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Lightning-Speed Deal. Germany to Purchase F-35 for Nuclear Sharing

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image source: Lockheed Martin

In July 2022, the Department of State and the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) approved the sale of F-35A Lightning II multirole combat aircraft to Germany. This came as a climax of quite a protracted and a rather tragicomic story of Germany’s Luftwaffe purchasing a new carrier of nuclear weapons to carry out “NATO nuclear sharing.”

The Legacy

Today’s NATO nuclear sharing is a legacy of the Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR, which has effectively evolved into a policy relic over the 30 years that followed. RIAC has already described the history of the program in detail. The first carriers of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in Germany were deployed in October 1953 when the U.S. forces stationed in Germany received first specialized M65 cannons designed to fire nuclear devices. Over a few years, the U.S. Air Force acquired surface-to-surface guided missiles, such as MGR-1 Honest John and MGM-5 Corporal, air bombs, and MGM-1 Matador, the first operational surface-to-surface cruise missile.

Curiously, back then, the U.S. government had no official permission from the German government (and never requested it), such as a ratified international treaty. However, striving to maintain friendly ties and acting out of “intra-alliance politeness,” Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was notified of these steps and of the U.S. army’s readiness to use the TNW in military hostilities waged in Germany in case of war with the USSR, even though the Chancellor was to understand that the U.S., as an occupying power, did not need his consent. However, published documents show that the U.S. was concerned with this matter in view of the future, in case special rights to deploy troops were to be abolished.[1] It should be noted that some interpretations posit the German authorities still may not dispute the U.S. right to deploy its troops.[2] Practically speaking, though, these are legal conflicts: U.S. troops, including nuclear weapons, are deployed in Germany with consent of local authorities, and it can hardly be imagined that they would not be withdrawn should the local authorities firmly demand it. On the contrary, when President Donald Trump announced a redeployment of some U.S. troops to other European states, German and pro-Democrat U.S. media presented it as a tragedy that could undermine U.S.–Germany allied relations and NATO’s solidarity, while the Pentagon was sabotaging this decision until Joe Biden abolished it altogether, something the media painted as a great blessing.

Adenauer’s laid-back attitude to nuclear weapons is easy to explain. In the 1950s, today’s concept of non-proliferation was not yet conceived, and West Germany’s leaders envisaged their country to become a nuclear power in a medium-term outlook[3]—as did, for instance, the leaders of Sweden or Italy. For the time being, allied weapons were enough, especially since the U.S. began steering a course for arming its NATO allies with nuclear weapons in the late 1950s, at least by training them and by providing carriers. In the future, the U.S. seemed intent on establishing “NATO’s united nuclear forces” that were sometimes visualized in rather exotic forms, whether a joint force operating intermediate-range missiles stationed in silos under a glacier in Greenland or joint fleets disguised as transport vessels carrying ballistic missiles or rail-based missile complexes cruising around Europe.

However, more practical work was underway in the late 1950s. In 1958, when NATO Atomic Stockpile program was launched with a view to increasing military capabilities of the allied armies under NATO’s new MC 70 directive, [4]the new Luftwaffe was already receiving U.S. F-84F Thunderstreak bombers, which were largely designed as nuclear bomb carriers. The Department of State’s European Bureau noted in a memorandum of November 1958 that West Germany had ordered “dual purpose” systems—such as MIM-14 Nike Hercules SAM systems, MGR-1 Honest John rockets, and Matador cruise missiles—to be delivered shortly.[5]

With discussions and debates on the issue transpiring in the U.S. itself, the militaries were still engaged in fairly close cooperation, exchanged experience while steering clear of any political discussions and the nascent movement for nuclear non-proliferation. For instance, when inspecting the status of American nuclear weapons in Germany in September 1962, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and his colleagues visited a Luftwaffe airbase to discover that “warheads were … stored aboard those aircraft on alert status. The assumption that the German pilots do not know how to arm these warheads turns out to be fictional; on request, one of the pilots showed the U.S. visitors how this was done.”[6] Later, West Germany received several nuclear weapons carriers, including Pershing 1a ballistic missiles with a range of about 740 km, which could strike targets not only in East Germany but also in Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary. Later, the Luftwaffe used the U.S.-purchased F-104G Starfighter for nuclear aviation bomb carriers (using a high-altitude interceptor as a low-level strike aircraft largely resulted in its notoriously many crashes) and Panavia Tornado strike fighters, a joint product of Italy, Britain and Germany. Officially, the U.S. military remained in control of all the payloads—in practice, though, both the Bundeswehr and the Luftwaffe would operate in a combat situation as full-fledged nuclear forces within NATO’s allied forces.

