Monday, February 18, 2019

The Union States Of Russia May Absorb Belarus

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks with his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko (L) as they watch a joint military exercise at the Khmelevka firing range in Russia's enclave of Kaliningrad with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) attending. Photo: RIA-Novosti.
Belarus is ready to merge with Russia, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said on the third and last day of his bilateral talks with President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said on last Friday that his country is ready to unite with its long-time ally, Russia. His commenting has given assurance that Moscow and Minsk could emerge together into the Union Republic. Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet state since the presidential post was created in 1994, said this on the final day of the bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir PutinMoscow Times reported.

Rumors have long abounded that Belarus could be absorbed into Russia under Putin’s watch, deepening the “union state” arrangement that has existed between them since the late 1990s. “The two of us could unite tomorrow, no problem,” said Lukashenko. “But are you—Russians and Belarusians—ready for it?” the president added, according to Interfax. “We’re ready to unite and consolidate our efforts, states, and peoples as far as we’re ready.” Mr. Putin mocked the concept of independent states in his subsequent remarks of reiterating that “simply there are no fully independent states in the world, the modern world is a world of interdependence.”

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko announced his readiness to unite with Putin.15/02/2019
He further pointed out to the European Union as proof of his assertion. “There, the European Parliament makes more binding decisions for all members that the Supreme Soviet of the USSR once took such decisions for the Union Republic. Is it not a dependency?” Putin asked. Putin also suggested that U.S. military deployments in Europe have undermined national sovereignty there. “Do you think someone from European countries wants U.S. medium-range missiles to appear in Europe?” he asked. “No one wants that. But they sit, they keep quiet.

Where is their sovereignty? But apparently, they believe that in the ultimate, general calculation, they are interested in such an organization in which they have invested part of their sovereignty,” he said. The president voiced his support for the idea as long ago as 2011 when he said a union was “possible, desirable and wholly dependent on the will of the Belarusian people.” In December, Lukashenko said the union state agreement had been a success, Russian state-backed news agency Tass reported. He declared ''The will of Belarusians and Russians toward unity and this will serve as a solid foundation for integration, multi-faceted cooperation and formation of common new history''.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Afghan Government Is Missing From Peace Process

Afghanistan's leader Ashraf Ghani and US President Donald Trump shake hands at 72nd UN General Assembly on 21 Sep 2017 in New York City. Photo: Brendan Smialowski /Getty Image. 
Can a peace process work if it excludes the government of the country in conflict? We may be finding out. At present, there are two distinct efforts underway to bring peace in Afghanistan: In one, Zalmay Khalilzad, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, has held several discussions with Taliban leaders. In the other, a meeting in Moscow this month brought together influential Afghans, including former President Hamid Karzai, and Taliban leaders. Conspicuously what missing from this high-level diplomacy to bring the last peace solution to Afghanistan? Is the Afghan government!

The absence of President Ashraf Ghani’s democratically elected, internationally recognized administration in a process that could decide the future of his country raises questions about who is deciding what about Afghanistan’s fate; whether the United States’ policy of maintaining troops in Afghanistan until the conditions are right for withdrawal can outlive the wishes of President Donald Trump, who wants to pull out; and whether the Taliban can be trusted to keep any promises it makes. (Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, was in Afghanistan on Monday on a surprise visit and met with Ghani. He denied he had orders to “step down our forces in Afghanistan.”)

For now, these peace negotiations’ prospects of success are far from clear: American forces are still carrying out targeted strikes and aerial bombardment of Taliban positions; key regional players (notably Pakistan) will have a role to play in any final settlement; and while the Taliban, in an effort to secure the withdrawal of American troops, has reportedly pledged to ensure that Afghanistan will not be a base for international terrorist groups, how the United States will enforce that agreement is an open question.

Still, efforts to resolve similar conflicts typically involve both the government and the main rebel group—even if, at first, the two sides are talking through an intermediary. That is not happening in this case. Kabul’s absence in this process is remarkable. It would be akin to George Mitchell negotiating directly with Irish republicans while cutting the British government out of the process that resulted in peace in Northern Ireland. And whatever its final result, Ghani is worried that the U.S.-led effort, especially, is being rushed; that Washington is cutting him out; and that the end result will be a premature withdrawal of American troops. 

There is good reason for his concern. The Taliban might be making assurances to Khalilzad and to its interlocutors in Moscow, but it is unclear whether those guarantees are acceptable to the Afghan government. “We sense a lot of anxiety in the [presidential] palace,” Borhan Osman, an Afghanistan-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, a think tank, said in an email.

President Trump told CBS this month that he wanted “to bring our great troops home” after more than 18 years of fighting, but in both Kabul and Washington, there is concern that a precipitous withdrawal will send Afghanistan into a tailspin. The president’s State of the Union speech last week—in which he left open the possibility that a small portion of the 11,000 American soldiers currently in Afghanistan would remain there to focus on counterterrorism—should assuage that concern somewhat, but it won’t do much for Ghani’s feeling of being cut out. 

