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A comparison of strategic doctrines

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In principle it is not political choices that generate strategic doctrines. The opposite is true, if anything.

 In the case of China, for example, it is very useful to study the evolution of recent strategic assumption and the most current military doctrines so as to later analyse political and even ideological changes.

Hence, which are China’s future and preferential battlefields? Which are the threats that the Chinese decision-makers regard as primary and what is their origin? What wars will China wage and fight? Indeed, inter alia, a strategic doctrine also answers these questions.

First and foremost, China’s military leadership has shifted the centre of gravity of its defence activities from the terrestrial centre of the country to the peripheries, hence mainly to the coasts and, ultimately, to China’s regional seas.

 During the Cold War, China had adopted a defensive “all-out war”.

Currently the Chinese doctrine mainly concerns regional and limited wars, restrained both in time and space and in the use of force.

 This means that currently China has not yet vast global interests to defend with a war. It will soon have them, however.

 Moreover, currently the Chinese political and military decision-makers do not believe that – in the not too distant future – China will be involved in a global sea or territorial war.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a full monopoly of force in China.

  Moreover, the PLA does not depend directly on the Ministry of Defence, but only on the Communist Party of China (CPC).

 The PLA’s high-ranking officers report directly to the CPC’s Central Military Commission and not to other entities. Hence they take orders only from it. The PLA’s Commander-in-Chief is the General Secretary of the CPC; the Defence Minister reports only to the State Council and the Central Military Commission is only a very powerful body of the CPC.

With specific reference to military spending, the latest data reports a PLA’s annual cost of 250 billion U.S. dollars while, for example, the U.S. military budget amounts to 649 billion U.S. dollars, again based on the latest data available.

 The Chinese ground forces consist of 975,000 units, while the Navy of 240,000 and the Air Force of 395,000 units. The Strategic Missile Force uses 100,000 units, while the Strategic Support Force finally operates with 175,000 soldiers.

 Other unspecified tasks and functions are performed by 150,000 soldiers and officers.

As to materials used and weapons – which are a strategic indication and not just a mere information item – the PLA has 70 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 162 bombers; 3,860 armoured combat vehicles for infantry; 6,740 tanks and 13,420 artillery pieces; 57 missiles for submarine launch; 1 aircraft carrier, as well as 82 frigates and cruisers; 4 amphibious ships; 1,966 tactical aircraft; 246 attack helicopters and, finally, 77 military satellites.

So far the PLA has deeply studied the example of the U.S. war in Iraq and hence of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).

This means a war fought above all with advanced technologies, communication networks and particularly with the highest-precision weapons and information technology.

 Until the RMA adoption, China relied above all on the clear numerical superiority of its ground forces.

 In other words, the Chinese military doctrine was based on the fight against a land invasion or an occupation but, after the Gulf War and the Iraqi war waged and led by the United States, China began to reduce the size of its ground forces so as to focus on more technologically advanced and better trained Forces.

 Another key factor of Chinese military modernization has been Taiwan’s political status.

During the 1997 crisis, in fact, China did not succeed in discovering the way and extent of U.S. military engagement in the region.

 It was after this failure that China began to produce anti-ship missiles, medium range ballistic missiles, A2 anti-ship missiles and other anti-access-area denial weapons, as well as cyber- and anti-satellite weapons.

As a whole, the People’s Republic of China has developed four military doctrines since 1949.

 The doctrines developed before 1993, however, were all centred on the Maoist concept of “People’s War”, i.e. the “long-term People’s War”.

It was mainly based on maintaining the support of civilian population for the Armed Forces and on combining the efforts of the working class and of the “Red Army” led by the CPC.

 The strategic goal of the “People’s War”was to force enemies to enter China’s large central area, where they would be besieged and then defeated, again by the combined effect of the working class and the Red Army.

 In essence, the People’s War was aimed at being prolonged as much as possible and hence wearing and tearing the attackers.

Moreover, again according to Mao Zedong, the “long-term war” was based on three phases: strategic retreat, strategic stalemate and strategic counter-offensive.