A nuclear white elephant

Once the Cold War ended, the presence of U.S. troops in Europe, the armies of its local allies, and local American tactical nuclear weapons were being rapidly reduced. Consequently, America’s European nuclear arsenal was reduced by an order of magnitude. All the TNWs were eliminated, except for B61 free-fall air bombs for army air forces. The U.S. withdrew nuclear weapons from the UK, South Korea, and Japan, and nuclear weapons in other states were significantly reduced. Unofficial estimates claim that there are now about a hundred B61-3 and B61-4 bombs deployed in five states (Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and Germany) at six air bases equipped with special WS3 hangar storage systems.[7]

In Germany, bombs—likely totaling no more than 20 units—are deployed at the Büchel airbase in Rhineland-Palatinate in the country’s southwest. Nörvenich and Ramstein air bases are no longer used for the purpose, even though the latter had 55 WS3 systems, the largest number built in Europe (Büchel only has 11), enough to house up to 220 bombs.[8]

Only the 33rd tactical Luftwaffe wing (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 33, TaktLwG 33) stationed in Büchel is trained in the use of nuclear weapons on Tornado IDS strike aircraft. This unit is among the oldest in the “new” iteration of the Luftwaffe, the first air wing to fly jet fighter bombers (in 1958, they flew the above-mentioned F-84F Thunderstreak); originally, this unit was led by Walter Krupinski, one of the Nazi Luftwaffe’s highest-scoring pilots in World War II. [9] The 702nd Munitions Support Squadron of the 52nd MUNSS services the bombs and trains technicians and pilots. In addition to regular personnel, air base security is provided by a special Luftwaffe ground force unit, “security squadron S” (Luftwaffensicherungsstaffel „S“).

Despite the general public’s predominantly negative attitude and despite populist statements coming from politicians representing several parties (statements these politicians usually “forget” once they come to power, as happened, for instance, with Annalena Baerbock, the Minister of Foreign Affairs from the anti-nuclear Greens), Germany’s military political leadership clearly did not want U.S. nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from the country even before NATO’s current exacerbation in relations with Russia. Otherwise, Germany’s leaders would have achieved it back during the quiet 1990s–2000s, as, for instance, the British leadership did under public pressure. If we look past the perfunctory statements of allied solidarity, Germany’s leadership apparently sees American nuclear bombs as a tool for upgrading Germany’s status within NATO to the “semi-nuclear inner circle,” as well as a means of making its voice louder in the Alliance’s nuclear planning group.

Besides, American and NATO politicians exploit German establishment’s fear of Poland getting excessively strong should Germany “slacken.” For instance, in late 2021, when Germany was discussing American nuclear bombs once again, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Q&A session after his speech at the German Atlantic Association Conference, threatened that should Berlin demand a withdrawal of nuclear weapons they will appear “east of Germany” as part of the U.S. bilateral treaty with some other state (that is, utterly outside NATO’s control). [10] Naturally, in connection with the current public sentiments in NATO states, the launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine puts to rest the matter of possible reductions in NATO’s nuclear sharing for the foreseeable future.

Punch line for a long-running joke

For Germany, its continued participation in nuclear sharing was tied to the long-running problem of carrier aircraft. Since the 1980s, the principal (and soon only) carriers of American B61 bombs in European air forces were the F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters purchased in the U.S. or the Europe-designed Tornado aircraft. Today, the former are used in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey, while the latter are deployed in Germany and Italy. Both aircraft were produced in the 1980s–early 1990s, and they are outdated and old, which suggests they should soon be put out of service.

Four out of five states have already decided to purchase F-35A Lightning II, a fifth-generation multirole stealth aircraft that Washington labels as the principal carrier of B61-12, a thermonuclear bomb that comes as a guided and high-precision update of B61. The “Turkish question” still remains: following Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense missile system and because of a generally sharply exacerbated relations, Ankara was excluded from the program, and the fighters Turkey had already paid for were “arrested” in the U.S. This question, however, may be resolved in the future, and a purchase of a shipment of newly-made F-16 fighters is now discussed. In any case, there are reports of Turkish pilots having had no training in using nuclear weapons for a long time, while the bombs in Incirlik are the Middle Eastern cutting-edge arsenal for the U.S. air force itself.

It is easy to see that Germany alone was not on this list. Around 2016–2017, Germany was close to buying F-35, but then its relations with Washington cooled off as the United States under Donald Trump sharply criticized Berlin for insufficient defense spending (far below the 2% of the GDP recommended by NATO) and, therefore, for “mooching off” the U.S. in Germany’s security. In such a situation, Germany’s authorities decided—as a matter of principle—to purchase more European-made Eurofighter Typhoon multipurpose fighters.

The story of Luftwaffe Inspector Karl Müllner is utterly tragicomic: the General did not promptly toe the “party line” and continued to insist that F-35 needed to be bought as nuclear bomb carriers and even openly argued with Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen. As a result, he was forced to resign amid a scandal in the spring of 2018.