In his speech, Trump specifically named the Taliban as a group the United States was talking with, while referring to Washington’s other interlocutors, presumably including the government, as “a number of Afghan groups.” (Roya Rahmani, the Afghan envoy to the United States, said at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last week that Kabul wasn’t interpreting the speech as official U.S. policy, but as a platform for Trump to discuss his plans.)

There are other reasons for concern on the part of Afghanistan: The U.S. State Department’s own language about talks with the Taliban has undergone a subtle shift in the period since Khalilzad assumed his position. During the Obama years and until at least November 2018, it referred to an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace process. Those words no longer appear in briefings or statements. When asked at an event at the U.S.

Institute of Peace, a Washington think tank, why the Afghan government wasn’t a part of the process, Khalilzad said that the dialogue was not at the stage where the government could talk directly with the Taliban, and that “a formula” was still needed for the vaunted “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led [process] to really take place.” (On Sunday, Khalilzad began a two-week trip to Europe, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to meet his counterparts in the peace process. 

A State Department statement said that he will “consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip.”) Part of the challenge is that Washington and Kabul are disclosing different aspects of their conversations with each other. A U.S. statement describing a phone call last week between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ghani said that the chief U.S. diplomat told the Afghan leader about the American commitment to facilitating an inclusive peace process. 

It added that Pompeo emphasized the importance of intra-Afghan dialogue that leads to a political settlement, as well as the “U.S. desire for a long-term partnership with Afghanistan.” By contrast, Ghani said on Twitter that Pompeo had stressed that the two countries’ military partnership “will remain until a lasting and inclusive peace is achieved.” The Afghan president added that Pompeo “underscored the central importance of ensuring the centrality of the Afghan government in the peace process [and] reiterated the U.S. commitment and support to holding the upcoming presidential elections in July.”

Those elections, which were supposed to be conducted in April, have already been delayed once; Ghani does not want to postpone them again. He wants to be seen as the man who can deliver peace and stability to his country. But Afghanistan’s gains, though demonstrable, are tenuous and reversible: The government survives because of Western aid and military support; it controls a little more than half of the country’s districts; and corruption and ethnic divisions are widespread. The absence of the Afghan government in a peace process could send a message to the Afghan public about who is—and who isn’t—in charge.

When talks began in July between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar, they were expected to pave the way quickly for direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. That second step hasn’t yet materialized. The Taliban insists it won’t negotiate with the government in Kabul until, among other preconditions, Washington announces a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops.

 Those talks, accompanied by the process in Moscow, will serve as confirmation for some Afghans that the Afghan government is either weak or a proxy for a foreign power. (Attempts by the Obama administration to talk with the Taliban during the Karzai era enraged the then–Afghan leader.) There is also a bigger question surrounding talks with the Taliban: Will their words be matched by their actions after the American withdrawal? The Taliban knows Trump’s goal is to withdraw U.S. forces. 

Washington, on the other hand, has little idea of what the militants ultimately want: To be part of the Afghan political structure? For the insurgency to continue? Will they allow women to continue to participate in public life? The militants say they want friendly relations with the West in order to keep the flow of foreign aid going, and spokespeople have said women will be allowed to work and go to school if they were in charge. “The Taliban’s seriousness about these claims,” Osman, the International Crisis Group analyst, said, “remains to be tested.”

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Russia May Demand The Return Of Alaska