With a view to completing these three phases, three types of Forces were needed: the regular army, the local forces and the guerrilla warfare forces.

 However, there is no theory of political warfare – also outside Marxism – which does not envisage guerrilla warfare.

 Towards the end of the Cold War, in 1980 China adopted the concept of the “People’s War under Modern Conditions”.

Again with the label of the Maoist “People’s War”, a war of defence was envisaged at various levels, which were already active at the borders, as well as far more offensive operations than those envisaged by the old “People’s War”.

 In 1993 – almost at the end of the Cold War, in which Mao Zedong never believed – China adopted a new doctrine, called “Winning Local Wars under High-Tech Conditions”.

While initially thePLA was thinking about a war of defence against a land invasion, in the case of that doctrine the Chinese decision-makers imagined a peripheral war in high-tech conditions.

 In other words, a defensive war against an attack by Taiwan, Japan, the United States or their regional allies.

 And by the Russian Federation, as well. The Chinese doctrine was no longer defensive, as it even suggested a first strike, including a nuclear one, to immediately provide China with an advantage over the attacker.

 The key concepts of the 1993 doctrine were the following: the “strategic frontier”, i.e. the limit beyond which you react, even with a nuclear salvo; “strategic deterrence”, which occurs when the enemy knows how China will react; “victory achieved through elite troops”, well beyond the old link between workers and the Red Army; “taking the initiative by striking first”; “victory over inferiority through superiority” – obviously of forces –  and finally “quick battles to force quick resolution”.

 A huge anthropological and cultural transformation, compared to the CPC’s political and military tradition.

 No longer war of attrition, but quick war not designed to annihilate the enemy. Then strategic deterrence is considered, i.e. the use of nuclear weapons, as well as the new role – certainly scarcely “Maoist” and scarcely “people-based” – of the elite troops.

 For Mao Zedong, at the core there was the “human sea” of his “People’s War”, not certainly the inequality between special forces and the rest of troops.

Moreover, there was another innovative aspect in the 1993 doctrine: the importance attached by China’s military decision-makers to the joint operations in its peripheries.

Reading between the lines, the CPC’s message was that, with the 1993 doctrine, China could solve the conflicts with its neighbouring countries by force.

 The 2004 doctrine was called “Winning Local Wars with Informatised Warfare”.

The core of the issue was “IT and computerization”, which replaced the more generic term used in the 1993 doctrine of “High-Tech Conditions”.

Besides underlining again the importance of joint operations, as in 1993, the 2004 doctrine highlighted the consistent, orderly and stable flow of information between the various command and control centres and the military operating on the battlefield.

 Therefore, since 2004 the core of the Chinese military reform has become the creation of a powerful command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and surveillance network (C4ISR).

The scenarios envisaged for the future war included, above all, the assault on the islands and the blockade of the islands, as well as counter-attack campaigns in border areas.

 Finally, there is also a new Chinese military doctrine, which is largely still operational.

 Released in 2014, it is called “Winning the Informatised Local Wars”.

The new Chinese “active defence” is based on it.

Although not radically changing the previous theories, the 2014 doctrine underlines the fundamental role of flexibility, mobility, joint operations, information dominance and precision raids.

 The strategic direction remains the usual one: South-East Asia and Taiwan, i.e. China, tell us – between the lines – that a future and probable conflict for Taiwan will also involve the United States.

Furthermore, the 2014 doctrine carefully sets the issue of Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTV), such as rescue operations; counter-terrorism; maintaining political and social stability; protection of rights and interests; peacekeeping activities and international humanitarian assistance.

 The Chinese PLA also distinguishes between MOOTW and Preparation for Military Struggle (PMS).

Therefore, incidentally, the primary goal is the war for conquering Taiwan, but the PLA is also preparing for regional wars in the South China Sea and Southeast Asia, while the current doctrine, from 2014 onwards, is a military theory linked to the solution of a “high-intensity conflict”.

