Neither sides have the strength and capabilities to maintain 24/7 air surveillance across a 3323-kilometer long international border. Hence it’s also necessary for Pakistan to counter or deter any kind of surgical or tactical strike in the future. But the concern is still there that after the Balakot experience will India be deterred for conducting similar strikes in the future?

While viewing this scenario and having an experience of Balakot episode, PAF efforts to enhance its capabilities of airborne intercept radar and BVR missiles in JF-17 thunder’s fleet are noteworthy.  However, PAF should pursue an up-gradation on its existing F16 squadron. The presence of Rafale and S-400 air defense system will be challenging for PAF to retaliate, but the Indian S-400 and Rafale jets can’t shield the whole international border so the PAF needs a careful assessment to choose the targets that are not under the umbrella of S-400 or the access of Rafales while keeping in mind not to carry out an action that can trigger the adversary towards any escalation.

In a nutshell, the arrival of French-made engines equipped with long-range SCALP and meteor missiles having high precision is not only beneficial for Indian air prowess but it has also concerned its neighbors notably Pakistan for countermeasures. The experience of Operation Swift Retort and the recent military standoff in Ladakh has compelled New Delhi to modernize its Soviet-era air force by the induction of Dassault Rafales that will provide IAF an edge over the existing fighter jets in PAF’s inventory. However, the crop numerical advantage and training aptitude due to the use of a similar platform increases the feasibility of JF-17 thunder in PAF’s inventory. Hence in case of any aerial engagement in future the numerical advantage will be of more concern as 100+ JF-17 thunders will relish an edge over 36 Rafales and PAF will have the option of counterstrike that when and where to carry out a retaliation after carefully assessing the adversary capabilities in light of S-400 air defense system and Dassault Rafales. Hence Rafale jets have air superiority over existing Pakistani fighter jets but it can’t alter the aerial balance in South Asian region unilaterally.

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