The Russian possessions in North America consisted around 586,412 square miles of land include Inupiat Eskimo from Shishmaref, Alaska located (177kms) from the east coast of Russia.
The session of Russian possessions, Alaska — by "his Majesty the Emperor of all the Russians" Alexander II to the United States of America is still shrouded in mystery. The Treaty to purchase Alaska was signed about 152 years ago, on 30 March 1857, by the Czar and American plenipotentiaries: the Privy Councillor Edward de Stoeckl and US Secretary of State William H. Seward, respectively. The Russian possessions in North America were consist of 586,412 square miles of land — that sold for just $7.2 million in gold pieces (worth $114 million in today's money), or equivalent (£100 million) in today's market value or, in other words, at approximately two cents per acre unit.  So, what was the root cause of the inexplicable decision to sell Alaska? The historian deems that it was greed and corruption!
In 1857 Grand Duke Konstantin, a younger brother of Czar Alexander II, kicked off a plan aimed to partitioning Alaska from mainland to the United States. Since the Russian American Company was considered the main obstacle to the plan, Grand Duke Konstantin had made every effort to ruin the company, using various measures including what we now call an "information war." After years of pressure the company saw substantial financial losses and its holders were deprived from the right to rule it.
According to an official version, the decision for Russia to sell its North American territory it was because of some following reasons: (a) The Empire was exhausted by the Crimean War of 1853-1856 and could not support its American colonies; (b) The Emperor feared might lose Alaska in some future conflicts) without any compensation. However, Russian historians and Ivan Mironov refuted the alleged version since it bears no relation to reality. Indeed, the events of the American Civil War had clearly indicated that Russia was able to effectively counterbalance the British threat as well as sustain its vast territorial sovereignty. Other versions state that the deal, was fake: Russia sent military aid to the United States during the American Civil War (1861 — 1865). Remarkably, the story of Russian military assistance to the Union commanded by Abraham Lincoln still remains largely untold. However, it was the co-operation between President Lincoln and Russian Emperor Alexander II that dealt a lethal blow to the British mighty and substantially lend the victory of North America.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talks to the media on 11 May 2017 after laid a wreath at the Alaska Siberia Lend-Lease memorial statues, that commemorate US and Soviet pilots who flew through the Alaska-Siberia air route during War World II. Photo: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS.
Some researchers point out that the Russian Treasury had not received the money for Alaska, base on the narratives that Orkney, the shipping vessel that was transporting the gold to Russia, sank in the Baltic Sea before reaching the destination. Still, the question remains open why the Russian Czar decided to sell territories which Russians had been developing for 126 years.
The Alaska purchase still prompts a lively debate among Western and Russian experts. Some Russian researchers even go on extend to claim that Alaska was not sold, but leased for 99 years; others point to the fact that the sum of the deal was obliviously so small.
If the man in charge of Russia's defense industries gets his way ahead, Sarah Palin will not only be unable to see Russia from her front porch, but her house itself will be in Russian territory.  The former Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is currently a Director General of Roscosmos, wrote a foreword to a book published earlier 2014, "Alaska Betrayed and Sold: It's indeed a ''History of a Palace Conspiracy," Russia has a right to get back "Russian America." Rogozin endorses the author's conclusion, which recognizes "the historical and judicial right of Russia for the return of its lost colonies include Alaska and the Aleutian Islands [island chain in the Northern Pacific Ocean], over which the Russian flag flew over 152 years ago." 

    The bronze and granite status of ''World War II Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease'' Memorial in Fairbanks, Alaska, the monument commemorates U.S and Soviet pilots during World War II 
Rogozin's views "Russia giving up its colonial possessions makes it necessary to look in a different prospective at our diplomacy in the era of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, who trading away pieces of the Soviet Empire." Rogozin argues that by refuting "the outright lies and falsifications" about the transfer of Alaska it becomes possible to "bring down the liberal idols of the 19th century — the Russian reformers of Alexander II and his brother Grand Duke Konstantin." They betrayed Russia's geopolitical interests in the Pacific, demonstrating "the impossibility of establishing diplomatic relations exclusively on concessions and compromises." Rogozin stated that a single mistake in foreign policy "can produce an entire century of loss and defeat of great power." He concluded it with a call for the return of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to Russia.

The Russian nationalists mourn the sale of Alaska to the US, with special anniversary every year, in a solemnly commotion whereby they calling for Alaska territory to be returned back to the motherland. While in U.S numerous events held in the political closet to mark the celebrating of 1867 sale, but in Russia, such reflection has brought back bitter memories and is being seen as a "convenient" opportunity for nationalists. Some historians viewed the transaction as a short-sighted blunder ever made by Czarist empire under Alexander II, for giving up Alaska and its natural richness, particularly its oil and gas, for the simple price worth a cigarette butt-tag.

The nationalists stressed that “If the Russian Federations was in possession of Alaska today, the geopolitical situation in the world would have been different,” Sergey Aksyonov, the prime minister of Crimea, told a Crimean television network this month. The Soviet Union discovered it and Russians started to settle in Alaska in the early 1780s, from where the settlement set up trading posts and carried out missionary works to other parts of the world. 

In the 1860s, after the Crimean War, the Russian Empire went through a series of wars like the Battle of Balaclava against the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain, and Sardinia from different directions most at the same time.  Andrei Znamenski, a history professor at the University of Memphis, told the New York Times that calls to reclaim Alaska were not limited to extremists. “It’s a very convenient episode for nationalists, who want Russia to expand, to exploit. It fits into national rhetoric: Look how the Americans have treated us.”

According to the Times, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, recently told a Russian newspaper: “The anniversary may, of course, trigger diverse emotions. But it is a good occasion to refresh memories of Russians’ contribution to the exploration of the American continent.” Speaking about Alaska, Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said “we don’t need to get worked up about this”. He spoke this during the International Artic Forum in Russia, Mr Putin said that Russia’ military activities in the Arctic region are contained locally and pose no threat to the global security, a Russian agency reports. He blamed American activities in Alaska for potentially destabilizing the world order. “What we do, is contained locally, while what the US does in Alaska, it does on the global level,” he said.