For a while, certifying Eurofighter Typhoon as a nuclear weapons carrier became the master plan for continued participation in nuclear sharing. Airbus was confident it could be done by 2025. Having to be involved in reconfiguring the fighter and willing to have the final say on whether the aircraft was ready, the U.S. began hinting that the process would take longer than Tornadoes would remain in service (and the time need to certify Tornado would “turn out” to be longer than any Tornado’s in-service time named by Germany).

Ultimately, the German government drove itself into a corner and decided in March 2020 to buy Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter bombers. The purchase of a small number (30) of originally carrier-based aircraft which did not enjoy much popularity on the global market, which were not aligned with Luftwaffe aircraft and with those of its NATO allies, which did not have better combat capabilities than Eurofighter Typhoon (for instance, F-35 is stealth aircraft and would open up new opportunities) looked like a hugely awkward decision Angela Merkel’s government made in a tortured manner for political reasons. It would have looked very silly had it decided to purchase F-35 once again, when it had harshly refused to purchase them two years prior. A small bonus consisted solely in purchasing, together with Super Hornets, 15 EA-18G Growler, EW aircraft (jamming, surveillance, air defense suppression) also designed by the Hornet. Currently, these tasks are carried out by old Tornado ECR aircraft that need to be replaced.

Another comic element in this story is that the Super Hornet has not been designed to carry B61 bombs and is not certified to carry nuclear weapons, [11]  but the U.S. hinted that it would deal with that problem much faster. For some reason, arguments that “first, we would need to spend several years reconfiguring it carry F-35” cited against Eurofighter Typhoon have not been brought forward concerning the Super Hornet.

Everyone could easily see how impractical that decision was, and when new leaders came to power in Germany in the fall of 2021, Germans began taking careful steps towards “re-appraising” the possibility of purchasing F-35. The process, however, would have certainly been drawn out over several years since the subject was highly “toxic” both due to the issue of U.S. nuclear bombs as such and on account of the stupid predicament the former government had driven Germany into.

When Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine, Berlin reacted with a truly lightning speed: the decision to buy F-35A Lightning II without a bidding process came as early as March 14. Essentially, it was the first practical step taken to buy additional equipment for the German armed forces. To support German manufacturers, the country decided to buy additional 15 Eurofighter Typhoon in its EW aircraft modification (that is, to finance its development since at the moment this modification is just a concept).

In late July, the U.S. Administration officially approved the deal; legislature is likely to promptly follow suit. In its Congressional notification, the DSCA estimated 35 F-35A fighters with equipment, spare and repair parts, weapons (including long-range cruise missiles AGM-158B JASSM-ER) and personnel training to cost USD 8.4 bn. [12]. Lockheed Martin, the fighter’s manufacturer, suggested that should the contract be signed in the near future, it could deliver first fighters to the Luftwaffe already in 2026; Tornado aircraft should last that long.

The German government managed to resolve its predicament by promptly using the changed geopolitical situation. Thanks to the F-35 purchase, they did everything they could to preserve the desired status quo of American nuclear weapons. The Luftwaffe will receive a fifth-generation stealth aircraft used by many of Germany’s NATO allies. Flying F-35 could prove useful for the program of developing forward-looking European FCAS fighter. On the other hand, purchasing F-35 reduces the need for a FCAS and additionally sours relations with France, a partner in the FCAS program, as France insists that Europe rely more on its own forces. Additionally, operating a small number of fighters that are not aligned with the rest of the Luftwaffe’s aircraft fleet will be a very expensive undertaking (unless, of course, Berlin decides, further down the road, to make F-35 one of the Luftwaffe’s main fighters).

However, Germany’s leadership is apparently ready and willing to pay for Germany’s semi-nuclear status. Most likely, America’s vestigial nuclear presence will remain in Europe for a long time, until some kind of an exchange deal with Russia, for instance, in the matter of the latter’s TNW (nuclear weapons were likely kept in Europe just for that purpose, as the military value of relatively few free-fall nuclear bombs is small). When the U.S. decides to get rid of these weapons, it will not consult its “privileged allies,” just like it did not consult them in the mid-1950s when deploying nuclear weapons in their country.

[1]For instance, “Gerard C. Smith, Special Assistant to the Secretary for Atomic Energy Matters, ‘Memorandum of Negotiations Looking to Obtain Storage and Use Rights for Atomic Weapons in Western Germany,’” Draft, 12 August 1954

[2]Under the Bonn-Paris Conventions of 1952/54, the US, the UK, and France gave the Federal Republic of Germany much of its sovereignty back, with Germany, however, agreeing to a series of restrictions, including giving up the right to demand a withdrawal of foreign troops. These conventions are to remain in force until the Allies and Germany sign the final peace treaty, yet this treaty has never been and apparently will not be concluded. Under the 1990 Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany that largely replaces such a peace treaty, the USSR alone gave up its right to deploy troops in Germany, and NATO undertook not to deploy its troops or nuclear weapons only in the former German Democratic Republic.