 The Chinese planners’ idea is a “war for the destruction of systems”, as was the case during the Gulf War in 1991 or the Kosovo one in 1999.

 China currently implements the Effect Based Operation (EBO) criterion that the United States began to use in the mid-1990s.

The “war of systems” means that whoever wins paralyzes the enemies’  “system of systems”.

However, what would the United States do if it waged war against China? Most likely, it would start with operations on the Southern coast, with a view to decimating the Chinese Navy.

 This would be followed by a U.S. attack against the Chinese command and control networks to prevent the PLA from striking back immediately.

In all likelihood, China would respond by using its artificial islands in the South China Sea and initially relying on information superiority, which would be followed by a joint operation against the U.S. fleet and later by a joint attack on one or many U.S. bases in the South China Sea.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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The Nuclear future of East Asia

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In the face of North Korea and China’s continuous expansion and advancement in their nuclear arsenal in the past decade, the nuclear question for East Asian countries is now more urgent than ever—especially when U.S.’s credibility of extended deterrence has been shrinking since the post-cold war era. Whether to acquire independent nuclear deterrent has long been a huge controversy, with opinions rather polarized. Yet it is noteworthy that there is indeed gray zone between zero and one—the degree of latency nuclear deterrence.

This paper suggests that developing nuclear weapons may not be the wise choice for East Asian countries at the moment, however, given the fact that regional and international security in the Asia-Pacific is deemed to curtail, regardless of their decision to go nuclear or not, East Asia nations should increase their latency nuclear deterrence. In other words, even if they do not proceed to the final stage of acquiring independent nuclear deterrent, a latent nuclear weapons capability should at least be guaranteed. Meanwhile, for those who have already possessed certain extent of nuclear latency—for instance, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan—to shorten their breakout time whilst minimize obstacles for a possible nuclearization in the future.

The threat is ever-present—The Nuclear North Korea

Viewing from a realist perspective, the geographical locations of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have always been a valid argument for their nuclearization—being surrounded by nuclear-armed neighbors, namely China and North Korea—these countries have witnessed an escalation of threat on an unprecedented scale since the cold war.

Having its first nuclear weapon tested in 2006, the total inventory North Korea now possess is estimated to be 30-40. With the misstep of relieving certain sanction during the Trump era, North Korea was able to revive and eventually expand its nuclear arsenal, making future negotiation between the Biden administration and the Kim regime much harder and less effective. Not only has North Korea’s missile test on March 25—which is the first since Mr. Biden’s presidency—signaled a clear message to the U.S. and her allies of its nuclearization will and stance, Pyongyang’s advancement in nuclear technologies also indicates a surging extent of threat.

For instance, North Korea state media KCNA claimed that the latest missile launched was a “new-type tactical guided projectile” which is capable of performing “gliding and pull-up” manoeuvres with an “improved version of a solid fuel engine”. In addition to these suspected “new type of missiles” that travels in low-attitude, the diversity of launches Pyongyang currently possess—from short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) to submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), as well as the transporter erector launchers (TELs) and the cold launch system—increase the difficulty in intercepting them via Aegis destroyer or other ballistic missile defense system since it is onerous, if not impossible, to detect the exact time and venue of the possible launches. Indeed, the “new type of missile” could potentially render South Korea’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) useless by evading radar detection system through its manoeuvres, according to a study from 38 North at The Henry L. Stimson Center.

Moreover,  the cold launch (perpendicular launch) system used by the North also indicates that multiple nuclear weapons could be fired from the same launch pad without severely damages caused to the infrastructure. Shigeru Ishiba, the former Defense Minister of Japan, has noted that not all incoming missiles would be able to be intercepted with the country’s missile defense system, and “even if that is possible, we cannot perfectly respond to saturation attacks”.

