Friday, September 23, 2016

The Coming Indo - Pak War

Could India and Pakistan really go to war?

 It almost seems an absurd question to ask. After all, both countries have long been nuclear powers -- a deterrent that encompasses the lives of a combined 1.4 billion people. Both nations have also seen some years of relative peace along their border, a break from the wars that pockmarked the 20th Century.

And yet, hours after 18 were killed in an attack on an army base in Indian-administered Kashmir, the director-general of military operations for the Indian Army announced that the terrorists carried gear which had "Pakistani markings."

Arnab Goswami, the host of the country's most-watched English news hour, expressed rage at Pakistan: "We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees."
One of his guests, a retired army general, went a step further: "We must be seen as inflicting punishment on Pakistan by non-terrorist means ... the nation needs a catharsis!"

But what about the ready nuclear arsenals both countries possessed? Surely that would be a deterrent?
Major General G. D. Bakshi, had a clear answer: "Pakistan is one-fifth the size of India. If we fire even a part of our arsenal, most of it will be on the Pakistani Punjab, from where the Pakistani army comes: Not a crop will grow there for 800 years!"
"Let's stop self-deterring ourselves," he cried.

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman told CNN that India was "desperately looking for ways to deflect the world's attention from the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir," referring to the protests and unrest there.
And emotions have boiled over on the Pakistani side, too.

Sunday's attack is not the first deadly attack on Indian soil that New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in.

n January, another Indian military base was attacked in northwestern Punjab, not far from the border with Pakistan. And then there were the Mumbai attacks in 2008 in which 164 people were killed.

While Indian officials continue to link those attacks to the Pakistan government, Islamabad has consistently denied any involvement. In each of these terror attacks, and others like them, there have been calls for a strong Indian response.

The next steps of diplomacy -- or a war of words -- are likely to play out in New York this week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. New Delhi is expected to call for sanctions on its neighbor, for what it alleges are clear moves to support terrorism.

Islamabad, meanwhile, is expected to highlight unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a two-month-old curfew persists after mass demonstrations and violence.

India's approach will be crucial.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Next Korean War

Imagine it is 2020. The director of the CIA requests an urgent meeting with the US president.

The reason:

North Korea has succeeded in making a nuclear bomb small enough to fit inside the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. The news soon leaks to the public. High-level meetings to devise a response are held not just in Washington, but in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, and Moscow as well.

This scenario may seem unreal today, but it’s more political science than science fiction. North Korea just carried out its fifth (and apparently successful) test of a nuclear explosive device, doing so just days after testing several ballistic missiles. Absent a major intervention, it’s only a matter of time before North Korea increases its nuclear arsenal (now estimated at 8-12 devices) and figures out how to miniaturise its weapons for delivery by missiles of increasing range and accuracy.

It’s difficult to overstate the risks were North Korea, the world’s most militarised and closed society, to cross this threshold. A North Korea with the ability to threaten the US homeland might conclude it had little to fear from the US military, a judgement that could lead it to launch a conventional, non-nuclear attack on South Korea. Even if such a war ended in North Korea’s defeat, it would be extraordinarily costly by any measure.

That said, North Korea wouldn’t have to start a war for its nuclear and missile advances to have real impact. If South Korea or Japan ever concluded that North Korea was in a position to deter American involvement in a war on the Peninsula, they would lose confidence in US security assurances, raising the possibility that they would develop nuclear weapons of their own. Such decisions would alarm China and set the stage for a regional crisis or even conflict in a part of the world with the greatest concentration of people, wealth, and military might.

There is another risk as well. A cash-strapped North Korea might be tempted to sell nuclear arms to the highest bidder, be it a terrorist group or some country that decided that it, too, needed the ultimate weapon. By definition, nuclear proliferation increases the chances of further nuclear proliferation—and with it the actual use of nuclear weapons.

The US has options, but none is particularly attractive. As for negotiations, there’s little if any reason to be confident that North Korea would give up what it considers to be its best guarantee of survival. In fact, it has often used negotiations to buy time for further advances in its nuclear and missile capabilities.