[3] “Nuclear Weapons and German Interests: An Attempt at Redefinition” PRIF-Report No. 55/2000, p. 6

[4] “Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe History 1958” pp. 61-70

[5] “EUR/RA [Office of European Regional Affairs] Mr. Timmons to EUR [Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs]- Mr. Merchant, ‘Atomic Armament of Germany,’” 25 November 1958

[6] “S/p [Policy Planning Council] Mr. Owen to G [Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs]: Mr. Johnson,’ Paul Nitze’s Report on Europe,’” 11 October 1962

[7] “United States nuclear weapons, 2022,” Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, 9 May 2022, pp. 176-178

[8]  “U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe. A Review of Post-Cold War Policy, Force Levels, and War Planning,” Hans M. Kristensen, February 2005, p. 13

[9] He is credited with 197 air victories. Krupinski, by that time promoted to the commanding officer of the Luftwaffe, and several other high-ranking officers were told to retire only in 1976, when they, frankly speaking, finally bugged the hell out of civilian authorities with their openly Nazi opinions and insulting behavior toward political leaders of left-wing parties.

[10] “I expect that Germany will continue to be part of nuclear sharing because it is so important for the whole of Europe… The alternative to NATO nuclear sharing is different kinds of bilateral arrangements. … Germany can, of course, decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in your country. But the alternative is that we easily end up with nuclear weapons in all the countries of Europe, also to the east of Germany. So I think that nuclear sharing is a balanced, well-organized, tested structure for nuclear deterrence” audio recording (time code 41:30)

[11] It was developed and put into service already after the US carrier-based aircraft completely abandoned nuclear weapons in the mid-1990s.

[12] We should note that the DSCA’s notifications are not contracts, and final deals sometimes come with very different packages and costs.

From our partner RIAC

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Can Pakistan’s Embattled Polity Act Against Militant Groups?

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Despite claims by the Pakistani military that it has cleared the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region and other tribal areas in the northwest of militants, evidence suggests that jihadist movements in Pakistan such as the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are re-energised and emboldened.

The  alliance of militant networks  Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has announced three new ‘administrative units’ and rising attacks indicate that they are regrouping not only in the tribal areas, but in other centres. The number of TTP administrative units has reached 12 in the country, out of which seven are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one in Gilgit-Baltistan, and two each in Balochistan and Punjab. The group seems intent on rebuilding its operational capacity by consolidating various factions, a development that will have security implications for the entire region.

Pakistan, which had been facilitating the Taliban’s return to power, in an effort to marginalise India and keep Indians out of Kabul, had hoped that the Afghan Taliban would use its fluence to persuade the TTP to curtail its attacks and become amenable to negotiations with the Pakistani state. Islamabad never imagined that neither the Afghan Taliban nor the Haqqani Network leaders, such as Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani, would refuse to utilise clout to modify the conduct of the TTP. Pak military strategists reasoned that once the US forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban would lose their legitimacy to fight and when that comes to pass, they reckoned, the TTP would also lose whatever ideological legitimacy it has, because it had emerged from Pakistan’s role in the war on terror.

Rather both groups have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship, and the Afghan Taliban have not spoken directly about the TTP recently. Then in November last year, the ceasefire agreement between the  TTP and the Pakistan government collapsed and the banned outfit group stepped up attacks across the country. TTP’s leader, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, and spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani in their statements have attributed Pakistan’s problems of inflation and taxes, rising ethnic strife, and government mismanagement of natural disasters to the “the government’s cruel policies”, the corrupt practices of its civil and military leaders. This is testament that the Pakistani state has been ignoring the political drivers of the insurgency.

So, while the Pakistani government has been insisting that its sustained counterterrorism measures have rendered the TTP a fragmented and exhausted militant organisation, the latter appears to have reinvented itself becoming more potent. This year till August, more than 200 Pakistani military officers and soldiers  have been killed in escalating terror violence, especially in the districts near or along the Afghan border where militant ambushes and raids against security forces become daily occurrences. Remarking on the August 31 attack at a military convoy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district, in which nine soldiers were killed, Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said that  militant groups are carrying out frequent and more lethal attacks on security forces because they are using the military equipment left behind by the United States in Afghanistan. Speaking to state television Kakar “This equipment has greatly enhanced the fighting capacity of terrorists and non-state actors in the region,” and that “Previously, they had minimal capacity, but they can now target my soldier even if he moves his finger.”