The Chinese nuclear arsenal

According to the SIPRI yearbook 2020, China’s total inventory of nuclear deterrent has reached 320, exceeding United Kingdom and France’s possession of nuclear warheads, of which London and Paris’s nuclear deterrent were considered as limited deterrence. In spite of the fact that China’s current nuclear stockpiles is still far less that what the Russians and Americans have, its nuclear technologies has been closely following the two military superpowers. For instance, the Chinese have successfully developed Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRVs) and Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (MARVs)—its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) DF-41 is capable of equipping up to 10 MIRVs while its Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) DF-21D could carry MARV warhead that poses challenges to the BMD systems—these advancement in nuclear technologies are the solid proof that the Chinese nukes are only steps away from Moscow and Washington. Yet China’s nuclear arsenal remains unchecked and is not confined by any major nuclear arms reduction treaty such as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), of which US and Russia has just reached a mutual consensus to extend the treaty through Feb 4, 2026.

In addition to China’s expansion of military capabilities and ambition in developing hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and new MARVs, there is no lack of scepticism of its no-first use policy, especially with Beijing’s coercive diplomacy and provocative actions in the East and South China Sea, regarding “freedom of navigation” and other sovereignty rights issues. These all raise concerns and generate insecurity from neighboring countries and hence, East Asia states i.e. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan would inevitably have to reconsider their nuclear option.

In spite of having advanced BMD system, for instance, Aegis Destroyer (Japan), THAAD (South Korea), Sky Bow III (Taiwan), the existing and emerging nuclear arsenal in Pyongyang and Beijing still leave East Asian states vulnerable under a hypothetical attack as mentioned above. Future could be worse than it seems—merely having deterrence by denial is not sufficient to safeguard national security—particularly with a shrinking credibility of U.S.’s extended deterrence since the post-cold war era.

America’s nuclear umbrella and the Alliance Dilemma

Theoretically speaking, alliance relations with the U.S. assure a certain extent of deterrence by punishment against hostile adversaries. For example, U.S. is committed to defend Japan under the 1960 Mutual Defense Treaty. Yet in reality, security could never be guaranteed. In a realist lens, state could not rely on others to defend their national interests, especially when it puts America’s homeland security at risk. Is U.S. willing to sacrifice Washington for Tokyo? Or New York for Seoul?

Strong rhetoric or even defense pact would not be able to ensure collective security, let alone strategic ambiguity, which is a strategy adopted by Washington for Taipei that is neither a binding security commitment nor the stance is clear. Regardless of the prospect of a better future than mere war and chaos, state should always prepare for the worst.

Besides, with Trump’s American First policy continuously undermining alliance relations in the past four years, East Asian countries may find it hard to restore mutual trust since diplomatic tracks are irreversible, despite Biden’s administration intention and effort to repair alliance and U.S.’s integrity as the global leader.

Moreover, even if alliance relations and credibility of extended deterrence is robust at the moment, but the bigger question is—could and should East Asian countries shelter under America’s nuclear umbrella forever? If they choose not to go nuclear, these states would be constantly threatened by their nuclear-armed neighbors, without a credible direct (nuclear) deterrence to safeguard national security; and forced to negotiate, or worse, compromise in the face of a possible nuclear extortion.

Undeniably, horizontal nuclear proliferation is always risky. Not only is it likely to deteriorate diplomatic relations with neighboring countries, but also generates a (nuclear) regional arms race that eventually trap all nations into a vicious circle of security dilemma due to the lack of mutual trust in an anarchical system, which will consequently lead to a decrease in regional, as well as international security.

Yet with the expansion and advancement of Pyongyang and Beijing’s nuclear arsenal, regional and international security is deemed to curtail, regardless of East Asian countries’ decisions to go nuclear or not. As the official members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Japan’s and South Korea’s withdrawal may encourage other current non-nuclear weapon state to develop nukes. However, current existence of the NPT has already proven futile to prevent North Korea from acquiring its own nuclear weapons; or Israel, India and Pakistan, who are UN members but have never signed any of the treaties, to join the nuclear club.