Another option is to continue with a version of the current policy of extensive sanctions. The problem is that sanctions will not be potent enough to force North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs. This is partly because China, fearing large refugee inflows and a unified Korea in America’s strategic orbit should North Korea collapse, will most likely continue to ensure that it gets the fuel and food it needs.

As a result, it makes more sense to focus on diplomacy with China. The US, after consulting closely with South Korea and Japan, should meet with Chinese officials to discuss what a unified Korea would look like, so that some Chinese concerns could be met. For example, a unified country could be non-nuclear, and any US military forces that remained on the Peninsula could be fewer and farther south than they are now.

It’s of course possible or even probable that such assurances wouldn’t lead to any meaningful diminution in Chinese support for North Korea. In that case, the US would have three more options. One would be to live with a North Korea in possession of missiles that could bring nuclear bombs to US soil. The policy would become one of defence (deploying additional anti-missile systems) and deterrence, with North Korea understanding that any use or spread of nuclear weapons would lead to the end of the regime and possibly nuclear retaliation. Cyber weapons might also be employed to obstruct and impede the progress of North Korea’s program.

The second option would be a conventional military attack, targeting North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities. The danger is that such a strike mightn’t achieve all of its objectives and trigger either a conventional military attack on South Korea (where nearly 30,000 US troops are based) or even a nuclear attack from the North. Needless to say, Japan and South Korea would have to be prepared to support any US military response before it could be undertaken.

The third option would be to launch such a conventional military attack only if intelligence showed North Korea was putting its missiles on alert and readying them for imminent use. This would be a classic pre-emptive strike. The danger here is that the intelligence mightn’t be sufficiently clear—or come early enough.

All of which brings us back to that possible day in 2020. If much is unknown, what seems all but certain is that whoever wins November’s US presidential election will confront a fateful decision regarding North Korea sometime during her or his term

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Flying Shark


Nicknamed the "Flying Shark", the J-15 fighter is currently equipped for air superiority missions. But with heavier versions ready to fly off future catapult-equipped Chinese aircraft carriers, the J-15 will blossom into a true long-range multi-role fighter

New imagery shows that the Flying Shark will receive major upgrades, which point to gains in not just China's engine-making  - but her overall carrier fleet.

The J-15 is derived from the Russian Su-33 (itself developed from the Su-27 fighter), and is currently in limited production by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. It is used by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on its sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

In September 2016, images of an upgraded J-15, the "J-15A", emerged on the Internet, showing significant upgrades to its engines and flight performance. The plane makes use of domestically produced WS-10H turbofan engines, distinguished by a squarish, silver afterburner nozzle.

While some J-15 prototypes were fitted with WS-10 turbofan engines, all production J-15s presently operating off the Liaoning aircraft carrier use the Russian AL-31 turbofan (which has a dark-colored afterburner nozzle). If future J-15As use the WS-10H as a power plant, it would indicate a triumph for China's emerging aviation engine industry, which has long been a weakness. Another likely upgrade is the installation of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which has improved resolution, multi-target ability, and resistance to jamming.

However, perhaps the most significant evident upgrade is the reinforced landing gear on theJ-15A's nosewheel, with the extender in particular much larger. Strengthening the nosewheel is necessary for the plane to operate on carriers with catapults; the catapult's aircraft launch bar pulls the J-15 by its nosewheel when the carrier catapult accelerates the fighter during takeoff.

Also, the holdback bar needs to be attached to the rear of the nosewheel prior to catapult launch, in order to prevent premature movement.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The New Power Couple

The Commonwealth Russian and Iran hook up have reached an unprecedented peak, fueled by military cooperation in Syria, a shared vision of the global order, and mutual criticism of Western policy in the Middle East. 

So, what all does this mean? 

The new closeness between Moscow and Tehran in Syria has already had serious consequences for Europe. It has strengthened Assad’s hand, increased violence, resulted in more refugees flowing into European countries, and further marginalised Europe on the diplomatic track.

Yet question marks remain about the durability of the relationship. Does it signify a sustainable strategic alliance that will reshape the geopolitics of the wider Middle East? Or are we merely experiencing a high point in the seesaw saga of Russian-Iranian relations – a saga where cooperation will always be limited and tarnished by mutual distrust?