He called the US missile defence system stationing in Alaska “one of the most pressing security issues”. “It is not just a defence system but a part of the nuclear potential removed to a distant area," he said. Mr Putin said that Russian activities in the Arctic were aimed at restoring navigation and ensuring its security. Despite the views of some nationalists, the Kremlin has shown no intentions of retaking Alaska in the same fashion like did reclaim Crimea in 2014. 

Although, reactions to the sale of Alaska made Russians felt betrayed. Indecisiveness allowed Russia to have a closer relationship with the US while preventing its being annexation by the British as well. For the US, Alaska is a vital asset not only for its vast resources, but it provides a strategic trade route into China.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Kremlin Closely Watches NATO' Build Up In Arctic.

NATO: British Royal Marines pulling and pushing sleds bearing during the medevac military exercises of March 3, in 2013 at the Allied Arctic Training Center in Bardufoss, Norway.
Russia on Thursday warmed Norway of pushing ahead with a military build-up which it said increased the risks of military action and required some kind of Russian response. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Moscow had watched as NATO member Norway had become more and more active in helping the Western military alliance build up its presence in the Arctic region. 

Zakharova singled out what she said was a Norwegian plan to this year equip a port near Tromso to be able to receive nuclear submarines. “Contrary to the historical traditions of neighborly relations and cooperation in the Arctic, Oslo continues to escalate tension and increase the risks of military action. This will not be left without a response,” Zakharova told reporters. “The Russian Federation will take all possible measures to ensure its own security.” 

Norway, which shares a 196-km (122-mile) land border with Russia, has said it is concerned about Moscow building up its own military capacity on the Kola Peninsula, a region dotted with naval bases and restricted military zones. Norway in October hosted a huge NATO exercise in the region.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Tupolev TU-160 Nuclear Strategic Bomber

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a replica of the Tupolev-160 strategic nuclear bomber at the Olenogorsk military airbase near Murmansk, 16 August 2005. Photo: Russian Defence Force. 
After a health check, Putin donned a flight suit and took the commander's position in the strategic bomber, which was piloted by Major General Anatoly Zhikharev, and co-directed by a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of navigation.

Putin holds Tupolev Tu-160
Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s President, sitting in the cockpit of Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber at a military airbase, outside Moscow, before his supersonic flight in the carrying bomber.
The Tu-160 (Western code-name Blackjack) or ''white swan'' in Russia is the world's long-range bomber ever exist, that could reach the United States without mid-air-refueling. Tu-160 is looks similar to the Rockwell B-1 Lancer, however is a very different aircraft. Tu-160 is much larger and much faster than the B-1B--with a maximum takeoff weight over 606,000lbs and a top speed greater than Mach 2.05. By contrast, a B-1 Bomber weighs in at 477,000lbs and slower as compared to the Blackjack. The Tu-160s primary armament has always been long-range cruise missiles like the Kh-55MS--of which it can carry dozen in its weapon bays. In recent months, the Russians have used the conventional version Kh-555 cruise missile against ISIS' fortified targets in Syria with the combination of Kh-101 an advanced cruise missile. the result was superb! Soviets designed the Blackjack primarily as a means to deliver a nuclear thunder strike to the enemy assets while retains the ability to do low-level penetration. The ''Blackjack'' has broken the world record as the only long-range bomber ever with 12 300 km without refueling.

The aircraft also carries the nuclear-tipped Kh-102 weapons. The aircraft had a fly-by-wire control system all cockpit, long pointed radome houses, and radar for target identification plus a forward-looking TV camera used for visual weapon aiming. The initial development program of the Tupolev Tu-160 prototype was extremely expensive and protracted. The first prototype flew in 1981 under U.S.S.R' flagship and the second aircraft was lost in 1987. The technical breakthrough was made, the first aircraft successfully tested and became operational in 1987. 

Following series of production at Kazan Training and Research Center continued until in 1992, when President Boris Yeltsin announced that no further strategic bombers would be built after his predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev went into negotiation with U.S. President George Bush (senior) and signed a Joint Statement that outlined the two sides' approach to the START treaty I.  It is believed that the production has created an estimated of 39 Blackjacks. Also, there were some incomplete airframes left throughout in major part of Soviet Union specifically in Ukraine. 

Tu-160 Blackjacks flew over the Caribbean Sea from a base in Venezuela on 13 December 2018 
This bomber was extremely expensive to build and to maintain. Tupolev Tu-160 it the second version of the Soviet bomber after the Tu-95 (Wester reporting name Bear), that could reach the United States without mid-air-refueling. However, the Tu-160 could never replace the aging Tu-95 due to its astonishing price. In 1989 the Tu-160 reached a speed of 2 200 km/h for the first time. However, later maximum speed was limited to 2 000 km/h in order to extend the service lives of the engines and airframes. 