The major concern about nuclear proliferation is never about the amount of warhead one possesses, but if they are in the wrong hands; for instance, a “rogue” state like North Korea. It is almost certain than none of the latent nuclear East Asia states would be considered “rogue” but just developed nations with rational calculation. In fact, the actual risk for these states joining the nuclear club in reality is not as high as most imagined. It may, indeed, help further bolster alliance relations between U.S., Japan and South Korea if they are able to come to some mutual consensuses in advance—developing independent nuclear deterrent is not an approach of alienating America’s presence as an effective ally but to strengthen security commitment with each other, and that US would support her allies in the Asia-Pacific in such attempt. The current existence of extended deterrence should not be a barrier for nuclearization. Rather, it should act as an extra protection for allied states.

Pave the way for future nuclearization

Admittedly, the road for any East Asia countries to go nuclear would be tough. Taipei’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons would imaginably trigger provocative response from Beijing, if not impossible, a pre-emptive strike that could lead to an escalation of war. Same situation goes for Seoul and Pyongyang even though the risk is relatively lower. As for Japan, although direct military confrontation is less likely comparing to Seoul and Taipei, the challenges Tokyo face for its nuclear option is no easier than any of them.

As the sole nation that has suffered from an atomic bomb explosion, Japan’s pacifism and anti-nuclear sentiment is embedded in its culture and society. According to a public opinion poll conducted by the Sankei News in 2017, 17.7% of the respondents agreed that “Japan should acquire its own nuclear weapons in the future” whilst 79.1% opposed to that idea. Despite having the imperative skills and technologies for an acquisition of independent nuclear deterrent (the breakout time for Japan is estimated to be about 6-12 months), Japan also lacks natural resources for producing nuclear warheads and has to rely heavily on uranium imports. Upholding the three non-nuclear principle since WWII, Japan’s bilateral nuclear agreements with the U.S., U.K, France and Australia specified that all imported nuclear-related equipment and materials “must be used only for the non-military purposes”. Violation of these agreements may result in sanctions that could cause devastated effect on Japan’s nuclear energy program, which supplies approximately 30% of the nation’s total electricity production. These issues, however, are not irresolvable.

Undeniably, it may take time and effort to negotiate new agreements and to change people’s pacifism into an “active pacifism”, yet these should not be the justifications to avoid the acquisition of independent nuclear deterrent as ensuring national security should always be the top priority. It is because in face of a nuclear extortion, the effectiveness of a direct nuclear deterrence guaranteed by your own country could not be replaced by any other measures such as deterrence by denial via BMD system or deterrence by punishment via extended deterrence and defense pact. Therefore, if there are too many obstacles ahead, then perhaps the wiser choice for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan at the moment is to increase their nuclear latency deterrence, shorten the breakout time and pave their way clear for future nuclearization. In other words, to keep their nuclear option open and be able to play offense and defense at its own will when the time comes.

Nevertheless, in addition to strengthening one’s latency nuclear deterrence, as well as obtaining a more equal relationship in the official and unofficial alliance with America, East Asian countries that have similar interest and common enemies should united to form a new military alliance which included security treaty regarding collective defense like the NATO; and focuses more on countering hybrid warfare like the QUAD. If Japan, South Korea and Taiwan ever choose to go nuclear, a common mechanism could be established to ensure that these states would pursue a minimum to limited deterrence capability that do not endanger each other’s security but rather to strengthen it, which would help minimizing the destabilization brought to regional security while constituting a more balanced situation with nuclear-armed rivalries.

After all, proliferation may not be the best solution, it is certainly not the worst either.

From our partner International Affairs

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Test of Agni Prime Missile and India’s Counterforce Temptations

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South Asia is widely regarded as one of the most hostile regions of the world primarily because of the troubled relations between the two nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan. The complex security dynamics have compelled both the countries to maintain nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis each other. India is pursuing an extensive and all-encompassing military modernization at the strategic and operational level. In this regard, India has been involved in the development of advanced missiles as delivery systems and improvement in the existing delivery systems as well. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are solely aimed at India; however, India aspires to fight a ‘two-front war’ against Pakistan and China. Therefore, the size and capability of its nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are aimed at countering both threats. However, most of the recent missile delivery systems made by India appear to be more Pakistan-centric. One recent example in this regard is the recently tested nuclear-capable cannisterized ballistic missile Agni Prime, which is insinuated as Pakistan-centric. These developments would likely further provoke an action-reaction spiral and would increase the pace of conflict in South Asia, which ultimately could result in the intensification of the missile arms race.