Tehran is a useful ally to Moscow in a highly unstable region, but it is just one thread in Moscow’s patchwork of important relationships that need careful balancing.

Moscow offers Tehran a critical means of protecting its regional security interests. However, Iran’s leadership is divided on how best to hedge bets between Eastern and Western powers to achieve the country’s strategic objectives.

Despite their differences, the war in Syria looks set to be the crucible of Moscow-Tehran cooperation for some time to come, given its centrality to the strategic ambitions of both parties.

Instead of pursuing policies that attempt to exploit divisions between Iran and Russia, Europe should use its limited leverage to reduce violence in Syria and, if possible, pave road for political transition later down the road. 

This can only happen with better understanding of the drivers of Iran and Russia's policy in the region.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mission Creep

The expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. 

 The deal for U.S. military cooperation with Russia would expand the current mission in Syria far beyond it's exclusive focus on the Islamic State group. 

And the Pentagon is totally P.O'd about it

 The cease-fire deal reached Sept. 9 calls for the two former Cold War rivals to set up a joint facility for sharing intelligence and coordinating airstrikes against ISIS and al Nusra. The key requirement is adherence to a seven-day cease fire that calls on the Syrian regime and Russia to halt attacks around the city of Alleppo, which has experienced some of the war's most horrific violence, and allow for sustained delivery of humanitarian aid.

The details remain unclear. Some U.S. military officials are suggesting that the "cooperation" between the U.S. and Russia may be narrowly defined to involve only sharing intelligence with the Russians and deconflicting air space rather than expanding the target list for U.S. aircraft.  

 The seven-day ceasefire could be completed by Tuesday. Top U.S. military officials plan to meet Monday to begin hammering out the details of the “joint integration center”  that will be the hub for the military cooperation with Russia, according to one defense official. 

 But U.S. and Russian commanders will likely experience tension over selecting and prioritizing targets. The Russians are more focused on al Nusra because that group poses a bigger threat to Syria’s major cities and the survival of President Bashar al Assad, a key Russian ally.

“Going into this, the U.S. wants overwhelming attention paid to ISIS targets. The Russians would much rather see the targeting of al Nusra. It’s going to be a negotiation on the ground between colonels and one stars that are putting together targeting lists,” Stavridis said.

Those negotiations could get ugly.

“They’re going to get into the nitty-gritty targeting disagreements,” said Jacqueline Lopour, a former CIA analyst who is now a research associate with the Centre for International Governance Innovation  in Canada. “What if there’s a target and the Russians say ‘Our information says this is a terrorist’ and the U.S. says no, it’s not? They say ‘Show us your information’ and the U.S. says 'No, we’re not going to compromise our sources.' It’s going to get messy,” Lopour said. “What happens if someone vetoes a target and the other side goes ahead and strikes it anyway?” she said.

 Complicating matters are the links between al Nusra militants -- who at times fight against ISIS -- and the American-backed rebels that the U.S. considers to be moderate. 

“There’s a lot of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’” Lopour said. “It’s all quite muddled and complex.”

The U.S. has teams of special operations troops on the ground in Syria to support some Sunni Arab militias in fights against ISIS. Other Sunni Arab groups receive money and weapons from the U.S. In some situations, they fight alongside al Nusra militants against common enemies like ISIS.

That ambiguity will frustrate the Russians.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Battle Of Britain Day


 Way back in the last millenium when Europa still enjoyed fighting among themselves right around WWII time - the naughty Jerries pulled a fast one and out flanked the French, Dutch, Belgium and British armies scattering the Allies, entrapping many and ended up hanging and partying in Paris.

So awesome was this 'sickelschnitt' plan that France freaked and screamed "God! Please! Stop!" and totally surrendered in like 6 weeks. This was unheard of - wars tended to last a lot longer and this panzer und stuka unbeatable combat plan was given the name 'Blitzkrieg' - Teutonic for 'lightning war'.

Hard on the heels of dissing the French in another war, das Deutsches Reich prepped for taking the blitz cross channel to hit Great Britain with a D Day style invasion called 'Operation Sealion"

First bit of Sealion was to drive the British Air Force out of the air, achieve and maintain air superiority then hit the beach and hang and party in London. Easy! Great Britain's army was really hurt - many were captured in France and those who were rescued off the beaches at Dunkirk had to leave all their heavy weaponry behind.