Incidentally just three days prior to these attacks,  counterterrorism experts at the UN, Vladimir Voronkov, and Natalia Ghe­rman, raised the alarm about “Nato-calibre weapons” ending up in the hands of IS-K, through the TTP, at the Security Council. The report claimed that Nato-calibre weapons, typically associated with the former Afghan National Def­ence and Security Forces, were “being transferred to IS-K by groups affiliated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, such as TTP and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

Rejecting such claims as ‘unfounded’ Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Taliban government posted on his X account that since the Taliban takeover, “activities of the Daesh group in Afghanistan have been reduced to zero”. He said that those who were “spreading such undocumented and negative propaganda” about terrorist activities in Afghanistan “either lack information or want to use this propaganda to give a moral boost to Daesh and its cause”.

On September 6 the TTP began its incursion into Chitral and four soldiers and 12 militants were killed in clashes. The area borders Afghanistan and also Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. TTP chief Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud has appeared in a video that purports to show him passing instructions to the jihadists fighting Pakistani army in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Cashes between TTP militants and security forces have become more frequent. The use of gunship helicopters and the Pak government’s imposition of frequent curfews in the mountainous region indicates that TTP militants have succeeded in forming a new safe haven, on the Pakistani side of the border. These attacks were the latest in a series by the TTP.

In a meeting of the National Security Committee held in April, Pakistan’s military and civil leadership concluded that the recent wave of terrorism in Pakistan was a result of “the soft corner and the absence of a well-thought-out policy against the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan”. 

After the fall of Kabul the eagerness for reconciliation on the Pakistani side was enhanced considerably. Since the resurgence of the militant group, the Pakistan Army Has attempted to distance itself from the previous government’s initiative of holding dialogue with the TTP. In a press conference earlier this year, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry categorically stated that “holding dialogue with the banned TTP was the decision of the then-government of Pakistan and they have openly admitted this as well”. But the reality is that exactly a year ago, it was the country’s powerful army which was  pushing for a negotiated settlement with the TTP. negotiations between the TTP leadership and the Pakistani army officials were going on since late 2021. A 50-member Pakistani tribal assembly delegation ‘jirga’ was handpicked by the former Director General ISI Directorate Lt. General Faiz Hameed Chaudhry to talk with the TTP. Faiz himself held direct talks with the TTP. The jirga talks with the TTP was a project of the Pakistan army, to work out a peace deal since they “all come from the same region and ethno-cultural background”.

UN counter terrorism experts have rightly pointed out that these weapons pose a “serious threat in conflict zones and neighbouring countries”. For decades the weak and failing state of Pakistan has been an attractive safe haven for transnational terrorist groups. The resurgence of these militant safe havens in Pakistan will make terror groups more powerful and violent from Kashmir to Xinjiang. With consistent political and economic uncertainty, Pakistan  internal dynamics are also ripe for insurgent groups to thrive. As the violence escales, other Pakistani militant outfits  will see in the rise of the TTP, a model to emulate and practically adopt in the quest of their jihadist objectives. India can expect a repeat of the 1990s scenario when foreign fighters poured into Kashmir from camps in Pakistan which actively helped to fuel the insurgency. The question is can Pakistan’s embattled polity act against the armed militant groups within the country?

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Pakistan-Turkey Defense Ties and Policy Options

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Pakistan and Turkey, two pivotal countries in the Islamic world, have historically enjoyed close and amicable ties. Their intertwined history is punctuated by mutual respect, collaborations, and a shared vision for their future. Both nations understand that their destinies, to some extent, are interlinked, and this understanding extends deeply into their defense ties. The Ottoman Empire, at its zenith, was a beacon of Muslim power and a center for arts, sciences, and culture. During its twilight years, particularly during World War I and the subsequent Turkish War of Independence, the people of the Indian subcontinent (now Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh) provided significant moral and financial support to the Ottoman Turks. This connection was not just political; it was deeply emotional and spiritual, a brotherhood of faith and shared challenges. The remnants of this camaraderie can be seen today. For instance, Lahore, a major city in Pakistan, has Allama Iqbal Road named after the famous philosopher and poet who dreamed of a unified Muslim ummah and saw the Ottoman Caliphate as its fulcrum. It’s a testament to the bond that once was and remains between the two countries.

The defense ties between Turkey and Pakistan cannot be viewed in isolation from their socio-political landscape. The two nations are linked by threads of shared culture, faith, and mutual respect, underpinning their robust defense relationship. Soft power, in the form of cultural exchange, has been a cornerstone of Pakistan-Turkey relations. Be it through the exchange of artists, students, or academics, such engagements allow for mutual understanding, which subsequently bolsters defense collaborations. Both nations, being influential players in the Muslim world, have shown solidarity on issues concerning the Islamic community. The Palestine issue, Kashmir, and global Islamophobia have seen unified stances, strengthening the socio-political foundations of their defense ties.