Just quite recently, on 28th June 2021, India has successfully tested an advanced variant of its Agni missile series, namely Agni Prime or Agni (P). The missile has a range between 1000-2000 kilometers. Agni Prime is a new missile in the Agni missiles series, with improved accuracy and less weight than Agni 1, 2, and 3 missiles. It has been said that the Agni-P weighs 50 % less than the Agni-3 missile. As per the various media reports, this missile would take the place of Agni 1 and 2 and Prithvi missiles, however officially no such information is available. This new missile and whole Agni series is developed as part of the missile modernization program under the Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) integrated guided missile development program. 

Agni-P is a short missile with less weight and ballistic trajectory, the missile has a rocket-propelled, self-guided strategic weapons system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Moreover, the missile is cannisterized with the ability to be launched from road and rail. The DRDO claimed that the test flight of the missile was monitored by the telemetry radar stations and its trajectory met all the objectives of the mission successfully with high level of accuracy. Agni-P missile because of its range of 1000 to 2000 km is considered a weapon against Pakistan because within this range it cannot target China. Although, India already has different missiles in its inventory with the same range as the newly developed and tested Agni-P missile, so the question arises what this missile would achieve. 

Since the last few years, it has been deliberated within the international security discourse that India’s force posture is actually more geared towards counterforce options rather than counter-value options. Although, India’s nuclear doctrine after its operationalization in 2003, claims  “massive retaliation” and “nfu” but in reality with developing cannisterized weapons like Agni-P, Agni 5, and testing of hypersonic demonstrative vehicles, India actually is building its capability of “counterforce targeting” or “splendid first strike”. This reflects that India’s nuclear doctrine is just a façade and has no real implication on India’s force modernization.

These developments by India where it is rapidly developing offensive technologies put the regional deterrence equation under stress by increasing ambiguity. In a region like South Asia, where both nuclear rivals are neighbors and distance between both capitals are few thousand kilometers and missile launch from one side would take only a few minutes in reaching its target, ambiguity would increase the fog of war and put other actors, in this case, Pakistan in “use it or lose it” situation, as its nuclear deterrent would be under threat.

In such a situation, where Pakistan maintains that nuclear weapons are its weapons of last resort and to counter threats emerging from India, its nuclear deterrence has to hold the burden of covering all spectrums of threat. It might be left with no choice but to go for the development of a new kind of missile delivery system, probably the cannisterized missile systems as an appropriate response option. However, as Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is based on principle of “CMD” which allow Pakistan to seek deterrence in a cost-effective manner and also by not indulging in an arms race. Therefore, other than the threat of action-reaction dynamic developments like Agni P by India, would make weapons more accurate and lethal, subsequently conflict would be faster, ambiguous, and with less time to think. In such a scenario, as chances of miscalculation increase, the escalation dynamics would become more complex; thus, further undermining the deterrence stability in South Asia.

India’s counter-force temptations and development of offensive weapons are affecting the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia. The deterrence equation is not getting affected just because India is going ahead with the development of offensive technologies but because of its continuous attempts of negating the presence of mutual vulnerability between both countries. Acknowledgement of existence of mutual vulnerability would strengthen the deterrence equation in the region and help both countries to move forward from the action-reaction spiral and arms race. The notions such as the development of offensive or counterforce technology or exploiting the levels below the nuclear threshold to fight a war would not be fruitful in presence of nuclear weapons. As nuclear weapons are weapons to avert the war and not to fight the war.