Armament: The Blackjack armed with Kh-55 (Western designation AS-15 Kent) cruise missiles and Kh-15 (Western designation AS-16 Kickback) air-to-surface missiles. The aircraft can carry a total of 12 Kh-55 and up to 24 Kh-15. Both of these missiles can carry nuclear warheads. Missiles are carried in two internal weapon bays. The Tu-160 can also carry free-fall bombs with a maximum weight of up to 40 t. This bomber designed to destroy and obliterate the most important enemy assets with one single blow. It asserted that the Tu-160 has a low radar cross-section, however, it is by no means a stealthy aircraft. 

Deployment: A total of 19 Tu-160s were delivered to the 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment at Priluki (Ukraine) beginning in May 1987. These bombers were left at the Ukrainian military base after the break up of the USSR in 1991 and, after protracted discussions between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, eight were returned to Russia in 1999. The scrapping plan of the remaining Tu-160s held in Ukraine began in late 1998 under the contract and consultation issued by the US government. In early 2001, six Russian Tupolev Tu-160s were declared operational as air-launched cruise missile carriers under the provision of START treaty. These bombers were assigned to the 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment at Engels in the same year.

Upgrading: The strategic bomber Tupolev-160M is to be provided with new upgrading system as planned for the Russian military in the year 2021, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday 30 January 2019. "The work on producing the upgraded Tupolev-160M proceeds on the time. The first serially plane will be provided to the Russian military in 2021," Shoigu said at a conference in Kazan devoted to Russian Aerospace Force hardware maintenance. 

Some sources claim that Russian Air Force currently operates 16 of these strategic bombers. In 2014, a new plan of overhaul and modernization of the T-160s begun at the Tupolev plant. The first modernized Tu-160M bomber was rolled out in 2016. Upgraded and refurbished aircraft are fitted with new radars, electronics and navigation equipment. It was announced that newly-build bombers will be fitted with new engines, new radars, and new avionics. 

The newly-built bomber is referred to as the Tu-160M2. So even though it will look similar, the Tu-160M2 will be essentially a new warplane. In 2018 a contract was signed to produce a couple of Tu-160M2 bombers for the Russian Air Force. It is expected that by 2020 more than a dozen of Tu-160s bombers will be upgraded and will be in operational service with the Russian Air Force. 

US-based Platforms International corporation has acquired three demilitarized ex-Ukrainian Tu-160s's engine hardware which it planned to convert them as launchers for space vehicles. However, this move was never done. By 2017 a total of 16 bombers were operational with the Russian Air Force, plus one more was being upgraded to the Tu-160M standard. Major upgraded bombers were planned to be delivered in 2019, but the plan to upgrade all operational bombers to the Tu-160M standard is incomplete. Deliveries are planned to be completed in 2027. A planned price of a Tu-160M2 is $1.5 billion.

Monday, February 4, 2019

US Military All To Equipped With Tiny Spy Drones

Seargent Scott Weaver from RAF Waddington holding a tiny unmanned spy drone, Black Hornet that used by the Army in Afghanistan. RAF Waddington has two Ground Control Stations operating unmanned spy gears in Afghanistan, including the RAF's Reaper aircraft, Hermes 450, Black Hornet Nano, Tarantula Hawk, Watchkeeper and Scan Eagle. (Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
The US Army aims to give almost all of its ground combat units with tiny drones, Black Hornet which can spy on other forces from the sky. The contract awarded is worth $39.6 million and has enriched the coffers of FLIR Systems, an Oregon, US-based firm which develops thermal imaging, surveillance, and navigation technologies.  Black Hornets are nano-drones able to perform reconnaissance during combat operations:

Squad-covert Situational Awareness
  •  Save lives and minimize collateral damage. Detect and identify threats day and night without being detected. Increase speed and expand maneuver options. 
Covert Airborne Sensor
  • Extraordinarily low visual and audible signatures and a light, small profile allow covert operation and increased security for dismounted soldiers. 
Bird-eye Capability
  • Expand visual range in complex and urban environments. Rapidly engage targets beyond visual line-of-sight, and conduct real-time weapon effectiveness assessment.
FLIR has been tasked with providing the military with Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS), which are drones small enough to sit in the palm of your hand. The drones, described as "highly capable nano-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems," measure only 6.6-inches across and weigh less than 33 grams. The drones have a range of 1.24 miles at speeds of up to 13.35 mph and are able to fly for up to 25 minutes on a single charge.

In addition, the UAVs can take HD photos and provide live video feeds. Data sent to operators on the ground, equipped with a handheld ground control station (GCS) unit which communicates with the drone, is AES 256 encrypted.