While the military dimension of the Pakistan-Turkey relationship is often highlighted, their defense industry collaborations are equally significant. The defense industries of both nations have synergized to produce state-of-the-art equipment. This includes next-gen fighter aircraft, naval frigates, and armored vehicles. Collaborative ventures not only allow for cost-saving but also technological exchange, ensuring that both nations stay at the forefront of defense innovation. Both friendly countries often participate in each other’s defense exhibitions, showcasing the prowess of their defense industries. Such platforms allow for the exploration of new collaboration avenues, tech-transfer agreements, and the strengthening of the defense trade. Military academies and training institutes in both countries often host officers from the other nation. Such engagements allow for the exchange of best practices, tactics, and the development of a shared defense ethos.

The defense ties might spur new regional alliances. Countries wary of the Pakistan-Turkey defense collaboration might seek to balance this by fostering new partnerships or strengthening existing ones. India might seek closer defense ties with Western countries, particularly the U.S. and European nations, to counterbalance the Pakistan-Turkey collaboration. The Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and UAE, while having individual relationships with both Pakistan and Turkey, might view their defense collaboration cautiously, given Turkey’s ambitions in the Middle East.

For Pakistan and Turkey to further cement their defense ties, there are certain policy considerations to take into account:

  • With space and cyberspace emerging as the new frontiers of defense, both nations can embark on joint ventures in satellite technology, cyber defense mechanisms, and space research.
  • On global defense and security forums, presenting a unified stance on issues of mutual concern can amplify their voice and influence decision-making.
  • Building shared defense infrastructure, such as joint bases or training facilities, can allow for greater interoperability between their armed forces.
  • Given the volatile geopolitical landscape, establishing joint crisis management protocols can be crucial. This would involve collaborative response mechanisms for scenarios ranging from natural disasters to terror attacks.
  • Defense ties shouldn’t just be the prerogative of the military elite. Engaging civil society, think tanks, and academic institutions in defense dialogues can bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions.
  • Both nations need to have candid discussions on mutual threat perceptions. This would allow them to devise strategies that are cognizant of each other’s concerns and priorities.

While the defense ties between Pakistan and Turkey are robust, they are not devoid of challenges:

  • Both countries face pressures from global powers which might not view their deepening ties favorably. Navigating this complex geopolitical milieu requires astute diplomacy.
  • Defense collaborations often require significant financial outlays. Economic challenges, if not addressed, can impede defense projects and collaborations.
  • While there’s significant convergence in their defense outlooks, there might be areas where their strategic interests diverge. Addressing these nuances is essential for a harmonious defense relationship.

The defense tapestry of Pakistan and Turkey is intricate, woven with threads of history, mutual trust, shared aspirations, and strategic imperatives. As the two nations march into the future, their defense ties will undeniably play a pivotal role in shaping their destinies. By building on their strengths, addressing challenges head-on, and being visionary in their approach, they can chart a path that’s not just beneficial for them, but for the broader region and the world at large. In a world riddled with conflicts and uncertainties, the Pakistan-Turkey defense partnership stands as a testament to what nations can achieve when they come together with shared purpose and resolve.

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Weaponizing Intelligence: How AI is Revolutionizing Warfare, Ethics, and Global Defense

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Is artificial intelligence the future of global warfare?” If you find that question compelling, consider this startling fact: The U.S. Army, by leveraging AI in its logistics services, has saved approximately $100 million from analyzing a mere 10% of its shipping orders. In an era defined by rapid technological advances, the marriage of artificial intelligence (AI) with military applications is shaping a new frontier. From AI-equipped anti-submarine warfare ships to predictive maintenance algorithms for aircraft, the confluence of AI and defense technologies is not only creating unprecedented capabilities but also opening a Pandora’s box of complex ethical and strategic questions.

As countries around the globe accelerate their investment in the militarization of AI, we find ourselves at a watershed moment that could redefine the very paradigms of global security, warfare ethics, and strategic operations. This article aims to dissect this intricate and evolving landscape, offering a thorough analysis of how AI’s ever-deepening integration with military applications is transforming the contours of future conflict and defense—across land, cyberspace, and even the far reaches of outer space.

AI on Land, Sea, and Air – A Force Multiplier

The evolution of AI in military applications is reshaping the traditional paradigms of land, sea, and air warfare. In the maritime realm, take DARPA’s Sea Hunter as an illustrative example—an unmanned anti-submarine warfare vessel that can autonomously patrol open waters for up to three consecutive months. This autonomous behemoth promises to revolutionize the cost metrics of naval operations, operating at a daily cost of less than $20,000 compared to $700,000 for a conventional manned destroyer. On land, the U.S. Army’s Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) represents another significant leap. By incorporating AI into an automated ground vehicle, the military aims to accelerate target acquisition, reduce engagement time, and significantly lower the logistical and human costs associated with ground operations. The ATLAS program follows earlier attempts like the remotely controlled Military Utility Tactical Truck, essentially taking the next logical step toward full autonomy.