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Unmanned Aircraft Systems & The Annihilistic Future

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The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones were introduced as a useful means to military, commercial, civilian and humanitarian activities but yet it ends up in news for none of its original purposes. Drones have rather resulted as a means of mass destruction.

The recent attacks on the technical area of the Jammu Air Force Station highlights the same. This was a first-of-its-kind terror attack on IAF station rather the Indian defence forces that shook the National Investigation Agency to National Security Guard. The initial probe into the attacks directs to involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based out of Pakistan, in the drone attacks as the aerial distance from the point of attack was just 14 kilometers. The attacks took place via an Electric multi-rotor type drone between 11:30 P.M to 1:30 A.M on 27th June, 2021.

The above incident clearly points out the security issues that lie ahead of India in face to the asymmetrical warfare as a result of drones. The Indian Government after looking at the misuse of drones during the first wave of the pandemic realised that its drone regulations were nowhere sufficient and accountable and hence passed the Unmmaned Aircraft Rules, 2021. These rules imposed stricter requirement for obtaining license and authorisations by remote pilots, operators, manufacturers or importers, training organisations and R&D organisations, thereby placing a significantly high burden on the applicants but at the same time they also permit UAS operations beyond visual sight of line and allowing student remote pilots to operate UAS.

But these rules still don’t have any control on the deadly use of drones because multi-rotor drones are very cheap and readily available and what makes them lethal is their ability to be easily detected, additionally the night time makes it even worse. Their small size grants them weak radar, thermal, and aural signatures, albeit varying based on the materials used in their construction.

The pertinent issue to be understood here is that these rules can never ensure safety and security as they cannot control the purpose for which these drones maybe used. There are certain factors that are to be accounted to actually be receptive to such imminent and dangerous threats. Firstly, significantly increasing urban encroachments  in areas around defence establishments, particularly air bases, has proved to be fatal. If frontline bases like Jammu or be it any other base when surrounded by unbuffered civilization poses two pronged problems, first it acts as high chances of being a vantage point for possible attackers and second, it also hampering the defence mechanism to come to an action. It is not limited to drone concerns but there have been cases of increased bird activity that has once resulted in engine failure of an IAF Jaguar and has caused similar problems all along.

Another important factor is that of intelligence. The Anti-drone systems will take their time to be in place and it is still a distant call to ascertain how effective will these systems be, so in the time being it is pertinent to focus on intelligence which may include sales and transfers of commercial drone, or the hardware that is required to build a basic multi-rotor drone. These are not something extraordinary because it is even in news when Pakistani drones were being used to supply weapons and ammunition to terror networks on Indian soil. Also, the past experience in handling ISIS have shown the weightage of intelligence over defensive nets.

Intelligence is no doubt a crucial factor in anticipation of drone attacks but what cannot be done away with is the defense mechanism. Efficient counter-drone technology is the need of the hour. DRDO has developed such technology that could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. It is claimed that solution consists of a radar system that offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro drones when they are 4km away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection of micro drones up to 2 km and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 km and is equipped for both soft kills as well as hard kills.

Hence, the above analysis brings out the need of the application of an international instrument because the technology used in such drone attacks is at an evolving stage and the natural barriers still have an upper hand over be it either flying a pre-programmed path aided by satellite navigation and inertial measurement units (IMUs), or hand controlled to the point of release or impact, both methods have significant limitations as satellite and IMU navigation is prone to errors even when it comes to moderate flight ranges while manual control is subject to the human limitations such as line of sight, visibility as well as technical limitations such as distance estimation of the target, and weak radio links. An example of this could be the Turkish-made Kargu-2 model of killer drone can allegedly autonomously track and kill specific targets on the basis of facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the AI becomes better and better, these drone attacks become more and more terminal.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic is an eye opener for India as well as the world as none of the countries considered the possibility of bio-defenses or made a heavy investment in it even when there was awareness about lethal effects of genetic engineering. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to invest heavily in research and make the development of defensive technologies a national priority else the result of artificially intelligent killer drones would be much more catastrophic.

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