An official illustration of unmanned Black Hornet 3, a surveillance drone used by the military.
According to FLIR, each Black Hornet can operate in temperatures ranging from -10c to 43c and can withstand wind gusts of up to 20 knots. The Black Hornets will be given to US platoons and small units which require surveillance capabilities while on the ground. FLIR says the first batch of drones, en route to forces now, is part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) Program which involves investment in both UAVs and ground control systems. "With a camera in the air vehicle, soldiers will be able to see further and around obstacles that they previously wouldn't be able to see in near real time," the US Army says. In the video below, you can see the Black Hornet take flight during SBS testing.

While the full details or order numbers of the contract are unknown, an order for 60 of the Black Hornets awarded in May 2018 was worth $2.6 million. The ultimate goal is to field at least one UAV and ground system for almost all of the 7,000 squads in the US Army. "This contract represents a significant milestone with the operational large-scale deployment of nano-UAVs into the world's most powerful Army," said Jim Cannon, CEO of FLIR Systems. "This contract [...] demonstrates the strong and urgent demand for nano-UAV technology offered by FLIR. Protecting US warfighters with our unmanned solutions is a key objective for FLIR."

In January, the Pentagon published a report documenting the United States' increasing domestic drone use. In 2018, 11 missions were conducted -- including during wildfire season and after Hurricane Florence -- as well as to respond to southern border support requests by the Army.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Israel’s Iron Dome Aka-Rocket Killer

Iron Dome defence system,designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells at Sderot in Israel 12 November 2018 (Photo credit Jack Guez/ISRAEL)

In January 2019, defense media reported that the U.S. Army plans to request funding from Congress to procure two advanced Iron Dome air-defense batteries from the Israeli firm Rafael. The $373 million deal would compromise 240 Tamir interceptor missiles, twelve launchers, and two radars and command trailers. At least two more batteries of undetermined design are required by 2023. The Iron Dome is a mobile air defense system developed by an Israeli defense tech entities, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.

Since 2011, the Israel Defense Force has used the Iron Dome system to shoot down over 1,700 unguided rockets and mortar shells launched by militants in Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip against Israeli communities. An Iron Dome battery can also engage aircraft, drones, large artillery shells and possibly even cruise and ballistic missiles—as proven by its shoot down of an Iranian Fateh ballistic missile on January 20, 2019.

The Iron Dome was conceived in response to Israel’s unique security challenges. Since 2001, Palestinian militants have stockpiled tens of thousands of mortar shells, crude artisanal Qassam rockets, and heavier Grad, Katyusha, Fajr and M-302 artillery rockets with which to launch constant harassment attacks. Though individually highly inaccurate, with roughly three-quarters failing to reach Israeli targets, the thousands of projectiles still caused deaths and injuries, and inflicted extensive property damage and psychological distress.

When IDF forces attacked Hezbollah in the Lebanon War of 2006, the militant organization responded to the ferocious Israeli aerial bombardment by firing over four thousand rockets, killing forty-four Israeli civilians. (Lebanese civilians deaths to IDF strikes are estimated to number 860.) The Iron Dome began development in 2007 as a semi-affordable means to intercept the incoming projectiles. After a few years of testing, the system was operationally deployed in March 2011, and shot down its first rocket less than two weeks later. Though initially a purely Israeli defense project, in 2011 Washington began providing funding totaling $1.5 billion by 2018 in exchange for access to Iron Dome technology. In fact, 70 percent of the components in its Tamir missiles are built by Raytheon in the United States.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) gives Israeli former Minister of Defense Ehud Barak with a picture of the Iron Dome missile system after host him and presenting him with US Medal for Distinguished Public Service at the Pentagon in Arlington,Virginia in United States of America on 29 November, 2012 (Photography: Mark Wilson)

Israel currently has ten batteries deployed, with five more planned. The Israeli Navy also intends to deploy four modified Iron Dome batteries at sea to protect maritime assets. Azerbaijan and Roman purchased Iron Dome batteries in 2016 and 2018 respectively, though the number involved remains unclear. There are also rumors that Israel sold the system to Saudi Arabia, though both governments vigorously deny it. Each Iron Dome battery consists of three or four launchers carrying twenty Tamir interceptors; a search/fire-control radar; and a trailer containing a Battle Management and Weapon Control center to coordinate the rest via wireless connection. The batteries can be easily redeployed by 6 x 6 trucks in response to operational needs.

The Iron Dome relies upon a high-resolution EL/M-2084 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar to detect incoming rockets and shells up to forty-three miles away. The system then calculates the projectile’s trajectory to determine whether it is likely to hit a population center, or explode harmlessly in an unpopulated area. Only in the former case is an interception attempted. The slender 160-millimeter Tamir interceptors then hurtle towards the incoming threat at up to 2.5 times the speed of sound, guided by the ground-based radar. However, as the three-meter-long missiles close with the targeted projectile, their nose-mounted electro-optical sensor takes over to provide more precise terminal guidance. A proximity fuse detonates the missile’s thirty-five-pound fragmentation warhead once it enters range.