While the United States is making significant advancements in this arena, it is not alone. China’s autonomous Type 055 destroyers and Russia’s Uran-9 robotic combat ground vehicle are testaments to a global acceleration in AI-based military technologies. The international competition makes the ethical and strategic implications even more intricate

In the aerial domain, the fusion of AI with drones and combat aircraft is reaching new heights—quite literally. The Kratos UTAP-22 Mako Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), powered by the Skyborg Autonomy Core System, recently underwent a 130-minute test flight where it demonstrated capabilities ranging from basic flight patterns to intricate combat tasks. This experiment lays the groundwork for the “Loyal Wingman” project—a system that allows a single human pilot to command multiple AI-powered drones, thus expanding the operational reach and impact of aerial units exponentially. Beyond singular platforms, AI is leading to the development of ‘swarm intelligence,’ where multiple autonomous units, whether they are drones, boats, or land vehicles, can work in concert, amplifying their capabilities beyond the sum of their individual parts.

As these AI applications manifest across different operational theaters, they serve as ‘force multipliers,’ amplifying the effectiveness of military assets without proportionately increasing the resources invested. They provide higher operational tempo, improve decision-making, and most critically, enhance the speed and accuracy of threat neutralization. However, the enhancement in operational effectiveness comes at the price of navigating complex ethical waters. Decisions that were once the sole purview of trained human operators are increasingly being delegated to algorithms, raising fundamental questions about accountability, the rules of engagement, and even the very nature of conflict.

Cyber Warfare and Information Operations – The Invisible Front

In the evolving landscape of military strategy, cyber warfare has transitioned from a futuristic concept to an immediate reality. The testimonies and actions of top military brass, including Admiral Michael Rogers, former commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, underscore a pressing need for integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into our cyber defensive and offensive operations. According to Rogers, the lack of machine-assisted predictive capabilities essentially puts us “behind the power curve.” This is not just a conceptual shift but a strategic imperative. The reactive cybersecurity paradigms of the past, characterized by a so-called “fortress mentality” of building digital walls, have faltered in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks. It’s here that AI steps in as a force multiplier. By enabling a predictive form of cybersecurity that analyzes potential threats in real-time, AI shifts the balance from a defensive posture to proactive engagement. The DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge, which encouraged the creation of AI algorithms for real-time vulnerability assessment and patching, signaled an official acknowledgment of AI’s critical role in cyber defense. More to the point, The United States isn’t the only player focusing on AI in cyber warfare. Countries like Israel, China, and Russia are investing heavily in AI-based cybersecurity solutions. Russia’s focus on information warfare, in particular, presents an evolving challenge that AI aims to mitigate.

But the invisible front of cyber warfare is not just about repelling hacks or malware attacks; it’s also about the war on perception and truth. The emergence of AI-assisted deep fake technologies presents a profound challenge, morphing the battleground from just code and firewalls to the manipulation of reality itself. The incident involving U.S. Army Stryker vehicles in Lithuania in 2018 is a case in point, where deep fake technologies were deployed to manipulate public sentiment. While DARPA’s Media Forensics program aims to counterbalance this threat by advancing deep fake detection algorithms, the real concern is the adaptive nature of this technology. As AI-based deep fake creation techniques evolve, so must our detection capabilities, creating an endless loop of technological one-upmanship. This arms race in information warfare adds an entirely new dimension of complexity to military strategy.

The amalgamation of AI in cyber warfare and information operations isn’t merely an enhancement of existing systems but a radical transformation that augments and, in some cases, replaces human decision-making. This transition mandates not just technological adaptation but an ethical reevaluation of the principles governing warfare and security. In summary, AI isn’t an adjunct to the new age of cyber warfare and information operations; it’s a sine qua non—a necessity we can neither ignore nor underestimate.

Space and Beyond – The New Frontier in Defense and Security

The Space Force’s establishment by the United States in 2019 didn’t just signify the birth of a new military branch; it was a formal recognition of space as a contested theater where AI-driven technologies have serious geopolitical implications. In this evolving landscape, AI serves as both a facilitator and a disruptor. While it offers unparalleled capabilities in satellite management, from collision avoidance with floating space debris to optimizing the end-of-life of satellites, it also introduces a new set of vulnerabilities. China’s AI-driven simulation of space battles targeting high-value assets, such as SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, signals a worrisome development. This isn’t merely a rehearsal of theoretical combat scenarios; it’s an overt strategic move aimed at nullifying communication advantages facilitated by these satellite constellations.