Great Britain's mighty fleet would suffer horribly in an Armada redux at the hands of the wicked Luftwaffe if she attempted (and everyone knew she would) to stop an invasion with no air cover.
It was awful scary looking. Sir Winnie himself pointed out the war was just starting and everything depended on it.
".......the Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin,
upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization, upon it depends
our own British life and the long continuity of our institution and our Empire."

In the summer of 1940, 2,936 pilots took part in an historic battle against the German Luftwaffe that was to become the only battle to be fought entirely in the air (Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 was a very close 2nd), this battle has become known as; the Battle of Britain.

These brave pilots came from all walks of life, many were trained and
experienced, but most had come from civilian duties to become fighter pilots
with RAF Fighter Command. During that battle which lasted almost four months,
544 of them would lose their lives, many of them killed in action, while others
were never to be heard of again, and officially listed as missing in action. The
Battle of Britain was a prelude to the German invasion of Great Britain which
after just four months had to be abandoned because of the dedication, courage
and tenacity of those 2,936 pilots, who, against a formidable and experienced
foe and against all odds, fought only for success.

The great victory that they fought for MUST NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

And it hasn't. Even today, the spiritual sons of the Few fly and fight in the dark scary places of the world and they carry the torch of Freedom and Liberty.

"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout
the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen
who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger,
are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Happy Battle of Britain Day Royal Air Force!

From your crazy cousins across the Pond.

(Love the Bikini!)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Admiral Kuznetsov

Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov!

The term used by her builders to describe the Russian ship is tyazholyy avianesushchiy raketnyy kreyser (TAVKR or TARKR) – "heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser" – intended to support and defend strategic missile-carrying submarines, surface ships, and naval missile-carrying aircraft of the Russian Navy.

She is the Admiral Kuznetsov and her gig is to project Commonwealth Russia's influence, prestige and force far beyond Momma Russia's borders.

Yet, she ain't all that

In early July 2016, upon completion of a refit, it was reported by Russian media that Admiral Kuznetsov would be deployed in the Mediterranean in October that year to serve as a platform for carrying out airstrikes in Syria. This would be the first time ever a Russian (or Soviet) aircraft carrier has seen combat. With MiG-29K fighters

 The 26-year-old Admiral Kuznetsov had a scary 2009 Mediterranean transit, one sailor died when the vessel caught fire, and the ship accidentally dumped tons of fuel into the sea in a refueling mishap. And those accidents aren’t outliers. The problems with the ship are so widespread, and so expected, that the flattop has to be shadowed by tugs to tow it to port when she predictably breaks down.

The Kremlin, painfully aware of the carrier’s spotty history, seems to be playing things safe, with one military source telling TASS that the ship will stick close to Syria’s coastline “so that the deck aircraft have enough fuel to complete the military tasks and return back.”

The Kuznetsov lacks the catapults found on American and French carriers that shoot jets off the short decks at high speed. Instead, the Russian ship — like India’s and China’s first carriers — features a “ski jump” lift at the bow to help planes get airborne. That kind of deck means the planes, about 15 Su-33 and MiG-29s, have to fly light, with smaller loads of fuel and half-empty bomb racks.

 American carriers currently in the Middle East launching strikes on the Islamic State, can carry at least 60 aircraft and launch them with full fuel and bomb loads. 

The decision to dispatch a limping ship with a one-armed air wing shows that Moscow is just “flexing muscles,” one senior U.S. defense official told Foreign Policy. The Russians already have strike aircraft near Latakia, on the Syrian coast, from where they have been launching operations for the last year. Another dozen-odd planes launching unguided bombs on short flights from the deck of the Kuznetsov won’t add much punch to their efforts.

The Russians already have strike aircraft near Latakia, on the Syrian coast, from where they have been launching operations for the last year. Another dozen-odd planes launching unguided bombs on short flights from the deck of the Kuznetsov won’t add much punch to their efforts.

Her gig is mostly to prove that Russia is a global military power with the capacity to strike targets from offshore.