The Iron Dome’s-based greatest test came when IDF troops attacked Hamas positions in the Gaza strip in July 2014. Gaza militants launched around 4,600 rockets and mortar shells in response, around one-quarter of which landed near areas populated by Israeli civilians. The six Iron Dome batteries then active were hastily reinforced with three more. Together, they shot-down 735 rockets and mortar shells and failed to intercept around seventy, consistent with an 85 percent to 90 percent success rate claimed by the IDF. In total, Palestinian rockets and mortars killed five Israeli and one Thai civilian and injured eighty in 2014. Additionally, nearly three hundred short-firing militant rockets landed in Gaza, killing thirteen Palestinian civilians, most of them children.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (C), and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta greet Israeli soldiers during they visiting the Iron Dome defense system launch site on 01 August 2012 in Ashkelon, Israel. The Iron Dome was designed to intercept and destroy short-range shells and rockets. Secretary Panetta was on a four day state trip to the Middle-East he made some stops in several countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Israel and Jordan before returned back home to Washington DC, United States.

Despite the system’s popularity in Israel, critics have questioned whether officially successful Iron Dome intercepts are actually effective at neutralizing incoming projectiles, though some of the more sweeping critiques themselves appear flawed when given scrutiny . A more measured 2018 assessment by Michael Armstrong argues the system’s success rate against projectiles landing in populated areas may lie between 59 percent to 75 percent. Cost-efficiency is another concern. Though some sources list the Tamir missiles as costing as little as $35,000 each, the new Pentagon’s funding request lists a price of $150,000 per missile. Even this higher figures is peanuts compared to multimillion-dollar Patriot air-defense missiles. But even going by the lower figure, each Tamir is many times more expensive than the projectiles it is destroying.

This has led some Israelis to advocate for a directed-energy weapon component to more cost-efficiently handle mass attacks. The Israeli firm Rafael has developed a laser called the Iron Beam with this capability in mind, though atmospheric diffusion limits its engagement range to a seven-mile radius.

Why Is the Pentagon Procuring Iron Dome?

The Pentagon’s procurement apparently stems from an explicit mandate: Congress’s 2019 defense policy bill legally requires the Army deploy at least two batteries “that require the least development possible” capable of providing “interim cruise missile defense.” Iron Dome beat out the more expensive Norwegian NASAMS system currently protecting the U.S. capital as a ready-to-go solution.

Cruise missiles, however, are more difficult to intercept than crude rocket artillery arcing in a predictable ballistic trajectory. Modern cruise missile designs often include defensive features such as skimming at very low altitudes and engaging in pop-up or l-shaped maneuvers prior to impact; others have stealthy reduced radar cross-sections, or travel extremely fast at supersonic or hypersonic speeds. Indeed, in IDF service the Iron Dome is meant to be complemented by two higher-tier defensive systems: the David’s Sling for taking out cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles up to one hundred miles away, and the hypersonic Arrow-3 ABM to intercept faster, longer-range-ballistic missiles.

Thus the Iron Dome may require adaptation to serve as more than an interim solution. Furthermore, as system’s limited range means it can only provide local defense, more than two to four batteries would be required to provide substantial coverage for frontline troops. Thus, a favorable evaluation could lead to a much larger-scale procurement. Indeed, the Pentagon is considering investing large sums to make Iron Dome networkable with other U.S. air-defense systems, and in 2016 even tested integrating the Tamir missile into a fifteen-cell “Multi-Mission Launcher” designed to fire a variety of missiles. 

The Tamir’s capabilities may actually make a more natural fit for other short-range air-defense missions such as shooting down surveillance or kamikaze drones, helicopters and even standard 155-millimeter artillery shells. No other existing air-defense system can claim the over one-thousands intercepts achieved by the Iron Dome. Now the Pentagon is set to evaluate whether it represents a cost-efficient air-defense solution outside the unique threat environment it was designed for.

Friday, February 1, 2019

U.S. Revoke Nuclear Arms Control Treaty With Russia

U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds media briefing at State Department in Washington DC on 01 February 2019 accusing Russia for violation of the Treaty, Pompeo announced that the United States will withdraw in 180 days from the treaty: Photo Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image.
The United States is suspending one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties ever made with Russia after heated conversations between the two nuclear armed nations who recently failed to resolve a long-running accusation that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision on Friday as the Trump administration maintained that the Russian government has been unwilling to admit that a missile it has deployed near European borders violates the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Mr. Pompeo and his deputies have insisted that Moscow destroy the missile. 