Yet, the AI-driven militarization of space isn’t simply an extension of earthly geopolitics; it fundamentally alters the dynamics of warfare at an orbital level. China and Russia’s aggressive tests against high-value American satellites underscore the indispensable role of AI in developing real-time, autonomous countermeasures. With space assets becoming intrinsic to everything from communications to Earth observation, the AI capability to make split-second, data-driven decisions becomes invaluable. For instance, AI can not only preemptively analyze mechanical failures in satellites but also execute automated defensive counteractions against adversarial moves, potentially limiting or preventing damage. In essence, AI isn’t merely supplementing our existing capabilities in space; it’s rewriting the playbook on how we strategize, implement, and protect space-based assets. As such, the urgency for international norms to regulate this new battleground has never been greater. Without some form of oversight or control, the risk of a disproportionate escalation—a ‘space race’ in the most dangerous sense—becomes a looming possibility with wide-reaching consequences.

Can We Trust AI on the Battlefield? Ethical Fixes for Tomorrow’s Robo-Soldiers

Ethical Frameworks and Human-Centric Decision-Making

One of the most compelling ethical questions surrounding AI in military applications is the notion of decision-making, particularly where lethal force is involved. The debate here often oscillates between a “human-in-the-loop” versus fully autonomous systems. The assumption underpinning the human-in-the-loop model is that humans, endowed with higher-level ethical reasoning, should be the final arbiters in consequential decisions. It provides for diverse human perspectives and enables the AI to serve in an advisory capacity. However, relying solely on human judgment comes with its own set of ethical pitfalls. Humans possess inherent biases and cognitive flaws that can lead to suboptimal or even dangerous decisions, especially in high-stress military situations.

Testing, Transparency, and Explanation Facilities

Robust testing frameworks are another vital component for mitigating ethical issues. Given the complexity of AI software, especially machine-learning models, exhaustive testing is essential to minimize harmful mistakes or unintended lethal actions. However, conventional testing techniques like “fuzzing” are often inadequate for the dynamically learning nature of AI. Approaches like “cross-validation” offer a more robust testing environment for these evolving systems. This takes us to the realm of “explanation facilities,” tools designed to illuminate the reasoning pathways of AI algorithms. Explanations can help bridge the ethical chasm by providing transparency and legal justification. Yet, they remain challenging in the context of complex numerical calculations, like those made by artificial neural networks. Furthermore, sensitive or classified data may restrict the transparency of military algorithms, requiring a nuanced approach that respects both ethical and security imperatives.

Automated Ethical Reasoning and Bias Detection

Arguably, the most radical avenue for ethical improvement lies in automated ethical reasoning within the AI systems themselves. The idea is to integrate ethical principles directly into the AI’s decision-making algorithms. This could manifest as separate neural networks dedicated to assessing the potential harm to civilians in a given military operation. While these systems would require complex, probabilistic assessments, they offer the promise of objective, data-driven ethical reasoning that is free from the emotional and cultural biases that can skew human judgment. Simultaneously, robust algorithms for detecting and correcting biases—whether based on height, nationality, or other factors—can help in building AI systems that are both effective and ethical.

The increasing integration of AI in military and defense strategies is irreversible, yet there remains a substantial gap in our ethical comprehension of this complex relationship. While no single approach provides a silver bullet, a blend of human-centric models, robust testing frameworks, and automated ethical reasoning can pave the way for a more ethically sound AI-powered defense landscape.


In sum, the fusion of artificial intelligence with military applications is a double-edged sword that enhances capabilities while simultaneously raising moral and strategic dilemmas that cannot be easily resolved. Whether it’s optimizing traditional warfare on land, sea, and air, fortifying the invisible fronts in cyber and information spaces, or pushing the envelope in the uncharted territories of outer space, AI is both an enabler and a disruptor. It accelerates operational effectiveness but leaves us navigating a labyrinth of ethical, legal, and strategic implications.

The real challenge lies not in harnessing the powers of AI for military advancement but in governing its usage to prevent strategic imbalances and ethical lapses. This need for governance becomes more critical as we stand at the brink of an AI-induced transformation that could redefine the very nature of conflict and security. With the accelerating pace of AI militarization, the window for establishing ethical norms and international regulations is rapidly closing. It’s not just about who has the most advanced AI but about how we manage this transformative technology responsibly.

As the global competition intensifies over the integration of artificial intelligence into military operations, the focus must extend beyond merely adopting this technology. The critical issue at hand is not just whether AI will define the future of warfare, but how we can navigate this future in an ethical and responsible manner. This pivotal moment calls for a collective approach to decision-making that transcends individual national agendas. The decisions taken today are set to sculpt the geopolitical realities of tomorrow. Therefore, it’s imperative for policymakers, ethicists, and military experts to come together now to address the complex ethical and strategic dimensions of AI in warfare, before we reach an irreversible tipping point.

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