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The Global Hypersonic Weapons Race and South Asia

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Over the last few years, some of the prominent nuclear powers in the world have been involved in a race to develop hypersonic weapons. Countries like the US, Russia, and China have up till now developed hypersonic weapons systems comprised mainly of hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). In South Asia, India too aspires to develop hypersonic weapons aimed at enhancing its offensive counterforce military capabilities and achieving the status of great power. Given the evolved nuclear weapons dynamics, the emergence of hypersonic weapons seems to be significant for international security architecture. In this regard, the race in hypersonic weapons would likely serve as the destabilizing factor as it would provoke a new global arms race. Furthermore, it would also likely trigger the development of laser weapons, hypersonic anti-missile systems, and unmanned delivery systems as a first strike option at the global and regional levels.

In the year 2011, the US had reportedly launched its first Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW); a glide vehicle that successfully hit the target at a range of 3700 kilometers. In another landmark achievement, the US also developed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, capable of Mach 20 speed. In addition to this, the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) missile is also under development, having a speed of Mach 5. The said weapon came into the spotlight when recently on June 10 it was accidentally dropped by a US strategic bomber during a trail. US hypersonic weapons program also includes the development of Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) vehicle, which is believed to be in response to Russia’s Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, and the HyRAX unmanned craft projects respectively. With these developments, the US aims to neutralize both Russia’s and China’s significant developments being carried out in this sphere for the last few years.

In the same vein, Russia is known to have developed and deployed a hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard that too can reach an incredible speed of Mach 20. Moreover, Russia has developed ‘KH-47M2 Kinzhal’ hypersonic cruise missile with a reported range of 1200 kilometers and capable of achieving Mach 10 speed. China’s hypersonic weapons inventory comprises of; DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle compatible with DF-17 ballistic missiles capable of reaching Mach 10, the weapons are expected to be operational by end 2020. Also, China is reportedly developing air-launched CH-AS-X-13 missile, speculated to achieve a speed of Mach 10 speed with a range of up to 1500 kilometers. According to some reports in international media, Japan also intends to indigenously develop its hypersonic weapons. This includes Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) and the Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile (HVGP)planned to be operational in the late 2020s. These developments are aimed at achieving a landmark in hypersonic capabilities.

In this context, the South Asian region also has significance where the emergence of hypersonic technology is quite visible. Most recently on June 12, 2020, India conducted its first on-field test under an indigenous project to develop a hypersonic unmanned scramjet cruise missile namely Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV). India is also reportedly developing another hypersonic cruise missile BrahMos-II in collaboration with Russia that too is aimed at achieving Mach 7 hypersonic speed. As per the estimates, there is still a long way to go for India to get its hypersonic BrahMos-II missile operational. Still, India’s hypersonic capabilities would likely bring new challenges to regional security. They will further embolden India resort to a counterforce first strike against Pakistan. It would also provide India a decisive edge vis-à-vis Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities. In the same way, Pakistan won’t be in a position to deter India from using hypersonic weapons in case of any future conflict keeping in view India’s eagerness to develop hypersonic weapons. 

It is pertinent to highlight that hypersonic weapons are widely considered to be deadly weapons based on their certain specifications. These include; incredible speed and maneuverability and long-range as compared to ballistic and cruise missiles. Similarly, hypersonic weapons can easily penetrate any advanced air defence shield currently available and in the near future as well. In the South Asian context, if India gets its hypersonic weapons operationalized, the region would become more vulnerable and prone to a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan. Likewise, it would further add to Pakistan’s security to be at stake. Such a situation would increasingly become more complex given the short flight times and the 3,133 kilometers of the border (including LoC) between the two countries. At the hypersonic level, it would likely be a matter of a minute or two for India to initiate the first strike in absence of a credible countermeasure. These geographical circumstances would likely provide India an edge vis-à-vis Pakistan thus becoming a considerable challenge.

At present, the hypersonic race at the global level as well as its emergence in South Asia poses a serious threat to international and regional security. Currently, there is no credible anti-missile system or interceptor that could successfully detect and destroy hypersonic weapons. In addition to the US, Russia, and China’s hypersonic rivalry, there are prospects of hypersonic weapons in South Asia based on India’s aspiration of these dangerous weapons. The prospects of the global arms control regime, to stop hypersonic proliferation seems to be very less likely. This is also evident from the abandonment of the INF Treaty, the ABM Treaty, and the likely fate of New START. Similarly, India’s likely acquisition of hypersonic weapons along with its other counterforce preemptive capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan would disturb the strategic stability of South Asia. Though Pakistan’s threat perception is mainly inclined towards India, it has relied on a credible nuclear deterrence approach. It would also encourage India to mold the South Asian deterrence equation in its favor. Pakistan needs to look into this threat more cautiously and come up with some plausible countermeasures to balance the strategic environment of the region.

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Defense

Israel continues its air strikes against Syria after Biden’s inauguration: What’s next?

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A family of four, including two children, died as a result of an alleged Israeli air strike on Hama in northwestern Syria on Friday, January 22, Syrian media said. In addition, four people were injured and three civilian houses were destroyed.

According to a military source quoted by Syrian outlets, Israel launched an air strike at 4 a.m. on Friday from the direction of Lebanese city of Tripoli against some targets on the outskirts of Hama city.

“Syrian air defense systems confronted an Israeli air aggression and shot down most of the hostile missiles,” the source said.

The Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post reported that there were loud sounds of explosions in the area.

In turn, the Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on alleged strikes resulted in the death of Syrian citizens.

Over the past time, Israel significantly stepped up its aerial bombardment. This incident was the fifth in a series of Israeli air attacks on targets in Syria in the past month and the first after the inauguration of the U.S. President Joe Biden. Foreign analysts and military experts said that Tel Aviv intensified air strikes on Syria, taking advantage of the vacuum of power in the United States on the eve of Biden taking office as president.

While the Donald Trump administration turned a blind eye on such aggression, a change of power in the United States could remarkably limit Israel in conducting of military operations against Syria and Iran-affiliated armed groups located there. As it was stated during his presidential campaign, Joe Biden intends to pursue a more conciliatory foreign policy towards Iran. In particular, he unequivocally advocated the resumption of the nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In this regard, Tel Aviv’s unilateral actions against Iranian interests in Syria could harm Washington’s plans to reduce tensions with Tehran.

By continuing air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, Israel obviously sent a massage to the United States that Tel Aviv will consistently run anti-Iran policy, even if it will be in conflict with the interests of the Joe Biden administration. On the other hand, such Israeli behavior threatens to worsen relations with the United States, its main ally.

In the nearest future, the US reaction on the Israeli belligerent approach toward Iran will likely determine whether the relations between Tehran, Tel Aviv and Washington will get better or the escalation will continue.

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India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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Defense

A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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