Mike Pompeo added that the United States will withdraw in 180 days from the treaty, which has been a centerpiece of nuclear arms control since the Cold War.  Both United States and Russia are accusing each other for violating the treaty’s terms. 

“Russia has jeopardized the United States’ security interests,” Mr. Pompeo said, “and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.” But while the United States has insisted Russia’s actions sank the treaty, the Trump administration’s real aim is to broaden its prohibitions to include China. “Countries must be held accountable when they break the rules,” Mr. Pompeo told journalists at the State Department.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks away from the standing lectern podium after conclusion of a news briefing at the State Department, Washington DC on 01 February, 2019.
Constrained by the treaty’s provisions, the United States has been prevented from deploying new weapons to counter China’s efforts to cement a dominant position in the Western Pacific and keep American aircraft carriers at bay. China was still a small and unsophisticated military power in the mid-1980s, and not a signatory to the treaty that was negotiated between the United States and a rapidly weakening Soviet Union. 

By contrast, much of Beijing’s growing nuclear arsenal currently consists of missiles that fall into the distance ranges that are prohibited by the treaty that applies only to Russia and the United States. “The issue now is whether the administration has a plan for what comes next,” said Pranay Vaddi, a fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department official until 2017 who worked on nuclear arms control issues. “There is no question that the Russians committed a violation. But it is not militarily significant because it doesn’t change the balance of power in Europe.”

With the treaty on its last legs, the question is whether Mr. Pompeo’s announcement will result in a flurry of last-minute negotiations with Moscow — which seems unlikely — or whether it will accelerate the Cold War-like behavior among the United States, Russia and China. Complicating that question is the American intelligence agencies’ warning this week that Russia and China are “more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” The fate of the treaty has quickly become a test of the continuing struggle inside the Trump administration, and with its allies, over how to handle an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

Mr. Trump campaigned on remaking Washington’s relationship with Moscow; the open investigation by the Justice Department’s special counsel is, at its core, about whether he and his campaign aides promised to relieve sanctions and other impediments to Russia in return for financial or electoral benefits from Mr. Putin’s government.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin met in September 2018 to discuss a mutual understanding on geopolitics  in Vladivostok, Russia. Photo by Alexander Ryumin.
But Mr. Trump has surrounded himself in the White House with hawkish advisers, including John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, who has been a major critic of treaties that he believes impinge the United States’ ability to counter new or rising foreign threats. The decision to leave the nuclear arms treaty took American allies by surprise when word of the decision first leaked out in October and was quickly confirmed by Mr.Trump's administration. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance that was created to counter the Soviet Union Warsaw Pact and communism threat to capitalism over 70 years ago, strongly blamed the Kremlin in every stance that seek to oppose or compete against the western hegemony. 

The alliance is supporting United States withdrawal for the Treaty: The announcement to abandon the arms control regulations came just ahead of the expiration, on Saturday, of a 60-day deadline. Mr. Pompeo’s formal announcement begins a six-month clock that Trump administration officials believe will end with a full American withdrawal from the treaty, the United States would be free to begin with testing or deploying its own weapons. United States is preparing to modify existing weapons, including its non-nuclear Tomahawk missiles, and is likely to deploy them in Guam, where the military maintains a large base and they would face little political opposition. The aim of the treaty was contain all category of weapons — land-based missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles — that both the United States and the Soviet Union had deployed in the 1980s, and still posing danger to global security. 

Mr. Pompeo acknowledged a risk of a new arms race if the treaty is ultimately scrapped after the six-month window. “We hope they’ll come back into compliance,” he said. He added: “There’s no mistaking that the Russians have chosen to not comply with this treaty and present the risk of continued arms growth in a way that they had committed to, back when they signed this treaty, that they would not do.” For many years, the I.N.F. was considered a model arms control treaty. It allowed for on-site inspections and extensive exchanges of information — exactly what the Trump administration now seeks from North Korea and other states.

In 2014, the Obama administration also accused Russia of developing a missile that violated the treaty.  Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, published a detailed history of the Russian violations. Experts cited Russian unhappiness with the treaty, going back at least 10 years, before Moscow focused on new generations of missiles that would extend its reach without costing it much money. Russian officials have charged that American missile defense interceptors in Eastern Europe could be easily refashioned into offensive weapons, and that the rise of armed drones, which had not been invented when the treaty was signed.

U.S said Russia had aggressively used social media accounts to portray the United States as the treaty-breaker and the aggressor. That argument has won some sympathy in Europe, where many critics portray the treaty’s demise as an example of the Trump administration putting its own agenda before Europe’s. The Pentagon has already been developing nuclear weapons to match, and counter, what the Chinese military believed to possessing. 

Some experts stated that the main objective behind U.S withdrawal from the arms control is to contest against China not necessary Russia's threat, although they all adversaries that US agenda seek to countering



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